Ke’e Beach, the prettiest beach on Kauai! Not hyperbole, but just plain fact.
With the imposing, sheer Na Pali cliffs on one side, beautiful, crystal clear, turquoise waters in front, lush rainforest jungle to the back, and golden, finely powdered sands, Ke’e Beach is a tropical paradise, exactly what you were hunting for on your vacation!
With natural, fringing coral reefs all the way to the shore providing a sheltered, protected area, Ke’e Beach is a family-friend beach, and, in summer, one of the best Kauai snorkeling beaches and one of the best Kauai swimming beaches.
Haena State Park is home to the trailhead of the epic Kalalau Trail, a Kauai must-hike trail for avid hikers and backcountry explorers, and many visitors combine hiking a part of this amazing Na Pali coast wilderness hike with a visit to Ke’e Beach!
With so much going for it, you would expect Ke’e Beach to be crowded with tourists.
Oddly enough, no! The new reservation system implemented by Haena State Park strictly controls visitors, resulting in a great Ke’e Beach experience for those willing to navigate the reservations and book in advance!
Join us as we take you on a virtual tour of all the Ke’e Beach offers, and give you tips on how to truly enjoy stunning Ke’e Beach!
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 2024!
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Ke’e Beach Reservation
Ke’e Beach is located within Haena State Park, on the North Shore of Kauai, at the very end of Kuhio Highway (Highway 560).
Expecting to drive, pay at the entrance, and enter like most state parks and national parks? Works only if you are a resident of Hawaii (with a valid driver’s license or ID).
You need reservations, and the reservation window opens up 30 days in advance. These slots go fast because of the popularity of the Kalalau Trail.
For details on how to get to Haena State Park, the different options (driving, shuttle, or biking and walking in), entry reservation and fees, parking reservations and fees (if you are driving), and other tips, please consult our detailed guide to visiting Haena State Park.
Ke’e Beach Map
The below map shows the location of Ke’e Beach and nearby attractions.
Ke’e Beach Amenities / Facilities
Location: Haena State Park, North Shore of Kauai
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, showers
Food Nearby: No shops or restaurants close by
Parking: Ke’e Beach Parking Lot, reservations needed, shuttle recommended
Ke’e Beach and Haena State Park do not have any shops or restaurants, you will need to bring everything with you, including your gear, snacks and water.
If you’re planning to take the shuttle, note their restrictions on what you can bring aboard.
Lifeguards are on duty every day, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, making Ke’e Beach one of the safer beaches on the North Shore of Kauai, and family friendly!
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
Best Things to Do at Ke’e Beach
Ke’e Beach, apart from being so beautiful as to be worthy of a picture postcard, is also one of the best family friendly beaches on Kauai!
In summer, the waves break on the underwater coral reefs far from shore, resulting in a kid-friendly, sheltered area near the shore, and, for better swimmers, an opportunity to venture a bit further from the shore over the coral reefs.
While swimming or snorkeling in Ke’e Beach, be especially cautious of the reef channel on the west side of the beach, where the waters receded back into the ocean, forming strong currents.
Winter is a different story. Just like the other North Shore Kauai beaches, waves tend to be rough and dangerous, and often come directly to the shore over the reefs.
High surf conditions and storms result in towering waves, making it almost impossible to enter the water.
Always check with the lifeguard on duty before entering the water.
1. Ke’e Beach Snorkeling
The natural fringing coral reef comes all the way to shore, forming sheltered, protected tide pools where younger snorkelers and beginners can explore rich but shallow coral reefs.
We saw common, beautiful, tropical reef fish including yellow tangs, convict tangs, butterflyfish and reef triggerfish.
To recognize and identify these pretty reef fish, consult our Hawaiian Fish Snorkeling Guide!
As you go further out, you need to be more experienced, but you will find bigger tropical fish and more marine life, including Hawaiian green sea turtles, manta rays and barracudas.
Stay clear of the reef channels, where currents can develop. When in doubt, check with the lifeguard on duty for the best and safest snorkeling spots.
2. Ke’e Beach Swimming
In summer, the ocean waters are more placid, and the waters near the shore are more akin to a natural swimming pool.
Younger kids and beginning swimmers should stay closer to shore or wade in the tide pools.
More experienced swimmers can venture further offshore, but be wary of the channels where currents develop.
With lifeguards on duty, Ke’e Beach swimming is family-friendly, especially for kids, but as with an ocean experience, keep a close eye on them, and don’t let them go too far out.
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
3. View Ke’e Beach from the Kalalau Trail
While the entire Kalalau Trail is a 22-mile roundtrip, often multi-day, hike along the beautiful Na Pali coast, and meant only for experienced, physically fit, hikers, shorter sections of the Kalalau Trail are more attainable by average hikers.
The easiest portion of the Kalalau Trail is a short hike of 0.5 miles round trip to a viewpoint that offers spectacular views of Ke’e Beach.
About 0.5 miles into the trail (1 mile round trip), you come to the Kalalau Trail Coast Viewpoint, offering panoramic views of the Na Pali coast.
If you’ve had enough, you can turn back here and head to Ke’e Beach!
4. Hike Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi’ai Beach and / or Hanakapi’ai Falls
For more determined hikers, you have two more options.
You can hike up to the end of the first two miles on the Kalalau Trial. You reach Hanakapi’ai Stream and crossing the stream, you get to Hanakapi’ai Beach.
Be careful crossing the stream, especially after rains, since the waters here can change very quickly to a raging torrent, and you can get swept away.
I don’t recommend entering the ocean waters at Hanakapi’ai Beach either, rogue waves are not uncommon here. Far safer to enjoy Ke’e Beach, with its natural coral reef barriers and lifeguards.
