Pakala's Beach, looking east — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
On the west side of Kauai, just outside of Hanapepe, is a hidden gem of a beach. Pakala's Beach is a lesser-known swimming spot and surf break, and it's accessible via a three-minute walk through brush and trees from Kaumuali'i Highway.
Pakala's Beach is both remote and very quiet, but not quite as picturesque as other Hawaii beaches. However, it's an ideal place to go for some alone time, a long walk or jog down the beach, yoga or even some beachcombing. The compact fine sand, which makes it great for running and yoga, is reddish, reflecting Kauai's famous red dirt on the west side.
The beach is roughly 500 yards long and has a river running into the ocean. The surf break is called Infinities. It's basically a locals-only spot, so don't try to paddle out. This is not a beginner's spot.
The small rock pier to the east is a nice place to stand and watch surfers catch waves. The water is quite shallow and gradually gets deeper, so beach-goers can wade out a bit. Look for the trail head on the side of Kaumuali'i Highway just after mile marker 21.
Pakala's is a beautiful, secluded beach ideal for some alone time. Make sure not to leave any valuables in the car, since it'll be left in a secluded spot on the side of the road.
A view from the rock pier at Pakala's Beach — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
At the end of the west side, well past Waimea, the white sand stretches for miles. Tall sacred cliffs are dotted with goats, chickens scamper around the beach and the clear blue water offers good surfing and a refreshing swim. Watching the sunset over the forbidden island of Ni`ihau from Kauai's shore creates a special end to a day spent here.
Also on the west side just past Pakala's but far inland is Koke'e State Park. Just north of Waimea Canyon, inland from the Na Pali Coast, lies this rugged state park, spread across 4,345 mountainous acres. Especially popular with nature lovers, the park offers terrific scenery and plenty of outdoor activities, from hiking to pig hunting to trout fishing (with pre-arranged licenses).
Temperatures at this elevation are a bit cooler than elsewhere on the island, so you'll want to dress accordingly. Plus, nature trails crisscross the landscape, and camping is available. The park also features a lodge, museum and visitors center, where you can check park conditions before venturing onwards.