Breaking news: Following the impressive floods on the island of Kauai in April 2018, the Kuhio Highway (route 560) is closed to visitors from Hanalei (the road is only open to permanent residents). A reopening of the access road was planned for October 2018 but due to the very bad weather during the summer, the reopening could be delayed until February or March 2019. This closure makes impossible the access to all the beaches beyond Hanalei, such as Waikokos, Tunnels beach and Ke'e beach mentioned in this article.
The island of Kauai is teeming with little nooks and crannies, sometimes hidden and unsuspected beaches that only need to be explored. We spent a day in the north-east and north of the island, discovering some of these little nuggets, more or less known. Here are the ones we discovered, knowing that there are many others that we will explore during a future stay. Come on, let's go for a beach and shore tour north of Kauai.
The beaches and small bays of northeast Kauai
We discovered this peaceful bay with fine sand and turquoise water, lost in the middle of the vegetation. A nice memory even though we didn't have the opportunity to go as far as the sand. Why? Why? Direct access was privatized several years ago by the purchasers of the huge property adjoining the bay. So the only way to get to Papa' a Bay is to walk on a small, not really marked trail and cross large rocks by the ocean for about 150 metres.
To get there, you have to take a small road from Highway 56, which leads to an isolated car park with GPS coordinates: 22.169945, -159.312490. At the time of our visit, there was no one present and there was no indication of the location. From the car park, follow the small path that goes towards the ocean through the tall grass.
The trail goes down to the ocean and then leaves the grassy area to pass in the shade of trees. And that's where the ocean appears. The color is incredible, the water is of a clear turquoise blue that encourages swimming. As for the bay, it is in the distance, bordered by a large beach of clear sand and palm trees. A little paradise lost!
The trail goes down again, until it reaches the big rocks near the water. Unfortunately, we thought that the trail stopped here. In fact, the dirt trail stops at this point, but to reach the beach, you have to continue climbing the rocks. The tide being at its maximum when we came, we didn't dare to try the crossing, but a friend recently did it without difficulty to reach the beach. Go ahead, it's worth pursuing!
There is no installation on the beach. This one not being protected by a reef, be careful when swimming. Note that from the car park, it is also possible to reach Aliomanu Beach by taking the path on the right.
A little further north is another sandy beach, wrapped in the hollow of a pretty bay with crystal clear waters. The beach is large, semi-circular and the setting really enchanting. We really enjoyed this place.
To reach the beach, you have to travel along Moloa' a Road to the end. The road crosses lush vegetation and runs along a few properties before ending in a dead-end street, just by the beach. There is no parking, but the possibility to park on the lower side of the road, a little upstream, provided that private property and signs are respected.
From the parking point, you have to walk the last few metres. A small wooden sign indicates Moloa' a Bay just before reaching a small brackish swamp, formed by the waters that run aground when the sea is rough. You have to go around it to reach the fine sand of the beach which stretches for almost 500 meters. On the sides, rocks line the bottom of the water. You may even see a turtle or seal!
The paths around Moloa' a Beach
We took the time to stroll on this beautiful beach. We were almost alone, it was really nice! As it was still early, we pushed the walk northwards. The sand then gives way to a small path that runs along the seaside, it is very pleasant. It is possible to follow it for almost 700 meters until you reach a fenced fence, before the first reefs of Larsen's Beach. From here we have a nice view on the coral reef, from where we could easily observe several turtles.
On the other side of the beach, in a southerly direction, another path also runs along the shoreline for a few hundred metres, but we haven't had the opportunity to explore it.
The beach is still wild, you won't see any installation. It is very pleasant for a well deserved break. It is lined with trees, and its exhibition allows you to find shade at any time of the day.
The beaches of North Kauai in videos
If you want to see more, you can look at our Hawaii vlogs and in particular this one which presents the majority of the places described in this article.
