Kauai is famous for its beaches, and the north shore beaches in Kauai are especially known for their scenic beauty.
From picture-perfect Ke’e Beach and the beautiful beaches of Hanalei Bay to snorkeling paradise Tunnels Beach and family-friendly Anini Beach, there’s a Kauai north shore beach for everyone.
Spending some time at a beach (or three!) is one of the best things to do on Kauai’s north shore in the summer.
The north shore of Kauai is fringed by a series of picturesque bays, and you’ll find beaches all along the shore from west to east.
Most of the beaches here feature sensational scenery, from lava cliffs and rocks to tropical vegetation. In fact, some of Kauai’s north shore beaches have served as filming locations. And once you visit, you’ll know why!
By the way, a unique way to experience the beauty of Kauai’s north shore (including Ke’e Beach) is to see it from a helicopter! And we have a guide to the very best helicopter tours in Kauai.
And now, are you ready to discover the best north shore beaches in Kauai? Let’s get started!
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Best Kauai North Shore Beaches
1. Ke’e Beach
Located at the northwestern tip of the island, Ke’e Beach is among the most beautiful beaches on the north shore of Kauai.
Other than the golden sand, fringed by tall cliffs, Ke’e Beach offers views of the stunning Na Pali Coast. Just walk away from the cliffs and then look back!
But the pristine beach is worth the extra effort, especially if your visit happens to occur on a nice weather day.
In the summer, when the water is calm, Kee Beach is considered one of the top swimming beaches in Kauai. It is protected by a reef, so you can swim and snorkel here.
In the winter, however, the high surf and strong currents make it dangerous to get in the water.
Sunsets at Ke’e Beach are often spectacular any time of the year, so be sure to stay on to take in the colorful skies reflected in the tide pools at the shore.
Ke’e Beach has a lifeguard, and you’ll find restrooms and showers here. Trees offer some shade at the very back.
The actual beach is a bit of a walk from the parking lot, so you may want to skip bringing cumbersome beach gear.
You can reserve your visit to Ke’e Beach (and Haena State Park) here.
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
2. Haena Beach Park
Haena Beach Park is located on the western side of Kauai’s north shore, on Maniniholo Bay. It’s sometimes confused with Haena State Park, but it’s a county beach park located right next to the state park.
Haena Beach is one of our favorite Kauai north shore beaches. Not only is the beach stunning, the amenities here are great, and include a small parking lot. You have to arrive early to snag a spot though.
The golden sand beach has a backdrop of tropical vegetation and lava cliffs and is great for strolling. The Manoa Stream flows into the ocean here, creating a picturesque photo op.
There is a lifeguard station at Ha’ena Beach Park, and you’ll see folks swimming in the water here on nice days in the summer. But there is no protective reef, and the waves tend to break close to shore.
In the winter, of course, the waves are huge, and the entire beach may be taped off for safety.
The beach park features a grassy area dotted with palms, picnic facilities, restrooms, and showers. You may find a food truck or two here as well.
Haena Beach Park also offers campsites. Get a permit in advance if you plan to camp.
3. Tunnels Beach (Makua Beach)
Also on Maniniholo Bay you’ll find Tunnels Beach, one of the most famous beaches not just on the north shore of the island but in all of Kauai.
Tunnels Beach, or Makua Beach, is renowned for its snorkeling. It got the name “Tunnels” from the lava tubes that run through the reef here and into the ocean.
The water is usually crystal clear, great for snorkeling in the summer.
The reef features lots of varieties of reef fish, and if you are lucky, you may even have a close encounter with a honu, a Hawaiian green sea turtle, or a Hawaiian monk seal as you snorkel. Be respectful of any marine life you see!
The golden sand crescent beach is fringed with palm trees and ironwood trees, and offers fabulous views of Mount Makana, also known as Bali Hai after the movie South Pacific. The beach was a filming location for the movie.
Note that the waves here are usually very high in the winter, not safe for entering the water. If you visit then, you’ll want to stay well back from the waterline and watch expert surfers ride the waves.
Parking is severely limited: access to Tunnels Beach is via two side roads, about 0.4 mile past mile marker 8 on the highway, and about 0.6 mile past the marker. You need to be here very early to get a parking spot. Watch for the signs saying “Beach Access.”
It’s best to park at the Haena Beach Park parking lot and walk here along the sand if you do not have a lot of gear. It’s only about 0.5 mile each way, but walking on the loose sand can be tiring.
Tunnels Beach has no amenities, although you’ll find both restrooms and showers at adjoining Haena Beach Park.
Planning a trip to the Garden Isle and looking for accommodation? Check out our complete guide to the best places to stay in Kauai!