If you don’t have a camping permit, you are not allowed to go beyond the Hanakapi’ai Valley.
>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!
5. Sunbathe or Relax with a Book on the Ke’e Beach
Ke’e Beach is a wide, sandy beach that extends roughly half a mile, plenty of space to find a secluded spot on these golden sands to sunbathe or relax with a book!
The backside of the beach is lined with tall palm trees and other rainforest trees, providing ample shade if you so desire.
Note, there are no rental stores or snack shops at Ke’e Beach (or Haena State Park, for that matter), so please bring your own beach umbrellas and beach chairs.
6. Stay Back to View Spectacular Sunsets from Ke’e Beach
Finding a beach from which to view colorful tropical sunsets is not difficult on Kauai.
But Ke’e Beach is special, with some of the most spectacular Kauai sunsets! We always stay back for the sunset, when we visit Ke’e Beach.
What could be more romantic than taking a leisurely stroll with your partner on the prettiest beach in Kauai while enjoying a stunning sunset?
7. Admire Turtles and Monk Seals on Ke’e Beach
On every visit to Ke’e Beach, we had the good fortune of seeing some Hawaiian green sea turtles or monk seals on the beach itself!
So if you haven’t seen one yet, don’t despair, you’ll likely find one here as you stroll along.
Admire them from a distance, both are endangered and protected.
8. Stroll along Ke’e Beach
Strolling along Ke’e Beach is one of the most relaxing things to do!
Ke’e Beach is quite wide and long, and walking on the golden sands, to the tune of the rhythmic crash of the waves on the coral reefs is quite soothing.
Along the hike, you will see an interesting spectacle of rainforest trees with exposed, aerial roots, an effect of the erosion of the soil and sand under the trees.
We saw red junglefowl, wild ancestors of chicken, roaming the forested areas of the beach. The roosters looked quite majestic!
To learn more about the pretty Hawaiian birds you might encounter at Ke’e Beach or while hiking the Kalalau Trail, check out our Hawaiian birds guide.
Other Activities on Ke’e Beach
Fishing from the shore is quite popular at Ke’e Beach, and I’ve seen anglers reeling in some unusual tropical fish including a manta ray!
Every once in a while, you’ll see some surfers, bodysurfers or bodyboarders here, mostly locals who know the waters well.
They are fun to watch, and the experienced ones are quite skillful and graceful in riding the waves.
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 Gear Set: We love our Cressi Light Weight Premium Travel Snorkel Set for All Family, compact and easy to pack, great fitting, and very clear underwater. The Zenoplige Mask Fins Snorkel Set is a great budget option.
- Sunscreen: Hawaii’s sun can be harsh. Avoid sunburn with sunscreen compliant with Hawaii’s 104 Reef Act. The Sun Bum Original SPF 50 Sunscreen Spray, moisturizing with Vitamin E, is our go-to when we travel to Hawaii. Apply liberally and regularly!
- Underwater Camera: Want to capture Hawaii’s incredible underwater seascape and marine life? Your best budget option is the Fujifilm QuickSnap Waterproof Disposable Camera, reasonably cheap with good underwater photos! If you want high-end photos and video, you must invest in the premium GoPro HERO12 – Waterproof Action Camera, (waterproof to 33 feet)!
- Inflatable Life Jackets: If you’re planning paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking and other water sports, and prefer your own life jacket, consider one of these two US Coast Guard approved options: the Onyx M-16 Series Belt Back Manual Inflatable Life Jacket or the Onyx A/M-24 Automatic/Manual Inflatable Life Jacket.
- Water Shoes: Some of Hawaii’s beaches have sharp lava rocks or coral reefs, good water shoes will protect your feet (but please do not walk on the reef!). We use the Merrell Hydro Moc rubber shoes (men’s, women’s), great for slippery rocks. If you prefer sandals, we recommend the Keen Newport H2 Closed Toe Water Sandals (men’s, women’s).
- Waterproof Waist Pack: Keep your rental car keys, cards, and phone dry and safe while you swim or snorkel with a dry bag. We love this 2-pack AiRun Tech Pouch with waist strap. The transparent one is touch-screen friendly!
Tips for Your Visit to Ke’e Beach, Hawaii
If you’re planning a visit to Ke’e Beach, make your reservations as soon as the window opens.
Bring all the gear, snacks and drinks with you, currently, there are no rental shops or restaurants or snack shops within Haena State Park.
As with the other North Shore Kauai beaches, ocean safety is a must, especially if you have kids.
Check the weather and the surf conditions before entering the water, and keep an eye on your kids at all times.
If you plan to hike a portion of the Kalalau Trail, I strongly recommend you start early, and finish that first, before relaxing and enjoying Ke’e Beach.
Later in the day, hiking will typically be hot and humid. Use reefsafe sunscreen.
We used mosquito repellent and bug spray liberally, both on Ke’e Beach and while hiking the Kalalau Trail.
Don’t expect any cell service here, and if you are planning to be picked up, make sure you have agreed to a time and spot for the pick up.
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.
What Else to Do Near Ke’e Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
Haena State Park
Apart from the Kalalau Trail hike and Ke’e Beach, there are many other things to do in Haena Park, including visiting restored taro fields, a native Hawaiian crop that was grown in this area for centuries.
Refer to our detailed guide on visiting Haena State Park for details.
Limahuli Garden and Preserve
One of the best Kauai botanical gardens, Limahuli Garden and Preserve is located near the entrance to Haena State Park, and is well worth a visit, both to see gorgeous Hawaiian plants and for its historical, well-preserved sites.
For details on how to visit Limahuli Garden, please refer to our Kauai botanical gardens guide.
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.
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!
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.
Want detailed recommendations for accommodations in Kauai? Check out our comprehensive guide to the best places to stay in 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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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