Witnessing sunset at Ke'e Beach is one of the top reasons to visit Haena State Park in Kauai, Hawaii

Visiting Haena State Park, Kauai: The Complete Guide!

Haena State Park is one of the most visited state parks in Kauai. Home to beautiful Ke’e Beach and the trailhead for the famous Kalalau Trail, Ha’ena State Park is a must-add to your Kauai itinerary!

Located literally at the “end of the road” on the island’s north shore, Haena State Park is the gateway to Kauai’s legendary Na Pali Coast. The Kuhio Highway ends at the park.

While the white sand beaches, tall cliffs, old sea caves, and lush tropical beauty make Haena State Park irresistible, visiting the park requires advance planning, especially if you are not a Hawaii resident, and patience.

Haena State Park Kauai
A view of Haena State Park in Kauai

Following devastating flooding in 2018 that caused landslides and shut down the only road to the park, the State of Hawaii took the opportunity to reassess the management of the park.

Now that Haena State Park has re-opened to normal visitation, there are limits on the daily number of visitors, and a reservation system visitors must navigate to access the park.

Plan in advance and you will be able to enjoy all the beauty on offer at Haena State Park! Otherwise you’ll face the dreaded situation where Haena State Park reservations are sold out.

In this guide, we describe all there is to see and do at Haena State Park, plus the nitty gritty on how to visit.

Planning a visit to Kauai? We also have detailed guides to Kokee State Park and to Waimea Canyon State Park, as well as to Wailua River State Park and Polihale State Park, other must-visit Kauai state parks!

Now let’s get started discovering how to visit Haena State Park in Kauai!

Hey, by the way! Visiting Kauai? The only way to get a real feel for the rugged beauty of this incredible island is through a helicopter tour! Check out the five highest rated Kauai Helicopter tours for 2023!

Hanakapiai Falls in Kauai, HI
Hanakapiai Falls is an 8-mile round trip hike from Ke’e Beach

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Things to Do in Haena State Park

Enjoy Ke’e Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches in Kauai, crescent-shaped Ke’e Beach features pristine white sands and turquoise waters.

And because of the limit on visitors, Ke’e Beach doesn’t feel crowded!

In the summer, Ke’e is considered one of the best swimming beaches in Kauai, since an offshore reef offers protection from the open surf.

Spending some time relaxing at Kee Beach is one of the most fun things to do in Kauai!

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

In the winter, however, you’ll find high surf and dangerous currents at Ke’e Beach, similar to other north shore beaches in Kauai.

Other than swimming when the waters are calm, you can also go snorkeling at Ke’e Beach, one of the best Kauai snorkeling beaches. At low tide, there are tidepools for kids to explore.

If you walk along the beach to the east and look back, you will have spectacular views of the Na Pali Coast.

As you walk, look for Hawaiian green sea turtles resting on the beach. Observe the exposed roots of the trees at the beach: they make for great photos!

Sunset at Ke’e Beach is sensational if you happen to be here on an evening when colors light up the sky after the sun goes down.

Access to the beach is via a 0.25-mile boardwalk trail from the parking lot.

The beach is lifeguarded. There are restrooms, water fountains, and showers, as well as picnic tables.

Note that you cannot access Ke’e Beach without Haena State Park reservations!

Ke’e Beach features on some Kauai helicopter tours. It’s yet another perspective on this picturesque part of Kauai!

View the Taro Fields

For visitors with an interest in local history and culture, Haena State Park offers the opportunity to view restored taro fields.

Taro is a very important Hawaiian crop and a staple in the native Hawaiian diet. It is believed that the plant was brought to Hawaii by ancient Polynesians.

Field of Taro Plants
Taro plants have gorgeous heart-shaped leaves!

The plant looks lovely, with large heart-shaped leaves. We’ve seen purple taro in Maui, but the taro plants here are a nice bright green.

The park is also home to sites associated with the hula, the traditional Hawaiian dance form, including a heiau dedicated to Laka, the goddess of Hula.

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

Do the Kalalau Trail: Epic Haena State Park Hike

Haena State Park does not have many hiking trails, but the single trail it does boast is the most epic hiking trail on Kauai.

One of the major reasons to visit Haena State Park is that it houses the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail, considered one of the most epic hikes in all of Hawaii.

The very challenging Kalalau hike is 11 miles each way, and leads from Haena State Park into the Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park.

Start point of the Kalalau Trail in Kauai Hawaii
The sign at the start of the epic Kalalau Trail

Hiking the Kalalau Trail is currently the only way visitors can legally visit the Na Pali Coast via land.

The trail takes you through five lush valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach, where it is blocked by the tall ridged cliffs that are the hallmark of the coast.

