Beautiful Kealia Beach on the East Side of Kauai

Kealia Beach, Kauai: Best 2024 Visitor Guide

Kealia Beach, a slice of tropical paradise on the Coconut Coast of Kauai!

So inviting were the crystal clear, deep blue waters and light golden sands, tantalizing us from the Kuhio Highway on our way to Princeville, we just had to stop!

Kealia Beach, a wide strip of about 1/2 a mile of sandy beach ensconced between two rocky outcroppings jutting into the ocean, just outside Kapa’a, is definitely worth stopping for a bit.

Calm sunny day at Kealia Beach, Kauai
Calm sunny day at Kealia Beach, Kauai

When we visited, the waters were calm on a clear sunny day, ideal for a relaxing swim.

But as winds picked up later in the afternoon, Kealia Beach magically transformed into a surfer’s paradise, with a group of local youths rushing in with surf boards to ride the thrilling waves the surf was kicking up!

Relatively uncrowded on weekdays and mornings, with ample parking along the beach, Kealia Beach is an excellent choice for a bit of quiet relaxation.

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

Beautiful Kealia Beach with intense blue waters and golden sands
Beautiful Kealia Beach with intense blue waters and golden sands

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Kealia Beach Directions

Kealia Beach, on Kauai’s Coconut Coast, is a few minutes north of Kapa’a along Kuhio Highway, near mile marker 10.

What we loved about Kealia Beach was its proximity to the highway. You can see the beach, and pull off the highway and park along the beach!

You just can’t miss it, and with so much parking why not stop and admire Kealia Beach’s beauty!

Kealia Beach Parking

Kealia Beach offers about 1/2 a mile of parking all along the beach off Kuhio Highway, along with a dirt parking lot at the northern end.

You will have absolutely no issues finding a parking spot here, especially on weekdays and mornings.

Kealia Beach Map

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

Kealia Beach Access

You can access the sandy beach via short paths through tall ironwood trees from the parking areas along the highway.

Kealia Beach Reservations

No reservations or permits are needed for Kealia Beach. There are no entrance fees either.

Kealia Beach Amenities / Facilities

Location: Kealia, East coast of Kauai
Lifeguard: Yes
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers, picnic tables
Food Nearby: Along Highway 56 in Kapa’a
Parking: Off Highway 56, roadside, along the beach
Directions: Off Highway 56, around mile marker 10, just north of Kapa’a

The north end of the beach has most of the facilities. You’ll find restrooms and outdoor showers here.

The lifeguard tower is also closer to the northern end.

Best Things to Do at Kealia Beach

Golden sands and clear blue waters at Kealia Beach, Kauai
Golden sands and clear blue waters at Kealia Beach, Kauai

Shaped like an elongated crescent, Kealia Beach is a beautiful, finely powdered white sands beach with rocky lava outcroppings jutting into the ocean on both ends.

The outcropping on the northern side is more pronounced and curved inwards, forming an area of relatively calm waters.

Kealia is a common Hawaiian name, translating to “salty crust,” and you’ll find the name used all over the islands to refer to salt ponds along the coasts that ancient Hawaiians harvested for salt.

Kapa’a Stream, a freshwater stream, empties itself into the Pacific Ocean on the southern end of Kealia Beach.

Stunning natural beauty was one of the lures for Hollywood, with some scenes from the movie The Descendants starring George Clooney filmed at Kealia Beach.

Keep an eye out for red junglefowl, wild chicken found all over Kauai – we saw a few while walking towards the beach.

Wild junglefowl near Kealia Beach, Kauai
Wild junglefowl near Kealia Beach, Kauai

1. Surf or Boogie Board or Bodyboard at Kealia Beach

Kealia Beach is one of the best surfing beaches on Kauai, especially in winter, when the winds kick up large waves, perfect for the experienced surfer!

A sandbar runs parallel to the beach, provoking surf breaks that provide for thrilling waves. Interestingly, the sandbar evolves with erosion, resulting in unexpected changes to the surf breaks, so be cautious.

Surfers riding waves off Kealia Beach, Kauai
Surfers riding waves off Kealia Beach, Kauai

High surf does introduce rougher waves and treacherous rip currents along the beach, so unless you really know what you are doing, you should not enter the waters.

With the calmer waters here, average surfers and boogie boarders can check with the lifeguard, and head to the northern part of the beach, where the inward curving jetty provides some protection.

Though you’ll like see some locals bodyboarding here, note that this sport is not as easy as they make it look!

2. Kealia Beach Swimming

For the most part, Kealia Beach is not a beach conducive for swimming during high surf or high tide, there are much better Kauai swimming beaches out there.

During summer, and when the waters are calm, you can check with the lifeguards. Most likely, if the conditions are good, they will steer you towards the northern end of the beach.

Here with the shelter from the rocky outcropping, you may wade into the waters or swim in the shallows, where typically the currents are weaker.

Calm waters at beautiful Kealia Beach, Kauai
Calm waters at beautiful Kealia Beach, Kauai

Snorkeling is mostly a waste of time at Kealia Beach, there are much better Kauai snorkeling spots, and the nearby Anahola Beach is likely the best snorkeling area in the vicinity.

3. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Kealia Beach

Can’t enter the waters due to high surf conditions? If you just feel like lazing around or sunbathing, finding private spots on Kealia Beach is pretty simple, with 1/2 a mile stretch of wide, finely powdered sands!

Tall ironwood trees provide shade along Kealia Beach on Kauai
Tall ironwood trees provide shade along Kealia Beach on Kauai

Tall ironwood trees all along the inside border of Kealia Beach provide ample shade, or you can head to the northern end for picnic tables and pavilions.

4. Admire Turtles and Monk Seals on Kealia Beach

While we didn’t see Hawaiian green sea turtles at Kealia Beach, which are apparently quite common nowadays with the post Covid-19 resurgence, we did spot this cool customer frolicking in the sands among some lava boulders.

Endangered monk seal resting on Kealia Beach among lava rocks
Endangered monk seal resting on Kealia Beach among lava rocks

Endangered monk seals are protected animals, please keep your distance (at least 10 feet per NOAA).

5. Kauai Multi-use Path (Ke Ala Hele Makalae)

The Kauai Bike Path, officially called Ke Ala Hele Makalae, is a multi-use trail that runs along the north east coast of Kauai, and you’ll see it running next to Kealia Beach.

Ke Ala Hele Makalae, a scenic bike path along Kauai's northeast coast
Ke Ala Hele Makalae, a scenic bike path along Kauai’s northeast coast

A popular and scenic trail for bikers and hikers, apart from the stunning Pacific Ocean views, the Kauai Bike Path also offers a great opportunity to spot spinner dolphins and, in winter, migrating humpback whales.

You can also rent bikes at nearby Kapa’a for an outdoor family day, and visit multiple beaches including Kealia Beach and Anahola Beach, stopping for water activities that are appropriate for the surf conditions.

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?).

Lava rocks on Kealia Beach, Kauai
Lava rocks on Kealia 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.
Driftwood on Kealia Beach, Kauai
Driftwood on Kealia Beach, Kauai

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!

Lava rock outcropping at one end of Kealia Beach, Kauai
Lava rock outcropping at one end of Kealia 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 how to visit pretty Kealia Beach on the east side of Kauai, Hawaii! How to get there, where to park, and things to do!

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