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Ke'e Beach | Kauai, Hawaii: Full-Day Itinerary by a Local Mom (+kid friendly options!)


Ke'e Beach Overlook on the Kalalau Trail, Mile Marker 0.25

Ke'e Beach is one of the most special places on the island. It is the last car accessible point on the North side before the Na Pali Coast begins. To get there you will need to plan a little in advance (unless you have a HI state ID—then the rules do not apply). The permit process (see below) can feel a little overwhelming, but it is totally worth it. Prepare for epic views of the Na Pali Coast, crystal clear waters, towering cliffs meeting the ocean, and incredible snorkeling, paired with delicious local food!


WHAT YOU'LL NEED

• all seasons: hiking shoes & socks, bug spray, SPF, water, towel, change of clothes, backpack

• summer: snorkeling gear


WHAT TO WEAR

• bathing-suit, flip flops, t-shirt & shorts

 

ITINERARY


STEP 1: BREAKFAST

Location: Kalalea Juice Hale @kalaleajuicehale

Distance: Your first stop is in Anahola about 45 mins North of Poipu.

Why you need to visit: This is a locally owned and operated juice bar with the most amazing selection of juices, fresh coconut, smoothies, shave ice, coffee and the best açaí bowl you've ever tasted! My go-to order is the King Kong açaí bowl with the fruit salad topping of the day. My kids love their homemade popsicles and drinking out of a coconut! This is a casual order at the counter and eat at the picnic tables kinda place, with amazing mountain views.

How to get there: GOOGLE MAP



STEP 2: PICK-UP LUNCH

Location: Healthy Hut Market & Cafe @healthyhutkauai

Distance: Just 10 mins down the road is the Healthy Hut Market.

Why you need to visit: this is our go-to local health food store that has a coffee bar, groceries, and a grab-n-go section. They have amazing wraps, dips, and salads that are delivered every day—get them while they last! I also pick-up some snacks for the kids and treats for myself! This is a local spot where shoes are optional 🤙🏼

How to get there: GOOGLE MAP

Healthy Hut Market & Cafe, Kilauea

STEP 3: ARRIVE AT DESTINATION

Location: KE'E BEACH

Distance: 40-45mins from Healthy Hut

What to expect: this stretch of highway from Healthy Hut to the end of the road is breathtaking. You will pass through Princeville, Hanalei and eventually (40-45mins in total) make it to Ke'e Beach. You know you have almost made it when you see Limahuli Garden & Preserve on your left. Next drive over Limahuli Stream—literally, the stream flows right over the road, then you will come to the gate where you show the rangers your permits. Make your way to the parking lot—and... you've made it!

How to get there: GOOGLE MAP

parking lot at Ke'e Beach

STEP 4: HIKE

Location: KALALAU TRAIL

Distance: From parking lot to beach/trailhead it is 0.3 miles

What to expect: After parking, change into your hiking gear and pack your lunch, snacks, water and beach items. Walk along the boardwalk through the taro fields, then onto the dirt trail though the jungle. Before the trailhead there is a facility area—this is the last restroom that you will see before returning.

Enter the trailhead to the left of the beach entrance right past the facilities. From here you have a few options:

Option 1 - Ke'e Beach Overlook

Difficulty: kids and/or beginner

Distance: 0.25 miles EACH WAY or about 30 mins roundtrip What to expect: take the trail 0.25 miles up a large incline. The views at the top are amazing, but the incline is steep, the trail can be slippery and the rocks make the terrain challenging. My husband carried our at-the-time 2 year-old most of the way, but my then 4 year-old did awesome!


Option 2 - Mile Marker 0.5 with views down the coast lines

Difficulty: little more adventurous, kids still OK

Distance: 0.5 miles EACH WAY or about 1 hour roundtrip

What to expect: keep going after mile marker 0.25 to 0.5 for panoramic views of the coastline!


Option 3 - Hanakapi'ai Beach

Difficulty: intermediate hiker and/or middle school aged kids

Distance: 2 miles EACH WAY or 2-4 hours roundtrip

What to expect: this is a very challenging trail with lots of slippery and muddy sections. The second half of the trail is all down hill as you make your way down to the beach. Hanakapi’ai Beach is a beautiful, but dangerous place to swim. The cool stream with it's big boulders spilling into the ocean make for a perfect lunch spot. Note that anything past Hanakapi’ai Beach requires extra camping permits.