Along the way, you will see lots of local flora, including some rare and endangered Hawaiian plants. Also look for wild goats!

Kalalau Trail Na Pali Coast Kauai HI
The Kalalau Trail offers sensational views on clear days!

Exercise caution if you choose to enter the water at Kalalau Beach because currents can be very strong and there is no lifeguard. High surf is common, especially in the winter and spring.

Most hikers in good shape take a full day to hike the trail, camping overnight (or for a couple of days) at Kalalau Beach before making the long trek back.

Camping at Hanakoa or Kalalau, the two designated campsites along the trail, requires an overnight permit.

Do the short day hike on the Kalalau Trail to the first viewpoint

For visitors looking to hike only a part of the Kalalau Trail, there’s good news: you can hike up to Hanakapiai Valley on a day use entry.

The shortest day hike option is up to the first viewpoint along the Kalalau Trail.

A view of Ke'e Beach from the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Hawaii
A view of Ke’e Beach from the Kalalau Trail

Although it’s not an easy climb, you can hike just the first 0.5 mile on the trail for nice views. This one-mile round trip option is great if you are short on time but still want to experience the epic trail.

From the viewpoint, you get spectacular views over Ke’e Beach and the Pacific Ocean.

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

Do the day hike to Hanakapiai Beach

Serious hikers that do not want to do the full Kalalau Trail can do the first two miles, which puts you at beautiful Hanakapiai Beach.

The four mile round trip day hike is moderate to challenging, and takes most hikers three to four hours.

Hanakapi’ai Beach is gorgeous, with white sand and turquoise waters. Sunbathe, stroll on the sand, and admire the scenery. From the beach, you get beautiful views back into the valley.

Hanakapiai Beach Kauai Hawaii
Hanakapiai Beach

Do not swim or wade here though: the currents and surf here can be very dangerous. High surf is common in the winter.

There is a sign that has a tally of the number of drownings that have occurred here and it’s close to 100.

Want more? Do the day hike to Hanakapiai Falls!

For a more strenuous day hike, add another two miles each way and visit Hanakapiai Falls!

Hanakapiai Falls plunges 300 feet into the depths of the pool below. It’s an awesome sight, framed by the lush tropical vegetation: one of the best waterfalls in Kauai.

You can choose to swim in the plunge pool but the water is very cold! Also watch out for falling rocks.

Hanakapiai Falls Kauai HI
Hanakapiai Falls

This trail into the valley follows the stream and is significantly more difficult, with several stream crossings, rocky parts, narrow portions, and possibly muddy and slippery conditions.

The trail is not maintained and you have to watch for loose rocks, exposed tree roots, and and fallen tree branches.

But it’s a beautiful trail through lush tropical vegetation, including bamboo.

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

Getting to Haena State Park

Haena State Park is located at the western end of the Kuhio Highway on the north shore of Kauai (see map).

Note that Haena State Park is not the same as Haena Beach Park, even though they are located close to each other on Kauai’s north shore.

Although walking in to Haena State Park or biking in are options, most people drive or take the shuttle.

You can drive to Haena State Park if you have a car (also see reservation system section below). The park is 6.9 miles from Hanalei Town, about a 20-minute drive in normal traffic.

From Lihue, it is 38.1 miles, about an hour and 10 minutes, and from Poipu, Haena State Park is 49.4 miles, about an hour and 30 minutes each way in normal traffic.

Parking is free for Hawaii residents with proof of residency. Non-residents pay a parking fee of $10.00 per time slot for a standard vehicle.

Haena State Park Shuttle

The Haena State park Shuttle is also known as the North Shore Shuttle, and you can arrive at Haena State Park on the North Shore Shuttle.

The shuttle runs daily, every twenty minutes, from 6.20 a.m. until 6.40 p.m. You have to check in at Waipā Park & Ride near Waioli Beach Park in Hanalei.

At the time of writing, the shuttle costs $35.00 per adult, and $25.00 per child for ages 4-15. Kids 3 and under ride free on laps.

Sunset at Ke'e Beach on Kauai
Sunset at Ke’e Beach

Haena State Park Hours and Admission Fees

Haena State Park is usually open from 7 a.m. until dusk (6.45 p.m).

Entry is free for residents of Hawaii with proof of residency (Driver’s License or ID).

For visitors that are not residents of Hawaii, the entry fee is $5.00 per person. Kids 3 and under are free.

Entry reservations are mandatory for non-residents that do not have valid camping permits for Kalalau (see below).

