Kauai is without a doubt one of the most special islands in the world, most certainly in the US. With it’s lush landscape, dramatic dropping sea cliffs, and laid back Hawaiian vibe- it is truly just straight up MAGIC. Keep reading below to see the top ten best beaches in Kauai for swimming as you plan your family’s time on this dreamy island.
I mean if it’s good enough to film the epic scenes of Jurassic Park, you know there is something special about the place. 🙂
Although there’s no shortage of things to do in Kauai, the beaches are definitely a main event. More than half of Kauai’s 111 mile coastline is beaches- more than any other of the Hawaiian islands. 28 beaches total!
But sadly, not all of the beaches in Kauai are swimmable for anyone, let alone kids. Especially so in the winter months.
Nonetheless Kauai has some of the best beaches in Hawaii. These are the cannot miss best beaches in Kauai for swimming for your next family vacation. We broke them up into those in the North Shore, South Shore, and East side of the island.
In general, the South Shore beaches are better for swimming in winter (November to March). While, beaches on the North Shore of Kauai are best in the summer months (June to August).
The North Shore gets more rain than the southern coast (it doesn’t get that green on its own!), especially so in the winter months. No one wants a rainy beach day!
As well, the North Shore has very strong currents in the winter months. This is why surfers flock to this side of the island. But not so great for swimming. 🙂
Best Beaches in Kauai for Swimming on the North Shore
Hanalei Bay Beach
This is one of the most iconic beaches in Kauai, and for good reason. Hanalei Pier is a popular photo op for tourists…don’t miss sneaking in some family photos here at sunset.
There’s about 2 miles of sand perfectly situated in front of a lush green mountainous backdrop- Hawaii beach perfection.
The calm waters of Hanalei Bay Beach make it perfect for swimming with kids. There is also restroom facilities, picnic tables, and easy parking which make it even more of a win in my book.
Because the waters are especially calm (especially the closer you get to the pier), it’s also a very popular spot for SUP boarding.
Grab breakfast at Hanalei Bread company or stop at The Wishing Well for some famous shaved ice. You won’t regret it!
Another truly Instagram worthy beach on the North Shore of Kauai. This was one of our favorite thing we did on the whole island. Soft powdery sand, areas of calm shallow waters, shade at the back of the shoreline- the perfect family friendly spot.
Parking at Tunnels Beach can be a bit tricky. As you approach the pinned location, start looking to your right for an alleyway lined with a wooden fence. There will be spots for 8 or so cars here. This is the most direct access parking.
If you can’t snag a spot here, you need to park down at Ha’ena Beach. You will walk a ½ mile around the bay to reach Tunnels.
So although there are no picnic tables, restrooms, OR solid parking options- the GORGEOUS perfectly Hawaiian backdrop more than makes up for those draw backs.
This is also a great place for snorkeling because of the lava tubes under the water. They are full of tropical fish and coral!
Anini Beach is most famously known for being one of the best beaches in Kauai for swimming and snorkeling. The long coral reef and incredibly calm waters, make for the perfect spot for exploring creatures just below the surface of the water. Many people spot sea turtles here as well!
Because Anini is in a bit more isolated area of the island, it tends to not be as crowded as some of the more popular options on this list. It is closer to Princeville/Kilauea area so make sure to stop by Kilauea Fish Market on the way home. SO GOOD.
Although, there is no lifeguard at this beach, the calm clear waters make it the perfect spot for swimming with young kids.
Maybe the smallest beach on the list, Ke’e Beach is worth the effort to get to this tucked away gem. This Kauai beach offers you the most direct views of the NaPali coast and is technically a part of Ha’ena State Park.
This is another go-to spot for snorkeling on the island, as reef fish tend to be in plenty here!
There are nearby restrooms and showers, as well as a lifeguard. All the more reason this is one of the most popular beaches in Kauai.
Because Ke’e Beach is a part of the state park, there is a maximum number of people that can enter daily. Reservations must be made in advance! We recommend pairing this beach with a hike on the Kalalau Trail. Cool off in the calm waters after your (very) challenging hike.
Make reservations HERE 30 days in advance online. Although there are a handful of parking spots released right at the park entrance, they get snatched up in literal seconds. Most people get into the park on the shuttle. Once you enter the park, you have about a ¼ mile walk on a wooden boardwalk to reach the beach!
We love this leadwood tree lined little cove of a beach at the end of Kalihiwai Road. Another perk of public beaches like this is they don’t cost a THING! (and you know we are all about saving money on our travels)
On the left border of the long wide beach is the Kalihiwai River. So a mix of fresh and salt water gets trapped in the lagoon area. This means these waters are warm, which is perfect for little kids to play in for hours.
There’s also more than enough shade to go around at this location (always a win in my book). Kalihiwai Beach is consistently rated as one of the best beaches in Kauai for swimming. Also, boogie boarding in the summer months!
