Set along the Kuhio Highway and close to where that road peters out at Haena State Park, Haena Beach Park is another of the utterly gorgeous seashores strung along the lush North Shore of Kauai. (Not far west, the highway ends, and the sheer, roadless NaPali Coast—the spectacular and remote northwestern margin of Kauai—takes over.) You’ll find it about six miles west of Hanalei at about Highway 560’s mile marker 9, with parking available right at the entrance.
You might also see Haena (“red hot”) Beach referred to as Maniniholo Beach, a name that comes from the manini, or convict, fish that abound in these waters. The beach lies along Maniniholo Bay about midway between Kailio Point to the west and Haena Point to the east. The Manoa Stream, which rises in the rugged mountains to the south, enters the Pacific at Haena Beach.
This roughly 5.5-acre park makes for an excellent sunbathing and beachcombing spot, and a solid place to get in the water for swimming and snorkeling. A solid place, that is, so long as the conditions are placid.
And the surf is often decidedly not particularly placid at Haena Beach Park, given the shore here lies between two reefs (Makua to the east and Hauwa to the west) and doesn’t itself have a protective coral buffer offshore.
In winter, the big waves, strong rip currents, and fierce shore break off Haena Beach should definitely keep you landbound. This time of year, though, you’ll still have a blast here sinking your bare toes into the sand and watching top-level surfers do their thing in the surging rollers. (The beach sits between two of the Kauai North Shore’s truly legendary surfing spots, Cannons, and Tunnels beaches.)
Even in summer, be aware that the currents here may be too strong to permit safe swimming or snorkeling—err on the side of caution. There is a lifeguard station here, but it’s not always occupied, so just be careful and exercise sound judgment.
As we’ve already alluded to, though, Haena Beach Park is well worth a visit even if you don’t get into the water. The scenery is beautiful, with the jungly ridges of northern Kauai—including the much-photographed Mount Makana, which starred as “Bali Hai” in the movie version of South Pacific—providing a stunning backdrop along with the wide-open Pacific.
This beach definitely calls out for a leisurely stroll and a bit of shelling; the so-called “puka” shells with their distinctive holes are common finds.
You’ll find restrooms, outdoor showers, and picnic tables at Haena Beach Park, plus a campground on the east side where you can pitch a tent with the proper permit. Vendors commonly sell food and drinks at Haena Beach as well.
Whether you’re here in the summertime—able perhaps to slip on some swimfins and do a little snorkeling—or you’re watching the hang-10 show play out in the impressive breaks of winter, Haena Beach Park is definitely worth a stop on a tour of Kauai’s North Shore!
-Right across the road from Haena Beach Park lies the popular Maniniholo Dry Cave, a family-friendly cavern set at the base of a jungly cliff. Definitely spare a few minutes to check it out while you’re here!
-Kayak tours exploring the NaPali Coast often launch from Haena Beach Park, and that’s an experience well worth considering given that roadless pali– (or cliff-) lined oceanfront is one of the world’s most gobsmackingly gorgeous places.