Photos and stories of Kauai’s beautiful beaches
Princeville, North Shore
Located on Kauai’s North Shore, Anini is one of Kauai’s most beautiful and peaceful beaches. It is usually less crowded than Poipu or Hanalei and the beach itself is really quite breathtaking. A long stretch of fringing reef located just offshore tends to keep the water relatively calm here, and make for some good snorkeling.
Anini has some nice facilities including restrooms, showers, picnic tables, a grassy lawn, and pavilions that can be reserved for parties. If the pavilions are not already reserved, they can be claimed on a first come first serve basis. There is also a boat launch ramp here. I point this out, because if you choose to snorkel here, you might want to steer clear of this particular area.
Snorkeling at Anini is quite different than many other Kauai snorkeling spots. The slope is very gradual, so it is possible to swim quite a ways from shore and still be in shallow water. During a low tide, it gets so shallow in fact, that it can be difficult to navigate. The best time to snorkel at Anini is early in the morning when there is a high tide. The afternoons can get windy and stir up the sand, diminishing visibility.
At Anini, you will not see the volume and diversity of fish that you will on the South Shore, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t snorkel here. If you take it very slow, you will see things at Anini, that you will see nowhere else. For example, in the sandy shallows, you might run across a flounder or helmet gurnard, they are so camouflaged that you won’t be able to detect them until you see one move. In the sea grass beds, solar powered sea slugs, or nudibranchs are common and the sea turtles will come in to feed on the sea grass here.
Most snorkelers will pass right by a solitary coral head, but if you stop and float motionless over the top of the ones here, you might discover a whole community of Hawaiian Dascyllus, black and white “Domino Damsels” guarding their coral head. If you are lucky, you might spot a Lionfish or Leaf Scorpionfish, tucked between the branches of the coral. Whitemouth Moray Eels are also common on the reef here.
The best place to snorkel at Anini is in front of the first parking area you come to before the bathrooms and the boat ramp. A lunch wagon often parks here (but will be absent early in the morning). Look out at the water and try to spot the small orange buoy. Snorkel in the shallows first to gain your confidence, but then follow the edge of the reef out to the buoy. Do not swim over the top of the reef, instead follow it along the perimeter.
Please note that there is no lifeguard posted at Anini, so be sure to take all the necessary precautions. Stay in the shallow area if you are a beginner or you are snorkeling with children, but if you are feeling confident, head farther out (with your buddy, of course). It will begin to get deeper and you will enjoy the unusual topography of the reef. Eventually, you will be lead out into a deep and narrow keyhole where you will not be able to go any farther. Look for eels tucked into the walls of the reef, taking your time to discover what lies in each crevice. Then head back to shore following the other edge of the reef. On the way back, be sure to notice where you are swimming relative to the shore, you will want to stay to the left of the boat launch area.
Don’t forget to bring you fish cards or fish identification books. These are available at convenience stores around the island. If you have kids, order a copy of The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book. Your children will be able to learn about all the fish they discovered on the reef (including the Helmet Gurnard) while coloring them in. This book is also great for the long plane ride home.
To get to Anini, head north past Kilauea and take the second Kalihiwai road, toward the ocean, then turn left on Anini drive.
If you are traveling with kids on Kauai this summer, make it a point to visit Lydgate Park. This popular Kauai Beach Park offers the perfect combination adventure and comfort for families traveling with small children. The kids will love the large community-built “Kamalani” playground where there are swings, slides, bars, tires, walkways, swinging bridges, a volcano, tile benches, drinking fountains and all that wonderfully soft sawdust they pour on the ground to pad any falls. Dozens of crevices and secret pathways make for a great game of hide-and-seek.
Kamalani Playground is quite unique. As you visit, you may notice the colorful handmade tiles that were created by the children of Kauai to decorate the area with a Kauai-based theme. You might also notice the plaques of all the donors that made the park possible. The main reason to come here though, is that the kids will love it and if they do, there is a second playground called “Kamalani Kai Bridge” located about ¼ mile south of this one, tucked amongst the trees right on the beach.
