KAUAI HIGHLIGHTS - Kauai's Magnificent Beaches

By Joan Conrow – Photos by Scott Hanft

Kauai is internationally known for its beautiful beaches. You'll find beaches of all lengths, from tiny, crescent-shaped hideaways to some stretching for several miles. The sand comes in a range of colors, too, including white, buff, brown, green and even black.

Some have coral reefs offshore, offering protection from the waves and opportunities for snorkeling. Others face the open ocean, making them more suitable for surfing and boogey boarding. Each beach has its own personality, and they often change dramatically during the summer and winter months, depending on where the surf is breaking and how the winds are blowing.

Many of Kauai's beaches do not have lifeguards on duty, so it's important to exercise caution. Never turn your back on the water, because waves can come up unexpectedly. Beaches on the southside are typically more calm during the winter, when giant surf often pounds the north shore, while north shore beaches are most gentle during the summer months.

Common Sense Rules of the Water

Don't swim or snorkel in rough waters, always wear fins when boogey boarding and don't trust water-wings and other flotation devices to protect children in the sea. When in doubt, ask a lifeguard or local resident, or inquire at a dive shop.

Sharks aren't much of a problem, but stay out of murky water, especially after rainfalls.

Avoid stepping on coral reefs when snorkeling, as this damages the slow-growing, living coral and also makes it more likely that you may receive a painful sting from a wana, or sea urchin.

Keep your eyes peeled for green sea turtles, humpback whales during the winter months, dolphins and endangered Hawaiian monk seals, which often come ashore to rest and sun themselves on Kauai's beaches.

Please treat these protected marine animals with respect, and remember, it is illegal to approach them or do anything that causes them to change their behavior.

Snorkelers and divers will have a chance to see some of the approximately 680 species of fish in our island waters. About 30 percent of these fish are endemic, meaning they are found in only Hawaii. Some good examples to look for are the Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse and the Milletseed Butterfly fish. It's not advisable to feed fish, as these are wild creatures and feeding encourages dependence and also can upset their digestive systems.

Polihale Beach

Lumahai Beach

And if you happen to see fishermen with a pole or net, give them plenty of room and never walk between them and the ocean, as you can scare away the fish that they depend on for food.

Some of the best beaches to visit are Poipu Beach Park, a shallow protected bay on the southside with excellent snorkeling. It's great for families, with its lifeguard, showers and bathroom facilities.

Salt Pond Beach Park, on the westside, offers generally safe swimming year round. The beach is partially protected by a reef, and a toddlers' bathing pool was created by rocks that form a small lagoon. Park facilities include a lifeguard tower, picnic pavilions, restrooms, showers and a camping area. It's also a great spot for sunsets.

Lydgate Park, located between Lihue and Wailua on the eastside, has fine picnic grounds, a fabulous playground, an excellent swimming area for the kids and a wonderful stretch of beach for sunning or a stroll. Two man-made pools were created in the ocean, one large and the other small and shallow, and these are good for swimming and snorkeling most any time of year.

Shipwrecks Beach

Hanalei Bay is a beautiful place, with a two-mile shoreline excellent for walking. In the summer, it's great for swimming and boogey boarding, but in the winter, it can be dangerous because of high surf. Lifeguards, restroom facilities and other amenities are found in the small beach parks that dot the bay.

Ke'e Beach is one of the most popular snorkeling sites on Kauai's north shore, but this is during summer months only. In winter, it can have high surf and dangerous currents. It's also very scenic, marking the entrance to Na Pali Coast.

Given the variety and accessibility of Kauai's beaches, it's easy to find just the perfect stretch of sand and sea to enjoy your favorite water sport. So put on your hat and sunscreen, grab a towel and enjoy.