Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach on the South Shore of Kauai, Hawaii

The Travel Channel and Stephen Leatherman, aka "Dr. Beach" have both called Poipu Beach one of America's best beaches. The Dr's list of best beaches is based on a rating system that includes such criteria as the makeup of its sand, its length, width at low tide, conditions for swimming and snorkeling, boogie boarding waves, its park and facilities and picnic areas, ease of access, appeal to a wide range of ages, etc. Others prefer Poipu because the weather seems better here than the rest of the island. When it's raining elsewhere on the island, Poipu is often sunnier. Still others prefer Poipu for less scientific reasons - it's just where everybody else is. Face it, a person can only take so much solitude and deserted beaches - eventually you want to see some people!

In Hawaiian, poipu means crashing (as in crashing waves) although the beach is mostly protected from large wave action by a rock formation known as Nukumoi Point a few hundred feet offshore from the middle of the beach. A narrow sand spit known as a tombolo forms from the beach out to the point forming two back-to-back, perfectly formed crescents of sandy beach. The tombolo forms naturally due to wave action and currents but can disappear for years between appearances. After an absence of about 10 years its reformation in 2010 made local news. The eastern crescent beach ends in a shallow, semi-enclosed pool that is ideal for children and a manned lifeguard tower helps keep an eye on them. Surfers catch waves just beyond Nukumoi Point, but this isn't a surf break for beginners. Unless you're an expert, this might be a good place to watch and learn from the local experts.

Poipu Beach Park is just behind the lifeguard tower and provides a large grassy expanse for Frisbee throwing, more sunbathing, picnic tables, barbecues, restrooms, and fresh water showers. The park also includes playground equipment providing even more entertainment for children. The beach and park are collectively known as Poipu Beach Park or just Poipu Beach. The entire area surrounding the beach and in a broader sense, just about everything south of Koloa is also known as Poipu.

Poipu Beach is neighbor to several other beaches that offer more variety and fun. Brennecke Beach is just on the other side of the park and is the most popular boogie boarding beach on the island. Shipwreck Beach is further to the east and Kiahuna Beach is just to the west. All three are within easy walking distance from Poipu Beach.

Sunset at Poipu Beach
Sunset Over Poipu Sheraton Hotel

Brennecke's Beach Broiler, is across the street from the park along with a couple of shops and a convenience store with sunscreen, water, soft drinks and sandwich deli. Free parking is available along the street and in a couple of parking lots next to the restaurants and shops.

Poipu Beach Vacation Rentals

Poipu is of course one of Kauai's most popular tourist destinations and several south shore Kauai vacation rentals are along the coast. The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort is just a little over a mile away to the east and the Sheraton Kauai is just a short walk down the beach to the west beyond Kiahuna Plantation. Several condominiums resorts, including Poipu Shores, Poipu Kai Resort and Sunset Kahili offer vacation rentals next to Poipu Beach. Kuhio Shores Condos and Prince Kuhio Condos are less than two miles along the coast to the east.

Poipu Map showing Poipu Beach Park on the South Shore of Kauai:



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Queen's Bath

Queen's Bath

Queens Bath on the North Shore of Kauai

Formed by an ancient lava flow, Queen's Bath is a beautiful, natural ocean pool on Kauai's north shore. Named after Queen Emma who was the mother of Prince Albert (from whom Princeville gets its name), this stunning feature is worth the muddy yet interesting trip to view it. Access to Queens Bath is by way of a steep trail down the side of a bluff. When the trail opens up at the bottom of the bluff, continue left along the lava rock for wonderful shoreline views and a peek of Queen's Bath. To get there from Princeville, take Ka Haku Road to Kapiolani and follow until you see several cars parked at the trail head.


