The island of Kauai abounds in wild beaches sometimes hidden and unsuspected that are just waiting to be explored. We spent many days discovering all the small beaches along the northeast coast of Kauai and we found a few little gems!
In this article, we will gradually go up the coastline from the north of Kapa'a to the east of Princeville. So let's go for a tour of the beaches and the discovery of the northeast coast of Kauai.
1The beaches north of Kapa'a
On leaving Kapa'a, the coast is rather steep, but soon the long sandy beaches return. A very pleasant way to discover them is to cycle along the Ke Ala Hele Makalae Path, a long cycle path that runs from Kapa'a Beach Park to Donkey Beach along the coastline.
This wide and long beach is located at the northern exit of Kapa'a. It is not one of the most beautiful because it lacks character, being located on the roadside without too many trees to protect it. One will come essentially to Keālia Beach to practice surfing or bodyboarding as the ocean is quite agitated here and not protected by a reef. Swimming is supervised on the north side.
How to access Keālia beach
Access is easy thanks to a huge car park along the beach. Numerous shaded picnic tables are distributed along the edge of the car park at the north and south ends, making it an interesting place to picnic. Sanitary facilities and showers are available to the north of the beach.
Donkey beach (Paliku beach)
Donkey beach, also known as Paliku beach, is a pleasant wild sandy beach where the waves crash. One will essentially come there to seek a small corner with calms or to surf there, the bathe being possible only when the ocean is not too agitated (rather the summer).
How to get to Donkey beach
A car park with about 20 spaces is located away from the road (a small discreet sign indicates this). A concrete path of about 300m/330yards starts from the car park and goes down towards the beach through a very beautiful and well maintained vegetation tunnel.
Once out of the tunnel, continue for a few more metres to the right along the cycle path until you find a small dirt track leading down to the beach. Sanitary facilities are located at the car park level, there are no facilities on site.
2The hidden bays of Kauai
Anahola Beach Park
This little known beach park is interesting for swimming because its beach is protected by a reef. The waves crash a few dozen meters from the edge, leaving a calm water ideal for swimming for the youngest.
Note that the water depth is quite shallow and the calmest area is located on the right side of the beach.
The sandy beach is quite long and you will find few people there except for a few locals who come to hang out with their big pick-up truck.
It's a pity that the infrastructure seems a bit derelict. Swimming is supervised and there are sanitary facilities, showers and a few picnic tables. It's also easy to get some shade from the few trees here. There is also a camping area, but its frequentation is sometimes doubtful.
How to get to Anahola Beach Park
Access is from Anahola Road from where a 300m/330yards dirt road leads to the Beach Park. There is a small dirt parking lot for visitors to use.
Aliomanu Beach is in the continuity of Anahola Beach, starting on the other side of the river mouth. It goes up the coastline for several kilometres. Sometimes very fine, or very wide, Aliomanu is above all a wild beach accessible in part thanks to the small road that runs along it. You will find almost nobody here!
Because of its length, the beach is divided into two zones separated by the Aliomanu reef.
The southern zone is bordered by the Aliomanu road and offers a long stretch of sand lined with shrubs. One will not really come here to swim but more to walk by the water's edge.
As for the northern zone, it offers a much wider beach where it is possible to swim in peace when the ocean is calm, a reef protecting the beach. On the other hand the depth did not seem very important.
How to get to Aliomanu beach
Access to the southern section is easy from Aliomanu road. A few parking spaces on the side of the road allow you to park.
Access to the north zone is from a small parking lot at the end of Kalalea View. This small car park is common to Papa'a Bay beach. A path of about 150m/170yards starts from the end of the parking lot and goes down to the beach before splitting into several small paths. Follow any one of them, they all reach the beach.
Papa'a Bay beach
This is one of our favorite beaches in Kauai! We loved this peaceful bay with fine sand and turquoise water, lost in the middle of the lush vegetation and bordered by coconut trees.
After a first failure to try to reach it in 2017, we went back there in November 2018 with the firm intention to go to the end of the road that had scared us a bit last year (we had not dared to cross the rocks). And what a good idea because once we arrived on this beach, we enjoyed ourselves!
Papa'a Bay Beach is very little frequented and absent of many guides because its access is not easy. The only direct access by road was privatized several years ago by the purchasers of the immense property which adjoins the bay. As a result, the only possibility to get to Papa'a Bay is to walk on a small path not really marked out but well traced, passing through very invasive vegetation and then to cross large rocks on the ocean shore for about 150 meters/170 yards.
But once you get to the ocean, what a treat for the eyes! The colours are incredible, the water is a clear turquoise blue that encourages swimming. As for the bay, it can be seen in the distance, bordered by a large beach of sand and palm trees. A small lost paradise!
Chances are you'll feel alone in the world! The bay ends in a small freshwater river (handy for rinsing off after swimming) and has a small rocky lagoon at its northern end. Please note that there are no facilities on the beach.
