Polihale Beach on Kauai – Hanalei Bay may be the most famous beach on Kauai but Polihale beach…. ahh, there’s nothing like Polihale Beach Kauai. 7 miles long set against a backdrop of craggy outlooks along the beach “where the souls depart” according to the ancient Hawaiian people. It’s stunning, it’s glorious and it’s a must see beach on Kauai.
The Westernmost Beach on Kauai
Polihale is the most western beach on Kauai that you can access by car. It is 7 miles long and as it is a State park, there are no homes along the beach. That makes for a beach as beaches should be – no buildings except for a couple of camp bathrooms here and there.
Access is all the way west of the island, past Waimea town and Kekaha, past the Pacific Missile Range. You turn off the highway just before it stops and then drive on a dirt track for a good 20 minutes. You absolutely need to be in an SUV and preferably 4wd. Car rental companies usually include a clause stating that the rental car is not allowed to be taken to Polihale so beware. Polihale Beach Kauai is isolated but gorgeous.
Fantastic for Camping
Polihale is a favorite camping spot for locals. Most families go for a minimum of two nights or up to 5. Pack all the gear, all the food, all the water, take some toys and you’re all set for a few days of truly getting away from it all in nature. No phones, no electricity, no modern life.
Yes, there are bathrooms and outside showers at the designated camping spots but no electricity.
We always go for a minimum of 3 nights.
Attention First Time Campers! Whilst Polihale is an amazing place to camp, be aware that at weekends it abounds with local families who quite rightly claim Polihale as their own and quite often do some or all of the following : drive huge trucks up and down the beach, have atvs which they ride around the sand dunes, etc. The reason I state that is because a woman was accidentally run over and killed whilst sleeping on the sand one time a few years ago.
It is wonderful to sleep out on the sand dunes near your site under the stars. However, only do that if you have rolled some rocks or something else to block anyone in an atv or truck. Otherwise stick to the designated camping spots. Permits are available online here
Note: Lock any valuables in your car at Polihale.
Polihale Beach Kauai is an absolutely stunning beach but as stunning as it is, so it can also be dangerous. Polihale has big waves and whilst it is ok get wet in the edge of the water, please be careful. There is a big shorebreak and sand bar and if you get pulled on the other side of that the rip tides are very challenging. My family and I only ever literally stay on the edge just to cool off and are always very careful. Surfers show up in the winter (Jan/Feb) when the waves are perfect for them.
Polihale is known as a great place to find sunrise shells. However, due to the popularity and thus value of sunrise shells, this has made it into something of a business and it’s lost the innocent charm of waking up and strolling along the beach and “wow!” finding a lovely sunrise shell.
Last time I was camping there, I was woken up on the sand dunes by a massive light coming from right near the water. Turned out to be both the headlights of a big truck and a commerical grade fishing light like a lighthouse light waving back and fro from the truck picking out any shells. It was 3am. Sad really.
Favorite with Local Families
Again, Polihale is the preferred hang out for locals who live nearby and from across Kauai (and Hawaii) who come there at weekends, holidays and whenever they can. It’s so good to see everyone out enjoying the beauty of Polihale Beach Kauai. And they know how to do it too. They come with extended family, at least two or three pop up massive Sun shades, gear to grill with, tons of food and they have fun! The kids run around. The men hunt goat in the mountains and Waimea valley (or pig) and the women hang out and prepare food. It’s a true Kauai tradition. Please be respectful of them.
Hawaiian Cultural Site
The jutting crags above the beach at the tip host one of the Hawaiian Heiaus, a Sacred Site to the Hawaiian people. It is “where the souls depart” and a very important site to the people not just on Kauai but across the islands.
It is truly spectacular to watch the sun set over this incredible view and it seems fitting that this is where souls depart.
At night the stars at Polihale are phenomenal. Star gazing all across Kauai is always incredible but it takes on a grander scale at Polihale. The scale & magnificence of the night sky is something we rarely see these days. Camping at Polihale is worth it just for that!