Welcome to the ultimate guide to the best swimming beaches in Kauai!
My boyfriend and I recently had the chance to visit this beautiful island and let me tell you, it was an absolute paradise. From the breathtaking views to the delicious food and friendly locals, we were completely won over by Kauai.
But the real highlight of our trip was swimming in the crystal clear waters at some of the best beaches on the island. It was the perfect way to start and end each day, and we couldn’t get enough of the gorgeous waves and warm temperatures.
As we explored the island and tried out different beaches, we learned a lot about what makes a great swimming spot. We considered factors like weather conditions, views, facilities, and, of course, the presence of lifeguards.
After much research and personal experience, we’ve compiled a list of the eight best beaches for swimming in Kauai. These are our top picks based on all the criteria we considered, and we’re confident you’ll love them as much as we did.
Let’s dive right into the best beaches in Kauai for swimming!
North Shore Beaches
Are you planning to visit Kauai in the summer months? Then the North shore beaches are the first ones you need to see! They’re sunny all day long and have the calmest waves.
Head to Hanalei Bay for the best swimming experience, stop by Ke’e Beach to see a breathtaking sunset and don’t miss Anini Beach for the safest waters for swimming with family and kids.
Hanalei Bay – Kauai’s Best Beach for Swimming
You’ll want to visit Hanalei Bay before any other beach in Kauai because the water here is calm and gentle, ideal for all swimmers. I can guarantee it’ll be the best swim you get in Kauai.
We went swimming here, and it was truly amazing! You can expect to last in the water for hours and come out wrinkled like a prune because the waves here are addictive.
Many families come here too, and you can see young children learning to swim in the shallow ends of the pools. Plus, there’s a lifeguard on duty during the day, as it can get crowded here.
Another great thing about Hanalei Bay is the long pier in its center, perfect for watching the bay from both sides and taking a scenic stroll.
The best part about this beach is that it has a little bit of everything.
You can swim on one side of the pier with gentler waves and go surfing or boogie boarding on the other with stronger waves. But, even with this range of activities, my take is that Hanalei Bay is the best beach in Kauai for swimming.
Some of my tips below that are bound to make your trip to Hanalei excellent:
- Parking space is plenty in the earlier hours, and there’s a much smaller crowd.
- There are many food trucks on the beach during the day that serve a variety of delicious foods.
- The sand here is very soft, so you can go barefoot on the shore and while swimming.
- If you’re a movie nut like me, you’ll be happy to know that this is the filming location of The Descendants!
Kee Beach – the Best Sunset Beach on Kauai
Full disclosure, everyone, getting to and from Ke’e Beach is a bit of a struggle. First, you must make advanced reservations for a spot on the beach and parking. A shuttle also takes you there if parking isn’t available.
But I kid you not; it’ll be the most beautiful beachfront you will ever step foot on.
Ke’e is a lagoon-like beach with white sandy shores and crystal-clear waters. Plus, the stunning views face the Na Pali coast nearby. This beach is most famous for its scenery; getting to experience a sunset here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that no one should miss out on.
After we took one step on the beach, we decided it would be a sin not to go in the water. So we spent most of the time swimming and splashing around (I swear beaches like Ke’e bring out your inner child).
The water here is safe because of a coral reef surrounding the pool. Also, there’s a lifeguard on duty every day, so we were always content swimming here.
Another great activity is snorkeling. We even saw green sea turtles, colorful reef fish, tuna, and triggerfish in the water.
Some things to consider before visiting Kee:
- The earlier you get here, the better. Since there’s limited capacity for tourists, try to get a reservation for 8 am.
- You need to walk a short distance from the parking area to reach the beach, so pack the right shoes.
- A famous hiking trail takes you to the nearby Haena State Park, a perfect activity if you want to enjoy the scenery.
- Movie buff fact: Jurassic World was filmed on the Na Pali Coast nearby, and you get to enjoy those same views right from the beach!
Anini Beach – the Safest Beach for Swimming in Kauai
If you like camping on the beach under a night sky full of stars, with crystal clear water for miles, then you’ll love Anini Beach!
