A Hawaiian monk seal lounges on Ke'e Beach.

Keʻe Beach

Top choice in Hanalei Bay & the North Shore

Long renowned as one of the North Shore’s most glorious beaches, lovely Ke‘e Beach, beside the Kalalau trailhead at the end of Kuhio Hwy, has been given a new lease of life by recent parking restrictions. There’s usually safe swimming in the reef-enclosed area at its western end, hard against the Na Pali cliffs. Always follow lifeguards’ advice, however; Ke‘e’s looks can be deceptive, and vicious currents can suck swimmers through the reef and out to sea.

Walk eastwards along the sands, fringed by trees that seem to perch on spiders’ legs since erosion exposed their roots, and you’ll soon start getting sensational views back along the Na Pali cliffs.

Ke‘e is no longer notorious for overcrowding now that the only access is via a scenic quarter-mile boardwalk from the road’s-end parking lot, for which permits have to be booked well in advance. The North Shore Shuttle stops there, and waits to pick up passengers until 5pm daily.

Ancient lava-rock platforms on the slopes immediately west of Ke‘e are said to be where the art of hula was first developed. They’re not currently accessible to visitors, so these days Ke‘e serves instead as a place for a refreshing dip to hikers fresh from the Kalalau Trail.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Hanalei Bay & the North Shore attractions

1. Kaulu Paoa Heiau

0.09 MILES

The roaring surf was a teacher to those who first practiced the spiritual art of hula, chanting and testing their skills against nature's decibel levels…

2. Wet Caves

0.37 MILES

Two wet caves lie within Ha‘ena State Park. Carved by the endless pounding of the ocean, the massive cavern of Waikapala‘e Wet Cave is as enchanting as it…

3. Limahuli Garden

0.45 MILES

Perhaps the most beautiful spot on an island of unsurpassed beauty, this magnificent garden is a must-see stop on any North Shore itinerary. Besides…

4. Haʻena Beach Park

1.08 MILES

At this beautiful county-run beach, just under a mile before the end of the road, the sea is usually smooth and safe for swimming in summer. Ask…

5. Maniniholo Dry Cave

1.11 MILES

Flat-bottomed Maniniholo Dry Cave, across from Ha‘ena Beach Park, is deep, broad and fun to explore, though the further you penetrate, the lower the…

6. Na Pali Coast Wilderness State Park

1.61 MILES

Pristine and hauntingly beautiful, this 16-mile-long stretch of soaring green-clad cliffs, white-sand beaches, turquoise coves and gushing waterfalls is…

7. Makua (Tunnels) Beach

1.65 MILES

Yet another too-good-to-be-true North Shore beach. Named for the underwater caverns and lava tubes that pepper the near-shore reef, Tunnels ranks among…

8. Lumahaʻi Beach

3.68 MILES

Countless Kauaʻi locals consider Lumaha‘i their favorite beach on an island blessed with dozens of beauties. It’s utterly cinematic, with thick loamy sand…