Early morning at beautiful Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

Kalapaki Beach, Kauai: Complete 2024 Guide

Kalapaki Beach, Kauai!

A beautiful beach with finely powdered golden sands and calm clear blue waters!

Situated close to Nawiliwili Harbor where most of the major cruise ships landing at Kauai dock and Lihue Airport, Kauai’s international airport, Kalapaki Beach is perfect for island hoppers, cruise ship visitors and people looking to kill some time while waiting for their flights!

We did just that on a recent vacation, when we landed in the morning on a cruise stop and had to wait for the rest of our group to fly in later that evening!

We took a shuttle from the Nawiliwili Cruise Pier to the ABC Stores and the Anchor Cove Shopping Center, but could have easily walked as well, so close is the beach!

Kalapaki Beach is a crescent-shaped beach, deeply inset and protected by ocean barriers, resulting in calm waters, and the whole family had a fun time swimming, standup paddle boarding and boogie boarding.

Water activities for families at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Water activities for families at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

With restaurants, resorts like the luxurious Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons Resort, and shopping centers along the beach, we had quite a full day and a wonderful initial impression of Kauai.

While Kauai boasts many spectacular beaches, Kalapaki Beach is just the right beach for those visitors who are searching for a beach conveniently accessible from the airport, harbor or nearby resorts.

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

Gorgeous Kalapaki Beach, Kauai!
Gorgeous Kalapaki Beach, Kauai!

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Kalapaki Beach Directions

On a stop in Kauai while on a cruise or island hopping tour? The Nawiliwili Harbor where most of the big cruise ships dock while in Kauai is just 10-15 minutes walk along Nawiliwili Road (keep to the right), which becomes Waapa Road and Rice Street.

Look for the ubiquitous ABC Stores in the Anchor Cove Shopping Center. Kalapaki Beach is behind the shopping complex, but you will have to walk past the complex and down the beach access road.

Beautiful Kalapaki Beach near the harbor and the airport
Beautiful Kalapaki Beach near the harbor and the airport

Just landed at Lihue Airport? Take an Uber or if you’ve rented a car for your stay in Kauai, drive down.

Take Rice Street southbound to Kalapaki Beach. You can turn left just before the Kauai Bound Snorkel and Golf Gear Rental and continue to the shoreline access and parking.

Kalapaki Beach Parking

Free public parking is available at the Kalapaki Beach Access Parking (expand the Kalapaki Beach map below for directions).

We’ve seen empty spots here during weekday mornings and afternoons, but finding a spot on weekends will be difficult.

Kalapaki Beach can get busy during weekends
Kalapaki Beach can get busy during weekends

You can try the Marriott Resort as a last option for paid parking.

Kalapaki Beach Map

The Kalapaki Beach map below shows the location of Kalapaki Beach, and the main attractions nearby.

Kalapaki Beach Access

A shoreline access path parallels the inside border of the beach, and you can walk across a small grassy patch onto the sandy beach from the walkway.

If you’ve parked at the Kalapaki Beach Access Parking lot, you can see the golden sands in front of you from the parking lot.

Kalapaki Beach Reservations

No reservations or permits are needed for Kalapaki Beach. There are no entrance fees either, making this one of the more popular free Kauai beaches!

Kalapaki Beach Amenities / Facilities

Location: Lihue, East Coast of Kauai
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grass areas, walkway, volleyball
Food Nearby: Many restaurants near by
Parking: Free public parking at Kalapaki Beach Access parking lot
Directions: Rice Street, behind the Anchor Cove Shopping Center

Despite the proximity to resorts, Kalapaki Beach is not lifeguarded.

Waters here are typically calm, but note that during rough weather and high surf, rip currents are likely, so stay close to the shore or avoid the waters completely.

For water activities, Kauai Bound Snorkel and Golf Gear Rental is located near the shoreline access entry from Rice Street, or check with your resort if you are staying here.

Surfer taking a break at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Surfer taking a break at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

Duke’s Kauai is the easiest to get to if you’re looking for something to eat, and you have many options at the Anchor Cove Shopping Center as well.

Best Things to Do at Kalapaki Beach

As with other Kauai beaches, Kalapaki Beach is a stunning beach, with golden sands and clear turquoise waters.

The setting is picturesque, resorts, golf courses and green hillsides in the background, and a large sheltered Nawiliwili Bay in front, with cruise ships in the distance entering the harbor.

