Kauai, the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, was the first tropical destination we’ve visited. Several years after that 10 wonderful days we’ve spent there (post updated in 2021), we still think that Kauai is one of the most amazing pieces of the world, dominated by lush green and turquoise colors.
Being such a famous dream destination for travelers, it came as a refreshing surprise to us how undeveloped Kauai actually is. Apart from a very few resorts and some large shopping malls (yes, there is a Walmart in Kauai; don’t forget, it’s still the USA, even though it’s far out in the Pacific Ocean 😀 ), it’s quite a peaceful island. We were closely connected to nature wherever we went, and it’s not at all that crowded tourist paradise we imagined it to be. It’s simply just a paradise.
Now let’s get back to those turquoise shades, because that’s what we want to tell you more about. Here comes the list of our favorite beaches from Kauai:
Our ultimate favorite: Tunnels Beach
Tunnels Beach on the north shore doesn’t only have golden sand and crystal clear water, it also offers stunning views of the lush green cliffs of Na Pali Coast. Like being in a postcard! 🙂
The long beach is protected by a coral reef that’s very close to the shore – especially at the east part of the beach -, and offers probably the best snorkeling opportunities on Kauai. We enjoyed swimming with sea turtles and colorful tropical fish, or lying on the beach with Hawaiian monk seals.
It was fun to explore the caves and tunnels both on land (behind the beach parking area) and in water.
We were surprised how few people were on the beach. Maybe because it’s more remote and can be hard to access in the rainy season, but it didn’t seem to be nearly as popular as Poipu Beach or Hanalei Bay. Well, we didn’t mind the lack of crowds.
So romantic and so tropical: Hanalei Bay
Hanalei Bay is not only our favorite. It’s often mentioned as the best beach of Kauai in travel guides – and for a good reason.
It looks exactly how you imagine a tropical beach while daydreaming about eternal summer in the middle of a freezing winter: sandy shore, turquoise bay, palm trees bending in the wind, and a small pier to take a romantic walk while enjoying sunset colors. Now add some pretty views of lush green mountains and roaring waterfalls in the background, and you get Hanalei Bay.
Swimming is usually very safe here, it’s not for snorkeling though, because there’s not much to see under the water in this sandy bay.
Sunny south: Poipu & Kiahuna Beach
Poipu Beach lies on the sunniest south shore. It’s the most developed beach on Kauai and it’s often highlighted in tour guides. That makes it the most popular and also the most crowded beach.
Poipu is full of palm trees and full of life! Surrounded by fancy resorts, there are elegant restaurants and cocktail bars on the beach. But you find picnic benches, too, if that’s what you prefer.
Its two beautiful bays have moderate waves as they are protected by a reef – yes, a perfect snorkeling spot!
I can’t talk about Poipu without mentioning Kiahuna Beach which is the bay right next to it. It’s very similar to Poipu, except the waves that can be much bigger at Kiahuna Beach. We noticed that the beach is divided for surfers and swimmers.
Poipu’s calmer water and snorkeling spots, and Kiahuna’s adventurous waves were a perfect beach day mix for us.
Calm getaway: Anini Beach
This perfectly sandy north shore beach has the most calm, shallow water on Kauai. Big trees give shade on the shore, their branches are even above the magically blue water at some spots.
We have so good memories of Anini Beach! This was the place where we’ve seen humpback whales jumping in and out of the water while we watched the sunset.
In the shade of Na Pali Coast: Ke’e Beach
This hidden, remote gem is right there where hikers start the Kalalau Trail along Na Pali Coast on the north shore. It means that amazing views of Na Pali Coast are guaranteed from Ke’e Beach. (In exchange, you have a wonderful view of Ke’e Beach from Kalalau Trail, by the way.)
It was such a pretty beach to refresh ourselves after our breathtaking and exhausting 8 hours long hike along Na Pali Coast!
Just so lovely: Salt Pond Beach
This south shore beach has a deep, clear, protected bay for swimming and two smaller ponds for children. Salt Pond Beach is probably the only one on Kauai where you are allowed to camp on the beach.
Where to stay on Kauai
We stayed in a lovely small town called Kapaa for the full length of our Hawaiian trip. Kauai is not a large island, it was comfortable to have a base somewhere and explore different beaches, waterfalls and hikes every day. Kapaa turned out to be a good choice, since it took about the same time to venture out to other places both northwards or southwards. (You can’t drive all around the island as there’s no road through Na Pali Coast.)
Lihue and Wailua are also located in this central area, but Hanalei and Princeville on the north shore are also lovely places to stay. Koloa is close to Poipu Beach, and Kekaha and Waimea are also on the south shore.
…and don’t forget to respect the ocean
While enjoying the beauties in Hawaii, you should never forget about being careful and respect nature whatever you do – and that applies to swimming and snorkeling, too. I mentioned beaches which are usually safe to swim, however you always need to check the current conditions and the typical water and wind conditions of the season of your visit.
Other than that… just dive into the beauties of these magical beaches!
Have you ever been to Hawaii? What is your favorite beach?
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This post was updated in June 2021.
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