Kee Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
Ke’e Beach in Haena State Park

Haena State Park Reservations

Haena State Park reservations are mandatory and must be made as soon as your date opens. Be sure to read the following information carefully if this park is on your Kauai bucket list!

Hawaii Residents

If you are a resident of Hawaii (Kamaʻāina), you do not need entry reservations or parking reservations for day visits. You just have to show your Hawaii driver’s license or ID!

Hawaii residents do need camping permits to hike the Kalalau Trail beyond Hanakapiai Valley. You can park for free overnight at the park with your resident camping permit.

Non-residents that plan to overnight along the Kalalau Trail

If you are a non-resident that plans to hike the Kalalau Trail beyond Hanakapiai Valley, you need a valid camping permit, plus parking reservations if you will park your car in the park.

Day visitors to Haena State Park that are not residents of Hawaii

If you are a non-resident walking or biking into the park, or arriving with a Hawaii resident, you need an entry reservation.

If you plan to drive to the park, you will need a combination parking reservation plus included entry passes for all occupants over the age of 3.

Parking reservations are issued in three time slots and you can pay for one or more slots, depending on how long you expect to spend in the park: morning — 6.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m., afternoon — 12.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m., and evening — 4.30 p.m. to sunset.

For example, if you think you will arrive at 8 a.m. and leave by 4 p.m., you will need to reserve the morning plus afternoon parking slots at $10.00 for each slot.

If you plan to take the North Shore shuttle to Haena State park, you will need a combination shuttle ticket plus (included) park entry pass. The entry is only valid if you actually ride the shuttle to the park.

When to make your reservations / buy your Haena State Park tickets

Camping permits are released 90 days in advance, and you can make parking reservations at the same time.

Day reservations can be made 30 days ahead of your planned visit date. Spots tend to sell out rapidly, especially if you want the parking option, so plan to book as soon as your date opens up.

You can make reservations online.

Tip: If your date is sold out, keep checking frequently to see if spots have opened up due to cancelations.

Tip: There’s no cell phone service at the park, so download or print your reservation information.

Hanakapiai Falls in Kauai HI
Hanakapiai Falls with its lovely plunge pool!

The Best Time to Visit Haena State Park

The park, and the Kalalau Trail, are open year round.

If your plans permit, we suggest visiting Haena State Park in the late spring, summer, or early fall.

Summer months tend to be less rainy on Kauai’s rainy north shore. Summer is also when ocean conditions tend to be calmer at north shore beaches.

So if you are looking to possibly swim or snorkel at Ke’e Beach, or hike, pick the warmer, less rainy months of the year.

Ocean views from the Kalalau Trail in Kauai Hawaii
Spectacular ocean views from the Kalalau Trail on a clear day

Tips for Visiting Haena State Park

Reserve as soon as your date opens up.

We can’t emphasize this enough. Slots go quickly!

If visiting lovely Ke’e Beach or hiking a part or all of the Kalalau Trail is on your Kauai bucket list, make reservations for Haena State Park as soon as your dates open up.

Early reservation is especially crucial if you opt for parking your car in the park. Parking spaces in the park top out at 100, of which 30 are reserved for Hawaii residents.

Reservations open at 12 a.m. Hawaii time, and often the parking passes are gone in a minute or two.

And remember to book more than one parking time slot on the day of your visit if you anticipate needing more time in the park. You have to exit before your parking time expires.

Check weather and surf forecasts.

Check the weather forecast before your visit. The park (or the trail) may close in the event of adverse weather conditions.

If you plan to enter the ocean, be sure to read the surf forecast for the day of your visit. Ke’e Beach may be closed in the event of adverse surf conditions.

Weather, surf, and trail conditions, and information on park closures is available here.

Kee Beach at Sunset, Kauai HI
Ke’e Beach at sunset

Don’t expect cell service.

There is minimal to no cell service at Haena State park or along the Kalalau Trail.

Download reservation information, maps, and brochures that you need prior to arriving at the park.

We recommend downloading a trail map, especially if you plan to hike the trail to the Hanakapiai Falls, which can be confusing in places.

Do not hike or swim alone, and exercise additional caution when hiking as you will not be able to use your cellphone to call for help.

Carry enough drinking water.

There are water fountains at the entrance to Ke’e Beach.

Bring an adequate supply of drinking water with you if you plan to hike, more than you think you will need.

The humidity will make you sweat.

Exposed roots of trees at Ke'e Beach in Kauai, HI
Exposed tree roots along Ke’e Beach look sculptural

Bring food and snacks.

There is no food available for purchase at Haena State Park.

Bring adequate food and snacks for your visit, whether you plan to stay at the beach or hike.

Large coolers are not permitted on the shuttle.

Manage your time.

