Kalapaki Beach, on the east shore, is one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai, Hawaii

11 Best Swimming Beaches in Kauai (2024 Guide!)

Planning a Kauai vacation and wondering about the best swimming beaches in Kauai?

With more than 50 miles of sandy beaches along its coastline of 111 miles, the Hawaiian island of Kauai lays claim to many of the most beautiful beaches on the planet.

But how many of the several dozen beaches on Kauai are swimming beaches?

Some beaches in Kauai are flat out too dangerous for swimming (or snorkeling), no matter the time of year.

Some beaches, especially on the north shore, experience big surf in the winter, but may be calm enough in the summer to allow for swimming.

Hanalei Bay Kauai Hawaii
Hanalei Bay beach on the north shore of Kauai

If you are planning to visit Kauai in the winter, stick to swimmable beaches on the south shore. The north shore experiences dangerous high surf in winter, AND it also rains a lot, which doesn’t augur well for fun on the beach.

In this article, we’ve rounded up the best Kauai swimming beaches, to help you plan the beach days on your itinerary for the island.

Many of the best Kauai swimming beaches are also some of the best Kauai snorkeling beaches, so make sure you take your snorkeling gear with you!

Always remember to check the surf report before heading to any beach in Kauai, pay heed to posted warning signs, choose lifeguarded beaches if you want to swim or snorkel, and consult with the lifeguard on duty before you enter the water. If in doubt, don’t go out!

And now, let’s discover the best swimming beaches in Kauai!

Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour!

Haena Beach is one of the best Kauai north shore beaches!
In the summer, lifeguarded Haena Beach is one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai!

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Best Kauai Swimming Beaches

1. Poipu Beach

Routinely listed among the top beaches in the world, Poipu Beach is without a doubt one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai, one of the most visited places in all of Hawaii!

Its beautiful golden sands, fringed with palms, and clear turquoise waters, replete with marine life, make Poipu Beach a tropical paradise.

The waters here are protected by a barrier reef, making them safer for swimming.

Spending time at beautiful Poipu Beach is one of the best things to do on Kauai!

The lagoon at Poipu Beach in Kauai, HI
The shallow lagoon at Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach Park is actually made up of a couple of crescent bays, separated by a narrow spit of sand that juts out into the water.

To the east of the sand spit you’ll find a shallow area protected by lava rocks, perfect for swimming with small kids.

At low tide, it can sometimes be less than 12 inches deep here, like a wading pool!

Poipu Beach has some of the best Kauai snorkeling, especially near the rocks, with many colorful fish, but watch out for sharp coral. You can also dive around the barrier reef, or go boogie boarding or surfing on the western side of the sand spit.

And if you are lucky, you may spot endangered Hawaiian monk seals or Hawaiian green sea turtles resting on the sand at Poipu Beach.

If you are planning to visit on a weekend day, arrive early to secure a parking spot. As one of the best beaches on the south shore of Kauai, Poipu Beach Park is very popular! Better yet, visit on a weekday.

If you plan to picnic, secure a shaded spot early, they go fast!

Location: South Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, shaded areas
Food Nearby: Many restaurants nearby! Keoki’s Paradise, a very popular eatery, is less than one mile away.
Parking: Poipu Beach Park has a large parking lot across the street.
Directions: Poipu Beach Park, 2371 Hoone Road, Koloa (map)

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

2. Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park at Hanalei Bay

A 2-mile crescent of sand along the spectacular Hanalei Bay holds three beaches within its length.

Hanalei Bay is protected by one of the longest reefs in Hawaii, making the waters relatively calm in the summer.

The beach at Hanalei Bay in Kauai, HI
The beach at Hanalei Bay

In the winter, however, expect high surf and strong currents, conditions not amenable to swimming.

The central portion of the bay is home to Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park. The beach here is good for swimming, surfing, boogie boarding, or paddleboarding.

While the cool waters here are inviting, also make time for a long stroll along the endless golden sand. Enjoy views of Mount Makana as you walk.

A morning stroll here is one of the best things to do in Hanalei!

Good to know: Waioli Beach Park, directly to the west along Hanalei Bay, is also a good spot to go swimming in the summer. There is a lifeguard station here.

