When many people think of Hawaii, postcard-perfect beaches spring to mind. There’s no question that Kauai has plenty of them. You’ll find gorgeous beaches on all sides of the Garden Isle, many of which are secluded or sparsely populated so you can enjoy your beach day exactly the way you want to.

If you end up moving to Kauai, you’ll find yourself becoming quite the connoisseur of these stretches of sand. Specifically, we think you’ll discover that each beach has its own vibe—and purpose. In other words, some are great for taking a dip, some are excellent for snorkeling, others are suited for some quiet downtime, and still, others are a perfect fit for family fun.

In this guide, we’ll share our favorite beaches on Kauai, along with some ideas on how to best enjoy them. We’ve even got ideas for people who don’t like to sit on the beach—or who like to enjoy the beach from a distance. (We know you’re out there!)

Before we run through the list, we want to share some quick thoughts on ocean safety from our Kauai team. As you enjoy the beautiful beaches in Kauai, check ocean conditions before you decide to go in the water. If you’re not a strong swimmer, stick to beaches with lifeguards. It’s never a good idea to swim alone and, even if you’re a strong swimmer, make sure to get a feel for the conditions before you dive in. This is especially true on the North Shore during winter when things can change very quickly. Okay, that’s the end of our “stay safe out there” PSA. Thanks for reading.

Now, let’s talk about those beaches…

Best Beach for Choosing Your Own Adventure: Hanalei Bay

Facilities: Restrooms and showers at all three beach parks

Lifeguards: Only at Black Pot Beach Park

Some beaches just have it all, and Hanalei Bay certainly qualifies. Whether you want to stroll the two-mile-long beach, surf its gentle waves, enjoy the iconic view of Makana Mountain, or take a dip in the water, you’ll be able to do it all at Hanalei’s three beach parks: Black Pot Beach Park, Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, and Waioli Beach Park. You’ll even get the chance to walk in the footsteps of movie stars like George Clooney, who filmed The Descendants on this beach in 2010. If you’re a movie buff, you may also recognize Makana Mountain from the South Pacific, where it stood in for the mystical island of Bali Hai. If you’re with a diverse group of people who all like to do different things at the beach, Hanalei might be just the ticket for you.

Best Beach for Relaxing: Makua Beach / Tunnels Beach

Facilities: None, but you can find restrooms and showers at nearby Haena Beach

Lifeguards: Yes

Some consider this beach one of the best places for snorkeling on Kauai, but we like it most for simply relaxing on its quiet shores, which also offer plenty of shade. Because this beach can be a little trickier to find, make sure you pay attention to the signage along the road and don’t leave your car in a “no parking” zone. Our advice is to get there early to secure a parking spot, then you can relax and enjoy the day. If you’ve got a scuba diver or an avid snorkeler in your family, they will probably want to bring their gear and enjoy the underwater architecture that gave this beach its nickname.

Best Beach for Little Ones Who Are Learning to Swim: Baby Beach Poipu

Facilities: No restrooms or showers, although you can head down to nearby Lawai Beach (more on that below!) and use the shower and restrooms there.

Lifeguards: None

All around the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll find beaches with the name “Baby Beach,” and you can usually rely on these spots for calm, gentle waters protected by a reef. Baby Beach Poipu perfectly fits this description, and if you have little ones who are just getting comfortable with the water, this tiny little beach may be perfect for them to splash around in. The beach can be a little rocky, so you might want to pick up some water shoes, just in case. (You’ll get plenty of opportunities to use them if you’re moving to Kauai!)

Insider tip: Long’s Drugs usually has cheap but serviceable water shoes for adults and children. These can be a great short-term investment that you won’t mind tossing when your child grows out of them.

Best Beach for People Who Don’t Like to Sit on the Beach: Paliku Beach / Donkey Beach

Facilities: None at the beach, but you’ll find restrooms along the journey

Lifeguards: None

We promised some options for people who don’t love sitting on the beach, and the Ke Ala Hele Makalae, also known as the Kauai Coastal Path, delivers. Rent a bike in Kapaa (or BYO) and head north along the coastline to enjoy the gorgeous view from this paved path. Along the way, you’ll pass Kealia Beach, and, as you approach Paliku Beach, also known as Donkey Beach, you’ll enjoy some of Kauai’s more untamed beauty. Plans for the path include extensions that would bring its length to 20 miles that connect Anaholi and Niumalu. For now, the section that starts in Kapaa stretches about four miles so you can enjoy a leisurely oceanside pedal while keeping your toes sand-free.

