Kauai North Shore Beach Park
Even if you don't go in the water, Hanalei offers a unique mixture of green-draped mountains that serve as a striking backdrop to the clear blue ocean. Because of the breathtaking scenery and abundant activities, TripAdvisor voted Hanalei Beach as one of the top 25 beaches in the United States.
Overview of Hanalei Bay Beach
The beautiful Hanalei Bay has long been one of Hawaii's most popular places to visit and one of the most photographed beaches in the world. It has all the right ingredients - an expansive white sand beach, clear blue water, tropical palm trees, and lush green mountains as a backdrop. The narrow Hanalei River flows into the ocean at one end of the crescent-shaped bay.
Many rave about Hanalei Bay as one of Hawaii's top surfing locations. Yet, this beach holds its own for swimming, bodyboarding, paddling, or kayaking. Ultimately, visitors will find plenty of activities to enjoy here, from snorkeling and diving to sunbathing and picnicking.
You can find many vacation rentals overlooking Hanalei Bay Beach near Princeville Resort and Princeville at Hanalei Golf Course, both high-end resorts on Kauai North Shore.
Directions to Hanalei Bay Beach
The drive to Hanalei Bay Beach takes you on a scenic road through beautiful towns. Approaching Hanalei from the south, you will first get to Princeville to see the world-famous Princeville golf courses on the hillside above the Pacific Ocean. Plus, you can see Hanalei Bay and its beach from Highway 56 (Kuhio Highway) just before you reach the town of Hanalei.
There are three parking areas for accessing the beach. The first parking area sits just after Nualolo Road on the left side of Highway 56. The second parking area sprawls near the Hanalei Pier on the right side of Highway 56. The third parking is at Black Pot Beach Park, with public restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic tables.
Free street parking is available throughout Hanalei town if you don’t mind a short walk to the beach.
Essential Tips for a Hanalei Bay Beach Visit
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your visit:
- Hire a local guide: While it's possible to rent a kayak and paddle out to Hanalei Bay on your own, you'll get more out of the experience if you hire an experienced guide who knows where to go and how to steer safely through choppy surf. This is especially true on windy days when crosswinds can make it difficult to reach certain areas, like Makua (Tunnels) Beach on the south end of Hanalei Bay.
- Arrive early: If you want a parking space along Weke Road (the main artery in Hanalei), plan to arrive around 7:30 a.m., when people start leaving for work or school.
- All can enjoy Hanalei Bay Beach year-round: Wintertime brings larger surf with strong currents and high tides that make swimming dangerous. You can enjoy calmer waters during the summer and fall.
Hanalei Bay Beach Amenities
Amenities and facilities at Hanalei Bay Beach include:
- Public restrooms
- Food concession (seasonal)
- Picnic tables
- Parking lots
- Kayak, surfboard, and boogie board rentals
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The Three Sections of Hanalei Bay Beach
Across Hanalei Bay sprawls three beaches from East to West:
Black Pots at the Hanalei Pier
Black Pots at the Hanalei Pier is the name given where the Hanalei River empties into the ocean. You can access it by driving east on Weke Road before turning right into a parking area at the end of the road. The pier juts out into the ocean, and the dock is a great place to capture captivating images of the Bay. Additionally, from the area, you can launch a kayak. Thus, paddle out into the Bay, or go upriver. You can rent a kayak to go out on your own or take a guided river tour with a local company.
Additionally, the area serves as an excellent beginner surf spot, a classic sunset spot, and a popular spot for local gatherings on the weekend. Ultimately, we rate Black Pots as Hanalei Bay's most popular access point.
Amenities: Many options are available for those interested in kayaking. The beach, accessed via Weke Road, has a lifeguard, toilet facilities, an outdoor shower, a large pavilion, and plenty of action for body surfers and boogie boarders.
Wai'oli Beach Park (Pine Trees)
If you desire a beach with a lawn and plenty of shade, head to Wai'oli Beach Park. At the midpoint of Hanalei Bay, Wai'oli Beach Park offers the best of both worlds. It has a large grassy lawn and plenty of shady spots to relax in the sun while watching your little ones play in the sand.
Many local families rate Wai'oli Beach as their favorite spot. They enjoy the beach's sandy bottom that falls very close to shore, making it great for toddlers and small children to play in the water.
We recommend visitors explore the reef offshore, for it makes for great snorkeling. Additionally, boogie boarders and surfers enjoy the moderate swells here. Though the reef lacks some color or variety, snorkellers will still encounter lots of fish, including parrotfish, damselfish, surgeonfish, uhu (green wrasse), tangs (surgeonfish), Moorish idols (a yellow fish with black stripes), and butterflyfish. Plus, don't miss the eels hiding under the rocks on the reef.
Reaching Wai'oli Beach: There are three access points: Pine Trees, Bathrooms, and Grandpa. Pine Trees features a large lawn with picnic tables in the shade. Bathrooms represent the parking area next to the bathroom. Lastly, Grandpa sits at the last turn on the west end of Weke Rd. A short walk to the west leads you to the Waipa Stream. We recommend a picnic here.