We were so excited to see this beach because some locals suggested it for its safe waters and the longest coral reef in Hawaii. We weren’t disappointed either; Anini had shallow and calm water for a long stretch from the shore.
You could walk out to the coral reef with the water only dipping to your waist!
Anini is the best beach for swimming in Kauai if you’re amongst a family, especially young children. I saw the cutest toddlers splashing in the shallow water; some even joined us for a volleyball game.
Because we went on a weekday, there was ample space, and the beach was nearly empty. However, it fills up with locals and tourists on weekends.
Since camping is a favorite activity in Anini Beach, we tried it out one night and highly recommend it! Plus, there are restroom and shower facilities available on the campsite.
The big question you would ask here is; are there lifeguards present?
The answer is no. Since it’s a pretty secluded beach, the water is safe from harsh waves owing to the coral reef surrounding it.
You can still have a lot of fun here with swimming, snorkeling (get ready to spot sea turtles and a variety of fish), camping, a beach bbq, and, if you’re lucky – sighting humpback whales!
Anini Beach made it to my list for the following reasons:
- Big trees line the shore, Palm and Kamani, which give it a lovely shade.
- It’s easy to find parking earlier in the day.
- When it gets crowded, walk further along the beach; it spreads for miles, so you’ll find a great spot with some privacy.
- It’s the safest beach for swimming on Kauai.
South Shore Beaches
South shore beaches are perfect for your vacation falling in the winter season. The water is calm; excellent for swimming and even snorkeling from November through March. The beaches of Poipu and Kiahuna offer long stretches of sandy shores and ideal water conditions throughout.
Poipu Beach – Best Swimming Beach in Kauai in Winter
Poipu beach is one of those places you must see on your trip to Kauai. As the weather here is always sunny and the beachfront is so gorgeous, you’ll want to keep coming here every year!
Poipu beach was perfect for swimming and other water activities like snorkeling and boogie boarding during the winter. Since the water is gentler and more relaxed this time of year, swimming was a calming experience.
Poipu beach is well-known in Kauai for the rare marine animals it houses. Here we got to see the infamous Hawaiian monk seal lounging peacefully on the sand. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get too close since the lifeguards on duty are strict about conserving wildlife.
A definite plus point to Poipu is: that it’s very well maintained!
There are modern bathrooms and shower facilities, many picnic tables set up, and ample parking space, so it was a generally well-conserved area.
Even in the winter, when other beaches get a lot of rain, Poipu has its own sunny climate. We would often end up here at the end of the day to take in the last rays of the sun and watch the sunset. So peaceful!
Since I got some of my best swims on this beach, I consider it the best beach in Kauai for swimming during the winter. Here’s why you will too:
- It was titled ‘America’s Best Beach’ by the Travel Channel (need I say more?).
- Lifeguards are on duty seven days a week.
- Snorkeling here is a favorite activity, and you will see a variety of fish.
- The pools are mostly shallow and sandy-bottomed, perfect for families and young children to play in.
Kiahuna Beach – the Most Secluded Beach in Kauai
Have you decided to visit Kauai but don’t know where to stay? Stay at the Sheraton hotel since it leads directly to the Kiahuna beach, a secluded beachfront perfect for swimming and privacy.
That’s what we did, and every morning on this beach was a treat!
Kiahuna Beach is one of those lesser-known beaches, with calm water, gentle waves, lots of soft sand to lounge in, and a terrific view.
Even though the surf can get high sometimes, it was perfect for swimming when the waves were calm. We often went there early in the morning for a swim or a stroll.
Before heading to our hotel at the end of each day, we would come here for a late-night swim and watch the stars.
This beach is also perfect for beach bumping and people-watching (two of my boyfriend’s favorite activities) because of the lack of crowds.
I rank Kiahuna as the best beach in Kauai for swimming, carefree, and wading. Here’s why you’ll love it too:
- The water stays calm and safe inside the reef. Just outside it, you can surf in stronger waves.
- There are excellent facilities here, and the staff at the nearby hotels can get you anything you need.