In November, the sea was quite rough, so it did not encourage swimming outside the area protected by the rocks, but with a calm sea, it must be magical!
As the bay is not protected by a reef, be careful when swimming. Finally if you like coconuts, don't hesitate to take with you a small machete, or a big knife, you will find plenty of beautiful nuts in the surroundings.
How to get to Papa'a Bay beach
Be careful not to confuse the access with that of the nearby Aliomanu Beach, which is accessed from the other end of the parking lot.
The path gently descends towards the ocean, crossing a really dense vegetation zone. Depending on the season, you may have to use your arms to push the tall grass which will be a bit annoying for the first few meters.
Then the trail finally goes out of the vegetation to arrive in a shady area in the undergrowth. The trail goes down again, until it reaches the big rocks near the water. Be careful because if it has rained recently, some of them can be slippery.
We are now in front of the last complicated section before reaching the beautiful beach. It will take some dexterity to get over the 150 meters/170 yards of big rocks that separate us from the tip of the beach.
But I reassure you, the crossing is easier than it seems! I was able to do it without too much difficulty with Flo's help when I was 5 months pregnant.
Once we reach the end of the rocks, the pale yellow sand reveals itself under our feet.
A little further north of Papa'a Bay is another small bay in a semi-circle. Here, nestled in the hollow of a cove with crystalline waters, Moloa'a beach offers an enchanting setting. It's a place we really enjoyed, especially since the number of visitors is rather limited.
The place will be pleasant for swimming in calm seas. The bay is only protected by a reef at both ends, which are therefore the safest swimming areas, but also the shallowest, with rocks lining the bottom of the water. It is not uncommon to observe turtles or monk seals.
The beach still remains wild despite the few houses that are not far from the shore. You will not see any facilities. It will be perfect for a well-deserved break. It is lined with trees, and its exposure allows you to find shade at any time of the day.
Walking trails around Moloa'a Beach
If you wish to take a little walk, it is possible to do so by taking one of the two trails that start at either end of the beach.
We have tested the walk on the north side. The sand gives way to a small path that runs along the seaside, it's very pleasant. We followed it for almost 700 meters/0.5 mile until we reached a wire fence just before reaching the first reefs of Larson's Beach. From here it will be possible to have a nice view of the reef, from where we could easily observe several turtles.
On the other side of the beach, on the south side, the other trail also runs along the shoreline for a few hundred meters, but we did not have the opportunity to explore it.
How to get to Moloa'a beach
To reach the beach, you'll have to take the Moloa'a Road all the way to the end. The road passes through lush vegetation and skirts a few properties before ending at a dead end, right on the beach. To park, there is no parking, but you can park on the shoulder of the road, a little upstream, as long as you respect private property and prohibitions.
You will then have to walk the last few metres along the road. A small wooden sign indicates the bay of Moloa'a 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 metres/600 yards.
3Beaches and coastline of the North coast of Kauai
Larson's beach is a long, wild and little-known beach that stretches along the edge of a pretty reef. Few people think to come and linger here when it is very pleasant to walk there. Admittedly one will not really come here for swimming, which is dangerous here, as explained by a small sign at the entrance of the access path, but the walk along this long strip of sand bordering a pretty reef is really pleasant.
The beach is lined with dense vegetation, which makes it quite authentic with small rocks that extend to the reef here and there. Finally, you won't be disturbed by the world here, the opportunity to recharge your batteries in peace and quiet! In fact, it is not uncommon to observe here numerous turtles and monk seals, who also seek tranquility.
It will be interesting to make a loop by walking on the sand to the end of the beach and then to come back by taking the access path that runs along the beach in the vegetation.
How to get to Larson beach
It is accessed from the Larson Beach Road which ends in a dead end and allows a few cars to park at the end of the cul-de-sac. From here, it is necessary to take the path that goes down towards the ocean and passes through tall grass. This path gradually runs along the beach while getting closer to it. Several cross paths allow you to descend more quickly on the sand. If you follow the trail all the way to the end, you will arrive directly north of the beach.
We'll come to Kāhili beach to settle down under the pines and let ourselves be rocked by the sound of the waves. The place is wild and little frequented and will delight those in search of a peaceful and shady place.
As the ocean is not protected by a coral reef, you will have to be vigilant while swimming there, preferring calm sea days. There are no facilities on the beach.
The advantage of this beach, in addition to its quiet surroundings, is the presence of an adjoining river where it is possible to swim in cool, fresh water to change from the sea. A rope has also been installed to jump into the water.
Note that the river may be turbid if it has rained a lot recently as it did when we came.
How to get to Kāhili beach
The path to Kāhili beach is not marked at all. You will first have to take the Wailapa Road before branching off onto the Kahili Beach Road, a small road made of pebbles and dirt in places, but which is still maintained. A small parking lot allows you to park at the end.
