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Na Pali Coast Kauai Beaches

Hanakapi‘ai Beach

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Location: Two miles from the start of the Na Pali Trail

Coordinates: N22° 12.51', W159° 35.89'  

Length: 200 yards

Facilities: Camping

Hanakapi‘ai Beach is the first of two beaches accessible by foot on the Kalalau Trail.  The hike, which begins at Ke‘e Beach will take most people one and a half hours to reach Hanakapi‘ai.  This is a popular area for many day hikers to enjoy and rest before heading back to the start of the Kalalau Trail.  The trail continues for a grueling nine miles, not returning to the ocean until it ends at Kalalau Beach.

In summer months, the large boulders of Hanakapi‘ai Beach are covered with sand. During the winter months, high surf storms the beach, completely eroding the sand covering the boulders.  

While it looks inviting, especially after a strenuous hike in hot weather, the beach and water at Hanakapi‘ai are very hazardous places.  Do not go into the ocean here.  More drownings occur here than at any other beach on Kauai.  Over the last three decades this beach has averaged a drowning every year.  This is in spite of it receiving far fewer visitors than more accessible beaches and its sand disappearing in the winter.  A strong current flows across the beach, sweeping swimmers and even waders away from shore and to their deaths.  In 1996, a man from Arizona tried to pick up an empty bottle in waist-deep water and was swept out to sea.  In 1997, a native of Texas got caught in the current while swimming in shallow water and drowned in the struggle to reach shore.  There are no lifeguards or telephones in this remote area.  By the time a message for help reaches the fire department rescuers in Hanalei, it will likely be too late.

Kalalau Beach

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Location: At the end of the Kalalau Trail, 11 miles from its start

Coordinates: N22° 10.36', W159° 39.56'  

Length: 0.5 miles

Facilities: Camping

The long and wide beach at Kalalau Valley is backed by low, vegetated sand dunes.  At the west end of the beach, seasonal depositing of sand makes sea caves accessible by foot.  Even with its remote location, Kalalau Beach is frequently visited.  During the summer, when the trail to the valley carries most of its hikers, the beach attracts many swimmers.  Although the ocean may appear calm, caution is still needed.  A shallow sand bar runs parallel to the beach but drops off quickly to overhead depths.  Currents generated by trade winds run along the length of the beach.  

In the winter, high surf assaults the beach, erodes the shoreline and carries the sand away from the sea caves.  The surf creates backwashes and rip currents and the sand bar endures a pounding shorebreak.  Remember, this is a wilderness park without lifeguards or rangers to look out for swimmers who don't heed the dangerous conditions.   

Honopu Beach

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Location: One half mile west of Kalalau Beach

Coordinates: N22° 10.04', W159° 40.06'  

Length: 0.4 miles

Facilities: None

Honopu Beach sits picturesquely at the base of a high sea cliff just half a mile down the coast southwest from Kalalau Beach.  A thick wall of lava divides the beach into two pockets.  Wave action on the wall has carved an arch in the lava rock, 65 feet high and 200 feet wide, joining the two pockets of sand.  Helicopter tour companies invariably point out the beach and its landmark arch.  Helicopters are not allowed to land at Honopu and there is no trail to the beach.  The only access is from the sea.  Kayakers often stop at Honopu as they paddle along the Na Pali coast.

Nu‘alolo Kai Beach

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Location: Between Alapi‘i Pt. and Makuaiki Pt. on the Na Pali coastline

Coordinates: N22° 09.54', W159° 42.04'  

Length: 0.5 miles

Facilities: None

Nu‘alolo Kai is a long, narrow beach lined with beachrock at the water's edge.  It occupies a narrow coastal flat bounded by steep sea cliffs.  A reef extends 600 feet from the beach.  A deep channel penetrates the reef allowing boats to bring in snorkelers and divers.   At the turn of the twentieth century a small Hawaiian fishing village was located here.  Its residents deserted the remote valley and beach for other parts of the island leaving only a few ruins and a heiau.  There is no land route to Nu‘alolo Kai Beach.

Miloli‘i Beach

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Location: Last westward beach on the Na Pali coastline

Coordinates: N22° 09.07', W159° 43.09'  

Length: 0.5 miles

Facilities: Portable toilets, picnic shelter, camping

Miloli‘i Beach is the last of the remote beaches in Na Pali Coast State Park.  The Na Pali coast ends at Polihale beach, four miles to the southwest.  As is the case with the two beaches up the coast, Miloli‘i is accessible only by boat.  This beach once hosted a fishing village, but the residents vacated the coastal flat and the valley behind a century ago.  During periods of calm seas, the fringing coral reef of Miloli‘i affords excellent snorkeling opportunities.  Boat access to the beach is via a narrow channel blasted out of the reef.  Beach sand generally erodes from winter's high surf and accretes during the summer.



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