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East Side Kauai Beaches

Kalapaki Beach

vacation rentals kauai hawaii

Location: In front of Marriott Hotel in Lîhu‘e

Coordinates: N21° 57.63', W159° 20.97'  

Length: 0.2 miles

Facilities: Boat rentals, showers and telephone at Marriott, bathrooms, showers, and picnic tables at Nawiliwili Park.


Being the beach closest to Lihu‘e and fronting the Marriott Hotel causes Kalapaki to be one of Kauai's most popular and heavily used beaches.  It has a sandy bottom with a moderate slope, that, along with its partial protection from the open ocean,9 make for favorable swimming conditions.  Beginner surfers and bodyboarders try out the gentle waves that break across a shallow sand bar.  Hule‘ia Stream empties into nearby Nawiliwili Bay causing the water at Kalapaki to be a bit murky.  To the west of the beach is Nawiliwili Park, which is a popular picnic spot for Lihu‘e residents.  Luxury houses balance precariously, perched like aeries, 100 feet above Kalapaki on the cliff to the east.


The Marriott Hotel, formerly the Westin Kauai, which suffered severe damage from Hurricane Iniki, is the latest building to occupy this site.  The first structure built on Kalapaki was a beach house owned by the Rice family.  The son of missionaries, William and Mary Rice, purchased the land in 1870 from Princess Ruth Ke‘elikolani.  Ancient Hawaiians also surfed the waves at Kalapaki.  The name, Kalapaki, means "double-yolked egg."  How the beach was connected with eggs has been lost over time.


Public access is available from Nawiliwili Park or from a public parking lot east of the Marriott.


Ninini Beach

vacation rental beach resort

Location: Below Kiele Golf Course on Nawiliwili Bay

Coordinates: N21° 57.52', W159° 20.51'  

Length: 100 yards

Facilities: None


This small pocket of sand, protected from prevailing winds and currents on the north entrance to Nawiliwili Bay, normally has appealing swimming conditions.  When kona storms kick up the surf, the beach is sometimes used for bodyboarding.  To find this out-of-the-way beach follow the road across the Kiele Golf Course to the beach access sign just before Whalers Brew Pub.  A short path leads to the beach from the parking lot.


Hanama‘ulu Beach Park

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Location: On Hanama‘ulu Bay, north of Lihu‘e Airport

Coordinates: N21° 59.59', W159° 20.49'  

Length: 0.2 miles

Facilities: Picnic shelters, bathrooms, camping


Hanama‘ulu was given its name, which means "tired bay," because it was off the main island trails and a traveler had to walk extra miles to get there.  The beach park at Hanama‘ulu Bay is popular with local residents, particularly on weekends.  That means the noise from picnics and parties is competing with the din from jets and helicopters taking off and landing at nearby Lihu‘e airport.  The narrow sand beach has fine-textured sand and the bay is protected from the open ocean but the murky water is not inviting to swimmers.  Ocean currents don't make their way into the bay to flush away the silt deposited from Hanama‘ulu Stream.


To find the beach park, turn off Highway 56 at the town of Hanama‘ulu, between the school and the Shell station.  After three tenths of a mile turn right onto Hehi Road and follow it to the end.


Nukoli‘i Beach Park

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Location: In front of Outrigger, Aston Beach Villas and Wailua Golf Course

Coordinates: N22° 00.41', W159° 20.17' (south entrance)   

Length: 2 miles

Facilities: Bathrooms, shower, picnic tables


This long stretch of sand is rarely visited even though it lies between the populated areas of Lihu‘e and Kapa‘a.   The beach is narrow at spots with rock ledges exposed on the southern section.  Ocean currents and surf make swimming conditions marginal.  Debris from fishing boats washes up here, making it a good place for beachcombing.  


The south access is from the entrance road to the Outrigger and Aston Beach Villas, between mile markers three and four on the Kuhio Highway.  Just south of mile marker four is another road that connects the highway to the section of the beach in front of the Wailua Golf Course.  


