Poipu Beach is one of the best south shore beaches in Kauai, Hawaii!

11 Best South Shore Beaches in Kauai: Ultimate 2024 Guide!

The beautiful south shore beaches in Kauai are popular year round!

From postcard-perfect Poipu Beach and Shipwreck Beach to the less crowded Salt Pond Beach, the remote Mahaulepu beaches, and the unique Glass Beach, there is a Kauai south shore beach for everyone.

Spending time at one or more of the many gorgeous beaches is one of the best things to do on the south shore of Kauai. Even in winter, when it’s very likely to be sunny here!

There are also many beautiful beaches on the north shore of Kauai, so if you are planning a Kauai itinerary, you’ll be spoiled for choice on where to go!

Sunset at a rocky beach in Poipu, Kauai
Sunset at a rocky beach in Poipu on the south shore of Kauai

You’ll find beaches all along the south shore of Kauai. The Poipu Beach area tends to be the most popular (and thus the most crowded), but you can venture to beaches to the east or west if you are looking for a less crowded beach.

Most of the Kauai south shore beaches feature spectacular scenery and many of them offer the opportunity to view resting Hawaiian green sea turtles or monk seals.

Also keep watch for humpback whales in the water in the winter!

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

And now, let’s get started discovering the south shore beaches in Kauai!

Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach

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Best Kauai South Shore Beaches

1. Poipu Beach

Often recognized as one of the prettiest beaches in the USA, Poipu Beach is without a doubt one of the best beaches to visit on the south shore of Kauai.

With pristine crescents of golden sands fringed with coconut palms, and clear waters, Poipu Beach is that quintessential tropical paradise postcard.

Poipu Beach is one of the prettiest beaches on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Sunset at Poipu Beach on Kauai’s south shore

But that also means that Poipu Beach Park is one of the most popular places in Kauai to spend a beach day, so arrive early to experience its beauty without the crowds.

An early morning stroll on Poipu Beach is one of the most relaxing things to do on the south shore of Kauai!

Poipu Beach offers swimming, snorkeling, boogie-boarding, and surfing. A shallow area, protected by a lava reef, is popular with families.

Poipu Beach is also a haven for marine life. The sand spit that splits Poipu Beach into two bays is a favorite resting spot for endangered Hawaiian monk seals.

Hawaiian green sea turtles usually come ashore here at sunset, making it another great time to visit. The sunsets are spectacular as well!

If you do see sea turtles or monk seals when you visit Poipu Beach, be sure to maintain a respectable distance. Snap photos with a camera that has a zoom lens.

Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on Poipu Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
Use a zoom lens to photograph sea turtles on Poipu Beach!

Poipu Beach Park is lifeguarded and has showers, restrooms, and picnic tables.

Our in-depth guide to Poipu Beach Park has all the information you need to visit this beautiful Kauai south shore beach!

2. Shipwreck Beach

An exceptionally scenic spot even on a shore as scenic as Kauai’s, Shipwreck Beach is one of the most popular Kauai south shore beaches.

The beach was so named because once upon a time there was an old shipwreck near here, but it isn’t there any more.

Sunset at Shipwreck Beach, one of the best south shore beaches in Kauai, Hawaii
A colorful sunset at Shipwreck Beach on Kauai’s souths shore

What you will find here though is a long stretch of golden sand perfect for strolling and sunbathing. In season, keep your eyes peeled for whales spouting in the ocean.

Shipwreck Beach offers boogie-boarding and surfing for the experienced, but it’s not a swimming or snorkeling beach because of rip currents and a dangerous shore break.

The picturesque 40-foot cliff at Shipwreck Beach that juts out into the water is a popular cliff-jumping spot. But it’s best to leave the jumping to locals and just watch the action.

If you visit in the evening, be sure to linger to watch the sun set: the often colorful skies are a captivating sight. Sunrise is also a magical time to be here.

Sunrise at Shipwreck Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
Sunrise is a magical time to be at Shipwreck Beach

Shipwreck Beach is also the western end of the beautiful Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. It’s a must-do Kauai hike for expansive ocean views, and you can explore the Makauwahi Cave Reserve along the way.

There is no lifeguard at Shipwreck Beach.

Check out our detailed guide to Shipwreck Beach for information on how to visit.

3. Brennecke’s Beach

Located just to the east of Poipu Beach on Kauai’s south shore, Brennecke’s Beach (or Breenecke Beach) is known for boogie-boarding and body-surfing.

Aerial view of Brennecke's Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
An aerial view of Brennecke’s Beach

The waves here are consistent, and strong. The shoreline has lots of rocks, though, that may pose a problem if you aren’t experienced.

The strip of sand here is small, but it’s enough to find a good place to watch the waves, and the experienced folks trying to ride them. The colors in the ocean can be beautiful on a nice weather day.

Brennecke’s Beach is a great place to look for dolphins in the water near the shore, or Hawaiian sea turtles in the shallows. It is not a surfing, swimming, or snorkeling beach.

Sunset is a great time to be at Brennecke’s Beach!

Waves at Brennecke's Beach on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Waves at Brennecke’s Beach at sunset

Brennecke’s Beach is not lifeguarded. There are restrooms, showers, and picnic tables.

