Running south along Kauai’s aptly named Coconut Coast (the island’s eastern shore) from the mouth of the Wailua River, Lydgate Beach Park provides one of the island’s best coastal hangouts for families. There’s a bit of something for everybody here: from ace fishing at the river mouth to the sheltered swimming and snorkeling offered by double pools protected from the raw ocean surf.
The well-loved Lydgate Beach Park comes named for one Reverend John Lydgate, not only a man of the cloth but also a surveyor, newspaper editor, and managing director of the McBryde Sugar Company. A student of Native Hawaiian history and culture as well, Lydgate identified an ancient Hawaiian temple and a Place of Refuge—a sanctuary for those who broke Kapu, or traditional law—around the mouth of the Wailua River here in the early 20th century, and lobbied for the creation of a park to protect them.
You can access Lydgate State Park, which is a stone’s throw south of Wailua, via a parking lot with ample spaces along Nalu Road. Walls of boulders (breakwaters) block off two saltwater “lagoons” along this oceanfront: a large and deep one suitable for many visitors, and a smaller, shallower wading pool absolutely ideal for younger children.
These buffered, sandy-floored basins offer some of the safest and most accessible swimming and snorkeling access on the Coconut Coast. It’s not only the gentleness of the waters that invites young and old under the surface here: There’s generally a plethora of tropical fish on hand in the larger pool, including puffers, yellowtail wrasse, parrotfish, angelfish, tangs, and even moray eels. Snorkelers can appreciate the variety at its finest!
Lifeguards watch over Lydgate Beach as well. Still, those swimming outside of the rock barriers should exercise caution, as waves and surf can be rough. Furthermore, storms and heavy seas can wash logs and other debris into the protected pools, so stay aware. Park staff and volunteers work hard to clear out such material out on a regular basis, though major storm deposits may temporarily close the park.
Lydgate Beach is well set up for family visits given the protected picnic tables and pavilion, plus restrooms, showers, and two different kid zones: the Kamalani Playground and the Kamalani Kai Bridge (the latter actually designed by local tykes!).
The park includes a 2.5-mile paved path open to walkers and bicyclists alike. Eventually, this wonderful walkway will link into the longer coastal route of the Kauai Path. Whether you’re cycling or strolling, keep your eyes peeled in wintertime for spouting humpbacks offshore!
Anglers enjoy the fishing at the Wailua River mouth and surf-casting opportunities along the beachfront, reeling in wrasses, goatfishes, and other prizes. Windsurfers, meanwhile, find good conditions at Lydgate when Kona (south) breezes are blowing. Campsites are available for overnight stays with the proper permit. And if you’re a movie buff, you might thrill at the fact that Lydgate Beach served as one of the filming locations for the classic Elvis Presley vehicle Blue Hawaii.
All things considered, Lydgate Beach Park’s an excellent place to go on a family vacation in Kauai—and has plenty of appeal for those kicking back here without young ones, as well.
-Respect the deep-rooted Native Hawaiian heritage at Lydgate Beach: Don’t enter or otherwise disturb the Hikinaakala Heiau temple area at the Wailua River mouth.
-If the winds are blowing the right direction, keep in mind Lydgate Beach State Park can receive an unpleasant aroma from a nearby wastewater treatment plant.