Lydgate State Park

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Location: In front of Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort

Coordinates: N22° 02.48', W159° 20.08'  

Length: 0.5 miles

Facilities: Bathrooms, showers, picnic shelters, telephone, lifeguard, barbeques, playground


The park and beach at Lydgate were named after the Reverend John Lydgate, a former pastor and prominent Kauai civic leader who died in 1922.  It's a wonderful destination for family outings.  The park features a large pavilion, a new playground, shade trees and a grassy field.  The beach starts on the south bank of the Wailua River and is backed with a lawn and a few shade trees.  A large seawater pond enclosed by walls of boulders centers the beach.  Built in 1970 to provide a safe swimming area protected from the waves and currents of Kauai's east coast, it has a partition wall that divides the pool into an area for small children and one for adults and older children.  The shallow and calm water inside the rock wall is an excellent place for young or inexperienced snorkelers.  Fish swim through gaps between the boulders looking for handouts.  The water outside the rock wall and along the beach south of the wall is treacherous.  Even with lifeguard protection, Lydgate has experienced 21 drownings since 1970.


To find the park when traveling from the south, turn makai from the Kuhio Highway at mile marker five onto Leho Road and then right at Nalu Road.  The entrance road is marked with a sign.  If you are traveling from the north, turn left at the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort and then left again at Nalu Road.  A left turn is not allowed further south on the highway at Leho Road.


Wailua Beach

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Location: Next to Kuhio Highway, north of Wailua River

Coordinates: N22° 02.93', W159° 20.08'  

Length: 0.5 miles

Facilities: None


You won't have any trouble finding Wailua Beach, it's right next to the highway, north of the Wailua River.  A sand bar close to shore causes waves to break into the curls the surfers and bodyboarders look for.  Powerful rip currents develop when the surf is high so swimmers should be cautious here.  From the beach you can walk under the bridge that crosses the Wailua River at its mouth.  Sand accumulates at the river's mouth when the river flow is low.  When the river flow increases, the sand is quickly pushed back into the sea.  It's not a good idea to swim at the river's mouth as the bottom drops off quickly and the currents can be treacherous.


Waipouli Beach

Location: In front of Kauai Coconut Beach Resort

Coordinates: N22° 04.20', W159° 19.00'  

Length: 1.5 miles

Facilities: None


Possibly, observers of an eclipse there gave Waipouli its name, which means "dark water."   Waipouli Beach is long and narrow, reaching from the resorts at the Coconut Plantation to the Waika‘ea Canal in Kapa‘a.  A pedestrian walkway runs along the length of the beach and continues on a former train bridge over the canal into Kapa‘a Beach.  The canal was built to drain the inland marshes to make the land suitable for growing sugar cane and rice.  It has the only boat ramp on the windward shore of Kauai.  Markers guide boaters through a channel in the reef to the open ocean.


Beach rock is exposed along much of Waipouli Beach.  Ocean currents are usually strong here and the surf reaches the shore at several places.  It is not considered a safe beach for swimming.


The beach and walkway can be reached from any of the resorts along the Royal Coconut coast.  To reach the north end of the beach at the canal, turn onto Akia Street, across from the Burger King.


Kapa‘a Beach Park

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Location: Next to Kapa‘a's town center

Coordinates: N22° 04.51', W159° 18.99'  

Length: 0.8 miles

Facilities: Picnic shelter, bathrooms


A reef protects much of the beach in front of the town of Kapa'a.  Pockets of sand on the offshore bottom make for some reasonable swimming spots.  In the winter the high surf can crash past the reef and create strong currents.  Located at the center of the beach is a park featuring a large concrete statue of a Japanese lantern.  North of the park, the beach is split by the Mo‘ikeha Canal, which does not have a pedestrian crossing.  Take Niu Road makai, one block north of the ABC store.  


Kealia Beach

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Location: One half mile north of Kapa‘a, at mile marker 10

Coordinates: N22° 05.90', W159° 18.30'  

Length: 0.7 miles

Facilities: None


Driving north from Kapa‘a, right after the scenic overlook, you will see the long and wide curve of golden sand that is Kealia Beach.  Kapa‘a Stream crosses the beach at the south end and a rocky point and the remains of a jetty define its northern end.  Powerful waves rolling down the island's northeast coast break onto an offshore sandbar at Kealia.  This feature attracts many surfers and bodyboarders.  Most of them will congregate at the north end of the beach where the best waves are usually found.  During periods of high surf, rip currents are powerful along this beach.  Many drownings and near-drownings have occurred here.


Kealia means, "salt land" because of the shallow ponds formed behind the beach from high surf and high tides.  Salt was an important commodity to the Hawaiians who harvested the accumulated salt deposits to use for flavoring of poi and preserving fish.  Every Hawaiian island has an area named Kealia.


