The North Shore of Kauai is one of the most beautiful accessible coastlines on earth. I haven’t been everywhere but I’m willing to say that with confidence, and from what I’ve heard many people will agree. As the oldest island the Hawaiian island chain, it also has some of the most expansive beaches. As the least inhabited coastline (aside from the protected Na Pali Coast), it is also the best place to go to feel alone. While I’ll give away a few secrets, there are a few that should be left to your own discovery.
The North Shore is generally considered to be anywhere past Moloa’a until the road ends at Ke’e beach. Between these spots you have miles of pristine beaches. A few even have campgrounds, making your options for beach camping safe and legal. But there are many spots along Kauai’s North Shore that won’t even have a footprint.
These beaches are listed in sequential order from east to west. It is by no means a comprehensive list, but merely something to get you started on your journey. Sooner or later I might put a map together, if that would be useful to you just leave a comment. Enjoy the exploration.
This bay is a great spot that’s off the tourist beaten path. One of my favorite memories was watching the full moon rise from this beach. It faces easterly so some may argue that it’s not technically on the North Shore but it’s close enough and can’t be missed. To get there, look for the fruit stand on the side of the road a few miles past Anahola. The fruit stand is worth stopping at, they have some excellent smoothies for any palette. From there take Koolau road for about a mile toward the coast, eventually it dead ends onto a row of houses. Parking can sometimes be an issue so please respect the local residents and park well off the road, even if it means walking a bit.
Kahili (Rock Quarries)
While camping here is not legal, I’ll just say that it’s not uncommon to see a few tents along this beach. When you get there it’s easy to see why. The cove also houses a river mouth with mountain views. You’ve got it all here. Fresh water, large shady trees, white sand, and some great surfing. The beach faces northeast so it’s a great option for summertime waves that pick up the swell from the trade winds when the rest of the north shore can be flat. To get here turn right at the Na Aina Kai garden sign just before Kilauea. Head down the road past some large estates where you will eventually see a dirt road on the left. Follow that road to the end. Parking can be an issue on nice days so it’s a good idea to get here early.
This large beach has a sizeable offshore reef that protects it from large waves. As such it’s great for smaller kids or those who are afraid of the open ocean. The snorkeling here can be great, the shallow reefs and clear water make it worth a swim around. Camping is permitted here if you obtain a county permit. This beach is found just beyond the large bridge at Kalihiwai between Kilauea and Princeville. Right after the bridge you’ll see a sign for Anini. Enjoy!
Hanalei Bay is easily one of the most stunning beaches on the island, state, and I’ll go ahead and say the entire Pacific. The two mile stretch wraps around for over 270 degrees, giving you ample shelter from the wind and waves at some point at any given time. The pier is a popular spot for locals to congregate, where vehicles can pull up straight on the beach and unload big tents and barbecues. The surfing here is world class. Beginners can find small waves near the pier, and the further out you go you will find bigger waves that are long and consistent. Of all the beaches on this list, Hanalei should be the first priority. To get to the pier, you will turn at Kalypso restaurant in Hanalei town. Follow that to the T-intersection and turn right, eventually the road will dead end to a parking lot right at the pier. Camping is also permitted with the proper paperwork.
Ha’ena Beach Park (Tunnels)
After Hanalei the road narrows and the pace slows down significantly. There are several beaches along the way worth checking out, but I’ll leave it to you to discover where to go. But just before mile marker 9 you will cross a stream that flows over the road. Right after that is Ha’ena beach park. This beach extends far in both directions and if you enjoy beachcombing and shell collecting, this is the perfect spot. It’s also a popular spot for diving, as the underwater lava tubes create a tunnel network well worth exploring–hence the name. Camping is also permitted.
Just past Ha’ena the road ends at Ke’e. This beach has been in many movies over the years, from South Pacific, to The Thorn Birds, to Lord of the Flies. A reef protects much of the shoreline making it a popular snorkeling spot. Many people hang out near the lifeguard tower by the road, but the beach actually wraps around the point to the north where you can often find solitude just a few hundred yards away from the masses. This beach also marks the start/endpoint of the famous Kalalau trail and provides a refreshing dip for the end of an arduous hike.
So there are a few for you. Like I said, there are many more than that, but there’s no fun in giving them all away. Hopefully you find a few more on your own! Happy exploring.