If you plan to hike to Hanakapiai Beach or Hanakapiai Falls, start early and plan to be back at Ke’e Beach while it’s still light out.

Expect stream crossings.

If you plan to day hike to Hanakapiai Beach or Hanakapiai Falls, remember that the trail includes stream crossings.

There’s one stream crossing at the beach, in order to get to the main Hanakapiai Beach area, and several on the trail to the waterfall.

You can either cross by jumping from one boulder to another if you are nimble, or you can wade through the water.

Bring water shoes or sandals for the stream crossings.

Do not attempt to cross the stream if it is rushing or swollen or murky.

Expect muddy/slippery conditions.

It can rain any time on the north shore of Kauai. If it’s rained recently, or it’s raining when you visit, expect the Kalalau Trail to be very muddy and slippery.

Hiking the Kalalau Trail in Kauai HI
The Kalalau Trail can be muddy and slippery after rains

Wear proper footwear (that you don’t mind getting dirty or discolored): we suggest waterproof boots that you can also use for shallow stream crossings.

Bring hiking poles (we found them incredibly helpful on this trail!), and exercise extra caution in muddy and slippery conditions.

Bring your swimsuit and snorkel gear.

Remember to bring your swimsuit and snorkel gear, and beach chairs if you need them.

You may also need your swimsuit if you opt to swim in the plunge pool at Hanakapiai Falls, so bring it along on the hike!

There are no rentals at Ke’e Beach.

Bring rain gear (and a change of clothes).

If you plan to hike, pack a change of clothes in case you slip and fall in the mud, or you get wet.

Also bring a rain jacket: you never know when it will start raining on the trail.

Wear sun protection.

Reef safe sunscreen is a must, as is an SPF lip balm, and sunglasses.

Use bug spray.

Bring and use bug spray. We were bitten right on Ke’e Beach. You’ll definitely need mosquito repellent on the trail.

A view from the Kalalau Trail in Kauai HI
Lush vegetation along the Kalalau Trail

Clean and dress any open wounds or bites before you set out for your hike.

Leave your drone at home.

Bring your charged smartphone or a small pocket camera for photos, but note that drone photography isn’t allowed in the park.

Stay for sunset.

Sunset at Ke’e Beach is beautiful, especially if you are lucky and have colors in the sky after the sun goes down. The clouds reflect beautifully in the tidepools on the beach.

As a bonus, if you took the shuttle, you won’t have to wait. Shuttle seats are first come, first served on departing rides, and 2 to 4 p.m. is peak departure time.

Frequently Asked Questions about Haena State Park, Kauai

Is it worth going to Haena State Park?

Haena State Park is one of the most popular places to visit in Kauai. While hikers have Haena State Park on their bucket-list for the Kalalau Trail, beach enthusiasts want to spend time at Ke’e Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on Kauai.

So while the need to make reservations adds a step to visiting Haena State Park, it is definitely worth the effort.

Do you need a reservation for Haena State Park?

Yes, you absolutely do need a parking reservation cum entry reservation if you are not a Hawaii resident and want to drive to Haena State Park.

If you are not a Hawaii resident and will take the North Shore Shuttle to Haena State Park, you will need a shuttle cum entry reservation to be able to enter.

What is the difference between Haena State Park and Haena Beach Park?

Haena State Park is managed by the State of Hawaii and is located at the very end of Kuhio HIghway on the north shore of Kauai. It requires advance reservations and an entry fee.

Haena State Park contains Ke’e Beach and the trailhead for the Kalalau Trail.

Haena Beach Park is managed by the county and is located on the west side of Kauai’s north shore, rather close to Haena State Park.

This beach park has a lifeguard tower and other amenities and is one of the more popular beaches on Kauai’s north shore.

Do you need a reservation to go to Ke’e Beach?

Yes, Ke’e Beach is located inside Haena State Park and therefore requires an entry fee and parking reservation (or shuttle reservation) for entry.

Sunset at Ke'e Beach in Haena State Park in Kauai, Hawaii
Sunset at Ke’e Beach is well worth the entry fee and need for a reservation!

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!)

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!

Hanakapiai Falls from the Hanakapiai Falls Trail, one of the best Kauai hikes from the Haena State Park
Hanakapiai Falls from the Hanakapiai Falls Trail, one of the best Kauai hikes from the Haena State Park

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.

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.

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.

Learn about the best things to do in Hanalei, the charming town that sits in the middle of Kauai’s scenic north 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, and a round-up of the best Kauai north shore beaches.

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Everything you need to know to visit beautiful Haena State Park in Kauai, Hawaii, from the reservation system to things to do and tips for a great experience!

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