- There’s a small public parking space available in the morning hours. You can also park at Poipu beach’s parking lot if it gets crowded.
- The water stays calm, so it’s great for a beach day with the family.
East Shore Beaches
Visiting the East and West shore beaches is a gamble because there are rough conditions all year round. But they also have the best family and kid-friendly beaches. Check them out on a sunny day, and you’ll get water conditions excellent for swimming.
Sadly, I couldn’t visit more of them, but I’ve mentioned the two best ones for swimming on the East shore.
Lydgate Beach Park – the Best Family Beach in Kauai
Many travel experts highly recommended Lydgate as the best beach in Kauai for swimming, especially with family. After visiting it, you’ll understand why.
Lydgate Beach Park looks like a beach straight out of a Studio Ghibli movie! Substantial boulder walls sheltered the water and divided it into two lagoons. I thought they looked like artificial swimming pools in the ocean!
As it’s known amongst the locals as a great family beach, we were hesitant to visit it in case of crowds. But the beach was very spacious. You can easily find a spot by walking farther out and still be in line with the beach facilities.
One upside to family beaches is the guarantee of safe waters, so I headed straight away for a swim. The water was so warm during my swim I almost fell asleep! My boyfriend went snorkeling first and said the marine life was incredible, even in the protected lagoons.
Although we didn’t get to visit Lydgate Beach too often, I cherished our trip a lot. Some things to consider if you plan to visit:
- Lydgate had the best facilities; clean restrooms, picnic pavilions, ample seating, and parking of all the Kauai beaches.
- Lifeguards are on duty seven days a week during daylight hours.
- Perfect for kids learning to swim.
- Families can take kids to a nearby jungle gym and relax on the beach.
Kalapaki Beach was the last one we visited in Kauai but by no means the least. Because it’s close to the airport, it’s actually a perfect departure beach. So you can lounge here before your flight and watch airplanes take off in the distance.
The location of this beach was perfect; it was right on the Marriott, close to the port, nearby shopping malls, and some great restaurants. We came here after some last-minute shopping and took a final swim in the water.
Even though the weather was harsh that day, the water at Kalapaki beach was warm and gentle, ideal for swimming. The deepest it got was a few feet, so we could swim without worry.
It isn’t that famous in Kauai, nor crowded, but I loved the swim and the views here. Here’s why you will too:
- It gets almost empty by midday, so it’s perfect for privacy.
- The facilities are neat; restrooms, picnic tables, and good parking too.
- It’s a great beach to sit on and watch the views. You’ll see the distant mountains and cruise ships go by.
- There’s a great restaurant, Dukes, nearby with yummy food. Grab lunch from there after a swim, and it’ll be a meal to remember!
Kauai is a favorite travel destination; its fame lies in its spectacular beaches. They’re perfect for swimming all year round, and the clear waters and crashing waves make you want to visit again and again.
Even though it’s well-known, Kauai is less crowded with tourists than other Hawaii islands. As a result, you can find great beaches here with barely any people around and well-developed facilities to enjoy.
Want the best swimming beach in Kauai? Visit Hanalei Bay.
Need a family-friendly beach for young kids? Try Lydgate and Poipu beaches.
Want to experience terrific views? Don’t miss out on Ke’e and Kiahuna beaches.
Kauai has it all!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
Which side of Kauai is best for swimming?
The North shore is well-known as the best for swimming. Check out Hanalei Bay, Ke’e Beach, Anini Beach, and Tunnel Beach.
Are Kauai beaches good for swimming?
They’re excellent for swimming as most are protected lagoons with safe waves. However, check with a lifeguard before swimming because the water can get harsh with the changing weather.
Where is the clearest water in Kauai?
Almost all the beaches have clear water in Kauai. Try beaches on the North and South shores mentioned above for the clearest, crystal-like waters.
What are the best beaches for swimming in Kauai in the winter?
The South shore beaches are perfect for swimming during the winter because the water stays gentle and warm during the season.
Last Updated on January 10, 2023 by Brigitte