The 22 Best Kauai Beaches

By | Last Updated:

Kauai may only be the 4th biggest of the Hawaiian Islands but it is the oldest of the chain by some margin. And it seems that these extra millions of years have been put to good use as it is arguably the most beautiful of the archipelago.

Known as the Garden Isle, Kaua'i is a land of lush green canyons, dramatic waterfalls and the stunning coastal cliffs of the Nā Pali Coast. There are just short of 90 miles of coastline along which you will find some of the most beautiful beaches on the planet.

It isn't easy to choose the best beaches on Kauai because they are all lovely so it's more a case of finding a beach for you. Whether you're looking for a safe family beach, somewhere to snorkel or an uncrowded surf spot, Kauai has you covered. And for explorers, there are remote beaches only accessible by forest trails or even boat.

Read on for our selection of Kauai's most breathtaking beaches.

  • 1. Tunnels Beach

    Tunnels Beach
    © Sekar Balasubramanian

    Tunnels beach is set on the north coast of Hawaii's most northerly main island, Kauai. Originally known as Makua beach, the name Tunnels could be from one of two possible sources; most likely is it comes from the maze passages that wind their way through the big coral reef which sits just offshore. Alternately, it could be from the shape of the waves that make it popular with surfers.

    The… read more »

  • 2. Ke'e Beach

    Ke'e Beach
    Ben K
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Swimming

    Located at the end of the road, Ke’e Beach is the last accessible beach from the north shore of Kauai. This stunningly majestic beach is a prime spot for snorkeling and sightseeing, with spectacular views of the entire coast. 

    The beach connects to the Kalalau Trail, an infamously treacherous route spanning 11 miles along the coastline. The rugged trail is widely acclaimed as one of the most beautiful and dangerous hikes… read more »

  • 3. Honopu Beach

    Honopu Beach

    Honopu Beach is a remote and secluded beach on Kauai's spectacular Na Pali Coast. The only way you can get there is by boat or swimming to it. The incredible beach is backed by 1200-foot high sea cliffs, and they are separated by the Honopu Arch. There is a huge waterfall that comes down the sea cliff and goes through to arch on its way to the ocean.

    The word… read more »

  • 4. Poipu Beach

    Poipu Beach
    © Ellen Smile
    Great for:
    • Family
    • Snorkeling
    • Swimming

    Poipu is the most popular beach on Kauai's South Shore and by all accounts one of the most highly rated in all Hawaii (or at least according to Dr Beach). The island of Kauai itself is the least developed and with its abundantly lush interior is often referred to as the Garden Isle. So, despite the fact Poipu borders a number of resorts it still has plenty of pristine, tropical… read more »

  • 5. Polihale Beach

    Polihale Beach

    Polihale Beach stands out above the rest due to its gorgeous pristine white sands, natural beauty and remote unspoilt location. Once a hidden gem, it was featured as "The Best Secluded Beach on Earth" by T&L magazine which pretty much negated its title!

    Despite being more popular now, this sandy beach still retains a sense of being at the very end of the earth. Getting to Polihale Beach takes about… read more »

  • 6. Barking Sands Beach

    Barking Sands Beach
    © Gh5046

    Barking Sands Beach is part of the 140-acre Polihale State Park which is one of Hawaii's longest beaches. The sand stretches for over 12 miles and includes towering sand dunes that rise to a height of 100 feet.

    The movement of the masses of sand is what gave the beach its curious name. The dry grains of sand have microscopic holes that cause reverberations when they move and rub… read more »

  • 7. Secret Beach

    Secret Beach

    The western end of Kauapea Beach is known as Secret Beach or just "Secrets" by locals. At high tide these two neighbouring sandy coves are separated by a rocky outcrop.

    Secret Beach is a frequent feature on lists of Hawaii's best beaches, and its golden sands, secluded location and scenic outlook to Moku’ae’ae Island make it a real gem.

