Sleepy Kauai is the antithesis of bustling Oahu. The island’s laid-back surfer vibe, lush interior jungles, and uncrowded beaches make for the peaceful retreat most visitors anticipate on their Hawaii vacation. Looking for a good spot to stretch out on the sand? Here’s a list of Kauai’s best beaches.
The gorgeous curve of Hanalei Bay on the island’s North Shore has two unobstructed miles (3.2 kilometers) of golden sand. Four beach parks along this stretch provide water access, amenities such as showers and lifeguards, and varying ocean conditions. Be sure to walk down Hanalei Pier and take in the panorama, or try out a surf lesson. If you already know how to surf (or enjoy watching those who do) you’ll find expert waves at Wai’oli (Pine Trees) Beach Park.
Just around the western edge of Hanalei Bay and past Makahoa Point, you’ll find Waikoko Beach. Stop there for excellent snorkeling; there are also beginner surf breaks great for boogie boarding.
Makua Beach (Tunnels Beach)
Further west along Kauai’s North Shore is Makua Beach, also known as Tunnels Beach. Edged out in the west by the start of the wild, green Na Pali Coast, Tunnels is a golden sand beach with coral reef just offshore. It’s reportedly called Tunnels for both the underwater caverns that make it such an interesting snorkeling spot and the barrel waves seen in winter.
Popular with hikers fresh off the Kalalau Trail, the historically spiritual Ke’e Beach has attracted Hawaiians coming to practice hula for years. It continues to be a great place to catch gorgeous sunsets.
Though the white sand strip at Anini Beach is relatively narrow, it’s one of Kauai’s calmest ocean entries for swimming in summer. The beach park, east of Hanalei, is usually less crowded than other North Shore spots and boasts restrooms, picnic tables, shady trees, and campsites.
Poipu Beach Park
Not all of Kauai’s best beaches are on the North Shore. The golden arches of Poipu Beach Park, on the island’s South Shore, has been dubbed America’s best beach by the Travel Channel. A sandbar divides the beach in two parts, and both sides are close to many of Kauai’s best resorts and great for year-round swimming.