9 Stunning Beaches In Kauai That Are A Must Visit For 2024

No matter where you are staying, you’ll find pretty beaches in Kauai close to you!

But which ones are the best for you to visit, especially on a short vacation to Kauai or if you’re island hopping and spending 1-3 days here?

Depends on what you’re looking for!

Natural beauty? Ke’e Beach and Haena Beach Park on Kauai’s north shore are two of the prettiest beaches on Kauai, set against a stunning backdrop of the steep Na Pali cliffs and rainforest jungles.

Gorgeous tropical sunset at Ke'e Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai
Gorgeous tropical sunset at Ke’e Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai

Looking to snorkel? Our favorites are Tunnels Beach and Anini Beach, again on the north shore of Kauai. With extensive coral reefs teeming with beautiful tropical reef fish, you’ll have an incredible time!

Visiting in winter? Kauai’s north shore beaches are too risky to swim in or snorkel, head to Lydgate Beach Park (year round snorkeling and swimming) or Poipu Beach.

Smaller kids in your group? Both Lydgate Beach Park and Poipu Beach Park are excellent choices, with convenient facilities and sheltered, keiki (children’s) swimming and snorkeling areas. Our kids loved both beaches!

Vacationing with teenage kids eager to learn surfing? Poipu Beach is our first choice, with waves just the right size, good for thrills but not too scary!

Adventure tourist? Hideaways Beach, Secret Beach and Shipwreck Beach offer something different, great for adrenaline junkies!

We’ve carefully curated Kauai beaches to just a handful that you really must visit! Read on to pick the beaches in Kauai that are best suited for you!

Up for an active adventure on the scenic Wailua River in Kauai? Discover the Secret Falls kayaking + hiking excursion on the east side of the island!

Beautiful Poipu Beach, one of the beaches in Kauai to regularly make the top 10 beaches in US list
Beautiful Poipu Beach, one of the beaches in Kauai to regularly make the top 10 beaches in US list

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Best Beaches in Kauai

1. Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach on the southern coast of Kauai is where all the action is!

So pretty as to make the top 10 beaches in the US list regularly, Poipu Beach is a popular family beach, chock full of activities to keep your kids busy.

The beach area is well-shielded from rough ocean waves by two semi-circular bays joined by a sandbar to a tiny offshore island, forming a natural barrier and a large open space of calm ocean waters.

Poipu Beach offers lots of water activities, one of the best Kauai beaches for a family beach day
Poipu Beach offers lots of water activities, one of the best Kauai beaches for a family beach day

An additional, smaller protected lagoon off the left-hand portion of Poipu Beach offers shallow waters for younger kids to splash around.

With facilities and rentals easily accessible, Poipu Beach is our favorite spot for a family beach day, with all of us enjoying swimming, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and more!

And with so much going for it, Poipu Beach does get busy! Consult our detailed travel guide to Poipu Beach to plan your day for maximum enjoyment!

2. Ke’e Beach

Of all the beautiful beaches on Kauai, Ke’e Beach in Haena State Park, on the north shore of Kauai, is the prettiest!

Set against a stunning backdrop of steep Na Pali cliffs on one side, a beautiful rainforest jungle at the back, and intense blue, Pacific Ocean waters in front, Ke’e Beach is a picture postcard setting, if ever there was one!

Ke'e Beach, a stunning beach on Kauai's North Shore, set against the Na Pali cliffs and a rainforest jungle
Ke’e Beach, a stunning beach on Kauai’s North Shore, set against the Na Pali cliffs and a rainforest jungle

And its not just visual appealing, Ke’e Beach is also one of the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, with fringing coral reefs that come almost to the shore, providing for safer snorkeling in shallow waters for beginning snorkelers and kids.

And unusually, for a beach so stunning, Ke’e Beach is relatively uncrowded because to enjoy the beach, you have to navigate a complex reservation system to enter Haena State Park, within which the beach is located.

Advance reservations go quickly way in minutes after the window opens, primarily due to the popularity of the famous Kalalau Trail, an amazing hike along the incredibly beautiful Na Pali coast.

To plan a trip to Ke’e Beach, and discover all it has to offer, consult our detailed travel guide to Ke’e Beach.

3. Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach)

Tunnels Beach, officially known as Makua Beach, is easily our cherished snorkeling beach on Kauai.