    Backed by steep cliffs covered in lush vegetation, the only… read more »

  • 8. Kauapea Beach

    Kauapea Beach

    Hugging the northern shoreline of Kauai between Kalihiwai Beach and Kilauea Point, Kauapea Beach merges as one with Secret Beach at low tide. The golden sands are quite large by Kauai standards, stretching for half a mile or so with black lava rocks dotted here and there sheltered by tree and vegetation covered cliffs.

    The beach is accessed down a steep unmarked trail, maintaining its seclusion and, of course,… read more »

  • 9. Shipwreck Beach

    Shipwreck Beach
    Robert Linsdell
    Great for:
    • Surfing

    Known for its scenic trails and lookout points, Shipwreck Beach is a favorite of nature lovers and surfers. The beautiful, clear waters and striking features of the landscape are a feast for the eyes while the powerful swells are favored by adventurous surfers and boogie boarders.

    Shipwreck Beach received its name from an old wooden boat that sat near the shore for many decades. The boat slowly deteriorated until it was… read more »

  • 10. Lydgate Beach

    Lydgate Beach
    Great for:
    • Family
    • Snorkeling
    • Swimming
    • Surfing
    • Kitesurfing

    Sheltered from the waves by a lava stone breakwater creating two shallow child-friendly pools, Lydgate Beach Park is located on the eastern side of Kauai Island close to where the mouth of the River Wailua meets the Pacific Ocean.

    The setting for various movies including Elvis' Blue Hawaii, the calm waters are inhabited by tropical fish, making snorkelling a popular leisure activity. Its soft sands stretch roughly north-south in a straight… read more »

  • 11. Hanalei Beach

    Hanalei Beach
    © havilandwright
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Fishing
    • Surfing

    Set around Hanalei Bay, this is one of the largest beaches on Kauai's north shore at almost two miles long. Surrounded by a stunning backdrop of emerald-green mountains and tumbling waterfalls this is an idyllic tropical location. The combination of the deep blue ocean and the rich green mountains, separated by a crescent of white sand is quite breathtaking.

    When it is calm in the summer months, the ocean feels… read more »

  • 12. Ha'ena Beach

    Ha'ena Beach
    Christopher Michel

    After suffering historic floods in 2018, the highway access to Ha'ena Beach on North Shore Kauai reopened with new restrictions of just 900 visitors per day. This is intended to preserve the pristine natural beauty of this fragile and popular beach. You need to reserve your spot online up to 14 days ahead, pay for parking (currently $5 in 2023) and for the round-trip shuttle (another $11 per person) if… read more »

  • 13. Kalihiwai Beach

    Kalihiwai Beach
    Kyle Pearce

    Kalihiwai Beach is a North Shore beauty with a crescent-shaped sandy beach edged with ironwood trees. Even before you reach the beach it will entrance you with views from the scenic highway revealing idyllic green-clad cliffs and ocean vistas. The stunning setting and easy access to this drive-up beach make it a  popular spot for barefoot weddings.

    The western edge of the beach marks the mouth of the Kalihiwai River so… read more »

  • 14. Anini Beach

    Anini Beach
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling

    Anini Beach is an idyllic spot between Kilauea and Princeville on the island's beautiful north coast. The scenic drive is reason enough to visit this breathtakingly beautiful beach as the road follows the contours of the coastline delivering spectacular views at every twist and turn.

    Anini Beach is the quintessential desert island hideaway with pristine sands and calm clear waters in summer. Park your car and head over to the… read more »

  • 15. Donkey Beach

    Donkey Beach

    Donkey Beach, also known as Paliku Beach, is a relatively secluded beach on the east coast of Kauai. A stretch of unspoilt golden sand backed by fields and a few trees this is a lovely spot to throw down a towel and soak up the tropical sun.

    The beach here isn't the best for swimming and snorkeling though as the waves can be powerful and the currents strong. In fact it… read more »