Best Shell beaches on Kauai

Cowrie shell on hand

There’s something timeless about walking along a beach looking for shells isn’t there?   From the time we are children, it’s something we all want to do!   Splash about in puddles on the beach and look for shells… and oh!  what a prize when we find one!     Kauai has many beaches and so here’s my pick of the best shell beaches on Kauai!

Shell in the ocean

A Shell on the edge of the water

North Shore

The Beach by Alamo’o Road ~ Kepuhi Point

This is the beach right in front of Alamo’o road, that’s the dirt track road which is just north of the Hanalei Colony Resort.   There’s beach access on both ends of Alamo’o and you can usually park on Alealea road.

It’s not a great swimming beach, there’s lots of rocks and stones but there’s also lots of pools because of that.   Great for little kids to look for tiny fish and “cucumber” fish and shells.    In the gaps between the shells, I’ve been gifted with more than a few big cowrie shells among others.    It’s on the best shell beaches on Kauai.   Shhhh.   If you want to know about Kauai’s Top Beaches in general, check out my post on that here.


Shell in hand on Kauai


Big wave beach Lumahai can yield some amazing shells….. just be careful in the water.   And be especially careful up on the rocks on the north end of the beach.   But the other end and in between, you may come across some finds…. a great shell beach on Kauai!       While you are shelling, you may reflect on the beach where the old classic movie “South Pacific” was filmed and Mitzi Gaynor singing “gonna wash that man right out of my hair!”

Big Shell on beach

Gorgeous Shell on the beach

Ka’aka’aniu Beach (Larsen’)

Within a couple of weeks of arriving on Kauai 19 years ago,  a lovely woman told me about this beach, which very soon became (and still is) my favorite beach on Kauai.   As she said “best shell beach on the island”.   Indeed it is.    Not sure why… but there seem to be more shells here than anywhere else.    Shelling at Larsen’s is a wonderful experience.

A Heart Shell on the sand

Heart Shell in the Sand

I recall a few years ago camping with some friends down the end and one of the group spending hours sifting through the sand looking for (and finding the much sought after Ni’ihau shells… those tiny pink and red mini shells that are made into the famous Ni’ihau Leis (necklaces).   He spent 3 days doing that and came out with just under half a small glass jar.   Not even enough for one necklace.   But if you are patient!

I have found many different shells at Larsen’s… but the gifts of the shells fade into the background compared to the peace and joy of just sitting and sifting or walking along Ka’aka’aniu beach.    The best shell beach on Kauai!

East Side

The Beaches by Wailua

The stretch of beaches from Wailua to Kapa’a encompasses quite a few beaches including the big family beach – Lydgate – and the beach behind the Lanikai Resort and the one in front of the newest (even though it’s a couple of years old now!) Lava Lava Cafe on the beach.

Not great swimming beaches (apart from Lydgate) you can find a few shells if you look carefully at the right time of day.


Cowrie shell on hand

Beautiful Cowrie Shell


South Shore


This remote beach is a great shell beach on Kauai.    It’s only accessible by driving 20 mins down a dirt track (past the Hyatt and CJM stables.. go to the end, turn right and keep going).

Shell on the beach at Sunrise

Shell on the beach at Sunrise

Mahalepu is my favorite South Shore beach; it has a wonderful hike on the north side above the ocean and some beautiful views and great shade in amongst the pine trees and shrubs.    Beautiful!   And shells!   What more could you ask!


West Side

Glass Beach

Glass beach is in Hanapepe and here you may find (depending on the tide) tiny pieces of glass that wash back and forth with the tide.   Apparently there used to be a dump there many years ago and this is where the glass came from.   It’s certainly pretty when the pieces are shimmering in the sun.


Ahhh… Polihale.   Well it may be a trek to get there even in your 4 x 4.. but it’s worth it.    Gorgeous 7 mile beach, stunning pointed cliffs and miles of ocean.    And shells.    Including Sunrise shells & Puka shells.

Looks like a Sunrise shell

Sunrise Shell? No, just similar….

The Shell above is not a sunrise shell, though it looks similar.   A Sunrise Shell on Kauai looks like a Sunrise….a half moon of yellows and oranges and reds with the shape above.   Stunning.   I don’t have a photo of one that I took… hence the once above, which is also lovely.

A couple of years ago I was there camping (more on camping on Kauai here) with the girls and we were sleeping up on the sand dunes (to make sure we wouldn’t get run over by big trucks on the beach!) … It hardly ever rains at Polihale so you can do that; nothing like looking at the canopy of the stars…. magical!       So there we were asleep and suddenly we were rudely awakened by the sound of an engine revving and bright, bright lights below at the shoreline.     It was an hour before daybreak but some local family were looking for Sunrise shells…. the big truck a few feet from the water and a lady out front with a massive police type light that was lighting up the entire beach but definitely spotlighting the sand.   It’s sad that this is happening.   That’s a business… and I understand people need to feed their families… but it takes the magic out of it.   Finding a sunrise shell that way is just money…. (sunrise shells are sold for quite a bit) .  Finding a sunrise shell when it’s just a gift from the ocean… ah that’s special.   But don’t let that story deter you.    Polihale is one of the best shell beaches on Kauai and an amazing experience!

Kauai has some outstandingly beautiful beaches; these are just some of the best shell beaches on Kauai!   Happy shelling!


Best Shell beaches

About the Author

Kauai Advisor ~ Francesca Azuremare ~ has lived on Kauai for 22 years. I feel blessed to live in such a magical, beautiful place. Over the years I have helped thousands of people find the perfect place to stay on Kauai whilst also advising on everything from places to propose to the best Na Pali boat ride. Now I'm sharing that information here. It's the Hawaiian way. Aloha!

  • Boni says:

    What a life! To live in such a beautiful place filled. With all the beauty of nature~🌈😌

    • Kauai Advisor says:

      Hi there, thanks for the comment. Yes, it’s a place full of natural beauty, paradise in many places. Aloha. Francesca

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