Tunnels Beach has coral formations and tons of fish, making it one of the best Kauai beaches for snorkeling
Tunnels Beach has coral formations and tons of fish, making it one of the best Kauai beaches for snorkeling

Finding a beach on Kauai that has fringing coral reefs teeming with hundreds of species of colorful tropical reef fish is easy.

Why is Tunnels Beach famous? Nature has wrought its magic here, underwater.

We were amazed at the underwater structures created from the ancient lava flows and the eroding action of the ocean waves. Underground caves, lava tubes, tunnels, arches and more to explore.

Though a pristine beach that has absolutely no facilities, don’t be deterred. The nearby Haena Beach Park offers the essentials: plenty of parking, restrooms and outdoor showers, and is about a 10 minute walk from Tunnels Beach.

Consult our detailed guide to Tunnels Beach if you want to learn more.

4. Haena Beach Park

When we couldn’t get advance reservations to visit Ke’e Beach, our go-to beach on the North Shore of Kauai was Haena Beach Park (different from Haena State Park).

Almost as spectacular, with a stunning backdrop of Bali Hai, a triangular mountain peak looming over the golden sand beach, Haena Beach Park is one of the best North Shore Kauai beaches for families, with plenty of parking, restrooms, outdoor showers and lifeguards.

One of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai, Haena Beach is set against a stunning mountain backdrop
One of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai, Haena Beach is set against a stunning mountain backdrop

Our family beach days here were great fun, with swimming, snorkeling at the adjacent Tunnels Beach, and just lazing in a beautiful tropical paradise setting.

Learn more from our detailed travel guide to Haena Beach Park.

5. Kauapea Secret Beach

Unlikely to remain a secret anymore, this beautiful beach in Kilauea, officially called the Kauapea Beach is located next to the iconic Kilauea Lighthouse landmark, and accessible by a short steep trail that is moderately difficult.

Kauapea Secret Beach is one of the most secluded beaches in Kauai, usually deserted on weekdays
Kauapea Secret Beach is one of the most secluded beaches in Kauai, usually deserted on weekdays

Still low on the tourist radar, and mostly a local haunt, this pretty beach is usually deserted on weekdays, so a perfect setting for a romantic couple or those seeking solitude to meditate in peaceful and beautiful natural settings.

Waves here are notoriously treacherous, so be extra careful entering the water. When calm, many shallow tidepools here may be explored.

In winter, you’ll see local youths frequent this beach to ride large waves, thrilling to watch from the safety of the beach!

Get directions and practical tips from our travel guide to the Kauapea Secret Beach.

6. Lydgate Beach

Searching for a safe beach to snorkel in winter or with younger kids? Lydgate Beach is your answer.

Located on the east coast of Kauai, in Wailua, Lydgate Beach is unique due to two large manmade lagoons, that provide sheltered, protected waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling, all year round, even in winter.

We rate Lydgate Beach one of the best swimming beaches on Kauai!

Lydgate Beach Park, one of the best beaches in Kauai, where you can swim and snorkel year-round
Lydgate Beach Park, one of the best beaches in Kauai, where you can swim and snorkel year-round

With turquoise waters and golden sands, this picturesque beach was the setting for many scenes from the Hollywood hit, Blue Hawaii, starring Elvis Presley.

But we loved Lydgate Beach Park for what it offered our young kids: a keiki children’s pool where they could view beautiful tropical fish darting around, seeming to play hide and seek with them, and an epic playground, Kamalani Playground, where they had so much fun.

Plan your trip with our detailed guide to visiting Lydgate Beach Park.

7. Hideaways Beach

With secret beaches scattered around Kauai, can a Hideaways Beach be far off? But this one is truly a hideout, accessible only by intrepid adventure tourists hiking over a difficult trail along the side of a cliff.

Hideaways Beach is one of the least accessible pretty beaches on Kauai, making it relatively uncrowded
Hideaways Beach is one of the least accessible pretty beaches on Kauai, making it relatively uncrowded

Definitely skip this beach if it has rained recently, the access trail will be treacherous and slippery.

A relatively small beach, but very pretty, ensconced in the foothills of a steep cliff, overrun by rainforest jungle, Hideaways Beach, when the waters are calm offers excellent snorkeling, among the best snorkeling in Kauai.

