Lawai Beach in the South Shore of Kauai, Hawaii

Lawai Beach, Kauai: The Best 2024 Visitor Guide

Experienced snorkeler looking to explore the incredible underwater marine life near Poipu on the southern shore of Kauai?

Lawai Beach! Calling Lawai Beach a beach is a bit of an euphemism. The sandy portion is so small, the beach often disappears during high tide.

Why then should you visit Lawai Beach?

Two reasons. First, Lawai Beach offers some of the best Kauai snorkeling near Poipu!

Second, easy access – you can literally park your car and be snorkeling in less than five minutes!

Extensive coral reefs and tidepools teeming with abundant tropical reef fish at Lawai Beach, Kauai
Extensive coral reefs and tidepools teeming with abundant tropical reef fish at Lawai Beach

The best time to snorkel at Lawai Beach is in winter and at low tide, when the waters on the southern shore of Kauai are relatively calm.

With a rock strewn beach and potentially strong rip currents, snorkeling at Lawai Beach is best suited for experienced snorkelers.

Waters too rough to enter? Stay safely on shore and gawk at the surfers riding the large waves or stay back to admire spectacular sunsets!

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

Beach House Restaurant at Lawai Beach on a mini lava cliff overlooking tidepools
Beach House Restaurant at Lawai Beach on a mini lava cliff overlooking tidepools

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Lawai Beach Directions

Lawai Beach is a tiny beach on the sunny south shore of Kauai.

From Koloa or Poipu, head west on Poipu Road to a roundabout, where you’ll take Lawai Road towards to ocean (southwest). There will be a sign for Spouting Horn, a beautiful natural ocean geyser, a few miles from Lawai Beach.

Spouting Horn, further up from Lawai Beach, Kauai
Spouting Horn, further up from Lawai Beach, Kauai

In a few miles along Lawai Road you will see the Beach House Restaurant on your left and the Lawai Beach Resort on your right.

Lawai Beach is just past the Beach House Restaurant (that’s why its also sometimes called the Beach House Beach), and directly in front of the Lawai Beach Resort.

Lawai Beach is also often called Prince Kuhio’s Beach since the prince’s birthplace is just a few minutes away.

Lawai Beach Parking

Parking for Lawai Beach is roadside on Lawai Road, across from the beach.

Lawai Beach Map

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

Lawai Beach Access

Cross Lawai Road in front of the Lawai Beach Resort, and you’ve reached Lawai Beach.

Lawai Beach Reservations

No reservations or permits are needed for Lawai Beach. No entrance fees!

Lawai Beach Amenities / Facilities

Location: Poipu, South Shore of Kauai
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: Restrooms, shower (across Lawai Road)
Food Nearby: Beach House Restaurant, Riptide Shave Ice & Snacks
Parking: Roadside on Lawai Road (across from the beach)
Directions: Poipu Road to roundabout, take Lawai Road to beach

The beach itself is quite small, with no facilities at the beach. However, restrooms and outdoor showers are just across Lawai Road.

Unfortunately, Lawai Beach doesn’t have lifeguards, and if that is a must for you, consider nearby Poipu Beach Park.

Food and shave ice is available across the street at Riptide Shave Ice & Snacks, while the adjacent Beach House Restaurant is more of a fine dining place with a spectacular beachfront ambiance!

Best Things to Do at Lawai Beach

Given its tiny size, Lawai Beach changes dramatically with the tides.

At high tide, the sandy beach often disappears completely, while at low tide you’ll see a golden sandy beach, and people sunbathing and relaxing.

Don’t despair if you visit during high tide. Next to the Beach House Restaurant you’ll find a grassy area from where you get an excellent view of the surfers in action!

1. Lawai Beach Snorkeling

Snorkeling is THE thing to do here, especially in winter when the ocean waters are much calmer on the south shore of Kauai.

The mini-cliff on which the Beach House Restaurant sits affords some protection from rougher waves and currents.

Less experienced snorkelers should head there. Even though our kids were great swimmers, and had fins and flotation vests, we stayed mostly in the sheltered waters.

The area on the other side of the beach is known to have treacherous rip currents, and is best avoided.

With tons of pretty tropical reef fish everywhere, we never really felt the need to go deep or venture away from the protected side of the waters.

We saw large schools of yellow tangs and convict tangs. Apart from these, we saw beautiful butterflyfish, Moorish Idols, parrotfish and triggerfish.

To recognize and identify these beautiful fish, refer to our detailed Hawaiian Fish Snorkeling guide.

Summer swells here can be rough as with other south shore Kauai beaches, so stay out of the water if the waves come crashing over the rocky barrier walls.

I highly recommend water shoes for this beach due to the rock-littered entry and underwater rocks.

You can rent snorkeling gear from Boss Frog’s nearby or like us, buy your own light travel-ready ones.

2. Surfing at Lawai Beach

Surfing at Lawai Beach is also quite popular, with summer swells producing exciting waves to ride.

Surf break is much further out, and a result of an underwater offshore reef. Surfing here is mostly for experienced surfers or local pros, with the underwater rocks and strong rip currents posing dangerous risks.

Surfers ride waves off Lawai Beach on the South Shore of Kauai
Surfers ride waves off Lawai Beach on the South Shore of Kauai

3. Stay Back for Spectacular Sunsets

As with the other south shore beaches on Kauai, sunsets at Lawai Beach can be stunning, with the sun setting gracefully into the ocean waters, and the skies lit with warm vibrant colors.

Stunning sunset on the South Shore of Kauai
Stunning sunset on the South Shore of Kauai

Admiring the sunset from Lawai Beach or from the fine dining Beach House Restaurant is one of the most romantic things to do on Kauai!

4. Admire Turtles and Monk Seals on Lawai Beach

Given the size of the beach, you won’t see dozens of Hawaiian green sea turtles here like on the neighboring Poipu Beach.

We did spot a couple while snorkeling, but had the good fortune to catch this frisky guy on the sandy Lawai Beach when we came in early to snorkel!

Hawaiian monk seal frolicking on Lawai Beach, Kauai
Hawaiian monk seal frolicking on Lawai Beach, Kauai

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

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?).

Lawai Bay on the South Shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Lawai Bay on the South Shore of Kauai, Hawaii

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!

Sunset on Lawai Bay, Kauai
Sunset on Lawai Bay, 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!

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Discover the complete guide to visiting Lawai Beach on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii! Things to do at Lawai Beach, how to get here, parking and more.

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