Kilauea Lighthouse National Wildlife Refuge
Now we come to the northernmost point of the Hawaiian Islands (further north is Alaska!). The Kilauea Lighthouse National Wildlife Refuge is a bird conservation area. The interest of this place lies mainly in bird watching and visiting its small lighthouse.
The Kilauea Viewpoint is free and accessible to all. It allows you to admire the cliffs where hundreds of birds nest, overhung in the distance by the lighthouse at the end of its long rock.
For the rest of the visit, an entrance fee of $10 per adult will be required. Admission is free for children under 15 years old or if you have the America the Beautiful pass which is sold on site. Please note that the Kilauea Lighthouse National Wildlife Refuge is only open from Tuesday to Saturday, from 10am to 4pm.
Once inside the enclosure, several fixed binoculars will allow you to observe the birds that also nest on Moku'ae'ae Island, which is only discovered once at the end of the peninsula. Small models of binoculars to carry (adults and children) are also on loan free of charge in the building next to the lighthouse, which displays a few panels on the birds as well as a short film.
Binoculars can also be used for whale watching during the winter.
If you wish to visit the lighthouse, you will need to register for one of the guided tours (forms to be filled out in the adjoining building). These tours are only offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays, every hour between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. (it is not possible to visit the lighthouse outside of these tours).
Visiting the lighthouse is forbidden to very young children and you will have to take off your shoes before entering.
Finally, a visitor center offers an exhibition on birds decorated with a very interesting relief model of the Hawaiian archipelago.
How to get to the Kilauea Lighthouse National Wildlife Refuge
It is easily accessible from Kilauea road after passing through the small town of Kilauea. The road climbs northward to Kilauea Viewpoint which has a few parking spots. After the viewpoint, continue along the road to the left which will take you quickly to the Kilauea Wildlife refuge car park.
Kauapea beach (Secret beach)
Kauapea Beach also called Secret beach is a long sandy beach almost 1 km/0.6 mile long. Its name "secret" beach comes from the fact that it is hidden below a small forest, which makes it accessible only after a short walk of about ten minutes.
The beach is quite wide but battered by the waves that violently come to be washed as there is no reef protecting the area. You will have understood that it will be difficult to go swimming here unless you want to play in the surf, which will please the younger ones. Please note that there are no facilities on the beach.
The beach will also be a pleasant place for a solitary walk by the ocean, calm and serenity being there!
How to get to Kauapea Beach (Secret beach)
To get there, you will have to take the Kalihiwai Road for a few meters and then the Secret Beach Road (don't miss it, it is not signposted). A small car park is at the end of the road (see the location on the map at the bottom of the article).
From here, a small path leads down to the beach, 300 meters/330 yards below. The way down is easy, but the way up will be more challenging! I remember being out of breath.
Kalihiwai beach is an unknown beach, quiet and mostly frequented by locals. Located at the end of a bay, in a small green area, the water is quite calm despite the absence of reef to protect it.The beach is simple, sometimes not very wide at high tide, but this makes it a good spot to swim young children.
It will be easy to find a place in the shade along the beach. However, it will be regretted that the infrastructures are non-existent.
How to get to Kalihiwai beach
It will be necessary to take the eastern part of the Kalihiwai Beach road to access the beach, the western part from Anini beach does not allow access (there is no bridge to cross the river). Some parking spaces allow to park on the shoulder of the road.
Anini beach is one of our favorite beaches in Kauai, it's the place we chose to get married in Hawaii! Anini's long beach stretches over 3 km/1.9 mile and is sometimes just a fine sand strip, which makes it very pleasant.
So you can take advantage of its length to find a little piece of paradise away from the crowd. As the beach is oriented due north, it is quite easy to find shade.
The other advantage of Anini beach is its reef which protects it from the waves and makes it an excellent snorkeling spot where turtles are quite numerous.
Towards the centre of the beach there is a large grassy area equipped with toilets, showers and several picnic tables near the water. This is also where boats are launched using the boat ramp, but this is also where you will find the most people. You will have to swim for long minutes before reaching the corals which are located quite far from the beach at this point.
Instead, we recommend that you find a quiet spot at the beginning or end of the beach, unless you want to take advantage of the facilities.
There is also a fairly lively campsite here, especially on weekends when the locals come with their families.
How to get to Anini beach
Take Anini Road which will take you to the waterfront. Then drive along the beach until you stop at your dream location. It is possible to park in several places on the shoulder of the road, the road gradually turning into a private street.
Several paths marked "Shoreline access" will take you to the beach if you wish to settle down towards the beginning. A large parking lot is available at the pier and the campsite. Once at the end of the road, you will have to turn back to retrace your steps.
Here we are at the end of the beaches in this article, the next beaches being described in this other article: Secret beaches and pretty bays: the Northshore of Kauai.