4. Black Pot Beach Park (Hanalei Bay)
Hanalei Bay, in the center of Kauai’s north shore, is the largest bay you’ll find here, and along its length are several named beaches.
Black Pot Beach Park is along the eastern side of the bay, at the area where the Hanalei River flows into the Pacific Ocean.
A picturesque beach, Black Pot Beach offers views of the mountains on the far side, plus a view of the photo-worthy Hanalei Pier. The river is beautiful as well, with lots of mature trees on the banks.
It’s a great beach for sunset!
Because this beach is close to the mouth of the river, you want to pay attention to water quality reports. Do not swim if the water is murky after rains.
That said, we saw lots of people here when we visited in September, both in and out of the water. Locals like this beach park for cookouts and picnics.
Go swimming or paddleboarding, take a kayak out from the river into the bay (you can also join a tour), fish, sunbathe, or stroll on the beach.
The parking lot is relatively large and right by the beach, perfect if you are bringing gear. There are showers and restrooms.
Black Pot Beach Park is not lifeguarded.
>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!
5. Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park (Hanalei Bay)
Located along the eastern side of Hanalei Bay, next to Black Pot Beach Park, is Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, also known just as Pavilions.
This beach is easily one of the most beautiful sections of the island’s north shore, with views of the mountains and crystal clear waters. To the northeast, you have views of Hanalei Pier.
The golden sand is backed by an open grassy area.
Go swimming, paddleboarding, or boogie boarding at Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park in the summer when the waters are calm. Watch surfers try to catch waves in the winter, when the surf is high.
We love strolling this section of beach along Hanalei Bay, especially at sunset. The scenery is gorgeous as you stroll west towards the mountains and back.
Sunrise is beautiful as well: walk east towards the pier and back.
Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park is lifeguarded. The park offers showers, restrooms, barbecue areas, and picnic tables if you are looking to spend a few hours here.
This beach does get busy, so arrive early for a more secluded experience.
Parking is available at the back of the park by Weke Road, or you can park along Aku Road (in a non-tow spot) and walk.
6. Puu Poa Beach
Puu Poa Beach is located behind the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay Resort along the north shore of Kauai. It is a tranquil beach, with beautiful views.
We had lunch at the resort and visited the beach afterwards. There’s a paved walking path from the resort that makes access easy: the beach is located about 200 feet down from the bluff. You can also use the stairs.
The setting of the beach is lovely, with views of the mountains. Vegetation lines the beach, framing the water nicely.
Puu Poa Beach is not a swimming beach, but there is an offshore reef and you can snorkel here in the summer, or go stand-up paddleboarding. It’s a great beach for a stroll to enjoy the scenery.
There is actually another beach nearby that you can reach by walking to the left and scrambling over the rocks, but this beach is lovely enough!
As with most Kauai north shore beaches, the swells can get very high here in the winter months, and it’s not safe to enter the water then. At this time of year, seasoned surfers try to catch rides here.
>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!
7. Waioli Beach Park (Hanalei Bay)
Waioli Beach Park, also known as Pine Trees, is the westernmost of the three Hanalei Bay beaches we’ve featured here and located at about the middle of the bay.
It’s called Pine Trees after the many ironwood pines that you can see at the back of the beach, and is just as scenic as the rest of Hanalei Bay.
You can swim or go bodyboarding in the summer on days when the waters are calm.
Strolling the sand here is a pleasure, with views of the mountains to the west and Hanalei Pier to the east. You can walk all the way west to where the Waioli Stream flows into the ocean. Sunset is a great time to walk here!
Waioli Beach is a popular surfing spot. Waves here tend to be larger than other parts of Hanalei Bay, especially in the winter, when it attracts crowds of intermediate and expert surfers.
Waioli Beach Park is lifeguarded, and offers restrooms, showers, and picnic tables. There’s also a beach volleyball court.
Parking for Waioli Beach can be found at the end of Anae Road, and also at the end of Hee Road and Amaama Road.
8. Anini Beach
If you are looking for the top family-friendly beach on the north shore of Kauai, head to Anini Beach!
The reef at Anini Beach is one of the longest and widest in all of Hawaii, making it an excellent protected swimming and snorkeling beach in the summer, when the waters are calm.
Outside the reef, however, the currents can be strong, so exercise caution.
The beach is very long, and if you drive further along the road, you may even find a stretch all to yourself. It makes an excellent strolling beach, and you can look for shells.
Since it’s a bit of a drive from town, even as a general rule, Anini Beach is less crowded than the more central Hanalei Bay beaches. And the scenery is no less stunning.
So if you are looking for a secluded beach day on Kauai’s north shore, you’ll definitely want to check out Anini Beach.
