Polihale State Park

#3 in Best Things To Do in Kauai
Polihale State Park picture
Polihale State Park
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Key Info

Highway 50

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
4.2scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 2.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Located on Kauai's west coast, Polihale State Park is the last beach before the Napali Coast begins. On the northern tip of the beach, you can enjoy an eyeful of the edge of Napali's cliffs, and south of that, you'll have a whopping 17 miles of shore all to yourself. Because the beach is so big, it's rarely crowded. But that's also thanks in part to the road to the beach, which is an unpaved, dirt path that stretches for about 5 miles. It's so uneven that some rental car companies prohibit driving on this road. Since the road can sometimes floor during heavy rain, you'll want to check conditions before you go.

Recent visitors agreed the road to Polihale is definitely rough, but many said the beauty of the beach is more than worth the journey. The roaring waves coupled with the striking cliffs as well as the beach's lush dunes and soft sands left visitors in awe. Because it is a trek to get to the beach, travelers suggest making a day of it by bringing a picnic or even camping (for a fee), both of which are allowed. And if you have the time, stay until sunset. According to recent visitors, the sunsets here are otherworldly.

Polihale Beach, while more remote, does have picnic tables and bathroom facilities, though visitors say the upkeep of the latter could use some improvement. It is important to know that this beach is not for swimming. The only safe area to swim at is Queen's Pond (not to be confused with Queen's Bath in Princeville), which is a separate pond in the middle of the sand and is not connected to the beach. This beach is best for photos, long walks and lounging. It's also important to note that there is very little shade on this beach, meaning the sand can get uncomfortably hot. There are no set entrance hours for Polihale State Park and no admission fee, but considering the rough road conditions, it's best to visit during the day. For more information on Polihale State Park, visit the Hawaii State Park's website.

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Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park
Napali Coast
Type
Time to Spend
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#1 Waimea Canyon and Koke'e State Park

Waimea Canyon, aptly nicknamed the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," should be at the top of every traveler's itinerary. This 14-mile-long, mile-wide and approximately 3,600-feet deep gorge is awash with spectacular scenery difficult to find elsewhere on the Hawaiian islands. Here, you'll find craggy red cliffsides and crested buttes blanketed in lush, evergreen vegetation as far as the eye can see, with waterfalls and rivers dotted in between. Most travelers who visit Waimea Canyon choose to take in the sight by car, as there are multiple lookout points situated along Koke'e Road, including the popular Waimea Canyon and Puu Hinahina lookout points. If you're hoping to explore outside your car, there are trails in the canyon that range from easy to difficult. Many trailheads can be found off of Koke'e Road, with some, including the Cliff Trail Lookout and the Waipo'o Falls Trail, accessible from the Pu'u Hinahina lookout point. 

While at Waimea Canyon, be sure to pop over to the equally stunning Koke'e State Park. What makes Koke'e Park so interesting is that despite being right next to Waimea Canyon, the park has a completely different makeup. Koke'e Park occupies thousands of acres of rainforest, and as such produces a different microclimate (the farther you drive up Koke'e, the colder it gets). Like Waimea, travelers commonly explore the park via car, as the main road through Koke'e cuts through the park. While here, be sure to visit the Kalalau Lookout and the Pu'u O Kila Lookout for stunning views of the Napali Cliffs. If you want to get even closer, consider taking the Awa'awapuhi Trail, which takes hikers to the edge of some of Napali's famous cliffs. Another trail worth trekking is the Alakai Swamp Trail, which spends more time going through the park's rainforest. Wherever you decide to hike, whether it's in Waimea Canyon or Koke'e, bring proper hiking shoes to avoid falling from the slippery mud often found on Kauai trails. 

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