Despite its nickname, visitors to Donkey Beach are not going to see any four-legged hoofed animals roaming about. But what visitors will see and enjoy is a gorgeous, secluded beach along Kauai’s eastern shoreline perfect for sunbathing.
Officially called Paliku Beach, this Kauai beach earned its donkey moniker due to there once being pastures of mules and donkeys nearby. This was back during the era of heavy sugar production on the islands and farmers needed those animals to haul sugar cane from fields to the farmhouse. Today, however, the big herds of mules and donkeys are gone, but visitors are likely to see other wildlife among the sand and surf. In fact, Monk Seals are commonly sighted lazing about the sand here.
Paliku Beach also used to have a reputation for nudist and clothing-optional sunbathing. That is partially thanks to its being more secluded than most popular beaches on Kauai. You cannot just drive directly up to Paliku Beach. Rather, visitors will need to exit Kuhio Highway (between the 11 and 12-mile markers) and head to the end of Kapoli St. for parking. Then, follow a 1.5-mile multi-use paved path down a tree tunnel to where it intersects with another walking and bike path that runs up and down the shoreline. Turn right onto this second path, and shortly you will see Paliku Beach on your left.
Today, while every once in a while you might stumble on some individuals sunbathing in the nude or partial nude, it is rare. Things got a bit crazy during the nudist heydays and eventually, the surrounding landowners and community got frustrated enough to rally for anti-nudity laws. Now, not only are there anti-nudity laws, those laws are more readily enforced here. So if you don’t like nudity beaches, you can feel confident you aren’t apt to stumble upon a nudist here. If you enjoy partaking yourself in bare beaches, proceed with extra caution. Citations are likely.
Seclusion is one reason why Paliku beach become renowned for nudist sunbathing, the other reason is due to the fantastic nature of the sand itself. Paliku Beach is crescent-shaped comprised of soft, golden-hued sand. This sand is very deep and so sunbathing here feels like sunbathing on a cloud. Plus, there seems to always be a fresh ocean breeze, so you won’t feel too hot while laying out. A few trees provide some shade on the southern end of the beach while the northern end is dotted with lava rocks.
Unfortunately, sunbathing and beachcombing are about the only things you will want to do at this beach because while the view here is beautiful, the surf conditions are more dangerous than not. Snorkeling is never an option here. On some days, the wave conditions are good for surfing and bodyboarding but doing so is not advisable unless you are familiar with the local water conditions and their changes.
-There is a small hill you will walk down and then walk back up to access the beach from the parking lot. So if you’re planning on a picnic, you might want to bring some wheels for a heavy cooler.
-There are public restrooms located at the parking area for those worried about stopping before or after for a bathroom break.
-The often dangerous water conditions (no lifeguard is stationed here) combined with this being a popular sunbathing spot for Monk Seals make this beach spot not the best choice for families with young children. Remember, Monk Seals, while cute, are wild animals and can become dangerous and aggressive. Especially when they have their own young around. So stay respectful and keep your distance when sighted.