Anini Beach Park offers restrooms and showers, picnic pavilions, trees for shade, and campsites. Get a permit in advance if you want to camp here.
There is no lifeguard at Anini Beach.
9. Kalihiwai Beach
Another relatively secluded beach on the north shore of Kauai, Kalihiwai Beach is located on the eastern side, on Kalihiwai Bay.
The Kalihiwai River flows into the ocean at one end of the beach.
The golden sand beach is large and wide, and offers views of the cliffs and vegetation on either side. At the back is a stand of ironwood trees. It is a pretty photo spot!
You can swim here in the summer when the waters are calm, but there is no lifeguard and no protective reef so caution is advised. Kalihiwai is also a great place to bodyboard!
In the winter, surfing is popular here. Waves are too high then to swim.
Stroll on the golden sands, have a picnic in a shady spot by the trees in the back, or catch some rays on a sunny day.
Visitors also swim in the river (the water is cold when you enter!), and you can bring a kayak or a paddleboard as well.
While locals love Kalihiwai Beach, especially on the weekends, you will not find lots of tourists here, since it’s a bit of a drive from the Kuhio Highway.
There are no facilities at Kalihiwai Beach, but we did see a portable toilet when we visited.
There’s parking right by the beach, along Kalihiwai Road. Just be sure to pull completely off the road.
10. Lumahai Beach
If you want to visit a Kauai north shore beach only for its spectacular scenery, then Lumahai Beach is that beach.
Lumahai Beach served as a filming location for South Pacific, and it is gorgeous, with lava rocks spread about the beach and views of the lava cliffs.
Currents here are strong and the beach is exposed to the open ocean. Swimming (or entering the water or clambering on the lava rocks) is not advised.
People have drowned here, so be very cautious.
Stroll the golden sands well above the water line, snap lots of photos, and soak in the sun on nice days.
Even before you arrive at the beach, you can snap photos of it from the scenic lookout along the road above.
There are two ways to get to Lumahai Beach: you can park at the lookout by mile marker 5 and go down the trail, about 100 feet. On Google Maps this area is noted as Kahalahala Beach.
The second access point is by the Lumahai River at the western end, where you will find a parking lot. A pleasant walk through ironwood trees will lead you to the beach, but bring bug spray or wipes.
Lumahai Beach is not lifeguarded and there are no facilities.
11. Kauapea Beach (Secret Beach)
Kauapea Beach is also called Secret Beach. It’s located on the eastern side of the north shore of Kauai, and you’ll find it more secluded than many other north shore beaches.
With a lava rock cliff on the western end of the beach and views of the Moku‘Ae‘Ae islet and Kilauea Lighthouse to the east, Secret Beach feels like a paradise on a nice weather day.
Lava rocks are spread along the beach, making for great photo ops, and you’ll find tide pools to explore among the rocks.
Swimming is possible here in the summer when conditions are calm (you can wade in the lagoons as well), but there is no protective reef. In the winter, waves are very high, and the beach attracts surfers looking for rides.
Stroll, sunbathe, picnic, and look for shells. Secret Beach is a wonderful spot to be at sunset!
Getting to Secret Beach is a mini adventure on its own.
When you turn on to Kalihiwai Road from Kuhio Highway, take the first dirt road (it’s marked as Secret Beach Road on Google Maps) and park at the end of the road.
Here you will find the dirt path that leads to the beach. It’s about a 10 to 15-minute walk. Watch your step as there may be exposed tree roots, and the path can be slippery when wet.
There are no facilities at Secret Beach.
12. Hideaways Beach (Pali Ke Kua Beach)
Pali Ke Kua Beach, also called Hideaways or Hideaway Beach, is nestled at the bottom of the cliffs in Princeville, behind the famous Makai Golf Course.
Not easy to access, Hideaways offers golden sand, trees for shade, and a serene ambience for visitors that make the effort to get here.
The gorgeous green-blue water, tropical vegetation, and golden sand make Hideaways picture postcard pretty on nice weather days.
There is an offshore reef, making the near waters usually okay for swimming and snorkeling in the summer. Currents can still be strong, so be cautious.
Snorkelers will enjoy the variety of colorful tropical fish, and may even spot a Hawaiian green sea turtle or two.
There are no facilities at Hideaways Beach.
To get to Hideaways Beach, you have to negotiate a steep trail down the cliffs to the bottom. The trail is about 0.5 mile each way.
The terrain is not easy, and the hike can be challenging: in places, ropes tied around tree trunks offer help. When wet, the trail can be very slippery and is best avoided.
There is limited parking for Hideaways Beach at Ka Haku Road, or you can pay to park at the 1 Hotel Hanalei Bay Resort and walk to the trailhead.
Map of North Shore Beaches in Kauai
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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