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Shipwreck Beach | Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai

Shipwreck Beach on the Island of Kauai

Shipwreck Beach (Keoneloa Bay), Kauai

Shipwreck Beach or Shipwrecks Beach is one of the largest expanses of beach along Keoneloa Bay (KAY-OH-NAY-LO-AH) in the Poipu area. The beach is named after an old wooden shipwreck that was partially buried in the sand above the waterline and slightly left of center on the beach. Those that remember seeing it in 1980 report it being over 100 feet long. Storms would uncover the top part of the hull for a while and then another high tide would later re-bury it. The ship hasn't been seen since 1982. It's unknown by this writer if it washed out during Hurricane Iwa (November 1982) or if it was quietly removed. Perhaps part of it is still there buried deep in the sand. For many years, Shipwreck was one of the best-hidden beaches on the island and access to it was by way of dirt sugarcane roads. Development in recent years around the beach has brought it more attention and made it easier to access.

Strong currents during much of the year, make this beach somewhat dangerous and best suited for strong swimmers and advanced surfers and boogie boarders. Be sure to observe conditions and talk to locals before entering the ocean. Of course this is good advice on any of the beaches on Kauai.

You can enjoy beach combing and sunbathing along its shore plus the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail begins at the north end of the beach and continues along the sea cliffs for several miles all the way to Kawailoa Bay. This is a fascinating hike over petrified sand dunes and other geological features. Several ancient cultural sites exist along the way and the trail offers great ocean and shoreline views. This is a great place to view Humpback Whales from November through March.

The Cliff at Shipwreck Beach is a lithified sand dune and is 35 to 40 feet high (above the surface of the ocean), fluctuating somewhat with the tides. People frequently jump from it to the ocean below as did Harrison Ford and Anne Heche in the movie "6 Days and 7 Nights." Of course, we don't recommend jumping ... yada yada yada.

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Poipu Kai Resort both front Shipwreck Beach, where you'll find restaurants, shops and bars. The Hyatt has such extraordinary grounds and swimming pools that even if you aren't a guest, you'll want to stroll along the public walkway just to see it.

To get there drive just past the Grand Hyatt on Poipu Road. Turn right just after the large parking lot onto Ainakoa Street and go past the tennis courts and to the end of the road where you'll find a public parking lot. If there isn't room in the parking lot, many people usually park on the dirt area above the lot. Public restrooms are available just off the parking area in front of the Grand Hyatt. See our complete list of beautiful Kauai Beaches.

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Tunnels Beach

Tunnels Beach Sunset

Tunnels Beach, Kauai

Tunnels Beach has to be one of the most beautiful anywhere in the world and one of my favorite beaches in Kauai. There are no services, no public showers, no restrooms, and there's hardly any parking, but once you're there, you're in paradise so bring some drinks and anything else you'll need. With the backdrop of "Bali Hai" and the protective reef, you won't want to leave; at least not until you've seen the sunset.


Tunnels is a great place to sit on the beach and enjoy the show as the sun drops into the Pacific Ocean. For anyone that has experienced it, the north shore of Kauai is magical and nowhere more so than at Tunnels.

Tunnels gets its name from both the underwater lava formations and for the surf break which surfers compare to a tunnel. Bring your snorkel mask and fins because this is one of the best places for snorkeling and diving and you'll see lots of fish, wildlife and a maze of coral and lava formations.

Tunnels Beach

Tunnels is also a favorite spot for windsurfing and Kauai kite surfing but leave this to the experts. There are safer surf breaks on Kauai for beginners.

To get to Tunnels Beach, drive west from Princeville towards Ke'e Beach. The road past Tunnels is too narrow to park along; don't try it or you'll get towed. Although there are a couple of turn offs with some parking, the best advice is to continue past Tunnels and park at Haena Beach Park (across from the Dry Caves). From there, walk back east along the beach about a quarter mile. If you have questions, ask the life guard at the park.

Take a peek at our complete list of beautiful Kauai Beaches.

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Sealodge Beach - Kaweonui

Sealodge Beach

Kaweonui - Also Known at Sealodge Beach

Sealodge Beach is hidden away at the foot of a large ocean bluff known as Kaweonui Point (pronounced Kah-way-oh-new-ee). Kaweonui is also the Hawaiian name of the beach but because the most popular trail down begins at Sealodge Condos the beach is more often referred to by the name of the condos. It should be noted that giving modern names to ancient Hawaiian places is frustrating to native Hawaiians, cartographers, and self-proclaimed purists like myself.