Lydgate Beach Park is located on the East side of Kauai adjacent to the Wailua River. As you drive into the area, you will notice all the family friendly amenities like soccer fields, beachside pavilions, and comfort stations. However, the beach here is quite rough due to the incessant trade winds waves that pound the coast. The river also deposits a lot of debris in the form of driftwood, which makes swimming here hazardous. But Lydgate is special, since these conditions were recognized, two man-made rock wall ponds were built to buffer the waves and now provide a calm swimming, snorkeling, and wading area.
The ponds allow the water to move freely through the crevices in the rocks. Juvenile fishes can move into the pond through these crevices and as they grow are unable to escape. As a result, it is possible to view several different species of fishes when snorkeling here. Turtles and eels can also be found in the pond from time to time, especially after a high tide. The protected area, calm water, posted lifeguard and variety of fish make this the perfect beginning snorkeling spot. A second, shallower pond, adjacent to the first is a perfect wading area for the littlest of visitors.
If you are a history buff, you might be interested to know that the Wailua area is rich in ancient Hawaiian historical sites. These sites may be worth investigating. At the far north end of Lydgate Park, you will find the Hauola Place of Refuge. This Place of Refuge was considered a safe zone for commoners who had broken a kapu or committed a crime. The rock wall remains also mark the site of the Hikini a ka la Heiau.
When you visit, be sure to pack a nice lunch. There are plenty of picnic tables, shade pavilions, and nice grassy areas to relax and enjoy a picnic. Whatever adventure you choose here, the whole family will enjoy the day at Lydgate Beach Park
Nothing quite says summer on Kauai like a day on Hanalei Bay, a walkout to the end of the pier and a jump into the crystal clear water below. The Hanalei Landing has long been a significant landmark of Kauai’s north shore.
Over the years deterioration, weather , neglect and vandalism left the canopy at the end of the pier a dangerous attraction. Last year The Hanalei Rotary Club spearheaded Save the Pier, a project that raised over $170,000 toward the restoration project.
This last Thursday an official blessing and celebration took place for the newly restored roof canopy at the end of Hanalei Pier. Governor Abercrombie was on Kauai to take part in the ceremony and celebration along with Mayor Carvalho, Rotary Club Members, project contractors, the restoration team and many members of the community. Mahalo to all who contributed to the preservation of this very special part of our community and Kauai’s history.
Koloa Landing is one of the best spots on Kauai for beginning shore dives. Because there are no facilities here, there are rarely more than a few people in the water. Most of the local dive companies use this as their “shore” dive location due to the ease of entrance, deep water, and abundance of marine life, but anyone can access the beach.
Entering the water is as easy as walking down the old cement launch. Divers will find that the water gets deep almost immediately. Mariners originally discovered this deep-water port during the days of the fur and sandalwood trades. Divers will find it full of marine life. The schools of fish are much larger here than they are at other nearby locations like Poipu Beach. Visibility is usually good and divers can encounter many different species here that are seen less frequently elsewhere on Kauai including: mullet, trumpet-fish, and file-fish. Even the invertebrate populations are a little more unique here. The rocks are often covered with red pencil urchins and it is common to spot octopus.
Koloa Landing can also be a great snorkeling spot as long as a few precautions are followed. Snorkelers (and divers) should remember that ocean conditions vary and there is no lifeguard on duty here. The water is typically calm, but it can get a little rough near the rocks and it is wise to stay out of surge areas if there is any swell showing. Visitors should check in with the lifeguards at Poipu Beach Park to find out about ocean conditions along the South Shore before venturing out. Of course snorkelers should always swim with a buddy and follow ocean safety guidelines. You can also check out our tips for snorkeling at Kauai.com.
Due to the deep water, lack of facilities, and the absence of a lifeguard, this location is not recommended for families with children. Only more advanced snorkelers should venture out here, or consider signing up for a guided shore dive.
Finding Koloa Landing is a little tricky and so is finding a parking spot. From the round-a-bout in Poipu, take the exit marked for Spouting Horn and then make an immediate left Ho’onani Rd. On the right you will see a dirt parking area followed by a bumpy gravel road that goes down to the beach. If there is parking up top, take it, there is rarely parking available below.
