Best Kauai Beaches located on the North Shore
The North Shore of Kaua’i is home to some of the best beaches in the world and the top 3 Kauai beaches are all found on the North Shore:
#1 Best Kauai Beach – Hanalei Beach
#2 Best Kauai Beach – Tunnels
#3 Best Kauai Beach – Kee Beach
#5 Best Kauai Beach – Anini
#9 Best Kauai Beach – Hā’ena Beach Park
Opposite to the South Shore beaches the North Shore beaches are better in the summer months (June to August) as the winter usually brings strong ocean currents and swells – great for surfing, but not so great for swimming. Be careful of the rip currents especially during the summer.
Many Kauai beaches do not have lifeguards so do not swim alone. We have marked the beaches that do not have lifeguards. Avoid high surf, and at all times be on the lookout for warning signs indicating hazardous conditions. Do not swim in murky water or river mouths and never turn your back on the ocean, as an unexpected wave can knock you down and drag you out.
There are no laws prohibiting topless sunbathing on Kauai beaches but there are only a few beaches that are known as “clothing-optional” so research this in more detail. As always listen to weather and surf forecasts on local radio before venturing on to Kauai beaches. It is wise to also check the surf advisories, wear sunscreen, a hat and have good shoes.
Permits are required for camping on Kauai beaches. For locations and permit requirements visit: https://www.kauai.gov/Government/Departments-Agencies/Parks-Recreation/Permitting/Camping
Be aware that cell reception at many Kauai beaches are spotty to non-existent.
Index of Kauai Beaches on the North Shore
Hanalei Bay and Pier (Black Pot Beach)
Hanalei Pavilion Beach
Kahili Beach (Rock Quarry Beach)
Kauapea Beach (Secret Beach)
Kaweonui Beach (Sea Lodge Beach)
Makua Beach (Tunnels Beach)
Pali Ke Kua (Hideaways Beach)
Pine Trees Beach (Waioli Beach)
Pu’u Poa Beach
Anini Beach – No lifeguard.
Anini boasts the longest and widest fringing reef in the Hawaiian Islands and because of the unique conditions it usually has well protected waters and some of the most consistent conditions for water activities. Although there is no lifeguard it is still considered one of the safest beaches on the North Shore. Anini beach snorkeling is very popular, but be aware that the currents increase as you get closer to the outer reef. The Beach Park has multiple campsites with permits, shade trees, picnic tables, pavilions, restrooms and showers.
Hā’ena Beach- Usually a lifeguard.
Lush tropical jungle meets white sand beaches and turquoise waters. The popular and very recognizable Mount Makana (Bali Hai) looms mysteriously above Hā’ena Beach and offers a spectacular backdrop for sunsets and photo opportunities. Offers good swimming and snorkeling during calm conditions. This is a fun beach to explore and do a bit of beach-combing and great shell collecting. Hā’ena Beach Park has a lifeguard station, restrooms showers and camp sites. Camping requires a permit.
Hanalei Bay and Pier (Black Pots Beach) – Usually a lifeguard.
Four different beaches make up the ring of Hanalei Bay and in the summer, when the Bay is more placid, this area becomes a playground for families. Hanalei Bay is the largest bay located on the north shore of Kauai with the town of Hanalei sitting at the midpoint of the bay. Hanalei Beach consists of about two miles of beach, and is surrounded by mountains. The small beach-front park that sits between the Hanalei Pier and the mouth of the Hanalei River is known as Black Pots Beach and is one of the only Kauai beaches without a Hawaiian name. This beach is a popular hangout and an informal community hub. The park is often used to stage events such as community fairs and triathlons. There used to be a large black pot that was used to cook fish for celebrations. There is a small boat ramp where you can launch kayaks to paddle the Hanalei River.
Hanalei Pavilions Beach – Usually a lifeguard.
Hanalei Bay is a two-mile-long crescent shaped bay offers activities for the whole family. The center of the bay is known as Pavilions and is a popular beach for swimming, surfing and boogie boarding. Lifeguards man this section of the beach. A large pavilion, restrooms, showers and BBQ areas make this an easy spot for the whole family to enjoy a day at the beach.
Kahili Beach (Rock Quarry Beach) – No lifeguard.
Located south of Kīlauea town, on the ocean side of Kīlauea Bay. Quiet surf beach popular for surfing. From Kuhio Highway (Hwy 56), turn right onto Wailapa Road just before reaching Kīlauea when coming from the south. Continue driving for half a mile, then turn left onto a dirt road. Drive until you reach a dead end. Park on the road and walk to the beach.