The public access trail to Sealodge Beach begins in front of Building "A" at Sealodge and takes 10 to 15 minutes to hike. It's steep, rocky, and narrow and gets very slippery when wet. The trail follows a small ravine down to the ocean - crossing a trickle of a stream before descending some wooden steps that help with the steepest parts. Once at the bottom, the trail follows the shoreline as it wraps around the point to the west. The last 40 yards is a scramble along the edge of a black lava rock ledge just above the bay. The trail isn't too difficult unless you have mobility issues or are bothered by heights, or if you are carrying 30 pounds of gear like I was. If you attempt this trail after a rain storm, all bets are off because it turns into a very long and dangerous slip-and-slide and could be disastrous.


Sealodge Beach or Kaweonui

Kaweonui or Sealodge Beach is about 100 yards wide and is protected from wave action by a very large and broad reef that extends 200 yards into the ocean. On a busy day it might have 10 to 12 people on it. It has ample shade and is a good beach for reading a book, sunning, or taking a nap. It is also a good beach for collecting small sea shells. Of course there are no facilities here. Be sure to bring what you'll need with you, including water to drink. You should also remember to bring mosquito repellant and sunscreen. If you carry anything down, be sure to pack it back up when you leave.


Looking Out From Beach Across the Reef

Snorkeling at Sealodge Beach is good with a variety of fish and lots of honu or Green Sea Turtles to see, especially if you get out to the edge of the reef. However, this should only be attempted when the ocean is calm. You also need to be aware of the tides. At their lowest, it isn't even possible to snorkel on top of the reef. Please take precautions to minimize contact with corals as they are fragile. Scientists at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawaii are currently studying a recently discovered disease that is destroying coral reefs and threatening the wildlife on the north shore of Kauai and elsewhere around Hawaii (article). Please follow these environmental practices when snorkeling.


Warning Sign in Front of Building "A"

A word about parking: All beaches in Hawaii are public, meaning they aren't privately owned. Developers are given the right to build above and around beaches as long as they don't restrict or impede public access to them. Sealodge Condos have a good deal of parking although all the spaces around building "A" are reserved. There are plenty of un-reserved spots a little higher in the lot. As long as you don't park in a reserved spot you should be fine even if you aren't staying at the condos. Just don't leave your car over night unless you are a guest. There are several signs at the beginning of the trail warning that the trail can be dangerous and that you can get hurt. You can. They also make it clear that you are leaving Sealodge property. This is mostly to let you know that Sealodge isn't responsible if you do get hurt.

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Anini Beach

Anini Beach

Anini Beach, Kauai, Hawaii

Anini Beach is a favorite on the north shore of Kauai. Protected from large waves by an offshore reef, Anini is a great spot for swimming, snorkeling, sail boarding, and other sports that don't require surf. A large grassy park with covered picnic benches and showers is available. Anini is perfect for youngsters. Adults love it too for shelling, sunbathing, and just relaxing.

Anini Beach


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Ke`e Beach

Ke'e Beach

Kauai, Hawaii

Ke'e Beach is a great spot for swimming and snorkeling and is one of the must see beaches on the north shore of Kauai. Its warm, gentle waters are ideal for a casual dip or for viewing an abundance of fish and underwater wildlife, including turtles and the occasional monk seal. Ke'e is the beginning of the rugged Na Pali Coastline. When swimming and snorkeling here, avoid getting too close to the far left side of the beach where the currents can pull you around the point towards Na Pali without a way to get back.

Ke'e Beach
Ke'e Beach and the Na Pali Coast

Because of its popularity and because it's the starting point for hiking Na Pali, don't be surprised to see hundreds of cars in the parking lot. It's getting harder and harder to park close to the beach. A second parking lot exists about a half mile from the beach if you don't mind walking. But even when the lots are both full, don't worry about finding a spot on the beach. Ke'e is long and wide and most of the cars belong to people hiking the trail. Keep in mind that a large crowd arrives to watch the sunset and then leaves just after it goes down. Arrive early if you want to get a better place to park. The views of Na Pali are best if you walk to the far right side of the beach.

Ke'e Beach
Ke'e Beach

How to Pronounce Ke`e: Pronounce both "e"s in Ke`e with the hard "a" sound so that they rhyme with bay). There is a glottal stop between the "e"s so you stop the sound like between the expression "Oh Oh!"