To learn more about Coral Reefs, or the fish that you will see while snorkeling on Kauai, check out Monika Mira’s many books about marine life. All are available on Amazon.com
Minutes from Lihue Airport, Kalapaki Town is nestled along the white sand beaches of Kalapaki Bay and the tranquil, lush banks of the Huleia River and the spectacular backdrop of Haupu Ridge.
Don’t overlook Kalapaki Beach and surrounding areas, it just might end up being your favorite attraction or vacation destination.
Kalapaki Town offers a colorful mix of resort and boutique accommodations, a myriad of water and land activities and an eclectic mix of shops for the discerning shopper. Kalapaki Beach is the most centrally located and diverse vacation destinations on Kauai.
Find fun and affordable dining options and the perfect mix of amenities, activities and attractions for all ages. Grab a breakfast egg sandwich or lunch at the Kalapaki Beach Hut home of “The Original Ono Char Burger”. Dine upstairs for ocean views at this casual and family friendly establishment. Take your order to go and sit along the shores of Kalapaki Beach while Hawaiian music drifts through the air and palm trees sway in the light trade winds off the shore. After a day in the sun treat yourself to a rainbow shave ice at Kalapaki Shave Ice or a Gelatto for Papalani Gellato in Anchor Cove.
Kalapaki Beach is also the perfect spot to take a surf lesson. You can rent stand-up paddle boards, surf boards, & boogie boards within walking distance from the blue waters and white sands of Kalapaki Beach. Why not kayak and zip-line along the Huleia River, or be a spectator along the jetty for the Thursday night Nawiliwili Yacht Club races. The calm waters of the inner harbor is the perfect place to learn to sail or be a guest of one of the competing race boats.
Kalapaki Beach accommodations include the upscale resort accommodations of The Marriott Resort and Beach Club, which offers luxury amenities, spa services and a world class golf course. Romantic boutique hotels and private vacation rental sare also available. There is something at Kalapaki for every budget.
The Garden Island Inn is steps away from the white sand beaches of Kalapaki Beach, dining, shopping and the newly opened Kauai Athletic Club This charming and whimsical property has beautiful hand-painted island style rooms and lush tropical grounds for the perfect island style retreat.
Located a little further inland is the The Kauai Inn, settled away from the bay, this 100 year old hotel holds the title of first hotel on Kauai, preserving its relaxed Hawaiian charm with comfortable family friendly service at affordable rates.
Kalapaki is not truly hidden, in fact it is easy to find, full of activity and located in such a way that makes exploring Kauai’s other regions simple and convenient. So why not explore Kalapaki Beach as your choice for your next Kauai Vacation.
In six minutes you can learn how to enjoy Kauai’s beautiful beaches safely, thanks to a brand new water safety video that plays on a continuous loop in both of Lihue Airport’s baggage claim areas and on YouTube at Kauai Water Safety Video.
“Since 1990, 200 people have drowned in our oceans; 150 of them have been visitors,” says Dr. Monty Downs, an emergency room physician who knows only too well how heartbreaking it is to let families know that one of their loved ones has drowned while on vacation. “Our beaches are beautiful. We want everyone to know how to enjoy them safely.”
Kauai’s ocean conditions are different than many people have ever experienced before, and can change in moments, cautions Downs, who is also president of the Kauai Lifeguard Association. “In some locations, the ocean can appear calm, but huge sets of waves that come in 30-minute intervals from the Aleutian Islands are on their way and you can be caught in a living Hell.”
Downs recommends swimming only at Kauai’s lifeguarded beaches. “However, only 10 of our 75 beaches are have lifeguards and Kauai is the Island of Discovery, so we are realistic and know that people are going to also swim other places,” he says. Therefore, Downs recommends educating yourself about ocean conditions:
- Visit www.kauaiexplorer.com for current ocean conditions, updated daily.
- Familiarize yourself with how to use the 200 Rescue Tubes located on beaches across the island, including much of the non-lifeguarded shoreline.
- Learn what to do if you are caught in a rip current. Visit www.kauaiexplorer.com and click on Rip Currents the right hand side of the page for step-by-step instructions of how to save yourself if you area caught in a rip current.
Downs dedicated the airport water safety video to the memory of people who have drowned on Kauai “and to those who won’t, thanks to our water safety efforts.”
