Set on Kauai’s Coconut (eastern) Coast between Kapaa and Anahola, Kealia Beach is a popular place both in and out of the water. This handsome half-mile stretch of pale sand, set between two rocky hooks, draws surfers, bodyboarders, swimmers, and sunbathers who, among much else, appreciate the easy access right along Highway 56 (and the plentiful parking).
The name of this beach is one seen across the Hawaiian Islands. “Kealia” means, roughly speaking, a “salt-encrusted place.” It references the onshore pools that would linger here after high surf or big tides, offering good salt-harvesting grounds.
A sandbar off Kealia Beach provides irresistible surf breaks; you’ll often see both surfers and bodyboarders playing in the waves. This is one of the more reliable surf spots on the Coconut Coast across the year.
When conditions aren’t too rough, swimming is also a possibility here, particularly at the north end of the beach, protected by a jetty. (That jetty, by the way, is a remnant of Kealia Landing, which once served inter-island ship traffic here.)
But, listen up: Waters can be dangerously rough at Kealia Beach when the surf’s heavy, churning up the underwater sandbar, exposing rocks, and producing nasty rip currents. That’s particularly the case during the winter, but you should be wary any time of year. People have drowned here. Definitely heed any warnings from the lifeguards posted here, who can also generally give you a sense of what the water’s doing on a given day.
Besides the lifeguard station, Kealia Beach offers restrooms, showers, and picnic tables and pavilions. Whether you’re getting in the water or not, this means it’s a fine place to hang out, soaking up that Coconut Coast magic. You’ve also got the Kapaa Coastal Path ready at hand for strolling and bicycling.
This east-facing beach—which, by the way, was a filming location for the 2011 George Clooney film The Descendants—makes for a great place to watch a middle-of-the-Pacific sunrise. It also provides ideal seascape sightlines for whale watching during the winter.
The humpback whales that come to Kauai to calve this time of year are huge but surprisingly agile, and you’ve got a great chance of seeing their spouts, flipper and fluke slaps, and even full-body breaches when you kick back at Kealia Beach. Come here at daybreak during the winter for the chance to see humpbacks cavorting against the sunrise: sheer Kauai magic right there!
Kealia Beach is a wonderful place to head for on Kauai’s east shore if you’re a surfer or boogie-boarder, and also a nice choice for beachcombing, sunbathing, and—when conditions cooperate and you’re practicing caution—swimming.
-The dirt parking lot serving Kealia Beach can get a bit rutted and potholed, so use caution driving in and out to avoid vehicle damage.
-Kealia Beach isn’t the best hangout on very windy days.