BONUS HIKE: if you're feeling very adventurous and have some extra time (and an Entry Only OR Shuttle/Entry Pass OR both the Morning/Evening Parking/Entry Pass) I would recommend hiking in 1.8 miles (ONE WAY) upstream to Hanakapi’ai Waterfall. You DO NOT need a camping permit for this portion. There are a lot of false trails, but just stay close to the water. You can swim in the pool, but be careful of falling rocks!



STEP 5: SWIM

Location: KE'E BEACH

Distance: a few yards from the trailhead

What to expect: after hiking on the Kalalau Trail get ready to cool off in the beautiful waters of Ke'e Beach. Head to the facilities where you can change into your bathing suit and use the restrooms. The beach is protected by a reef that only has one opening on the far left side. Big waves mean big currents at the opening. Pay attention to the surf and only go in if calm. During the summer months the water can be glassy like a pool. When in doubt ask the lifeguards.



STEP 6: DINNER

Location: HANALEI

Distance: head to your car and drive back to Hanalei (20 mins) for a relaxing dinner. Depending on your mood I recommend the following places:

Tahiti Nui, if you are feeling pizza and fun atmosphere GOOGLE MAP @tahitinuihanalei

Kalypso Island Bar & Grill, local favorites with a fun atmosphere GOOGLE MAP @kalypsokauai

The Dolphin, sushi and fresh fish right on the Hanalei River GOOGLE MAP #thedolphinhanalei



STEP 7: DESSERT

Location: WISHING WELL SHAVE ICE @wishingwellshaveice

Distance: quick stroll down the road

Why you need to visit: end the day with a shave ice from Wishing Well. Lines can get long, but it is worth it! They have organic options for shave ice, açaí bowls, smoothies, coffee and more. They use sustainable products and your beverage even comes in a custom mason jar that says "slow yourself down"—which you get to keep. I usually get coconut guava shave ice and the kids get 🌈

How to get there: GOOGLE MAP


 

PERMITS

The permits are a little bit of a situation, but they are in-place to control the amount of people on the trail and the beach—making it all the more special! Here is what you need to know:


OPTION 1: PARKING + ENTRY PASS

Includes: State Park entry pass. very limited availability and fills up quickly!

What you need to know: to secure this option go on the GoHaena site one month out from your desired date and purchase. These are sold out a lot and people wait up to purchase when the clock turns 12:01am Hawaii time.

Price: parking reservations are by timeslot. $10/timeslot, plus $5 entry pass per person in the vehicle and 3 years & under are free.

Morning: 6:30 am – 12:30 pm

Afternoon: 12:30 pm – 5:30 pm

Evening: 4:30 pm – sunset




OPTION 2: SHUTTLE + ENTRY PASS

Includes: State Park entry pass

What you need to know: the bus lines can be rather long, but dependable and depart every 30 mins out of Waipā 6:30am - 11:30am daily. Shuttles depart Hā‘ena State Park every 30 minutes 7:00a – Noon daily, and then again from 2:00p – 5:30p on no set schedule (buses depart as they fill up, first come, first seated). You can purchase shuttle/entry permits up to 1-month in advance on the GoHaena site. This reservation is good for ALL DAY until the last shuttle pick-up.

Price: $35 per adult 16+, $25 ages 4-15 and 3 years & under are free.




OPTION 3: ENTRY PASS ONLY

Includes: driving in with a local or walking/biking in from Hā’ena parking lot

What you need to know: Visiting a Kauai resident or traveling with someone with a Hawaii ID? This is the option for you! You can purchase entry only permits up to 1-month in advance on the GoHaena site. This reservation is good for ALL DAY.

Price: $5 per person—children 3 years and under enter for free.




Ke'eBeach-Kauai-Itinerary
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Download PDF • 83KB

 

LOCAL TIPS

  • DOWNLOAD TICKETS to your phone OR PRINT in advance.  *No cell service along route and at the park.

  • you cannot park at Hā’ena Beach and walk into Ke'e Beach without an ENTRY ONLY permit. They are very strict about permits. Be sure you're going on your reserved day and time slot.

  • parking fills up quickly—get there before 9am if possible, 10am is pushing it

  • when skipping the hike and just visiting the beach there is no need to lug an umbrella—the trees provide lots of shade.

  • there is a very nice facility right before the beach and trailhead that includes outdoor showers and restrooms.

  • if you are interested in doing the full 11 miles (ONE WAY) to Kalalau Beach, check out the GoHaena site for more information.

  • there is a 0.3 mile walk from the parking lot to the beach—pack-out what you pack-in

  • take care of Kauai and please use reef safe sunscreen 🐠 🧴 🐟 and stay on the trails—see some of my favorites below👇


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