Brennecke’s Beach Broiler is a popular Kauai south shore seafood restaurant located nearby, if you want to eat before or after your time at Brennecke Beach.

4. Salt Pond Beach

Salt Pond Beach is a less-visited, family-friendly beach on Kauai’s south shore. It is one of our favorite Kauai south shore beaches for watching sunset.

Located on the western end of Kauai’s south shore, Salt Pond Beach Park features several protected shallow pools on the right side, perfect for kids to swim and snorkel. A fringing reef helps keep the waters relatively calm, and visibility is usually good as well.

Sunrise at Salt Pond Beach Park in Kauai, Hawaii
Salt Pond Beach makes for a great morning stroll!

The tidepools feature lots of colorful reef fish and moray eels. The left side of the bay, known as “the airport side” has great snorkeling if you want to look for marine life underwater.

The long stretch of white sand at Salt Pond Beach makes for great sunbathing and strolling. In the winter, keep an eye out to the ocean as you walk: you may see humpback whales spouting in the water.

Visit in the evening to watch the sky turn brilliant orange and pink at sunset. Bring a blanket and some snacks, and enjoy the tranquil ambience and a colorful Kauai sunset!

Sunset at Salt Pond Beach Park on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Sunset at Salt Pond Beach Park

Salt Pond Beach Park is lifeguarded, and there are showers, restrooms, and shaded picnic pavilions with tables. There’s a large parking lot as well, so no circling around trying to find an empty stall.

After your beach time, stop to explore the little town of Hanapepe. On Friday nights, the town hosts an art festival and walk.

5. Kiahuna Beach

A large sandy crescent of golden sand located just west of Poipu Beach Park, Kiahuna Beach is one of the more popular beaches on Kauai’s south shore.

Fringed with palm trees and featuring clear waters, Kiahuna Beach is very pretty!

Kiahuna Beach, Kauai
Kiahuna beach offers golden sands and turquoise waters

The Kiahuna Plantartion Resort and the Sheraton lie to the back of the beach, which is sometimes called the Sheraton Beach, and Koa Kea Resort and Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club are on the east end of the crescent.

Its proximity to many Kauai south shore resorts means that it can be difficult to find parking at Kiahuna Beach if you aren’t a resort guest: the public parking lot is tiny.

On the plus side, it means there are several eateries from which to choose if you want to eat before or after your time at the beach.

Kiahuna Beach offers swimming and snorkeling (the best area is near the east end), sunbathing, and boogie-boarding. Beginner surfers can take surfing lessons here.

Kiahuna Beach is not lifeguarded. It does offer restrooms and showers.

6. Baby Beach

Baby Beach is a tiny crescent-shaped golden sand beach on Kauai’s south shore. The little cove is protected and the shallow waters of the pools here are suitable for young children, hence the name.

Baby Beach Kauai HI
Shallow waters at Baby Beach on Kauai’s south shore

Access to Baby Beach is located between two homes on Hoona Road (see map). Look for steps going down to the beach. There will be signs saying “beach access.”

You will see turtles and occasionally, monk seals resting on the beach. In the pools, you may see fish, sea cucumbers, crabs and the like, perfect for showing little kids.

A Hawaiian green sea turtle resting at Baby Beach, Kauai
A green sea turtle resting on the beach!

The rocks beyond the shallow sandy area do have sea urchins though, so be warned!

Adults can enjoy snorkeling by the rocks, and sunbathing. You may have a turtle swim right up to you in the warm waters.

Baby Beach is a great spot to hang out at sunset: it’s much less crowded than Poipu Beach. Bring a wrap or wind cheater and enjoy the colorful skies!

There is no shade at Baby Beach, so bring your own umbrella if you plan to be here for a few hours.

Also, parking is by the side of the street and is limited.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

7. Lawai Beach

Lawai Beach is a golden sand beach on Kauai’s sunny south shore that’s known for its walk-in snorkeling when the waters are calm.

It is also a surfing spot for expert surfers, with an offshore reef further out in the water offering good breaks.

You’ll find a lot of coral here, with lots and lots of colorful reef fish and a very good chance of swimming with sea turtles. Snorkeling is particularly good earlier in the day.

Lawai Beach on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Lawai Beach is a popular snorkeling beach on the south shore of Kauai

The entry is rocky, and it’s easy to slip, so exercise caution when entering and exiting the water. There is a small sandy patch in the center of the beach that is the best spot to get in and out.

Lawai Beach is sandy, but it is quite narrow, especially during high tide. It is a great spot to catch sunset.

Lawai Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
Lawai Beach

Lawai Beach is also sometimes called the Beach House Beach, because it is right next to the Beach House Restaurant.

There is no lifeguard at Lawai Beach.

Parking is limited. It’s across the street along the road by Lawai Resort.

There is a shave ice and snack stand nearby if you feel like a refreshing treat or a bite to bring back to the beach!

You will find restrooms and a shower and foot-washing station across the street.

8. Keiki Cove Beach

Near Lawai Beach, you will find another small strip of white sand at Keiki Cove.

