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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
This is actually two very small pocket beaches separated by a narrow rocky point. The beach area itself is narrow and can all but disappear in wintertime. However, in summer, the steep, rocky trail (don't trust the rusty handrails and rotting ropes) that provides access reduces the number of beachgoers, at times creating a deserted beach feel. With patches of reef and a combination sandy/rocky bottom, the swimming and snorkeling can be good, although winter's high surf creates dangerous conditions. Don't attempt the trail after a heavy rain—it turns into a mudslide. Amenities: parking. Best For: surfing; snorkeling; sunset.
This 2-mi stretch of coast with its sand dunes, limestone hills, sinkholes, and caves is unlike any other on Kauai. Remains of a large, ancient settlement, evidence of great battles, and the discovery of a now-underwater petroglyph field indicate that Hawaiians lived in this area as early as 700 AD. Mahaulepu's coastline is unprotected and rocky, which makes venturing into the ocean hazardous. There are three beach areas with bits of sandy-bottom swimming; however, the best way to experience Mahaulepu is simply to roam, especially at sunrise. Access to this beach is via private property. The owner allows access during daylight hours, but be sure to depart before sunset or risk getting locked in for the night.Amenities: parking. Best For: walking; solitude; sunrise.
Named in honor of the first native Hawaiian schoolteacher, this beach is on the western banks of the Waimea River. It is also where Captain James Cook first came ashore in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. If that's not interesting enough, the sand here is not the white, powdery kind you see along the South Shore. It's a combination of pulverized, black lava rock and lighter-colored reef. In a way, it looks a bit like a mix of salt and pepper. Unfortunately, the intrigue of the beach doesn't extend to the waters, which are reddish and murky (thanks to river runoff) and choppy (thanks to an onshore break). Instead, check out the Waimea Landing State Recreation Pier, from which fishers drop their lines. It's located about 100 yards west of the river mouth. Amenities: showers; toilets; parking; Best For: walking; sunset; surfing.
This is by far the best family beach park on Kauai. The waters off the beach are protected by a hand-built breakwater creating two boulder-enclosed saltwater pools for safe swimming and snorkeling year-round. A recent dredging finds the pools in a recovery stage as sand had to be removed, leaving mud offshore. But the numerous schools of fish are slowly returning. The smaller of the two pools is perfect for keiki (children). Behind the beach is Kamalani Playground; children of all ages—that includes you—enjoy the swings, lava-tube slides, tree house, and more. Picnic tables abound in the park, and a large covered pavilion is available by permit for celebrations. The Kamalani Kai Bridge is a second playground, south of the original. (The two are united by a bike and pedestrian path that is part of the Nawiliwili-to-Anahola multi-use path project currently under construction.) This park system is perennially popular; the quietest times to visit are early mornings and weekdays. If you want to witness a "baby luau," Lydgate State Park attracts them year-round, especially in summers.Amenities: lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets. Best For: partiers; walking; swimming; sunrise.
Famous because it's the beach where Nurse Nellie washes that man out of her hair in South Pacific, Lumahai Beach's setting is all you've ever dreamed Hawaii to be. That's the drawing card, and if you're adventurous and safety-conscious, a visit here is definitely worth it. The challenges are that it's hard to find, there's little parking, and there's a steep hike in; also, too many people misjudge the waves, even those never intending to set foot in the water. There's a year-round surge of onshore waves, massive sand movements (especially around the river mouth), and a steep foreshore assaulted by strong currents. Like the mythical creature from the deep, rogue waves have actually washed up on lava-rock outcroppings and pulled sightseers out to sea. Our advice: Look from the safety of the scenic overlook or walk on dry sand only. Or, take advange of Lumahai's length and find adequate parking 1/2 mi. further where the river comes in. Amenities: none. Best For: solitude; walking; sunset.
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