The waves on Kauai turned out some pretty impressive surfers: Legendary big wave rider Titus Kinimaka, Soul Surfer author and shark-attack survivor Bethany Hamilton, and Andy Irons, a three-time world title winner and one of the few pros to give Kelly Slater a run for his money in his prime.
Is there something in the water on Kauai, a kind of magic that shapes stand-out surfers? The only way to know is to find out for yourself! Get started with our guide to the eight best surf spots on Kauai. Below, you’ll find options all over the island for all levels of surfers.
But first, we get a lot of questions about surfing in Kauai, and we want to start by giving you our answers.
Common Questions We Hear About Surfing in Kauai
Does Kauai have good surfing?
Like most of the Hawaiian Islands, Kauai has excellent waves year-round for surfers of all abilities. Whether you’re just getting started or you’re an experienced surfer looking for a new challenge, Kauai has a wave for you. (Conditions willing!)
Is there beginner surfing in Kauai?
Absolutely. We recommend Kalapaki Beach for beginners. (It’s actually just a few miles away from our office in Lihue!) You’ll find forgiving waves there, as well as a beginner-friendly attitude in the water. During the summer months—or when the waves are small—Hanalei Bay can also be a good beginner spot with plenty of room to spread out.
Finally, if you’re a true beginner who’s never been on a surfboard, we recommend booking a lesson with a local surf school. They’ll teach you the basics so you can get on your feet fast. They’ll also show you some basic water safety, which is important since Kauai’s waters can be subject to big waves, currents, and riptides.
Is Poipu Beach good for surfing?
You’ll find plenty of surf breaks around Poipu Beach, so it’s a great spot to surf in Kauai. Our favorite thing about Poipu, though, is that you’ll find breaks for just about every ability in the area. There are slow, rolling waves for beginners and steeper, faster ones for more seasoned surfers. In other words, it’s got a little something for everyone.
Is Kauai or Maui better for surfing?
Both offer pretty consistent waves year-round and both have their share of challenging/interesting breaks, so you truthfully can’t go wrong either way. Out of the water, Maui is a bit more developed and Kauai runs at a slower, more relaxed pace. If you really want to put on the breaks and enjoy life at island speed, Kauai is the right spot for you.
Where are the biggest waves in Kauai?
You’ll find the biggest waves in Kauai on the North Shore, primarily during the winter months. From around November–April, breaks like Hanalei, Tunnels, and other north-facing bays will light up when a big swell rolls in. Even if you’re not experienced enough to get in the water on those days, it’s fun to head to the beach to see Kauai’s best surfers in action.
How big do waves get in Kauai?
During the winter months, waves of between 25 and 35 feet (and upward!) regularly pound Kauai’s North Shore. These are the same waves that pros like Andy Irons honed their mettle on, so if you’re looking for challenging surf to build your own skills, Kauai’s winter waves are a great choice.
Next, let’s talk about where to find the best spots to surf around the Garden Isle.
The Best Surf Spots on Kauai
Best Swell Direction:S-SW
If you want to learn how to surf—or you’re a beginner looking for a laidback place to hone your skills—head to Kalapaki Beach, just next to Nawiliwili Harbor. There, you’ll enjoy fun, gentle waves that break pretty consistently year-round. You’ll also find rentals and surf lessons at Kalapaki, perfect for newcomers to the sport. Plus, restrooms, showers, and parking make for an easy day on the beach.
PKs @ Prince Kuhio Beach
Best Swell Direction: SW-S-SE
Just off Prince Kuhio Beach, also known as PKs, surfers will find couple of different peaks to choose from. You’ll see plenty of beginners finding their feet on the mellow break just off the Beach House Restaurant, while more advanced surfers enjoy the faster, steeper waves nearby. No matter your level, you’re sure to find one near Prince Kuhio Beach that’s just right for you. Parking can be tricky near this spot, but you’ll at least find good bathrooms and showers to clean up afterward.
Kealia Beach Park
Best Swell Direction: E-SE
If you’re a fan of the late Andy Irons, make a stop Kealia Beach Park to pay your respects to the legendary Kauai-born surfer. There, you’ll find a small memorial that recognizes the significant time that Andy and his brother Bruce spent tearing up the waves at Kealia.
If you want to pay further tribute to Irons by catching a few waves, east-facing Kealia is one of the most consistent breaks in Kauai. The long beach has several different peaks, giving surfers plenty of opportunity to spread out. Just be aware that the waves and the current at Kealia can be on the powerful side. If you’re not comfortable in the water, this might not be the spot for you.
Anahola Beach Park
Level: Beginner & up
Best Swell Direction: N-NE
A long stretch of soft, white sand. Shade from nearby palm trees. Mostly easygoing waves that get considerably bigger in the winter months. That’s Anahola Beach Park for you. If you want to set up for the day with your family, Anahola is the perfect spot. You’ll also find lifeguards, showers, restrooms, and picnic tables within the park, making it an easy place to spend the whole day catching waves.
Best Swell Direction: N-NW
Like the Oahu’s North Shore, Kauai’s north-facing beaches get massive waves during the winter months. From about November–April, Hanalei is one of those spots—a world-class break that tests the prowess of even the most experienced surfers. That said, during the rest of the year, Hanalei produces much more mellow waves, some of which are perfect for beginners. Plus, there’s usually room for everyone at the bay, which has a couple of different peaks. If you’re new to the sport, try surfing the wave just out from the lifeguard stand.
Best Swell Direction:SW-S-SE
Just down the road from Prince Kuhio beach, you’ll find Poipu Beach. Around these crescent-shaped bays, you’ll find several different surf breaks. The gentler ones closer to shore can be good for less experienced surfers, while the fast, outer-reef breaks offer more exciting rides for experienced surfers. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, pop into one of the nearby surf schools to get a quick tutorial on the area.
Kekaha Beach Park
Best Swell Direction:S-SW
Just past Kekaha on Kauai’s west side, you’ll find a 15-mile stretch of beach with surf breaks all up and down the coast. One of the most popular waves is Inters, located just west of Kekaha town. You’ll find plenty more as you continue west. (Hint: Check out the waves at Mana Point and Polihale!)
Many surfers will revel in the search along this stretch of fairly isolated coast. Arguably, that’s all part of the appeal—the possibility of discovering your very own wave. Just keep in mind that Kauai’s west side can deliver some punishing waves and strong rip currents. Additionally, some of the waves on the west side break in shallow water. Know your limits, and make sure to surf with a buddy who’s got an eye on you.
Best Swell Direction: N-NE
Just east of Haena Beach, you’ll find Tunnels, one of Kauai’s more famous northern beach breaks. A long paddle-out and a shallow reef make this a spot best left to experienced surfers. Additionally, this spot is quite popular with Kauai’s resident surfers, so make sure you respect the line-up when you’re out there. Those who do brave the paddle-out on a good day and navigate with respect will be rewarded with some barreling rights, perhaps even some of the best waves on Kauai.
Get Your Wave on the Garden Isle
Like its sister islands, Kauai has plenty of waves to go around. With 360 degrees of shoreline, you’re sure to find waves somewhere on almost any given day. Use this list as a starting point for your surf adventures on the Garden Isle. If you decide to make Kauai your permanent home, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the rest—and find the perfect wave for you.
By the way, if you need help getting your belongings to Kauai, our Lihue-based team would be happy to help! In addition to handling household belongings with care, we’ve also moved plenty of surfboards, paddleboards, and other fragile watersports equipment, including a custom carbon-fiber canoe! Reach out for a free quote to get started.
Tell us about your move!