However, there are no facilities here, and with no lifeguards exercise prudence in entering the water!

We did some early morning snorkeling here under perfect weather conditions, saw tons of pretty reef fish and a few Hawaiian green sea turtles in the water.

Topped it off with a sumptuous brunch at the luxurious 1 Hotel near the trailhead!

Check out all the details in our guide to Hideaways Beach.

8. Anini Beach

Also on the North Shore of Kauai, Anini Beach boasts an extensive coral reef, the largest off the shores of Kauai, large enough to be visible from outer space!

Extensive coral reef all along Anini Beach, one of the best Kauai beaches for snorkeling and wind-based water sports
Extensive coral reef all along Anini Beach, one of the best Kauai beaches for snorkeling and wind-based water sports

The coral reefs come right to shore, and are great during summer for younger snorkelers, with plentiful fish in shallow waters.

Like the other Kauai North Shore beaches, Anini Beach has rough waves and high surf during winter, making snorkeling and swimming dangerous.

Apart from snorkeling and swimming, regular strong winds along this beach attract thrill seekers: kite surfers and windsurfers.

We loved watching some of the pros, who would often get airborne to dizzying heights.

With plenty of parking, a long stretch of sandy beach, restrooms, showers and picnic tables, Anini Beach Park is an excellent choice for a family beach day!

Use our travel guide to Anini Beach to plan your visit.

9. Shipwreck Beach

While Poipu Beach is definitely the most popular of the South Shore beaches on Kauai, it does tend to get crowded, especially on weekends.

Enter Shipwreck Beach, a beautiful beach a few miles further west.

With facilities like restrooms and showers, Shipwreck Beach is an excellent alternative if you’re looking primarily to laze or sunbathe on the sands for some quiet time.

Shipwreck Beach, one of the south coast beaches in Kauai, where cliff jumping is popular
Shipwreck Beach, one of the south coast beaches in Kauai, where cliff jumping is popular

Famous for the cliff jumping scene in the popular Hollywood hit, Six Days, Seven Nights, you can view locals jumping off the cliffs, re-enacting the scene!

Or if you want to stretch your legs with a leisurely hike on a pretty coastal trail, Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, one of the best Kauai hikes, with many things to see along the way including lithified sand dunes, an ancient sinkhole, and more secluded beaches.

Our kids spotted nene, native Hawaiian geese, on the golf course, a common sight.

Our detailed travel guide to Shipwreck Beach has all the info you need to plan your visit here!

Map of the Best Kauai Beaches

The below map of the best Kauai beaches shows their locations, and please expand the map to see driving directions and parking lots.

Snorkeling and Water Activities Gear Checklist

Though you can rent snorkeling gear or use the ones that come with tours, we invested in our own gear, mainly due to Covid-19 (why take the risk?).

Snorkeling at Hideaways Beach, one of the best beaches in Kauai for experienced, adventurous snorkelers
Snorkeling at Hideaways Beach, one of the best beaches in Kauai for experienced, adventurous snorkelers

Ocean Safety Tips

Hawaii’s beaches are beautiful, but ocean activities can be dangerous. Ocean conditions are dynamic and can change without warning.

Here are some tips to enjoy the ocean and beaches safely:

  • ALWAYS heed posted warning signs.
  • Check conditions just before you arrive at your chosen beach, and watch conditions at the beach for a bit before you decide to enter the water.
  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach and ask the lifeguard for advice before you enter the water.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean, whether you are standing at the shore or on a cliff above. If you see wet rocks or sand, it means the water has been here recently.
  • Know your limitations, especially if you are not an experienced swimmer. If in doubt, do not go out.
  • If you choose to enter the water, go with a partner or in a group.
  • Know that alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills in the water.
  • Keep children close and always keep your eyes on what they are doing in the water.
  • Watch for sharp coral or rocks or sea urchins.
  • Check advisories regarding water quality at various beaches here.
Rogue waves at Ke'e Beach, avoid entering the water on North Shore Kauai beaches in winter
Rogue waves at Ke’e Beach, avoid entering the water on North Shore Kauai beaches in winter

Best Kauai Tours

Have you booked these top Kauai guided adventures yet?

Sunset catamaran tour of the Na Pali Coast (relatively more stable ride, insane views on good weather days!)

Doors-off helicopter tour of Kauai (unobstructed views, chance to see more of the island than you can by land, no middle seats!)