Kalapaki Beach with golden sands, blue waters, and resorts
Kalapaki Beach with golden sands, blue waters, and resorts

Grassy areas separate the sands from the shoreline access pathway, with space for picnics and kids to have fun.

Being a city beach, weekends and evenings are typically busy, but weekdays and mornings are quite uncrowded.

We saw many families with kids here, taking advantage of the convenient amenities, nearby resorts, and kid-friendly beach and waters.

1. Kalapaki Beach Swimming

Swimming is the most popular activity at Kalapaki Beach, with the calm clear and warm waters beckoning invitingly!

When we went, virtually everyone was in the water, either taking a refreshing dip or swimming laps.

Swimming the calm, warm, shallow waters at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Swimming the calm, warm, shallow waters at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

Both sides of the bay immediately in front of the beach are protected, either by lava rock walls or jetties, making the beach deeply inset and sheltered.

In addition, the ocean floor inclines gently into the waters, resulting in a shallow, pool-like area in front of the beach, where even kids can splash around.

When we were there, we noticed that by the time the waves reached the shore, they were relatively small and gentle.

That’s why Kalapaki Beach is one of the best swimming beaches on Kauai!

We didn’t see too many people snorkeling here, with the sandy ocean floor and lack of coral reefs making it difficult to spot tropical fish.

2. Kayak, Paddleboard & Canoe

Given the vast expanse of relatively calm, open ocean waters in the bay fronting Kalapaki Beach, kayaking, standup paddle boarding and canoeing are quite popular as well.

Kalapaki Beach was the first beach where we tried our hand at standup paddle boarding and outrigger canoeing.

Kayaking and canoeing at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Kayaking and canoeing at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

The gentle morning waves were ideal for beginners, and we quickly got the hang of balancing on the board.

We rented our gear from the rental store near Rice Street as you enter the parking lot, so luckily we didn’t have to lug it very far.

3. Surf & Boogie Board at Kalapaki Beach

Our kids learned boogie boarding and surfing at Kalapaki Beach, an ideal place for beginners, with gentle, kid-friendly waves most of the time.

Kauai Beach Boys offers surf lessons at Kalapaki Beach, and the instructor our kids had was excellent, starting with the basics and working with them to get to a level where they could really start enjoying the waves!

Surfers learning to surf as a cruise ship passes in the distance at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Surfers learning to surf as a cruise ship passes in the distance at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

4. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Kalapaki Beach

Want to take it easy? After all, may be your first day of the vacation, and all you want to do is laze around!

With light golden soft sands and green grassy lawn areas, Kalapaki Beach offers you a choice of where to lounge!

Golden sands and green lawns, plenty of space to relax on Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Golden sands and green lawns, plenty of space to relax on Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

Not much shade though, but an excellent place to work on your tan!

5. Admire Turtles on Kalapaki Beach

With the protection from the endangered species act and the Covid-19 resurgence of wildlife, one nice consequence has been the incredible rebound in the Hawaiian green sea turtle population!

So much so, that virtually every beach on Kauai that we visited, we saw a few turtles, and Kalapaki Beach was no exception.

We spotted a couple of these gentle giants basking in the sun at a corner of the beach, with orange cones around them, placed by volunteers to keep selfie-seeking junkies at a distance.

Hawaiian green sea turtle or honu on the beach
Hawaiian green sea turtle or honu on the beach

Our very first pair of Hawaiian green sea turtles!

Other Activities at Kalapaki Beach and Nearby

With many resorts nearby, you’ll find a ton of activities apart from those described above!

Enjoy golfing? World-class golfing with ocean-side greens are available nearby at the Ocean Course at Hokuala.

Oceanside golf course near Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Oceanside golf course near Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

Avid birdwatcher? The Kauai Lagoons, a series of waterways near the Marriott Resort are a wildlife bird sanctuary, and you can spot even endemic Hawaiian birds like the Hawaiian stilt and the short-eared owl, the pueo, here.

Fishing is popular along the two arms of the beach, with anglers staking out quiet spots for their meditation, while waiting for the fish to bite.

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?).

Fishing in Kalapaki Bay near Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Fishing in Kalapaki Bay near Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

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.

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!

Tall swaying palm trees and deep blue waters at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai
Tall swaying palm trees and deep blue waters at Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

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 Kalapaki Beach on the east side of Kauai, Hawaii. The best things to do at Kalapaki Beach, how to get there and more.

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