Some of Kaua‘i’s best beaches are found on the south side. They’re blanketed in fine white sand and range from popular and crowded to secluded and hardly visited. All of the beaches are in the Po‘ipu area, as Koloa, Kalaheo, and Lawa‘i are all inland areas. The beaches provide a selection of coveted Hawaii activities, such as snorkeling, surfing, swimming, and sunbathing.
Shipwreck Beach fronts the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa. Named after an old shipwreck that used to rest on the eastern end and is now long gone, the beach is often crowded because of its location. It offers plenty of space with about a half mile of sand, but the ocean here is usually too rough for swimming except for those who are experts in the water. Local surfers and body boarders utilize the east end of the beach for catching waves. Also on the eastern end is Makawehi Point, the high cliff that locals like to launch off of for fun. If you feel like going on a treasure hunt, a hard-to-find interesting thing here is a petroglyph carved into the base of the cliff. The ancient art is nearly always covered by sand, and you must be extremely lucky to be there when the sand is pulled away, exposing the petroglyph. To get here, drive toward the Hyatt on Weliweli Road and turn right on Ainako Road. Park in the small parking lot at the end.
Po‘ipu Beach Park
Po‘ipu Beach Park (at the end of Kuai Road) is hands down the most ideal beach for families and children on the south side. A protected swimming area, playground, full amenities, and grassy lawn come together to create everything you could need for a full day at the beach. It’s often crowded here, with visitors and local families, but it’s a testament to how wonderful the beach is. The semi-enclosed part of the water to the east is protected by a short rock wall, providing nearly always calm and shallow water within the rock barrier. It’s a great swimming pool for children to float and play. The water isn’t as protected on the right side of the beach as it is on the left, but if the waves are small it’s usually pretty safe. Snorkeling at the west end is pretty good too.
An elaborate playground for children is located at the east side of the park alongside a tree offering shade. Picnic tables dot the grassy lawn, showers and bathrooms are on-site, and lifeguards watch over the area. There is parking available across the street from the beach, but on most days the spots are full. You may have to wait a little while for someone to leave and open up a spot for you. The beach was mauled by Hurricane ‘Iniki but has been restored to all of its glory.
Just east of Po‘ipu Beach Park is Brennecke Beach. The waves are great for boogie-boarding and bodysurfing only, because fiberglass boards, which is what surfboards are, are not allowed. This is a good place for beginners to rent a boogie board from Nukumoi Surf across the street and charge the waves. To get here, turn down Ho‘owili Road off of Po‘ipu Road. The beach is right at the bottom along Ho‘one Road.
Also known as Sheraton Beach (because it fronts the Sheraton Kaua‘i) and Kiahuna Beach, beautiful Po‘ipu Beach is popular and generally crowded. The swimming just offshore is usually pretty mellow thanks to the reef farther out. A good wave for surfing is also created here by the reef, and it’s a popular spot with local surfers and surf schools. Surf lessons are taught here frequently, and there’s no doubt you’ll see surf school students with soft-top longboards. Body-boarding and body surfing are fun in the shore break. It’s also a good spot for snorkeling if the ocean is calm, so bring your gear. There are restrooms at the grassy lawn above the sand. Parking here and along the street can be tight, so keep a lookout for several parking areas along the road. The beach is at the end of coastal Ho‘onani Road.
True to its name, Baby Beach is perfect for small children and babies. The small beach is nearly always calm, still, and shallow. The water here feels more like a saltwater swimming pool than the open ocean. There is a narrow strip of white sand descending into the water, leading to a rocky bottom. Hawaiian rocks can always be a bit tough on the feet, so bringing water shoes is a good idea. Kids will love jumping around in the water with floats here. To get here, turn off of Lawa‘i Road onto Ho‘ona Road and look for the beach access sign. The beach is behind the oceanfront homes.
Located right across from the Prince Kuhio monument, hence the name PK’s, the narrow strip of sand is most notable by the surf break-out and to the right of the Beach House Restaurant. The wave here is also called PK’s. Sometimes snorkelers see a lot of fish here since the bottom is so rocky, so if you’re a dedicated snorkeler hop in when the waves are very small. But the beach is narrow, and it’s just off the road, so it’s less than ideal for a day at the beach. Drive down Lawa‘i Road and you’ll see the small beach below the roadside rock wall directly across from the monument.
A small white-sand beach in an almost always sunny area, Lawa‘i Beach offers swimming and decent snorkeling along a narrow strip of white sand. The grounds of the Beach House Restaurant jut out on the left side of the beach, while condominiums act as a backdrop across the road. Across the street is a small parking lot with restrooms and a small shop. This is a popular hangout for local surfers, who enjoy a few beers at day’s end while watching the waves at PK’s. Head down Lawa‘i Road and you can see the beach from the street right past the Beach House Restaurant.
A few yards down from Lawa‘i Beach is Keiki Beach. A private and very small strip of sand just below the road, the small beach is accessible by hopping over the rock wall and stepping down past a few boulders. There’s a small tide pool here for a very shallow dip or for kids, only at low tide. The nice thing about this spot is that it’s nearly always uninhabited. During high tide you’ll find yourself sitting up against the rock wall, so it’s best at low tide. Although small, Keiki Beach is a change from Lawa‘i Beach just because it’s usually empty.
Bordering the National Tropical Botanical Garden is Lawa‘i Bay. The bay is usually only reached by those with a passion for serious ocean adventuring. If you kayak about a mile west from Kukui‘ula Small Boat Harbor you will reach it. Those who make it there are asked to be respectful and not enter the gardens. Needless to say, you’ll most likely be alone here if you make the trip. Park your vehicle at Kukui‘ula Small Boat Harbor at the end of Lawa‘i Road. Hop in the water with your kayak and paddle about a mile west down the coast.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Hawaiian Islands.