Waioli Beach is a popular spot for local families with kids. The sandy bottom of the beach falls close to shore, making it suitable for younger kids to play in the water in the summer.

Black Pot Beach Park, to the east of the bay, also offers swimming, but there is no lifeguard here, and the waters can be murky at the mouth of the Hanalei River.

Location: North Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, pavilions
Food Nearby: Many restaurants nearby along the Kuhio Highway! Consider Tahiti Nui, or Fresh Bite Kauai.
Parking: Several parking areas nearby, including a lot at Black Pot Beach Park.
Directions: Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, Hanalei (map)

3. Ha’ena Beach Park

Not to be confused with Ha’ena State Park, which you will find a little ways further along the highway, Ha’ena Beach Park is a must-visit for swimming in the summer.

It’s one of the best Kauai north shore beaches you can visit.

Ha’ena Beach has a gorgeous setting, with a backdrop of lush tropical vegetation and the photogenic Mount Makana (it featured as Bali Hai in the movie South Pacific).

The beach offers golden sands and aqua waters. A picture postcard, in fact!

Haena Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
Ha’ena Beach is a picture postcard!

In the summer when the waters are calm, Ha’ena Beach offers excellent swimming (and snorkeling). There is no protective reef here though, so even in the summer caution is advised.

When you aren’t in the water, stroll the sandy beach to look for shells or spread a towel out and enjoy the sun, and the scenery.

In the winter, the waves are huge, with dangerous rip currents and strong shore breaks.

Good to know: Tunnels Beach, considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai and one of the best Kauai snorkeling beaches, is adjacent to Ha’ena Beach.

You can walk along the sand to Tunnels if you wish. When the waters are calm, you can swim at Tunnels Beach.

Location: North Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, campsites
Food Nearby: Nearest restaurants are near Hanalei Town, but you may find food trucks or stands at the beach.
Parking: There is a parking lot at Ha’ena Beach Park.
Directions: Ha’ena Beach Park, HI-560, Kapaʻa (map)

4. Ke’e Beach

You’ll find Ke’e Beach in Hāʻena State Park, one of the most visited state parks in Kauai.

Crescent-shaped Ke’e Beach is protected from the open ocean by a barrier reef, making it relatively safe for swimming and offers some of the best Kauai snorkeling in the summer.

On some summer days, the water here looks as calm as a lagoon.

Ke'e Beach Haena State Park Kauai HI
Beautiful Ke’e Beach

There are tidepools to explore, and the views of the cliffs of the Na Pali Coast are gorgeous on clear days.

In the winter, however, the surf here can be powerful and the currents strong, not conditions suited for swimming.

If you’d like to get in some hiking while you are spending a beach day at Ke’e Beach, you’ll find the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail right by the beach.

Hike up 0.5 mile for fabulous views of Ke’e Beach from above! Then return and cool off at the beach.

Be sure to stay until the evening to enjoy a lovely Hawaiian sunset.

Good to know: Hāʻena State Park, within which Ke’e Beach is located, requires entry reservations (and parking reservations if you will drive) for visitors that are not Hawaii residents. Make reservations here.

Location: North Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: Yes, during the day, in summer
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, water fountains, picnic tables, shaded areas
Food Nearby: None close to the beach.
Parking: There is a parking lot with 100 spaces at Haena State Park, or you can take the North Shore Shuttle.
Directions: Haena State Park, 6CC9+8R Wainiha, Hawaii, Kapaʻa (map)

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

5. Kalapaki Beach

On the east shore of Kauai, Kalapaki Beach is located at the front of the Marriott’s Kaua’i Beach Club.

The gorgeous crescent-shaped sandy beach here is fringed with a grassy lawn and palm trees, and offers beautiful views if you want to stroll.

The beach opens up to the blue waters of Nawiliwili Bay.

Kalapaki Beach in Kauai, HI
Kalapaki Beach is a family-friendly swimming beach on Kauai’s east shore

Partly protected from the open ocean by a breakwater and rocks, Kalapaki Beach is one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai.

It’s a very popular place to spend the day, so arrive early to snag a good parking spot.