To get to Ke'e Beach, drive west from Princeville through Hanalei and Haena until you reach the end of the road.


Ke'e Beach, Kauai

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Lumahai Beach

Lumahai Beach, Kauai

Kauai, Hawaii

Lumahai Beach was made famous by the 1958 movie South Pacific where Mitzi Gaynor sang the song "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair" and because of its beauty, it is one of the most photographed beaches on Kauai.

Located on the north shore of Kauai, about half way between Hanalei and Haena, the road descends through Lumahai Valley and crosses Lumahai Bridge. Lumahai Beach stretches for about a mile east of the mouth of Lumahai River. Nestled against a hillside of emerald green foliage and framed between several natural jet black lava rock formations, Lumahai's golden sand is pounded and washed by the blue Pacific Ocean and white crashing waves. Often photographed from high up along the hill, many feel Lumahai is one of the most scenic beaches in the world. But beware; it is also one of the most dangerous beaches on the island.

Swimming is not advisable at Lumahai, especially in winter months because of strong rip currents and undertow. Even walking on the lava rocks can be dangerous because of unpredictable large rogue waves that have knocked people into the surf. There are no facilities or lifeguards.

If you stay out of the water, Lumahai is perfect for a long beach strolls and secluded beauty. If you bring your own chairs, picnic basket, and drinks it is a great place to sit and watch the waves and take a few pictures.

In legend, Lumahai Valley is where the Menehune first settled when they came to Kauai. (Some believe that the Menehune were real and were an ancient culture that occupied Kauai before the Hawaiians.)

For decades the only way to access Lumahai Beach was by trespassing across private property. In 2001 the Trust for Public Land purchased 40 undeveloped acres adjacent to Lumahai Beach from long-time landowners the Wilcox Family for protection as a scenic beach.

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Kalapaki Beach

Kalapaki Beach on the Island of Kauai

Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

Kalapaki Beach is just south of Lihue airport and the Kauai Lagoons Golf Course at the entrance of Nawiliwili Harbor, on Kauai. This lovely crescent shaped beach is popular with both locals and tourists and it is fronted by the Kauai Marriott Resort as well as several restaurants and bars. Two small shopping centers are also within walking distance.


Kalapaki Beach

The beach slopes gently to the ocean and although it is protected by the bay and a man made surf break, it does occasionally get some surf. Kalapaki Bay is mostly sand bottom and is good for swimming, boogie boarding, bodysurfing, windsurfing, and beginning surfing. The snorkeling is not very interesting here because the sandy bottom is not good fish habitat.


Kalapaki Beach, Kauai

Activities at Kalapaki Beach include surf lessons, beach volleyball in front of the Marriott, sailboat rentals, and catamaran cruises. A picnic area is nearby at Nawiliwili Park. Facilities are located near Anchor Cove Shopping Center on the south end of the beach.

Kalapaki Beach is also a great relaxing place to hang out on the day you're flying out because it's only 8 - 10 minutes to the airport. After checking out of your hotel or vacation rental, if you have a few hours before your flight leaves, get a table at one of the nearby restaurants and get something to eat. This is a good way to relax before returning your rental car and catching that red-eye flight back home.

Vacation Rental Near Kalapaki Beach include homes, resorts and condos on both the east shore of Kauai and the south shore of Kauai.

Directions to Kalapaki Bay: FROM LIHUE TOWN, take Rice Street east to Kauai Marriott Resort or to Nawiliwili Park. FROM LIHUE AIRPORT: turn left upon leaving the airport onto Kapule Highway (Highway 51 South) for 1.1 miles. Turn left onto Rice Street for 0.6 miles.

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Salt Pond Beach

Salt Pond Beach

Salt Pond Beach on the South Shore of Kauai

Salt Pond Beach Park is large, lovely, and inviting. It stretches some 800 feet (240 meters) along the beach and has about 3 acres of grass so there's lots of room to run around, fly kites, throw horseshoes, and toss Frisbees or whatever. Camping is allowed and 10 or 12 small tents were set up around the east end. (A larger shelter that encompassed one of the pavilions was a little disturbing as I wondered if someone had taken up permanent residence.) There are a couple of buildings with restrooms and showers, a large pavilion and a half dozen covered picnic tables scattered under tall palm trees. There are drinking fountains and even a couple of sinks for cleaning fish.

