Kauai has more beaches per mile than any of the other Hawaiian Islands. There are 69 beaches, of which over 50% are white sand beaches.
I won’t go into all 69 beaches, but will point out the highlights spread around the island.
Beginning at the north end of the island and travelling in a clockwise fashion, we start with:
Ke’e Beach-I have many favorites and this is one of them. One of the reasons is the sheer amount of fish you see when snorkeling. Ke’e Beach is located at the end of the road (highway 560) and is the location for the beginning of the Kalalau trail. Both the location of the beach and the trailhead make for a popular spot. As a result, parking is often hard to find. What you will most likely do is drive all the way to the end of the road, circle through the packed parking lot a few times and then drive back out to find the nearest available parking spot. Before you actually do turn around, drop off everyone in the car. This is a North shore beach so it is rougher during the winter months and many have drowned here.
Tunnels (Makua) Beach-This beach was featured in the movie South Pacific and is another one of my favorite beaches. It will also treat snorkelers with a rich supply of varied wildlife. You will find this beach less crowded than Ke’e Beach. There is public parking, showers and bathrooms at Haena Beach Park, just west of Tunnels Beach. It has a shallow inner reef, which is great for children. Those more adventurous can visit the outer reef. This is another beach on the North shore so the waters will be rougher in the winters. You can get to Tunnels Beach by taking the dirt road off of 560 between the 8 and 9 mile marker. Don’t park on the highway or you might get a ticket.
Anini Beach Park-This is one of the safest beaches on the North shore, but still use caution. It features miles of white sand. Anini Beach is a quiet lagoon created by a reef that tends to be great for beginning snorkelers. The coral can be sharp, so it is a good place to wear reef shoes. There are bathrooms available there. To get there, from Kilauea town traveling west, take a right off of route 56 to Kalihiawai Road. Then go left on Anini road and proceed for about one half of a mile to the beach.
Secret (Kauapea) Beach-Secret Beach is a very pretty beach, but requires a ten minute hike to get there. This is a dangerous beach to swim in, but very nice if you just want to hang out on a gorgeous beach. You might even spot surfers on the beach, but these are experienced guys and gals. To get to Secret Beach, turn north off of Kuhio Highway (56) onto Kolo Road. Take the first left onto Kilauea road and drive roughly one more mile before taking another left onto Kaupea Road and proceed to the beach. The name “Secret Beach” came about because this used to be a nudist beach at one time. But don’t go there or stay away for that reason. Nudism is against the law and Secret Beach has been cleaned up from most of that.
Donkey Beach (Kuna Beach)-This is another one of those very pretty beaches, but enter the water with care because of the dangers. It is a long and wide crescent-shaped beach with few people there, so nice spots are always easy to find. There are also great snorkeling opportunities there. The access road is half way between mile marker 11 and 12 on Kuhio Highway.
Lydgate State Park-I have mentioned this one before as the place for beginner snorkelers. It has a man-made wall protecting an area for swimming and snorkeling. It has a smaller man made pools for the little kids to play in. This area has a lifeguard, showers and bathrooms and a playground for when the kids get tired of the water (if that is possible). Lydgate State Park is just south of the Wailua River on Highway 56. It will be hard to miss as you come from the north as you will be crossing a bridge over the Wailua River.
Po’ipu Beach-This is another relatively safe beach and is probably the most popular beach on the South shore. It is close to a lot of hotels, and is great for swimming and snorkeling. According to www.gohawaii.com site (Hawaii’s visitor and convention bureau), this beach was named “America’s Best Beach” by the Travel Channel at one time. To get to Poipu Beach from the west, from Highway 50, turn south on Highway 530 (Koloa Road). If you are coming from the east on Highway 50, turn south on Highway 520 (Maluhia Road). Both Highway 530 and520 will merge into Poipu Road. You will want to continue south on that road. To get to Poipu Beach from Poipu Road, you have a number of options. Your best bet is to continue through the roundabout and come out on Lawai Road. Very quickly you will be able to branch left onto Ho’onani Road (sometimes called Poipu Beach Road). After you pass the Sheraton, look for parking. Poipu Beach will be to your right.
Salt Ponds Beach-This is a very safe beach and a great option if you are visiting during the winter months. It lacks shade so bring an umbrella. It does have a lifeguard, bathrooms, a shower and some BBQ grills. As an added bonus, you can see how salt is actually harvested from the ocean. To get to Salt Ponds Beach from Highway 50, turn south on Lele Road (at Hanapepe) and then take a right onto Lokokai Road (sometimes called Salt Ponds Road). You will find the beach at the end of the Lokokai Road.
Polihale Beach-This beach is not a good one to count on for swimming. It has quite strong currents and some steep drop offs from the beach. But if you are looking for a more secluded long, wide beach, Polihale is one to visit. If you are looking for a romantic place to watch the sunset with that special someone, this beach is hard to beat.