A family-friendly beach, Kalapaki Beach is also a good place to surf, go boogie boarding, or stand-up paddleboarding.

Good to know: This Kauai beach is close to the cruise port and harbor, and it’s a more urban setting than some of the other beaches in this round-up.

Location: East Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, drinking fountains
Food Nearby: Many restaurants nearby! You can walk to Duke’s Kauai.
Parking: Kalapaki Beach has a parking lot along the side road off Rice St.
Directions: Kalapaki Beach, Lihue (map)

6. Anini Beach

Anini Beach is a long beautiful white sand beach on the north shore, protected by a fringed reef that runs pretty much the length of the beach.

As a result, Anini Beach is considered one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai in the summer. Families with kids enjoy Anini Beach.

On really calm days, the water can look like a mirror.

Anini Beach Kauai Hawaii
Picturesque Anini Beach

In some parts, the beach is quite narrow so you can almost step out of your car and into the warm waters!

If you venture out to the reef, stay close to the sections of the reef closer to shore: further out, the currents can be very strong.

At the western end of the beach you’ll find a sandbar jutting out into the ocean, and kids will enjoy playing in the calm waters here.

Anini Beach is known for its long and wide coral reef, offering some of the best Kauai snorkeling.

You can also go paddleboarding in the shallow, protected waters of Anini Beach.

Good to know: The sand at Anini Beach is not powdery, like at some other Kauai beaches, so you may want to bring water shoes.

Location: North Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, pavilions, shade trees
Food Nearby: There may be a food truck at the beach, or you can eat in nearby Princeville.
Parking: On the ocean side of the road.
Directions: Anini Beach, Anini Road, Kilauea (map)

7. Lydgate Beach Park

One of the most popular beaches on Kauai, Lydgate Beach is located on the island’s east shore, near the mouth of the Wailua River.

A lava rock wall protects the waters here from the open ocean, making the beach a good Kauai beach for swimming.

The protected pools at Lydgate Beach are considered one of the safest ocean swimming places in Kauai.

Lydgate Beach Park in Kauai, Hawaii -- Lydgate Beach is considered one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai!
Strolling along the beach at Lydgate Beach Park!

Lydgate Beach Park is one of the few best, year-round snorkeling beaches on Kauai!

Keiki Pond, a section of the beach that’s walled off into a smaller pool, is perfect for kids to swim and snorkel. Beginner snorkelers also find this spot great for practice.

The rock walls here are man made. The rocks were craned into the ocean in the 1970s.

When you aren’t swimming or sunbathing, the beach makes for excellent beachcombing, with sculptural driftwood. Or just stroll and enjoy the views: the trees by the water create great photo ops!

There is also a walking path behind the beach if you don’t want to walk on the sand.

Location: East Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, drinking fountains, picnic tables, barbecue grills, walking path
Food Nearby: There are restaurants at either end of the park.
Parking: Many parking spaces along Nalu Road.
Directions: Lydgate Beach Park, Leho Dr, Lihue (map)

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

8. Baby Beach

As the name suggests, Baby Beach features calm waters, ideal for swimming. It’s a tiny beach on the sunny south shore of the island. It’s also called Kaheka Beach.

Baby Beach Kauai HI
Baby Beach on the south shore

There’s a reef that runs parallel to the shore here, ensuring that waves mostly break before they reach the beach.

You’ll find some wading pools suitable for very young kids.

Because of the location of the beach (in a residential neighborhood) and the lack of parking and amenities, Baby Beach is usually not as crowded as other south shore swimming beaches.

Snorkeling is also good here, by the reef. Look for sea turtles!

Baby Beach is great for morning strolls, or at sunset. Look for sea glass as you walk!

There isn’t much shade, so bring your beach umbrella and lounging chairs if you want to relax here for a bit.

And be sure to wear water shoes because there are rocks.

Location: South Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: None, but you’ll find showers and restrooms at Lawai Beach, a 5-minute drive
Food Nearby: There are many restaurants nearby!
Parking: Along the street, limited spots.
Directions: Hoona Road, Koloa (map)

9. Kiahuna Beach

Considered a section of the broader Poipu Beach, Kiahuna Beach (sometimes known as the Sheraton Beach) lies to the west of Poipu Beach Park along the island’s south shore.