Salt Pond Beach Park
Salt Pond Beach Park

The beach is a beautiful wide crescent of fine golden sand that extends beyond the crescent at both ends. The total distance of sand including the crescent and the extensions beyond runs about a half mile from end to end. Port Allen Airport is immediately to the east of the beach. Some helicopters tours and ultra lights use the airstrip, but I didn't see any landings or takeoffs in the two hours or so while I was there.

Fishing at Salt Pond Beach: Fisherman stand on the rocks holding nets and studying what's under the water. Their patience waiting for the right moment to cast their nets exceeded mine to get a picture of that moment.

Salt Pond Beach
Salt Pond Beach Has A Natural Sea Wall that Breaks the Waves

Salt Pond Beach is ideal for swimming when the ocean is calm. The water here is warm and mostly protected from wave action by rock formations on both sides of the crescent. The western formation forms a long sea break and the water inside of it is like a calm bathtub. The entire bay looked like the largest lap pool I'd ever seen. I badly wanted to strip down. Leave my clothes on the beach, get in, and swim some long laps. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to hide my backpack with 30 pounds of camera gear in my shoe.

Snorkeling at Salt Pond Beach is good for the same reasons: Calm water, interesting rock formations, and fish. Be careful around fishermen who are likely to throw a net on you. A lifeguard tower is on the beach, but is un-manned in the evenings after about 5.

Salt Pond Beach Has Sunshine. Even when it was raining and overcast everywhere else on the island, the skies here are usually blue and decorated with beautiful pastel puffs of clouds. This is the dry side of the island and one of the reasons Salt Pond Beach is so great. I drove all the way down here from the north shore just to see the sun. After walking from one end of the beach to the other I was looking for shade.

Salt Pond Beach Pavilion
Salt Pond Beach Pavilion

On this perfect Friday evening, almost every pavilion was being used. A large group was having a banquet of some sort in the main pavilion. It wasn't a beach party - they were dressed casually but not that casually. Soothing Hawaiian music added to the ambience. On the beach, several groups of small children or Keikis played in the water. An artist sat on the ground against a palm tree sketching the evening with pencil. Half dozen swimmers were out in the water swimming lazily. A few small portable barbecues burned throughout the park. People were having fun, hanging out, waiting for the sunset, and mostly just enjoying themselves.

The area is called "Salt Pond" because salt is harvested here. Just behind the east end of the beach are the salt ponds; dozens of shallow, oval shaped beds called wai ku fashioned out of clay on the surface of the ground. The wai ku resemble large bathtubs but are only 5 or 6 inches deep. The wai ku surround deeper wells called punawai where water percolates from the ground saturated with the salts and minerals deposited here over many thousands of years by the ocean waves just a stones throw away. From about May to September is the harvest season and water is dipped from the punawai and poured into the surrounding wai ku where it warms and evaporates. (Presumably, it turns into clouds, floats over the mountains, and rains back down on Hanalei and Princeville). As the water evaporates out of the wai ku more brine is added. This is repeated until enough salt and minerals remain to be harvested. Of course rain interferes with this process so it is no accident that these salt ponds exist on the driest side of the island and only operate during the summer months. Even then, occasional summer storms can inundate the entire operation with several inches of water disrupting production.

Evaporation Ponds with Salt Crystals Forming in Bottom
Evaporation Ponds with Salt Crystals Forming in the Bottom

Harvesting salt at Salt Pond is an old traditional process and not a commercial operation. The right to operate the ponds is passed down through twenty or so local families. Each family controls their own section of the "salt patch" as it is known. The families can give the salt they harvest to whomever they choose, but it is against the rules to sell it. Various recipes of mixing the salt with red, iron-rich minerals create white, pink, or red salt. These salts are prized around the island for their taste and health benefits and are used in traditional cooking and luaus. I found this article interesting with more detail than I was able to find on my own by snooping around.