The shallow waters and usually gentle waves of this tiny Kauai south shore beach make this a great spot to visit with young kids.

Keiki means “child” in Hawaiian, so this beach is aptly named.

For older kids and adults, there are tide pools to explore, with tiny sea creatures. They can swim here as well.

The beach is also a great place to watch sunset: bring a blanket and settle down on the soft sand to watch the skies light up as the sun goes down.

Keiki Cove on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Keiki Cove on the south shore of Kauai

Keiki Cove Beach is tiny, so it does not take more than a couple of families being here for it to feel crowded. You will want to visit when you can have this gem all to yourself, which means it’s easier to visit if you are staying nearby.

Keiki Cove Beach is not lifeguarded, and there are no restrooms — you’d need to go to Lawai Beach for amenities.

You will find parking across the street, and easy steps lead down to the beach.

>> Book these 5 star rated, highly popular, Kauai Tours now!

9. Gillins Beach

Gillins Beach, or Gillin’s Beach, and Kawailoa Bay, are sections of the Mahaulepu Beach on the eastern side of Kauai’s south shore.

This part of the island is undeveloped and getting to these beaches is only for the intrepid, because access is via a dirt road that is very rough or by hiking.

While it’s possible to drive to the parking area in a sedan when conditions are right, a 4X4 is much preferred. If you are driving a rental car, you may not want to risk driving this road.

If you plan to hike, the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail from Shipwreck Beach will bring you to Gillin’s Beach.

If you are able to access Gillin’s Beach, though, you will be captivated by its idyllic beauty: soft golden sands and turquoise waters backed by gorgeous cliffs.

Mahaulepu Gillins Beach, a secluded beach, Kaloa, Kauai, Hawaii
Gillins Beach is a very secluded beach on Kauai’s south shore

Strolling the beach is a joy, and you can keep your eyes peeled for wildlife sightings in the water and birds. Strong currents preclude swimming or snorkeling at this beach and there is no lifeguard.

The only structure here is a house built by Elbert Gillin in the 1940s. It was destroyed by a hurricane in the 1990s but has been rebuilt and is actually available to rent!

There are no amenities at Gillins Beach.

10. Kawailoa Bay and Haula Beach

Even further than Gillins Beach are the two other sections of Mahaulepu Beach: Kawailoa Bay Beach and Ha’ula Beach.

You can drive past Gillins further up on the dirt road to get to Kawailoa Bay. You can also hike here along the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.

Kawailoa Bay in Kauai, Kauai
Ironwood trees frame Kawailoa Bay in Kauai
Waves crash over the reefs at Kawailoa Bay Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
Waves crashing over the reef at Kawailoa Bay Beach

Swimming conditions are better at Kawailoa Bay Beach, where the waters are somewhat protected, but it is still advisable to stay out of the water, since rogue waves are common and there is no lifeguard.

Stroll the narrow beach, look for monk seals, and watch the kitesurfers in the water at Kawailoa Bay.

Ha’ula Beach is accessed with about a 15-minute walk over the cliffs from Kawailoa Bay.

Ha'ula Beach in Kauai, Hawaii
Remote Ha’ula Beach on the south shore of Kauai

Swimming is not safe at Ha’ula Beach, but you can stroll and sunbathe. The main attraction of Ha’ula Beach is the tranquil ambience and the seclusion: you may even have the wild and beautiful beach to yourself.

There are no amenities at either Kawailoa Bay Beach or Ha’ula Beach, and neither beach has a lifeguard.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Kauai tours now!

11. Glass Beach

Glass Beach doesn’t have a very pleasing location, because there’s an oil storage facility at the back that gives it an industrial vibe.

Nor is it a great beach for swimming or sunbathing.

But if you like hunting for beach glass, this is the Kauai south shore beach to visit!

Kauai’s Glass Beach contains bits of glass in many colors, from the more common green and brown to the occasional aqua, dark blue, or red. Although there’s quite a bit of glass, you’ll have to search to find large colorful bits.

Glass Beach Kauai Hawaii
Bits of glass on Glass Beach in Kauai

Please leave the glass behind where you find it for other visitors to enjoy!

Look for Hawaiian monk seals resting on the black sand, and if you are lucky enough to see one, watch from a respectful distance.

Glass Beach can be a quick stop on your way back to Poipu after a boat tour of the Na Pali Coast, or on the drive back from Waimea Canyon.

Near the beach, there are lovely lava rock formations you can photograph: park by the McBryde Sugar Plantation Cemetery and hike down.

Lava cliffs near Glass Beach on Kauai's south shore in Hawaii
Lava cliffs near Glass Beach

If you enjoy local history, the cemetery is worth viewing from the side of the road. It has some very old tombstones!

There is no lifeguard at Glass Beach and no restrooms or other amenities.

Map of the Best South Shore Beaches in 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.
Monk seal resting on a beach on the south shore of Kauai, Hawaii
Monk seals are often found resting on Kauai south shore beaches!

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?).

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Discover the best beaches on Kauai's south shore, from golden sand Poipu Beach and gorgeous Shipwreck Beach to kid-friendly Baby Beach and more! #kauaibeaches #kauai


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