The beaches and viewpoints of the north of Kauai
In the extreme north of the small island of Kauai is the Kilauea Lighthouse National Wildlife Refuge, a bird sanctuary, also known for its lighthouse which can be visited. This time, nothing secret, but I could not forget this famous point of view.
Access is easy from the road after crossing the small town of Kilauea. The road climbs northwards to a first parking lot, giving access to the Kilauea Viewpoint. From here you can admire a beautiful gradient of blue and green colors of the water, as well as the cliffs where hundreds of birds nest, overhanging in the distance by the lighthouse at the end of its long rock.
Access to the rest of the reserve is only possible from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm. Outside this period, a gate will prevent you from entering the lighthouse car park 300 metres higher, and the visit will stop here.
If you have come during the opening period, you can continue on to the next car park. Access to the zone is free for adults: $5.00 and under 16 years old. On the spot, binoculars are available for better observation of the birdlife. If you come during the winter, you may see whales off-shore.
Guided tours of the lighthouse take place every Wednesday and Saturday from 10:30 a. m. to 2:30 p. m. It is not possible to visit the lighthouse outside of these visits.
Secret beach is a big beach whose name seems mysterious, but is finally not so secret, as indicated on all the cards. Nevertheless, but it has the advantage of being hidden below a small forest, which makes it accessible only after a ten-minute walk downhill and inevitably there are fewer people!
The beach is close to the Kilauea Lighthouse. To get there, take Highway 56 westbound, then take the Kalihiwai Road for a few meters and then the Secret Beach road, which is an unpaved road (do not miss it, it is not marked). A small car park is at the end of the path, with GPS coordinates: 22.219455, -159.418033.
From here, a small footpath goes down to the beach, 300 metres below. The descent is easy, but the ascent will be more difficult, especially after a sunbathing! I remember being out of breath.
At the bottom, we discover a huge sandy beach about 1 km long, where big rolls of sand come to ground. The advantage is that the beach is so big that you can easily find a solitary spot without being disturbed. Another way to meet face-to-face with the ocean!
There is no installation on the beach and it will not be interesting to snorkel there, the waves being too big. If the weather is calm, it can be fun to play in the reels.
This is the longest beach in Kauai. It extends for more than 2 km and sometimes boasts a fine white sandbank, which makes it very pleasant! In addition, it is protected by a coral reef which makes it ideal for swimming and snorkeling. It's also mentioned in this article: Where to Snorkel in Hawaii: Our Favorite Spots.
Take advantage of its length to find a small piece of paradise away from other tourists. To do this, follow Anini Road and stop at the ideal location. It is possible to park in many places on the lower side of the road, gradually turning the road into a path. Once at the end of the road, you can turn back to retrace your steps.
Towards the centre of the beach, a large car park allows parking along the road, next to which is the pier where boats can be launched, but also complete facilities (sanitary facilities, showers and picnic tables). But at this point, you'll probably find more people and you'll have to swim for a long time before you reach the corals, which are quite far from the beach there. You will be able to visualize the situation well by looking at the satellite views of the beach...
Don't hesitate to browse Anini road to the end to find the ideal location!
This time it's not a beach, but a small natural basin formed in the rocks. It used to be a place where royalty had exclusive access, hence the name "Queen's Bath". The venue is now accessible to the public.
The basin is located just north of the pretty town of Princeville. To get there, enter Princeville and park in the tiny parking lot with GPS coordinates: 22.227533, -159.486138. If the car park is full, avoid parking in the subdivision and come back later, because the inhabitants are vigilant and will not hesitate to have your car removed.
Once parked, take the small path down. Be careful because the path is sometimes steep, with many roots, and prefer closed "windsurfing" shoes rather than flip-flops, which will also be more convenient for swimming in the rocks.
The descent is very pleasant, in the middle of a thick tropical forest bordered by vine trees, where flows a river dotted with pretty little waterfalls. Once you are in sight of the ocean, make sure that it is not too agitated, because in case of strong waves, the access can be very dangerous. Small signs will remind you of this.