The water safety video that plays in Lihue Airport baggage claim areas was sponsored by the Rotary Club of Kapaa, Kauai Lifeguard Association, Dupont Pioneer, Wala’au and KVIC.
Springtime is Monk Seal pupping season. So far in March of 2013, at least four seals have been born in the Hawaiian Islands, although there still may be some unknown births in the remote areas of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. While no seals have been born on Kauai yet this year, a representative from the NOAA Monk Seal Research office expects that some of the female monk seals will pup here later this year. On average over the last few years, about four pups have been born on Kauai each year and Poipu Beach seems to be one their favorite locations for pupping.
While this event brings awe and wonder to visitors, it can also be a little dangerous for the pups if precautions are not taken. Luckily, Kauai has quite a devoted group of Monk Seal Watch Volunteers. You may see the yellow tape strung up around the Monk Seals to protect them. The volunteers are a wealth of knowledge, so don’t be afraid to ask them question. As long as you are standing on the outside of the tape, you can get some beautiful photos of a species that you will encounter nowhere else on earth.
If you get to see a Monk Seal pup, consider yourself lucky. The Hawaiian Monk Seal is one of the most endangered animal species on the planet. It is estimated that there are fewer than 1100 individuals in the population and while their population is increasing in the Main Hawaiian Islands, numbers are still declining in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. There are a number of conservation efforts underway to help curb this decline in population. To learn more about these efforts, you can visit the NOAA Monk Seal Research Program website.
You can help protect Hawaiian Monk Seals by learning more about them, following safe wildlife viewing guidelines and reporting any entangled marine life to: Marine
Mammal Stranding and Entanglement Hotline 1- 888-256-9840. Responsible wildlife viewing helps to ensure your safety and their protection and long-term
survival in the wild.
To ensure that your presence does not disturb Monk Seals you can practice the following responsible viewing guidelines:
Observe them from at least 50 yards. Since this is not always possible on the small beaches that we share with them, make sure to stay behind the yellow tape that has been placed around them for their safety.
Do not attempt to approach a seal or “play” with them. The seals may misinterpret your actions and cause serious injury. Cautiously swim back to shore and watch them from a safe vantage.
Do not attempt to push seals back in the water. Please keep your pet on a leash at all times when in the presence of monk seals. Dogs can share diseases with seals that could have devastating effects on the population.
Cautiously move away if you observe any of the following behaviors:
- Rapid movement away from the disturbance and toward the water.
- Sudden awakening from sleep on the beach.
- Female attempting to shield a pup with her body or by her movements.
- Vocalization or “growling” at the disturbance.
NOAA Monk Seal Research Page
Kauai is a paradise for families and children, a simple place, where flip flops, shorts and t-shirts are everyday attire and running barefoot along white sandy beaches and casual dining where shirts and shoes are optional.
Kauai is a safe place for children with lots of family friendly swimming choices, surf lessons, life-guarded beaches, snorkeling, easy hiking trails, parks and playgrounds. This tropical island boasts mild temperatures year round, driving times from one destination to the next are short and there are countless activities that cater to all ages. Some of the Kauai’s top activities cater to families with children as well as resorts with water slides and kid day camps. Kauai overall is a casual, kid friendly and safe place to vacation with children. Whether you live on Kauai or plan on visiting with children, booking your Kauai Vacation Activities is best done before you arrive.
Plan your vacation on-line and spend your time on Kauai playing, exploring and relaxing. Kauai has a lot to offer families and children of all ages. Check out the Kauai Calendar of Events for current and upcoming Kids Activities and family friendly events.
Top 5 Activities for Kids
The following top 5 Kauai activities offer diverse selection for all ages and level of adventure.
Na Pali Boat Tour and Snorkeling: Sailing off the Na Pali or a whale watch during the winter months is a unforgettable adventure for families with children and an educational experience on marine life and Hawaiian history.
A Kauai Luau and Train Tour Sit back and let the conductor do the driving as you explore the Kilohana Plantation and relaxing historical train ride followed by a traditional luau and spectacular show.
Tubing Adventure Float on inner tubes through irrigation ditches and tunnels. A fun and relaxing adventure for all ages.
