Like so many natural seaside wonders, approach Queen’s Bath with a healthy dose of respect for the waves. If you’re here in the summer, it’s a placid pool of crystalline clear water nestled into the lava shelf. By winter however, it might not even look like a pool, and you probably have no business coming off the bottom of the trail going down to the see from the Kapiolani Road set of parking places (there aren’t enough places to call it a parking lot). I’m not exaggerating, when first we tried to find this little jewel, we encountered a hand written sign by the trail just before the final descent to the shore that basically said "proceed no further unless you want to cheat death!"
That’s a little harsh, but one month after that visit, a couple from our hometown were swept off the rocks by a large wave leaving their young son an orphan.
Okay… are you scared yet? You needn’t be afraid, just as long as you are careful and visit Queen’s Bath during the calmer months of summer. If the surf is pounding away, be afraid.. be very afraid. This is the north shore of Kauai, when world class surfing waves are pounding things up at nearby Hanalei, Tunnels and Ke’e Beaches.
So, we were there in late May and as you can see by the photos, the sea was behaving itself and sunbathers of all ages were having a lovely time. There were even a couple snorkelers, although (again as the photos would suggest) the question might be why bother? You can see all the way to the bottom from up high on the rocks anyway. Maybe they were just learning how to snorkel, which in this case, Queen’s Bath would be a perfect place to learn.
If you do a web search for other photos of Queen’s Bath, chances are each set will probably look different; with the sea being close at hand in some and maybe 20 yards away in others. The bath is basically a low spot in the rocks that collects sea water from the waves and rain water from the surrounding lava shelf. That means you have a marvelously large solar-powered hot tub at your disposal (you and a couple dozen friends).
To get there take Highway 56 to Princeville. Turn right on Ka Haku Road. Turn right on Punahele and right again on Kapiolani. There is a parking area that might accommodate 8 or 10 cars. Be polite, you’re amid some rather pricey (hey, it’s Princeville after all) real estate. Once look for the little sign pointing to the trail and then follow it down along a stream. Even if you’re hear during the high surf winter months, I wouldn’t hesitate to walk down the trail. It’s a nice dirt path that’s very forgiving to almost all kinds of footwear.
Once you get to the final step down area, pause and case the joint. If you’re here in January, it’s very possible that the County of Kauai has posted a closure sign or two by this point. Even at the height of the of the safe summer season, take note of the waves. The best way to keep your vacation from becoming a news item is to just keep an eye on the waves. It’s as simple as that.
But trust me, Queen’s Bath is a jewel worth trying to find
Once you scramble down that last few yards of the trail, you’ll find yourself on the lava shelf. It’s a very, very cool place! Kids will have a blast climbing along the rocks that no ATV owner would be dumb enough to challenge.
Turn left, it’s about 300 yards or so down the lava and you’ll likely be right on top of the bath before you even notice it. Beyond the previously expressed cautionary instructions, I might impose two strong suggestions for you. Bring your swimming suits and a lunch, or bring your camera. Better yet, bring the food, the suits the camera. It’s warm and the surf outside the bath is cool to watch.
You can trek on past the bath, there are a couple other smaller pools to see… sometimes… after all these pools are subject to the whims of the sea. Sometimes they might be little coves and sometimes they might be little more than a wet low spot between the boulders.
Just remember, you’re walking, crawling and climbing around lava rocks. They may be large, but they have the texture of rough sandpaper, so don’t go dancing around. Stay out of the surf, I can’t say that enough. If a wave catches you, one of three things is likely to happen. You’ll get wet and giggle. Or you’ll get slammed against a lava boulder, knocked silly and come to with the worst skin exfoliation treatment you’ve ever encountered; or you’ll get washed off to the Aleutian Islands without a cruise ship.
But if you’re aware of your surroundings, if you have respect for the power of the Pacific Ocean, you will have found one of the best picnic spots in the world.