Your guide to the best beaches on Kauai

Categorized as Kauai Vacation Information

Many people think that if you’ve seen one beach, you’ve seen them all – except those people have never seen Kauai. The Hawaiian island is home to some of most beautiful shorelines in the entire world, and many have their own distinct qualities and characteristics. Whether you’re trying to find a place with the biggest waves during your stay at a Kauai beach rental or you want something more laid back and less crowded, there are plenty of pristine locations that cater to your coastline expectations. Take a look at some of the most renowned beaches to explore during your Kauai vacation:

Kalapaki Beach

While this beach located on the eastern region of the island is certainly one of the more frequented, visitors to Kauai who are staying nearby should make it a point to spend at least one sunny afternoon on Kalapaki Beach. For travelers who like to stay active under the sun, Kalapaki Beach has plenty of water activities to offer, ranging from boogie board or surfboard rentals to seemingly infinite strips of sand ideal for constructing a sand castle with the kids. Kalapaki is also one of the safer beaches on Kauai because it’s completely roped off by a jetty, so little ones can’t go out too far into deeper water. The beach is also located right next to Haupu Ridge, a great hiking opportunity to gain an aerial view of beautiful Kalapaki Beach below.

“Hanalei Bay is one of the more historical beaches in all of Kauai.”

​Hanalei Bay

The largest bay on the northern shores of Kauai is Hanalei Bay, where visitors will find more than two miles of sparkling coastline to explore all the terrain that resides amidst the backdrop of the elegant mountains. Aside from the incredible views, Hanalei Bay is renowned for generously-sized waves, ideal for experienced surfers or thrill seekers alike. It’s also interesting to note that Hanalei Pier, located near the beach, is full of historical context. This area was one of the primary shipping ports for rice and sugar, and also served as a set location for a few classic films, including “South Pacific” and “Beachhead.” In case you run out of activities here, there are nearby snorkeling tours around Hanalei Bay that include getting up close and personal with beautiful coral reefs and even swimming over an authentic shipwreck! You’ll also find tons of amenities here, including restroom and changing room complexes, as well as staffed lifeguards who always monitor the waters.

Poipu Beach

When the Travel Channel lists a location as one of the best beaches in the world, let alone Hawaii, you know that a place must be legit. Such is the case with Poipu Beach in the city of Koloa​. Needless to say, it’s one of the most popular beaches visited on all of Kauai. Those staying at a nearby Kauai condo rental will find no shortage of activities to engage in at Poipu Beach, as everything from snorkeling, sand volleyball, kayaking, fishing and surfing are all happening simultaneously at any given moment near or in the water. What makes Poipu Beach an attractive destination for families is its sheer proximity to tons of other nearby attractions, from all kinds of restaurants to shopping districts to hiking trails. Those interested in snorkeling should know that the waters around Poipu Beach are loaded with diverse marine life, with animals ranging from green sea turtles to dolphins being typically spotted during a snorkel tour guide.

You'll be surrounded by beautiful scenery during a day at Tunnels Beach. You’ll be surrounded by beautiful scenery during a day at Tunnels Beach.

Tunnels Beach

If you’re judging beaches based on sheer scenery alone, it’s highly likely you’ll find Tunnels Beach as the runaway winner while staying in Kauai. From the crystal clear waters that surround the shores to the majestic mountains towering in the background, natural beauty is found everywhere you look at Tunnels Beach, located on the northern coastline of the island. Rows of palm trees shelter the crescent-shaped bay, and underneath the ocean’s surface lies some of the best opportunities to snorkel in all of the Hawaiian islands. While you’ll be sure to find surfers and boogie boarders strutting their stuff here, Tunnels Beach is mostly known as a tranquil area where people come to kick back and soak in the gorgeous topography.

Picnics are a must for those planning on staying a while, and couples should note that nothing is more romantic than witnessing a Hawaiian sunset as the tide touches your feet on Tunnels Beach. It is a good rule of thumb to snag a parking spot early, as there aren’t too many ideal parking places available around the beach. However, Tunnels beach is within a mile of Haʻena State Park, making it a great area to explore for travel parties open to a day of beach hopping.