From the truly picturesque Hanalei Bay on Kauaʻi’s northern shoreline to the postcard-perfect sands of Poīpʻu Beach down south, there are literally hundreds of beaches, coves and coasts strewn around The Garden Island. There are so many in fact, it can almost seem overwhelming for first-time visitors looking to find the perfect plot of sand to lay down a towel and lounge the day away. So here’s a shortlist of Kauaʻi beaches perfect for five types of travelers.
The Beach for Everyone: Hanalei Bay
There are certain beaches on every island that visitors and locals would consider “perfection.” Waikīkī Beach on Oʻahu, Hāpuna Beach on the Island of Hawaiʻi and Kaʻanapali Beach on Maui to name a few. And for Kauaʻi, Hanalei Bay is that perfect beach. Suitable for families—kids love jumping off the small pier—with its numerous amenities and lifeguards, Hanalei Bay also has great surf for wave riders of all disciplines. Travelers looking for the perfect shots to fill their social media will also adore the area’s epic sunset views. And with the town of Hanalei literally steps away from the beach, visitors can easily find a place to grab lunch or snacks to fuel their day at the bay.
The Beach for Families: ʻAnini Beach
It sounds wild to say that a beach with no posted lifeguard would be one of the best beaches for families, but ʻAnini Beach is incredibly safe to swim at—even with young keiki (kids). It has one of the longest fringe reefs around the state sitting far out past the shorelines, making for a great natural barrier against turbulent waves and swell. While the beach is safer than others in the area, it’s always a good idea to check the local surf forecast and to avoid entering the ocean if there are waves, especially for those not accustomed to swimming in Hawaiian waters.
The Beach for Snorkelers: Tunnels Beach
Yet another Kauaʻi north shore beach—last one, we promise—Tunnels Beach is truly a snorkeler’s paradise. With a lush jungle backdrop and the towering cliffs of the Napali Coast nearby, the view above land is hard to beat, but the vibrant ecosystem and under the ocean’s surface will take your breath away—because you’ll have to dive down to see it. Thriving reefs, underwater lava tubes and massive collections of local fish are all on display here, and there is a snorkeling zone close to the shoreline that’s perfect for less advanced swimmers.
The Beach for the Adventurous: Māhāʻulepū Beach
Travelers who aren’t afraid to get their feet dirty to find a relatively remote beach will want to check out Māhāʻulepū Beach. While you can commute to it with a four-wheel-drive vehicle, the best way to reach the beach is by parking near the CJM Country Stables and finding the Māhāʻulepū Cave Trail. The route takes you across a small portion of the rocky coastline before depositing you at the Māhāʻulepū Cave—which is absolutely worth checking out. Next to the cave however is Māhāʻulepū Beach, a wonderful stretch of coastline that is rarely ever crowded except for the occasional pack of horseback tour guides trotting along. The entire coast is worth exploring, but make sure you have enough energy to hike it back to your car.
The Beach for Resort Guests: Poʻipū Beach
Having been called one of the best beaches in America, Poʻipū Beach is actually two beaches in one—separated by a narrow sandbar. For those staying in one of the many world-class resorts and hotels on Kauaʻi’s south shore, Poʻipū Beach is only steps away from your lobby doors. This makes it easy to make quick trips back to your room or hotel for snacks or lunch, and if you don’t want to use the beach’s public restroom—as many of us tend to avoid—having your accommodation so close can be a lifesaver. The beach is also magnificent and is a great place to walk down to for a grand sunset spectacular.