Kawailoa Bay is a small bay and beach that boasts turquoise water and beautiful sunbathing opportunities on Kauai’s southern shores. Its reliable ocean breezes have made it incredibly popular among windsurfers and kitesurfers, but that is not all it has to offer for those willing to make the trek to this part of the island.
The sandy beaches of Kawailoa Bay are not the easiest beaches to get to on the island of Kauai. That is because this bay lies just beyond the backroads of the Old Koloa Sugar Plantation. This is a distant, undeveloped corner of the island and the roads here are not paved, nor is there any local or state support for other park amenities here. To reach the very basic beach parking area, you will need to take mostly backroads southwest from Koloa and hope that you have good enough traction on your vehicle to make it down the dusty and sometimes muddy beach roads.
If you don’t feel confident in taking your rental vehicle down plantation backroads, there is an alternative route. But it will involve some hiking. Begin by parking at the small public parking lot for Shipwreck Beach, located at the far western end of Poipu. The added bonus of parking at Kawailoa Bay is easy access to clean public restrooms and showers. Once you’re cleaned up and ready to go, follow the signs for the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.
The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail is a coastal hiking trail that meanders along the beautiful dunes, beaches, and cliffs for several miles on Kauai’s southern shoreline. Start walking east from Shipwreck Beach on this trail and in about two miles, you will reach Mahaulepu Beach. Kawailoa Bay is just around the point; you can either continue walking on the sand around that point or hike inland and follow the dirt road to a more accessible point. This latter method is preferable during high tide.
In fact, even during low tide, the beach here does not stretch too far from the more solid land above. This nearness to canopies of ironwoods and tropical trees makes for ideal picnicking and general lounging conditions. There are some lava tubes on one end of Kawailoa Bay here and plenty of old lava and other rock formations can be found around the beach.
There are some protective reefs further out in Kawailoa Bay, but not enough to fully protect this strip of beach from heavy waves. The surf often gets dangerous here and, because there is no posted lifeguard, all visitors should practice caution before entering the water. Sneaker waves are common and can really hurt an unsuspecting swimmer.
The good news is that during the winter months, the wind and surf at Kawailoa Bay are generally calmer and more controlled. Many days, conditions are ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing, and it is very likely for beachgoers to see these boards out in the waves. If you are experienced in either activity, you might consider renting equipment from a nearby outfitter to bring to Kawailoa Bay.
Winter is certainly the most popular time for people to hang out on Kawailoa Bay, but even then, you aren’t apt to encounter many crowds. Kawailoa Bay simply isn’t very popular due to its remote combined with it not being the best for general swimming. The upside of this is that when you go, you will often have the beach to yourself or will only share it with a few locals and other adventure-minded island guests.
-The winter months at Kawailoa Bay are also fantastic for sunset viewing due to the sun’s path. Just take caution because one route to the beach may have you going through gates that will get locked at sunset. Hiking to the bay from Shipwreck Beach is a much better option.
-Monk seals commonly are sighted lounging and playing along Kawailoa Bay. Give them their space but make sure to bring a camera to share your wildlife sightings with friends and families.