Lumaha'i Beach on the north shore of Kauai, just around the western edge of Hanalei Bay, is the epitome of the picture perfect beach with a crescent of golden sand ringed with greenery. There are two beaches here with two distinctly different personalities:
Lumaha'i Beach at the far western end is a local hang out spot where Lumaha'i Stream enters the ocean;
Kahalahala Beach on eastern edge of the beach is commonly called "Tourist Lumaha'i" for it's popularity with visitors and/or "Nurses Beach" because of its prominance in the filming of the famous "I'm gonna wash that man right out of my hair" scene in South Pacific.
To reach Luamha'i take Highway 560 west from Hanalei toward Ha'ena. A nice trail runs from the top of the lookout right before mile marker 5 at the eastern edge down to the beach OR drive further north and park at Lumaha'i Stream.
The trail is a short and pleasant walk with beautiful tropical foliage. While there is shade at the edge of the beach where it meets the forest, the mosquitos can be vicious here so it is best to bring a shade umbrella if you are going to "tourist Lumaha'i" and want shade. If you are here on a sunny day, you may notice that the sand at "tourist Lumaha'i" is extremely hot to walk on; that is because there is a large amount of green volcanic glass (olivine) in the sand.
In the summer time, calmer water, protected by the small lava crop outcropping at "tourist Lumaha'i" make for a fun swimming place with many local teenagers climbing the rocks and jumping into the clear blue water. Only do this if you are absolutely certain in your water skills as one must always be vigilant at Lumahai, even near the lagoon, as the sand bottom is steep which creates an unexpectedly heavy shore break. In the winter this is impossible because of the high surf and it is absolutely essential that you stay off the rocks when the surf is high. One of the most common reasons people drown on Kauai is because they venture out on lava rock shelves in between sets to get a closer view of the ocean or take a photo and when the set comes up, the waves crash over the shelf, knock the person down onto the rocks where they are bruised and cannot get up in time to prevent being dragged over the rocks and out to see where they perish. Drownings of this type are reported every year in Hawai'i and many more near drownings or big scares occur when someone is knocked down, is able to recover and returns to safety, bruised and with a renewed respect for the power of the ocean.
"Locals Lumaha'i" at the western edge of the beach has many shady areas that are less buggy than at "tourist lumahai". Many families come here to play in the river; but make sure to look around before you get in. If nobody else is in the river there may be a reason for it; and if the surf is high, monitor the river surge at the top of the sets to make sure you do not get pulled out by a large wave.
Being outside of the protected waters of Hanalei Bay, all of Lumahai Beach experiences significant shore breaks, backwash, and strong currents - so once again, watch the water for 15 minutes before getting in; see how it changes with the sets and what type of swimmers are in the water and remember; never turn your back on the ocean and if in doubt, don't go out!