Don’t miss on your way home stopping at Kilauea Fish Market for a bite. I will be dreaming about that ahi tuna burrito and Opakapaka platter for monthhhsssss.
NOTE: The leptospirosis bacteria has been found in freshwater rivers and streams in Hawaii, so be careful when swimming in the river. This bacteria can enter through open cuts or wounds in the skin.
Always swim in clear water for shark safety, as the water in Kalihiwai Bay can get murky from run-off from the river after it’s rained heavily.
Best Beaches in Kauai for Swimming on the South Shore
Poipu Beach Park
One of the most family friendly beaches in all of Kauai. And without a doubt one of the best places on the Garden Island for catching views of sea turtles.
Poipu isn’t too big which is nice for families, and the shallow calm waters make it the perfect place for young kids to play.
Poipu Beach Park is known for having its own little micro climate of sorts, so even when the rest of the island is rainy, you can count on Poipu to hold out some sun for you!
Sometimes you can even catch Hawaiian monk seals hanging out on the sandbar. But the real must-see is the sea turtles coming to shore around dusk. Head over to Poipu beach late afternoon/early evening and see the beautiful creatures really up close and personal.
There are volunteers present and the area is roped off to ensure these endangered creatures are protected. But WOW it is so neat to see these massive turtles up close. This was definitely our kids favorite thing we did in Kauai!
Grab a famous Hawaiin hot dog at Puka Dog across the street after and hang out at the picnic tables, while the kids climb on the playground. Sign me UP.
Salt Pond Beach Park
Salt Pond Beach Park is on the southwest side of Kauai. It is named after the traditional Hawaiian salt-collecting ponds adjacent to the left side of the beach.
In summer, Hawaiian locals collect the salt that remains after the sea water evaporates for cooking and other uses- pretty neat!
Once at the park you will see three different sections when facing the water. The large main beach area, a small shallow pond perfect for toddlers to the right, and another pond perfect for snorkeling to the left.
There’s not as many commercialized hotels around this area, so Salt Pond Beach Park definitely feels less developed and more natural than many of the others on this list. Despite there not being many restaurants and such, there are restrooms, showers, picnic tables, patches of lawn and lifeguard at this location!
This is also a great stop on the way home from a Waimea Canyon drive to break up the drive and let the kids play in the water for a bit!
Baby Beach is another one of the top beaches in Kauai for swimming and families (and what a more perfect name). There are no lifeguards at this beach, however the cove is very protected which allows little to no large waves and the beach to have ideal calm, shallow waters.
Let your little one splash and play, while you enjoy the gorgeous Hawaiian island coast.
It is one of the more secluded beaches on Kauai, as many choose Poipu Beach nearby, so it is a bit quieter than some of the other options on the list. The less people the better in my book!
NOTE: There is limited parking available along the road. Make sure to park near the lava rocks then walk to the beach access there.
Make sure to make reservations at The Beach House restaurant around sunset for appetizers or an early dinner after your time at the beach. It is only about a 7 minute walk away from Baby Beach and the perfect outdoor coastal restaurant with a view. 🙂
Best Beaches in Kauai for Swimming on the East Side
Lydgate Beach Park
This was definitely one of our kid’s favorite places on the island…actually not for the swimming though. Although Lydgate Beach Park is definitely one of the best beaches in Kauai for swimming, it also has a lot of other unique favorites for families.
Namely, a massive wooden playground across the parking lot and a beach covered in driftwood. Our girls wanted to stay for hours building forts and creations out of the piles and piles of driftwood.The playground was such a hit, we really had to put in some effort to pull them away.
Thanks to a long line of boulders, a breakwater divides the beach into one large deeper pool (5ft deep) and one large smaller pool (3 feet deep).
Beside the two ponds, there’s a 2½-mile paved path, perfect for a walk along the coast pre or post beach day! Nothing like a walk along a Hawaiian island coast at sunset. 🙂 A great spot for kids and mom + dad alike!
Another top beach in Kauai for swimming is Kalapaki beach on the East side of the island. This beach sits right in front of the Royal Sonesta resort.
The waters here are relatively calm and there is even a rental hut right behind the shore. Rent a boogie board or stand up paddle board and make an afternoon of it.
This area has a ton of restaurants and shops, so you aren’t without food or activity options at this beach. This also means it’s a bit more crowded than some of the other Hawaii beaches.
Grab pizza at Scorpaticca (the Hawaiian Pork pizza is delicious!) and have dinner on the beach at sunset. The perfect Hawaiian beachside meal. 🙂 You may even catch a cruise ship or two coming through the harbor!
There are so many options for the best beaches in Kauai for swimming. There is truly nothing like the Hawaiian islands, and especially Kauai. It truly is such a special place and the beaches are such a huge part of that! Hoping this information helps make your family beach day in Kauai exactly what you’ve been dreaming of. 🙂