Best Beach for Your Instagram Feed: Pali Ke Kua / Hideaway Beach

Facilities: None

Lifeguards: None

If you’re the type that enjoys a side of adventure with your beach, check out Pali Ke Kua, also known as Hideaway Beach. You’ll have to navigate a bit of a steep slope to get down to the beach proper. Once you do, though, you’ll find a beach that’s more than worthy of anyone’s Instagram feed. Pack light, although you may want to bring your snorkel gear if the water is calm that day. This beach is often relatively uncrowded (bonus!), and there’s plenty of shade to give you a break if you decide to spend the entire day there.

Best Beach to Catch a Classic Hawaii Sunset: Kekaha Beach

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: Yes

Some days, you just need a reminder of why you moved to Hawaii in the first place. (Or maybe you just want to create a special moment at the end of your day!) If either one of these is the case, then head on down to Kekaha Beach Park on Kauai’s far west side. Enjoy a slow meander down this long stretch of sand and take in the sunset, along with views of Niihau off the coast. You’ll quickly feel some of that magic that likely brought you to Kauai in the first place.

Best Beach to See the Sea Life: Lawai Beach

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: No

If you love snorkeling, you don’t want to miss Lawai Beach on Kauai’s South Shore, where snorkelers are treated to the sight of many different kinds of fish, as well as honu. Note that this beach doesn’t have lifeguards, so you’ll want to be aware of your surroundings before you hop in the water and, ideally, bring a buddy to swim with. Note that, unlike some of Kauai’s other beaches, which offer a considerable amount of sand, the beach at Lawai is mostly rocky, so it’s probably best considered a snorkeling-only location.

Best Beach for a Dip: Anahola Beach

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: Yes

Some days, you just want to wade into those gentle tropical waters and take a nice, relaxing float. If that’s the mood you’re in, stop by Anahola Beach on Kauai’s east side. Because the beach is protected by a reef, you’ll almost always find serene, calm waters to enjoy. The beach is also a frequent destination for families, so it’s a great place to bring yours for a relaxing day.

Best Beach for Stepping into the Pages of a Travel Magazine: Poipu Beach

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: Yes

Poipu Beach has been hailed as one of the best beaches in the U.S. by the Travel Channel, and Travel + Leisure called it one of the 18 best beaches in Hawaii. When you set foot on its sands, you can easily see why. Crystal clear water laps at the sandy shore while palm trees sway in the breeze at this South Shore beach. Much like Hanalei, you’ll also find something for just about everyone: swimmers, snorkelers, and surfers alike. There’s even a jungle gym for the little ones. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the most popular beaches on Kauai, and since it’s located in an area with a number of resorts, you’ll find plenty of places to grab a bite to eat before or after your day at the beach.

Best Beach for Discovering a New Side of Kauai: Salt Pond Beach Park

Facilities: Restrooms and showers

Lifeguards: Yes

Salt Pond Beach has a lot to offer—calm, clear water, plenty of room to stretch out, and tide pools with tons of marine life to explore. Just adjacent to the beach, you’ll also find the salt ponds that give this beach its name. The ponds are reserved for the exclusive use of Native Hawaiians, who have passed their individual patches of salt down from generation to generation. As you enjoy the beach, you may see a family working their patch or harvesting salt, which is used within cultural activities, for cooking, or given as gifts. If you’re curious, “salt season” relies heavily on rain, so it usually lasts from May to September. A visit to Salt Pond, in addition to offering an excellent day on the beach, also gives you the unique opportunity to observe this Hawaiian cultural practice (from a respectful distance, of course).

Beach Days Are the Best Days

There are a few things that the Hawaiian Islands have in abundance: flowers, fruits, aloha spirit, and, of course, beaches (among others!). If you move to Kauai, you’ll discover that there’s a beach for just about everything—and you’ll soon develop your own favorite spots. This guide will give you a good start but know that there are plenty more beaches on Kauai, just waiting for you to discover.

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