The official name for the Kauai Secret Beach is Kauapea Beach. While it is not really a secret, it is a relatively new discovery for tourists, opening in 1974. The fact that Kauapea itself is only accessible by hiking down a cliff adds to its sense of mystery. The beauty of the landscape and the beach itself, however, makes Kauapea Beach worth the trek.
Description of the Kauai Secret Beach
Kauapea is a pristine beach, approximately 3000 feet long. Part of its beauty is derived by the magnificent play of colors: fine white sand, brilliant turquoise water and the red and black cliffs surrounding it. It also boasts waterfalls and black lava outcrops. The Kilauea Lighthouse is clearly visible in the east, perched on a cliff.
The beach is located on the northern tip of Kauai, about a half mile west of Kilauea. Take Highway 56 to Kalihiwai Road and turn right. Follow this road for about 50 yards and then turn right onto an unmarked dirt road. Stay on the dirt road about a half a mile until you reach a small parking lot. Park your car and follow the trail at the northwest corner of the parking lot. The path is steep and can be slippery when wet; wear appropriate shoes and clothing. The trail will lead to the west end of the beach. The hike down will take about five to seven minutes; the hike back up about 10 to 15 minutes.
What to Do and See
On the hike down you'll see some breathtaking vistas. Enjoy the beautiful plants on the trail, such as taro plants, ironwood trees and other Hawaiian foliage. When you arrive at the beach, take in the panoramic view of sand and water.
Kauapea's ocean is risky for swimming; not for anyone except the very experienced swimmer. There is no lifeguard on duty or any facilities. Kauapea has no reef protection; consequently the surf is rough, and waves break hard and the currents are very strong, even in summer. The ocean floor has a sharp descent. In winter, the beach can almost disappear under crashing waves.
Instead of swimming or snorkeling, plan to enjoy the seclusion. The hike down does not encourage a large beach excursion with umbrellas and coolers. Instead, opt for a picnic lunch, sunbathe and explore the beach. Take a dip in the lava tide pools along the west end. Look for the lush lagoons or small waterfalls. A quarter of a mile west is a larger waterfall that crashes into the ocean. If you arrive at sunrise, look for dolphins resting off the shore.
While nude sunbathing is illegal in Kauai, expect to find a few clothing optional bathers at the Kauai Secret Beach, especially at the east and west ends. Officials discourage the practice but enforcement is not strict.
Tips for a Visit
- Pick a dry day for your visit. Kauai's weather can be unpredictable, check forecasts before you go.
- Don't leave valuables in you car; take them with you or leave them at the hotel. Be sure and lock your car while you're away.
- There are no shops or vendors. That is part of Kauapea's charm. Bring beverages and food with you.
- If you are offended by nude bathers, stay in the central part of the beach or pick another day activity.