Donkey Beach

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Location: Two miles north of Kapa‘a

Coordinates: N22° 06.89', W159° 17.81'  

Length: 0.3 miles

Facilities: None


Sugar plantations once utilized donkeys and mules to haul seed cane and fertilizer into the fields where plantation workers would plant the cane and spread the fertilizer by hand.  The Lih‘ue Plantation Company kept a herd of donkeys and mules in the pasture behind the beach north of Paliku Point, thus giving the beach its name.  To reach this isolated beach, you must follow a trail for a quarter mile across a cane field.  The trail begins at the Kuhio Highway, at the emergency call box seven tenths of a mile north of mile marker 11.  As the trail approaches the ocean, follow it to the right to find Donkey Beach.  You may be sharing the trail with dirt bikers.


Ocean conditions there are too treacherous for safe swimming.  The steep foreshore at Donkey Beach creates a strong backwash.  You may see experienced surfers challenging the powerful rip currents and pounding shorebreak.  The beach's soft sand, sunny conditions and isolated location make it popular for nude sunbathing.  


The Lîh‘ue Plantation Company has sold its land behind the beach and it's not clear yet if the new owners of the residential subdivision will continue to allow public access to Donkey Beach.  Also, some island residents object to public nudity, which is illegal in Hawaii.  On rare occasions, police have issued citations to nude sunbathers here.  A previous Kauai mayor even ventured to Donkey Beach to personally chastise the naked beachgoers.

Anahola Beach Park

vacation rental resort

Location: In the town of Anahola

Coordinates: N22° 08.78', W159° 18.07'  

Length: 0.6 miles

Facilities: Bathrooms, showers, lifeguard, picnic tables, camping


The east-coast town of Anahola is populated mainly with people of Hawaiian descent.  Anahola Beach Park can be busy on weekends with local residents enjoying picnics and swimming.  On weekdays it may be nearly deserted.  The beach covers the south half of Anahola Bay, extending more than half a mile west of Kahala Point to the mouth of Anahola Stream.  A small reef protects the beach in the lee of Kahala Point.  The reef ends at the ruins of a century-old landing.  This is the only area of the beach safe for swimming.  A shorebreak on the sand bar west of the old landing attracts bodyboarders and surfers.


To find the park, turn makai at Anahola Road, between mile markers 13 and 14 on the Kuhio Highway.  Turn left at Poha Road for an entrance to the beach or continue on Anahola Road to the park, seven tenths of a mile from the highway.


‘Aliomanu Beach

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Location: North of Anahola Bay

Coordinates: N22° 09.05', W159° 18.38' (south end)   

Length: 1.5 miles

Facilities: None


This narrow beach begins at Anahola Stream and ends at the sea cliffs forming Papa‘a Bay.  Swimming conditions are not good here and snorkeling is safe only when the ocean is very calm.  The wide fringing reef along the beach brings out the locals for pole and throw net fishing and for seaweed harvesting.


The beach may be approached from ‘Aliomanu Road, just north of mile marker 14.  A parking area is six tenths of a mile from the highway.  ‘Aliomanu Road continues north behind the beach but ends at a bridge washout.  The other part of ‘Aliomanu Road connects again with the Kuhio Highway north of mile marker 15.


Papa‘a Bay

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Location: Below newly-developed ‘Aliomanu Estates

Coordinates: N22° 10.37', W159° 18.84'  

Length: 250 yards

Facilities: None


Papa‘a Bay is a small, secluded bay backed by a 120-foot high sea cliff.  A shallow reef runs across the bay with a channel cutting through the center.  When the surf is low, the near shore waters offer good swimming and the reef offers good snorkeling opportunities.  Hawaiians use the bay for spearfishing and throw-net fishing.  When the surf is up, waves roll over the reef and create a dangerous rip current in the channel.


To find this picturesque little beach, turn makai on Papa‘a Road, six tenths of a mile north of mile marker 15.  Papa‘a Road turns to the right in three tenths of a mile.  A blue and white beach access sign points to the left, past the new housing sites of ‘Aliomanu Estates.  At the end of the road the beach is partially visible on the shoreline to the north.  A steep trail leads down to the beach.  A tenth of a mile to the south is a parking area and another beach trail.  This trail leads down to the north end of ‘Aliomanu Beach.


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