Kauai Helicopter A birds eye view of Kauai’s interior. A once in a life time experience that will forever be remembered.
Zip-Line Adventure Now this will get the kids attention. Soaring over the tree tops of a tropical rain-forest with shouts of “Look Mom no hands”, Exhilarating fun! Then a relaxing dip in a fresh water swimming hole and lunch.
It is good to wear them out but don’t book it all in one day!
If your kids are not quite up to speed for the high adventure activities, don’t worry there is no shortage of substitutes. Many mellow Kauai activities cater to children.
Kauai Beaches and Attractions
Want to just sit back in the shade and watch the kids play for hours? Lydgate Beach Park and the Kamalani Playground, a spectacular community built play structure with slides, swings, bridges and tons of fun hiding places, will leave them entertained for hours. If you want to visit a botanical garden that will keep the little ones just as intrigued as you, visit the Na Aina Kai Botanical Garden, an amazing display of botanical wonder , bronze statues and fairytale like children’s garden with shallow wading pool, tree house and rain forest jungle.
Another free activity that incorporates hiking and exploration is Kauai Geo-caching, a world wide treasure hunt using G.P.S and landmark clues.
Body Boarding or body surfing is a fun and inexpensive activity the whole family can enjoy. Rent your boogie board by the day or week and you will quickly catch the wave fever. Please choose from one of the life-guarded beaches and always take precautions during any ocean activity.
The Kauai Coastal Path is safe and picturesque place to rent bikes and explore. Tandem bikes, beach cruisers and child carriers are available to rent, adult and children sized bikes. Along the Kauai Coastal Path you will find many choices for picnic spots, beach exploring and facilities that offer showers, restrooms and along this 4.1 mile scenic coastline.
Try your swing at the new Mini Golf in Kilauea this is a a fun family outing that is designed around a botanical garden with native plants. You can also grab a quick bite to eat and treat yourself to a tropical fruit Gellato after your game.
With countless Kauai activities to choose from you won’t have to worry about finding things to do on Kauai, you just have to start planning your next trip before you even leave.
The top activities to do on Kauai definitely include the Na Pali Boat Tours, a Kauai Helicopter Tour, ATV Tours, Zip-line Tours, and a traditional Hawaiian luau, but there are a few family fun things to do on Kauai you might find to be a nice way to pass a couple hours of your vacation time.
Hula Shows – Most visitors to Kauai include a luau in their top to do list. If hula dancing and Hawaiian music are on your list, here is a chance to get a little preview. If you just can’t get enough of the melodic beat and swaying of hips check out one of the following free Hula shows around the island.
Grand Hyatt Kauai – Torch Lighting Ceremony on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:15, Keiki Hula Show on Tuesday 6:30-8:00pm For Information call: 808 742-1234
Poipu Shopping Village – Tahitian and Hula Dancing Mondays at 5:30pm. For Information Call: 808 742-2831
Harbor Mall Lihue – Hawaiian Entertainment and Hula on Wednesdays at 12:15 pmFor Information Call: 808 245-6255
Coconut Marketplace – Wailua Hula Show on Wednesdays at 5:00 pm and Saturdays at 1:00 pm Call: 808 822-3641
Farmers Markets- Weekly farmers markets island wide sell locally grown produce, exotic tropical fruits and flowers as well as locally made products.
Hanapepe Art Night – Enjoy exploring the many galleries demonstration , performances and local cuisine as you stroll the streets of historic Hanapepe Town. Every Friday night Hanapepe Town comes alive with local artist, musicians and ethnic eats. Every Friday Evening from 6:00-9:00 pm.
Historic Walking Tour of Waimea – Free walking tour of Waimea Town every Monday. Lei Making Workshop Every Friday. Reservation required. Contact the West Kauai Technology Center at 808 338-1322.
88 Shrines at Lawai International Center – Short video and story telling by Lynn Murumoto on the second and last Saturday of the month. Tour Times 10:00 am -12:00pm and 2:00pm call 808 639-4300 Donations Accepted.
