It is hard to imagine Hawaiian coastal shores and beaches without surfers. These islands are often cited as among the world’s best for surfing conditions — and those conditions include great spots for longboarding as well as catching tricks on a shorter surfboard.
Yet, while it is absolutely true to say that the Hawaiian islands have some of the best surfing spots in the world, it is also true to say that not all of the waters here are suitable for catching waves. The island of Kauai offers a good example of this; with some truly excellent spots for beginners, some premier spots for advanced surfers, some top-tier waves for all levels, and plenty of either meh surfing areas, or areas that may prove to be dangerous for all levels of surfers.
So before you head out to that beach spot, consider first this list of premier surfing spots located on the island of Kauai:
1. Hanalei Bay – Best Overall
Located on the island’s northern shoreline, Hanalei Bay offers a gorgeous setting with its massive crescent shape that offers sweeping views of nearby mountains. This spot is so beautiful, that it’s said to be the most photographed location on the island. So go ahead and take a moment to soak up those views.
Yet, as beautiful as that landscape is, it’s only a part of the icing on the cake behind why Hanalei Bay is considered the best overall surfing spot. Here, the bottom is all sand and remains shallow for a considerable way out. During the summer months, the shore breaks are just right for beginners and novices to enjoy while the winter months bring in wilder and larger swells that offer up a challenge for more experienced surfers. For those more seasoned surfers, the very best time to surf Hanalei Bay is during the winter when the wind brings in northwest swells. When that happens, you get some of the longest waves in Hawaii.
2. Shipwreck Beach
Shipwreck Beach is located on the southern shore of the island with the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa bordering it on its inland side. But while that massive hotel does feature prominently here, this is not a resort-only beach and you will, in fact, find plenty of locals as well as visitors enjoying the fantastic waves here. You can access this beach either via the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail that runs along its border or by a public parking lot at the end of Ainako Street.
Shipwreck Beach gets its name from, surprise surprise, a large boat that wrecked here many, many decades ago (so long ago that the remains of that wreck are long gone). The reason for that shipwreck is the same reason why surfing here is so good: The swells can get pretty big and sometimes pretty rough. Beginners should take caution during those exceptionally windy days, but otherwise, this is a good place to surf for all levels.
Winter is a great time for surfing at Shipwreck Beach but also a great time for whale watching here. The cliffs just along the edge of this beach offer exceptional viewing of the waters off the breakers where many migrating whales like to play and feast on those abundant Hawaiian fishing grounds.
3. Kealia Beach
Kealia Beach is a wide crescent beach located on the eastern side of Kauai near the town of Kapaa. This beach is a good choice for novice to intermediate surfers as while this part of the island does get some rough waves when the wind picks up due to its exposed nature, the waves are generally predictable and of a good size for experimenting.
Kealia Beach is most popular during the summer when breakwater protects much of the northern part of the beach. Lifeguards are generally on duty during this time of the year and should be your go-to for immediate surfing conditions.
The southern end of the beach is better suited for surfers who are more familiar with the terrain as the sandbar often shifts following storms and seasonal weather patterns. This can make for unexpected and potentially dangerous breaks for the uninitiated.
4. Poipu Beach – Best Beginner-Friendly
Poipu Beach is a very popular beach located on the south side of the island. This is a beach located within a busy tourist area and the clear waters and posted lifeguards make this beach probably one of the most visited beaches on Kauai.
Experienced surfers may find the conditions here a bit too easy and a bit too crowded for their liking, but we think this beach is perfect for beginners. In fact, many of the top surfing schools and trainers in Kauai base their starting lessons here thanks to the beach’s consistent southerly swells combined with its otherwise beautiful water conditions. So go ahead and book your lesson or rent your surfboard right in town and walk over to Poipu Beach and enjoy some immediate, high-quality hang time.
5. Pakala Beach
If Poipu Beach is one of the most crowded beaches on Kauai, Pakala Beach is one of the least. But there is a reason for that. The water here is very murky, especially when you consider it next to the clear and soft turquoise blue waters elsewhere in Kauai. Such murkiness means you’re not going to want to just hang out and swim here as there isn’t visibility for underwater hazards, but the upside is that that same murkiness keeps the crowds at bay.
Pakla Beach is located along Hoanuanu Bay and offers excellent waves throughout the year. The eastern side of the beach boasts the real sweet spot for its consistent surf breaks.
Learn More About Kauai’s Beautiful Outdoors Spaces
Surfing offers an excellent way to experience Kauai’s beautiful shoreline — but it’s certainly not the only way you can enjoy Kauai’s beautiful outdoors. It’s not even the only water-focused way! This island has so much to offer visitors, including snorkeling tours and windsurfing. Learn more about Kauai’s best attractions and best locations by visiting our other pages.