A crescent-shaped golden-sand beach fringed with palms and featuring turquoise waters, Kiahuna Beach is considered one of Kauai’s top swimming beaches.

Kiahuna Beach South Shore Kauai HI
Beautiful turquoise waters at Kiahuna Beach

Because of a natural reef, the cove offers relatively calm waters, but watch the waves for a few minutes and look for other swimmers in the water before you decide whether to enter.

We’ve seen waves that were a little big here on one or two visits, although folks were able to manage by getting a few feet into the water past where they were breaking.

Kiahuna Beach is also good for snorkeling. Strolls along this beach are beautiful as well, and there’s room to spread out your towel if you are looking for a day in the sun.

It is usually a little less crowded than Poipu Beach, a plus for us.

Location: South Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, grassy area
Food Nearby: Many restaurants nearby.
Parking: Tiny lot and limited street parking at the east end of Hoonani Road, because resorts overlook this beach. You can also park at the Poipu Beach parking lot and walk.
Directions: Between Poipu Beach Park and Lawai Beach, Koloa (map)

10. Salt Pond Beach Park

Protected from the ocean by natural fringing reefs, Salt Pond Beach is one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai, and the snorkeling is good as well.

The waters in the protected cove are usually quite calm, making it safe for less expert swimmers and even kids to swim here.

There is even a keiki pond area to the right of the main bay, frequented by families. The reefs here make for amazing snorkeling, and the Salt Pond Beach Park is one of the best Kauai snorkeling beaches on the South Shore for families with kids.

Salt Pond Beach Park Kauai HI
Pools at Salt Pond Beach

The white sands are great for sunbathing or strolling, and the beach is lovely at sunset. Look for Hawaiian sea turtles (honu), or monk seals on the beach!

Located in Hanapepe, a little away from the touristic core on the south shore, Salt Pond Beach also has the advantage of being a little quieter and less crowded. It’s known as more of a locals beach.

If you want to spend a few hours here during the day, bring your own shade and lounge chairs.

Location: Southwest Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables
Food Nearby: There are restaurants in Hanapepe, just a couple of miles away.
Parking: Salt Pond Beach Park offers a parking lot.
Directions: Salt Pond Rd, Eleele (map)

11. Kalihiwai Beach

As a north shore beach in Kauai, the waves here are too big in the winter to allow for swimming, but in the summer, the waters are usually relatively calm.

Kalihiwai Beach is one of the prettiest beaches on the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Kalihiwai Beach is one of the less crowded beaches on Kauai’s north shore

Even so, the key word is usually, and you may encounter big wave days in the summer as well. Since the beach is not lifeguarded, exercise caution if you choose to swim here.

The beach is large and usually not crowded, allowing for plenty of room to spread out your beach towel. It’s also a pretty beach for strolling, with a backdrop of ironwood trees and lava cliffs on each end.

The Kalihiwai River flows into the ocean here at one side of the beach. Do not swim here if the water is murky.

Location: North Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: None
Food Nearby: The nearest restaurants are in Hanelei.
Parking: Off-street parking at the end of Kalihiwai Road.
Directions: Kalihiwai Road, Kilauea (map)

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?).

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.
  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach and speak with a lifeguard 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.
North Shore beach in Kauai
Exercise extreme caution at beaches that do not have a lifeguard on duty!

Map of Best Kauai Swimming Beaches

The 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!

Lihue Airport-Hotel Shuttle

Not planning to pick up a rental car at Lihue airport? Pre-arrange round trip transfer from the airport to your hotel and back!

This shared shuttle serves hotels or vacation rentals in Princeville, Kahala, Poipu, Kapaa, or Lihue, and then back again. It’s convenient and inexpensive, and saves time and hassle!

>> Check prices and availability for shared round-trip airport transfer in Kauai 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!

Kee Beach in Haena State Park, Kauai, Hawaii
Kee Beach in Haena State Park is a beautiful Kauai swimming beach in the summer

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 for later!

Discover the best swimming beaches in Kauai, Hawaii, from popular Poipu Beach on the south to Hanalei Bay in the north and Kalapaki and Lydgate in the east.

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