Kaua‘i’s North Shore offers plenty of variety in beaches: privacy, exploration, lounging, swimming, snorkeling, and surfing. Here are some favorites to get you started.
Seclusion, white sand, shade, and a pristine cove of crystal clear water compose SeaLodge Beach, offering everything a beach lover could want. Accessed by a shaded hike through the trees and then a short walk along the rocky coast, the beach provides good snorkeling when the ocean is calm. There’s no lifeguard or amenities here, so it’s important to be careful in the water. Located near the SeaLodge condos at the end of Kamehameha Road in Princeville, parking is in the unmarked stalls toward the top of the parking lot. The trailhead is in front of building A and marked with a sign. Here is an amazing panoramic view worth taking a minute to indulge in and snapping a few photos.
When the surf is small, snorkelers will usually see a gorgeous variety of fish and some green sea turtles.Take the dirt trail down past the small stream on the way to the ocean. Once you reach the ocean keep to your left, where you can walk along the black rocks or on the narrow trail a little up on the dirt. After a minute or so you will see SeaLodge Beach, nestled in its own cove and backed by a vertical cliff. The back of the beach is lined with trees that provide enough shade that you can spend a few hours at the beach. It’s quite an amazing beach and worth the effort. The trail isn’t super strenuous, but it is rather steep and tiresome on the way up.
Queen’s Bath is a tide pool on the edge of a cliff looming above the ocean. Nature has created an extremely unique and picturesque combination that is at its best when the waves are small, but big enough to wash fresh water into the pool. This spot is dangerous. There’s a plaque at the base of the trail with a safety warning stating that as of 2011, 28 people have died here, which speaks for itself. On very calm days, the pool is crystal clear and swimmable, but on any rough day in winter it’s risky. There’s a five-minute walk from the bottom of the trail to the pool that puts visitors at the edge of the cliff, and the pool itself isn’t far from the edge and waves either. The hike down is intriguing in itself and offers several sights along the way, including a river, a couple of waterfalls, and a pool that usually has a few fish resting in it.
To get here, turn right on Punahele Road and take the second right onto Kapiolani Loop. The parking lot is on the left-hand corner bordered by a green cement wall. The trailhead is easy to find, marked with both a warning sign and another one giving notice of the shearwater breeding grounds. About 10-15 minutes down the dirt trail it veers to the left at a waterfall pouring right into the ocean. Go left past the warning signs and almost right on the edge of the cliff is the pond. During winter (September through April), the pool is pretty much unusable due to the large surf.
Hideaways is a great beach for snorkeling, as is its sibling beach on the far side of the rocky point on the right. When the surf is small, snorkelers will usually see a gorgeous variety of fish and some green sea turtles. As at many other north shore beaches, false kamani trees provide shade, enabling beach goers to spend some quality time here without turning into lobsters right away. The trail leading down consists of steps for the first half before turning into a dirt path that can be muddy and slippery if it has rained. So although it’s not a really strenuous hike, it takes a little agility to get down there and can be slightly tough for kids.
Check ocean conditions before going to this beach. When the waves are big in Hanalei Bay, they will probably be washing far up the beach at Hideaways. To get here, take the trail that starts shortly before the St. Regis Princeville Resort gate house and next to the Pu‘u Poa tennis courts. To reach the other side of the beach, either swim to the right from Hideaways (when conditions allow, of course) or walk the paved trail from the Pali Ke Kua condominiums.
Pu‘u Poa Beach
Directly below the St. Regis Princeville Resort is the easily accessible and popular Pu‘u Poa Beach. Swimming and snorkeling are both good here when ocean conditions allow. The white-sand beach reaches toward the mouth of the Hanalei River to the left, and the sandy bottom is enclosed by a narrow reef. When surf is up, experienced and elite surfers catch some of the biggest waves the north side musters up in the winter. For hotel guests, access is by the hotel pool area. There’s a small parking area for visitors, by the hotel entrance, where the cement path begins.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.