Amenities: A large parking lot is available right next to the beach park, so there's no need to walk far when you arrive.
Surfers love "Waikokos Beach. Waikokos serves the best swells when trade winds blow offshore in the summer and fall. From this beach's break, surfers can expect to find a variety of waves depending on conditions.
Waikokos sits between the four and 5-mile markers on Highway 560.
Amenities: There is a small beach parking area, restrooms, and picnic facilities.
Our Recommended Tours & Activities
Fun Activities at Hanalei Bay Beach
Family Activities at Hanalei Bay Beach
If you're on Kauai with young kids or an adventure-loving family, there are many fun things to do at Hanalei Bay. Here are just a few ideas:
Build Sand Castles: The sand is soft and perfect for building sandcastles. Make a family team and design a moat, drawbridge, and castle walls. Try to create a tall tower or add a few flags. The kids will love it!
Swimming and Boogie Boarding: The water on the far left side of the bay is shallow and great for families with small children. Older kids will love playing in the waves near Black Pot Beach Park but observe them as there are strong currents here. Bring some boogie boards for the kids and watch them have hours of fun learning how to ride the waves.
Surf Lessons: Hanalei Bay has waves good enough for beginner surfers. I recommend taking a lesson the first time to understand the safety precautions before heading out on your own. Look for Sea Shells
Comb the beach: Find hundreds of shells on Hanalei Bay Beach if you look hard enough! The kids will enjoy looking for shells and deciding which ones to keep.
Hanalei Bay Beach Activities
From bodyboarding to snorkeling, Hanalei Bay is the place to be for water activities and fun in the sun. Here are some Hanalei Bay beach activities for you to try:
Snorkeling: The coral reefs off of Kauai's shores provide a safe place for fish to swim, making it possible for you to snorkel close to the beach in search of these tropical beauties.
Swimming: Swimming off the shore of Hanalei Beach is an enjoyable experience for all ages. As you swim out from the coast, the water gets deeper, making it perfect for diving underwater to take pictures or videos of your friends and family swimming in the crystal-clear ocean. Stand-up Paddleboarding: Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) may look complicated at first, but with some practice, anyone can get the hang of it. SUP boards are easy to rent in Hanalei, and they’re best used in flat waters like those found at the bay, protected by a reef that keeps it calm most of the year sunbathing.
Sunbathing: Hanalei Bay Beach has over two miles of sand, so it’s easy to find a spot to lay out your towel and soak up some rays. Even some secluded areas are great for nude sunbathing—keep an eye out for beach patrol!
Hanalei Pier: Head here to watch the sunset and get a nice picture of yourself or your family.
Surfing and Boogie boarding: The waves at Hanalei Bay draw surfers from neighboring islands to enjoy the surf. In the winter, rolling swells make Hanalei one of the most fantastic surfing spots on the planet. Surfers flock to line up at the Queens Reef, the King's Reef, or along the bay in front of the Princeville Hotel to catch the action that swells from 20 to 30 feet. Others break out their board for more moderate surfing conditions, so they head only as far as the Bowl (located near the Princeville hotel) or "middles" (in the middle of Hanalei Bay). For beginners to take their skills to the next level, surf instructors take novice boogie border surfers along Waipa Stream, where they can learn how to surf in knee-chest high swells.
Kayak the Hanalei River: Hanalei Bay Beach is located on the north shore of Kauai, and the Hanalei River runs along the edge of it. The river leads to many different areas, including Takapuna Falls, one of the most popular spots for kayakers.
Fishing: The rocky points at both ends of Hanalei Bay Beach are favorite fishing spots for local anglers when the surf isn't up (in summer only). Check out the pier.
Nearby Attractions and Sights of Hanalei Bay
There are many other things to do in the Hanalei area, so it is popular. Here are a few suggestions:
Hanalei Valley Lookout: Just past the pier, you'll see a sign that points toward Hanalei Valley Lookout. This lookout offers sweeping views of Hanalei Valley, which you might recognize from movies like South Pacific and Pirates of the Caribbean. The lookout provides excellent views of the valley below, including taro patches and waterfalls in the distance depending on whether or not it's rained recently.
Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park: This park stretches along the north shore of Kauai and includes Hanakapi’ai Beach and Kalalau Valley, where you can take a strenuous hike (permit required) or kayak trip. Also, check out the Kauai Napali Snorkel Sail for a great boat ride.
Tunnels Beach: Tunnels is excellent for snorkeling and scuba diving, especially near the rocky points on either end of the beach. It’s also known for surfing and windsurfing.
Waioli Mission House: This 1837 mission house has been restored to showcase early Hawaiian life when missionaries came to the island. Click here to learn more about the historic homes in Hawaii.
2023 Kauai Visitor Guides
If you're visiting Kauai soon, be sure to download your copy of one of our updated 2023 Kauai Visitor Guides. We've updated both travel guides with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and those who've been a time or two as well).