Kayak on the Wailua River plus hike to a waterfall (a super fun activity for active travelers, albeit a little muddy sometimes!)

Raft trip to the Na Pali Coast plus snorkeling (prepare to get wet on this exhilarating adventure!)

Eurocopter ECO-Star helicopter tour over Kauai (the most booked Kauai helicopter tour on Viator with close to 2K reviews and a 5-star rating!)

Entire Kauai Island Air Tour (super popular, less expensive than a heli tour, large bubble windows for flightseeing!)

Renting a Car in Kauai

The best things to do in Kauai are scattered all over the island.

Public transport options on Kauai aren’t great, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Kauai trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Kauai car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Kauai car rentals now!

Where to Stay in Kauai

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Kauai you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

Since you’ll likely want to base in a couple places on your trip to Kauai, we suggest starting your search for Kauai accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in both Poipu and Princeville and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Kauai vacation rental on VRBO now!

Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!

One of the top beaches in Kauai, Ke'e Beach set against the Na Pali cliffs
One of the top beaches in Kauai, Ke’e Beach set against the Na Pali cliffs

More Kauai Travel Inspiration

Considering a trip to the Garden Isle in Hawaii? You’ll definitely want to check out some of our other comprehensive Kauai travel and attraction guides!

If you are a first-time visitor to Kauai, start by discovering the best things to do in Kauai! From beaches and botanical gardens to cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls, Kauai has it all, and our round-up lists all of Kauai’s must-experience activities and attractions.

Planning to split a week between Kauai and another island? We have a 3 days in Kauai itinerary article you must read to help flesh out what you would like to see and do!

Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei and Kauai’s scenic north shore, the best things to do in Poipu and Kauai’s south shore, and the most exciting things to do on Kauai’s Coconut Side or east side.

Read our in-depth guide to visiting the Na Pali Coast of Kauai. We give you the full scoop on the best ways to visit this stunning coast in the remote northwest of the island.

Discover our round-up of the nine spectacular state parks in Kauai, which house some of Kauai’s most treasured natural wonders.

We also have visitor’s guides to popular parks like Waimea Canyon State Park, which protects the namesake canyon, nearby Kokee State Park, and the remote but beautiful Polihale State Park.

Also check out the ultimate guide to visiting Haena State Park on Kauai’s north shore, and a full guide to hiking the epic Kalalau Trail.

Check out our round-up of the most beautiful waterfalls in Kauai, from waterfalls you can view from the road to falls that require hiking and falls that are best seen from a helicopter or sightseeing flight. We also have an article on everything you need to know to visit Secret Falls Kauai on an exciting kayaking and hiking tour.

Read our guide to Wailua River State Park to discover two easy-to-access Kauai waterfalls, and our trail guide for the easy hike to Ho’opi’i Falls. We also have an article on the best Kauai waterfall hikes.

And if a helicopter tour is part of your plans for Kauai, read our article on the top-rated helicopter tours in Kauai!

Hiking enthusiasts will want to read our article on the best hikes in Koke’e State Park: the trails here are some of the best hikes in Kauai!

We have detailed trail guides for the most popular Koke’e hikes, from the scenic Canyon Trail to the top of Waipo’o Falls, to the epic Awa’awapuhi Trail, challenging but very rewarding!

Also discover the best hikes in Waimea Canyon State Park, and the best hikes on Kauai’s north shore.

We also have a trail guide for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s scenic south shore, an article on how to hike the Sleeping Giant Trail, and a guide to the Kuilau Ridge Trail, one of the easy hikes on Kauai.

Get the scoop on the best botanical gardens in Kauai, from Limahuli Garden on the north shore to McBryde and Allerton Gardens on the south shore.

Read our guide to the best swimming beaches on Kauai, from Hanalei Bay on the north shore to Poipu Beach on the south shore!

We also have a guide to the best snorkeling beaches on Kauai, a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches, and an article on the best Kauai south shore beaches!

And if you love watching the sun go down in a burst of color, be sure to read our article on where to go for the best sunsets on Kauai!

Did you find this article informative? Pin it on Pinterest for later!

Discover the complete guide to the most breathtaking beaches on Kauai in Hawaii, from the snorkeling paradise of Tunnels Beach to the tropical picture postcard Poipu Beach!

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