Polihale is a 7 mile long remote beach located on the western side of Kauai. Also referred to as Polihale State Park, this beach covers a vast area of unspoiled nature, away from hordes of tourists or the modern amenities of a resort. Visitors spend a day relaxing on a semi-deserted beach surrounded by clear sea waters, sand dunes, and the Na Pali coast cliffs in the background. Polihale Beach is definitely a must see and one of the hidden gems of Kauaii.
What to do at Polihale
- Discover a semi-deserted beach: take a nice long walk, or simply lay on the beach, while enjoying the incredible landscape. Women can easily find a secluded area to tan topless unbothered.
- Take a dip in Queen’s pond: the best area to leisurely swim in the ocean, as the waves are usually not too strong.
- Enjoy the waves: most fun with a floatie or a boogie board. Only go into the open sea if you are an experienced swimmer.
- Go shore fishing: one of the best spots is all the way North, by the cliffs.
- Admire one of the best sunsets in Kauai: you can witness unspoiled views of the sun passing the horizon.
- Camp overnight: make some s’mores, look for shooting stars, and listen to the wild goats bleating in the mountains.
How to get to Polihale
Directions: You can only drive to Polihale beach from the South side of the island. It is about an hour drive from Poipu(30mi/50km): Simply drive West on Route 50 (Kaumualii Highway) until the road ends. At the fork, take a right and then take the first left onto the dirt road that will lead you to Polihale State Park. At the big Monkey Pod tree, turn left for the camping area and Queen’s Pond, or turn right to head to the northern most part of the beach.
About the rough last few miles: The last 5mi/10km stretch of the drive is considered off-road driving. The road is a bumpy dirt/gravel road, and is recommended for 4WD cars only. By the end of the drive, the sand progressively replaces the dirt and gravel until you reach the parking areas. We did not run into any issues driving a Jeep Wrangler.
If driving a midsize car, you will need to proceed with caution. Do not try it if there has been heavy rainfall, as the road usually floods, making it only accessible by 4WD vehicles. If the road is dry, it is advised to drive slowly (15mph), and to turn left at the Monkey Pod tree to minimize driving in the sand.
Some people drive on the beach: Instead of parking at the designated parking areas, some locals in 4WDs drive onto the beach with their cars. If you look at the satellite view of Polihale on Google Maps, you can actually see tire marks in the sand. Although it is fun, be aware that you can easily get stuck in the sand, even with Jeep, so proceed at your own risk (see “A Word of Caution” below for our tips)!
Before you go to Polihale
- Check for Polihale State Park closures. The road leading to Polihale State Park is sometimes closed due to flooding. Check the Division of State Parks website for closure announcements.
- Make sure you have a spare tire. You will drive though rough terrain on the last 5mi/10km. Be equipped appropriately in case you get a flat tire.
- Download offline directions to Polihale: You might lose cellphone service as you get close to the beach. Download offline maps before you get there to avoid getting lost. If you are not familiar with offline maps, read our Tips article How to Use Google Maps Offline.
- Plan ahead and pack a picnic. There is no place to to get food nearby. The closest place on the way to Polihale is Menehune Food Mart in Kelaha; about 30mins away. Alternatively, there are some more options in Waimea.
- Don’t forget any must have beach items. Polihale offers basic amenities (restrooms, showers, and shaded picnic areas), but you will need to bring all other necessities. At a minimum bring sunscreen, a beach umbrella, and a cooler to avoid suffering from the sun. Check out Must Have Beach Gear That Fits In A Suitcase for a comprehensive packing list.
- Deflate your tires if you want to drive on the beach. Switching your car to 4WD mode is mandatory but not enough to drive on the sand. You must also deflate all four tires to about 20psi (or less) to increase their footprint, and minimize their tendency to sink in the sand. That means deflating a Jeep Wrangler’s tires by about 50%, as normally inflated tires are at about 38psi.
- Get a camping permit if you plan on staying overnight. You have to reserve your permit on the Hawaii DLNR Online Reservation System website ($12 fee).
A Word of Caution
- Big waves, strong currents and no lifeguard on duty. If you are not an experienced swimmer, only consider swimming in the Queen’s Pond area. Although it is a lot of fun, you need to be very confident in your swimming skills if you decide to venture in the open sea area. There are no lifeguards on duty, so you will be on your own if there is any issue. Once in the water, you will encounter pretty big and powerful waves, especially when the tide changes. We suggest you bring a flotie and make sure you do not carried too far away from the shore. The surf and the currents are much stronger in the winter months, so extra care will be required.
- Be aware of your car rental contract. Some car rental agencies will not allow you to drive to Polihale, and none of them will allow you to drive on the beach. Although they would never know you have been there if all goes according to plan, it is important to note that AAA does not cover Polihale and towing fees are astronomical. Therefore, drive carefully on the dirt road, and if you do not have any experience driving onto the sand, it is best to park at the parking area instead of venturing onto the beach. Moreover, some car rentals will charge you an extra fee if the car is too dirty upon returning it. Bring it to a gas station to vacuum it, or go to the car wash if you have excessive red dirt on the body of the car.
- The sun is particularly strong on the West side of Kauaii. Avoid a sunstroke by staying hydrated, wearing a hat, and reapplying sunscreen regularly. Also bring a cooler to keep your drinks fresh and a beach umbrella to get some shade. Make sure you your beach umbrella is sturdy enough to withstand the strong wind gusts.