Old Town Kapaa First Saturday of the month Art Walk
Free live music, artist, tasty food and entertainment every 1st Saturday of the month in downtown Kapaa. 5:30 -8:30
Kauai Museum – Free guided tours with the cost of admission. 10:30 am on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Ohana Saturdays – Free admission the first Saturday of the month.
Lydgate State Park – A favorite or generations of locals and their keiki, this east side park (Leho Rd access in Wailua) fronts two wonderful boulder enclosed swimming areas that allow freshwater and fish in and that are well protected from ocean waves. The water is calm and clear and perfect for beginning swimmers and snorkelers with bathrooms, picnic areas, a playground and lifeguards right there as well. The area is also part of an extensive network of archaeological sites in what was a historically significant part of Kauai for Hawaiians. Be prepared for lots of kids and a fun time at the beach!
Geo-caching What is Geo-caching? Geo-caching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called Geo-caches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online. There are several hidden treasures all over the island. The best guidelines to follow are Geo caches that are on public property and easy and safe terrain.
And Almost Free…
Kauai Plantation Railway – The Kilohana Plantation Estate is a where you will find an an authentic narrow gauge railway tour that chugs along on a 40 minute ride through almost 100 acres of sugar cane, pineapple, banana, papaya, hardwood trees, tropical flowers and coffee. This fairly new attraction recreates the time of the plantations and is highly informative about Kauai agriculture past, present, and future. Train tours run daily. The train leaves the Depot at 10 & 11 am, 12 Noon, 1 & 2 pm, and 5:30 on Tuesdays and Fridays. Next door, the 16,000 sq ft managers home is open daily with galleries and a courtyard restaurant.
Kilauea Mini Golf – The good folks from Anaina Hou have recently finished up a miniature golf course and botanical garden just a minute or so past Kilauea Town on the north shore. Its 18 holes of fun runs through gardens representing different eras of Hawaiian culture and we can tell you its truly a unique experience for our little island. It’s open every day from 11:00am – 9:00 pm and costs $15 for ages 11 and up, $10 for ages 5-10, and is free for 4 and under. You also have to love the fact that it’s right next to Banana Joe’s fruit and smoothie stand where you can enjoy something tasty after your game!
Monika Mira loves to open children’s eyes to the world of creatures that live under the ocean’s surface through her colorfully illustrated children’s books. Her most recent release, Coral Reefs, features beautiful and fascinating photographs of denizens of the deep who thrive in and around coral reefs, such as polka-dotted eels, bright orange clownfish, green sea turtles and black-tipped reef sharks. Written for ages 10-13, with its clear scientific descriptions, the book is also great for adults who want to learn about life under the sea.
“As an aquatic biologist, it’s my passion and I also feel like it’s my duty teach children about the amazing animals I come in contact with in my work,” she says. “I also like to make children aware of how they can become good stewards, so in my books you will often see a list of things children can do to help the ocean’s animals and their environment, such as etiquette when they are around a coral reef.” Mira also challenges children to come up with some of their own solutions for conservation and protection of our natural resources.
Mira’s The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book was her first book. Originally designed for adults, similar to the Anatomy Coloring Book used to teach adults about the human body for massage and other medical applications, The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book became a hit with children, too, and is now used in classrooms across the country from elementary schools to colleges.
Her next book, the charming Who Lives in the Sea? Ocean Animals of Hawaii, was designed for beginning readers and is written with repetitive rhyming text to encourage early reading skills and to introduce children to sea creatures like the Humpback whale, dolphin, sea turtle, jellyfish, reef fish and starfish. Mira also includes important species like the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal.
An artist as well as a scientist, Mira creates all her own illustrations for her books, including the captivating, brightly-colored collages made from paper she cut out with scissors then digitally scanned for Who Lives in the Sea?
Mira has worked on dozens of projects to help conserve Hawaii’s natural resources, from teaching marine science, to conducting biological stream surveys for the Department of Health. Now, she writes books to spread the message about conservation.
“My goal with all my books is to foster an appreciation for ocean animals in children at a young age and to perpetuate an attitude of caring for the animals of the sea.”
All of Mira’s books are available on Amazon. Who Lives in the Sea? and The Complete Hawaiian Reef Fish Coloring Book can also be found in specialty shops around Kauai. For more information, visit https://kauai.com/lucidpublishing