Kalihiwai Beach – No lifeguard.
This little slice of tropical paradise is a secluded bay bordered by the Kalihiwai River and a backdrop of rain forest foliage. This beach is good for soaking up the rays, playing on shore, exploring the river by kayak or paddle boarding. The ocean conditions here can be rough with strong currents and large surf.
Kauapea Beach (Secret Beach) – No lifeguard. This is a dangerous beach and should be avoided.
The 3,000-foot-long north shore Secret Beach is located between Kalihiwai Bay and Kīlauea Point. This beach is great because it’s so large and vast, that many times you feel like you are one of the only people there. Keep walking down the beach until you find a spot that suits you, and enjoy this beach. The further down you go you are entering the unofficial clothing optional section of Secret Beach.
Kaweonui Beach (Sea Lodge Beach) – No lifeguard.
Protected by a sharp inner reef with only a few channels that you can swim or snorkel in during low tide. Requires a half mile hike through a moderate and sometimes slippery trail that is located at the end of Kamehameha Road, near SeaLodge Resort in Princeville. Access is via a trail from Building A at the resort. No public parking is available. Don’t park on the side of the road in this neighborhood.
Ke‘e Beach – Usually a lifeguard.
This is the farthest you can drive on the north shore and is located at the end of the road the beginning of the Napali Coast and the Kalalau trail that leads to Hanakapiai and Kalalau Beach. Ke’e is protected by a reef that makes it a safe place for snorkeling and swimming for most of the year. This special spot is beautiful at sunset. The facilities at the beach include restrooms and showers. Due to very limited space parking requirements have changed and reservations are now required. Visit https://www.kauai.com/kee-beach for the latest information and to https://gohaena.com/ for parking, shuttle and entry passes.
Lumahai Beach – No lifeguard.
Lumahai Beach is a popular and picturesque beach, and you will have many opportunities for great photos. This long stretch of white sand beach was made famous by Hollywood when Mitzi Gaynor spent her time on this beach washing that man right out of her hair, in the movie South Pacific. One of most dangerous beaches for drownings and is not recommended for swimming.
Makua Beach (Tunnels Beach) – No lifeguard.
Tunnels is the ultimate snorkeling and scuba divers beach. This crescent shaped bay is fringed by palms and Ironwood trees. The golden sand beach has a backdrop of lush jungle and mountains making this a picture-perfect beach. Tunnels is a favorite surfing, wind surfing and kite surfing beach. Lava tubes form the many underwater caverns give Tunnels its name as well as a magical underwater world to explore. Remember this is the beach where Bethany Hamilton got bit by a shark. This beach has no amenities; however, it is very close to Ha‘ena County Park, which does have lifeguards and restrooms. Parking for this Kauai beach is best at Ha‘ena Beach Park. Due to very limited space parking requirements have changed and reservations are now required. Visit https://www.kauai.com/kee-beach for the latest information and to https://gohaena.com/ for parking, shuttle and entry passes.
Pali Ke Kua (Hideaways Beach) – No lifeguard.
Hideaways Beach is probably the best snorkeling on the island. As access is steep and slippery the beach is secluded, and crowds limited. Accessed by steep path near the Pu‘u Poa Condos. Parking and access to Hideaways is found at the very limited public parking lot just before the gate house of the 1 Hotel Hanalei.
Pine Trees Beach (Waioli Beach) – Usually a lifeguard.
Located toward the middle of Hanalei Bay and named Pine Trees for the multiple ironwood pines that grow on the sands edge. This beach has a lifeguard station. Restrooms and showers are available north of the lifeguard stand.
Pu‘u Poa Beach – No lifeguard.
Located on the northeast edge of Hanalei Bay, running northeast from the mouth of the Hanalei River and ending in front of Hanalei Bay Resort and the 1 Hotel Hanalei. This reef protected, golden sand beach is the longest in the Princeville area – quite wide in front of the hotel and narrower near the river. Large trees behind it provide shade for all but a few hours of the day. The beach faces directly west toward Makana (Bali Hai) making it ideal for enjoying those picture-perfect post card sunsets. Access is down the side of the 1 Hanalei Hotel but there is very limited public parking and parking at the hotel is not an option.
For more information on other websites providing info on Kauai beaches visit:
Note to readers:
Although we have a separate section for Kauai Beaches, Hiking Trials and Botanical Gardens, theses attractions are often intertwined so please review the other sections to find the information you may be looking for.
Hiking Trails on Kauai’s North Shore
Botanical Gardens on Kauai North Shore