The queen's swimming pool is located on the left when you have the ocean in front of you. Then walk along the shoreline for about 150 meters until you reach the famous pond.
Do not venture there unless the ocean is calm. Otherwise, the waves can be dangerous and you may be at risk of serious injury.
Hideways beach is one of the small beaches hidden below Princeville's major resorts. We particularly appreciated this small beach, as it is not very busy because of its access, and very pleasant for snorkeling.
To get to Hideways beach, you will need to start by finding the tiny parking lot next to a large residence, with GPS coordinates 22.221866 -159.495721. You will need to be lucky to have one of the 8 parking spaces.
Once this first stage is over, you will have to reach the beach by following the small path that starts from the car park along the tennis court and then the swimming pool of the nearby residence. After this point, the trail will start a rather steep descent towards the ocean. A rope will help you not to slip (and is also useful for ascending). Remember to equip it with good shoes for descent (I always recommend these famous "windsurfing" type shoes with a hard sole). Once the difficulty is over, the trail goes down and reaches the beach.
Allow a good ten minutes to arrive on the sand. The beach is situated to the north, it will be partly shaded almost all day long, which will be pleasant if you want to spend some time there. Again, there is no equipment on the beach, as it is still wild.
If you want to snorkel there, venture out into the numerous rocky areas around the beach. Stay alert for strong currents.
We happened to find the hidden beach of Waikokos, stopping at the edge of the road to admire the ocean. Just below us stood a magnificent white sandy beach immaculate! Unfortunately, the vegetation prevented us from reaching it.
Then a nice surfer tells us who's got access. Following its directions, we can set our feet on the sand. A small jewel is then discovered, with its palm trees bent down and its fine sand. We finally found a postcard beach! In addition there is nobody, we are simply alone, enough to dream a bit and enjoy this little piece of paradise.
To find Waikokos, park by the side of the road at these GPS coordinates: 22.211623, -159.518147. You will see a small spot on the lower side of the car park where 2 or 3 cars can park, otherwise you can also park on the side a little further upstream.
From here, walk about 50 meters southwards and look for a small path that goes down to the beach (be careful with the roots). There are many of them going down to the ocean, knowing that the further south you go, the easier it will be to get there.
After sneaking into the sand, walk along the ocean. In some places, the beach is extremely fine, sometimes requiring passing all the trunks of the palm trees. The beach being located to the east, it will be better exposed in the morning.
Tunnels beach is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Kauai. Situated in the north of the island, the beach is not exceptional in itself, but its setting with the Napali Coast mountains in the background also melts a pretty drop point.
Unfortunately, as we didn't have the opportunity to stop at Tunnels beach, we won't be able to tell you more. If you want to snorkel, be careful not to leave the coral reef and avoid the east and west ends where the currents are strongest. You will see it well on the photo of our article: Where to Snorkel in Hawaii: Our Favorite Spots.
Ke' e beach is located at the end of Highway 560, at the foot of the beautiful NaPali Coast. It makes it the ideal drop-off point after hiking for a few miles on the famous Kalalau Trail, which ends close to the beach.
But it is from above that the beach is the most beautiful, after having covered 400 meters on the Kalalau Trail, at the mile marker 1/4 miles. Even if you're not a good walker, take the time to at least get to this beautiful beach viewpoint. The trail climbs a lot over the first 300 metres, but the ascent is worth it. Moreover, we would only recommend you to simply go along the Kalalau trail which is one of the most beautiful hikes in Kauai!
This concludes this article on the beaches north of Kauai. Note that there are many others. Some of them are very popular, so we didn't necessarily want to talk about them in this article, while we certainly didn't discover any other little pearls. We will have to spend a lot more time on Kauai to count them all, but perhaps we will have the opportunity to do so one day in the future!
In the meantime, if you have had the chance to discover another little beach jewel in the north of Kauai, don't hesitate to comment on it, it could be very useful for future travellers :)