Polihale State Park is located on Kauai’s west shore, in fact, it is almost just about as west as you can get on Kauai. This beach neighbors the Napali Coastline, meaning that here you can enjoy the beach as well as dramatic views of the Napali cliffs.
While Polihale State Park is an incredibly popular location, it remains a bit rough to get to. You will have to take a five-mile dirt road to get to the beach and that road does flood during storms. This flooding is sometimes so bad that it can render the route impassable. So take care before venturing out by always checking the local weather conditions for this part of Kauai. But even without rain, you are going to want a 4×4 vehicle to get out to the beach. Once at the beach, you can take your vehicle out onto the beach itself, taking care to navigate around the sand dunes which can reach heights of 100 feet tall. However, note that almost all of the rental car companies on Kauai prohibit their vehicles from being driven on the dirt road through Polihale State Park and so taking one of their vehicles to this park may lead to substantial fines if caught or found stuck.
Unlike other Hawaiian state parks, this beach does not have an online reservation system for day visits. You can go anytime the park is open, which is generally sunrise to sunset. Additionally, there is no admission fee for day use. That said, there is a fee and reservation required if you plan on camping out here — which is definitely recommended for those looking for a wilder experience of the Hawaiian islands.
Despite not having an improved, paved road, Polihale State Park does have some amenities. There are flush toilets, semi-private showers, running cold water, and a couple of picnic pavilions that offer shade and space to make and prepare food. Unfortunately, there is no medical facility or lifeguard station and, once on the beach, you won’t be close to any trees for shade from the sun.
The big reason why there are no lifeguards at Polihale State Park is because swimming is not recommended here. The beach’s location makes it prone to very hazardous rip current and high and relentless surf that can catch even experienced swimmers unaware. Furthermore, the remote nature of the beach makes it difficult for fast, safe rescue in the event of an accident that can be called in.
There is, however, sometimes a calm pool of water known as the Queen’s Pond. You will see signs for this as you drive down that main drag. Queen’s Pond is located at the southern end of Polihale State Park and is a saltwater indention made by the ocean when it recedes during low tide. When it occurs, it is an ideal place for wading and swimming.
So why go to a beach that requires all-wheel drive to get to, is not recommended for general swimming, and has next to no shade to escape the sometimes intense Hawaiian sun? Because it offers unequaled views. Polihale’s remote location and its being surrounded by massive sand dunes and towering sea cliffs make it a downright gorgeous place to visit. Especially when the sun slinks down towards the ocean. Once the sun has finally disappeared, linger for awhile and enjoy the outstanding stargazing opportunities available at this beach thanks to its being so far away from resort communities and big Hawaiian towns.
-The sand here is not as soft as it is elsewhere on Kauai. That coarseness paired with it being more friendly to hiking and sightseeing makes it so that you should pack more appropriate footwear than basic thong sandals.
-The camping here is truly fantastic as you get to enjoy all of the benefits of the park’s remote nature — gorgeous sunsets, unimpeded stargazing, tons of hiking, ocean and cliffside vistas — with the benefits of quality campground amenities. If you can only camp one night on the island, make it this location.