Scenic Drives: Kauai’s Kapaa to Kilauea

The drive from Kapaa to Kilauea is one of Kauai’s most scenic routes. Here are four great stops to check out along the way.

1. KEALIA BEACH. Just past mi. marker 10, this long, golden sand beach—teeming with surfers—is visible from the highway. A dirt parking lot at the northern end, past a lifeguard stand, provides access to the most sheltered part of the beach. Swimmers are advised to stay within the protective breakwater. Only seasoned bodyboarders and surfers should attempt to battle the giant waves.

2. DONKEY BEACH. Named after the pack animal once used in the nearby plantations, this beach was once Kauai’s most popular unofficial nude beach, but has since lost that status due to police crackdowns. A half-mile past mi. marker 11, a short, unmarked driveway leads to a small parking lot. From here, the beach is a 10min. walk. Trees provide a bit of shade. The waves come fast, so swimmers stay close to shore; incredibly strong breaks challenge even experienced surfers.

3. ANAHOLA. A sleepy little community inhabited mostly by Native Hawaiians, Anahola’s major attraction is its mile-long stretch of family-friendly surf. Immediately after mi. marker 14, the first Aliomanu Rd. (southern branch) leads to the northern half of Anahola Beach Park. Most residents favor the more protected waters of the southern end, accessible from Anahola Rd. between mi. markers 13 and 14. Camping is available here with a permit every day except Thursdays.

4. KOOLAU RD. Turn right onto Koolau Rd. A narrow country road flanked by working farms and leafy plantations, Koolau Rd. forms a loop whose ends connect to Hwy. 56; two of the area’s prettiest beaches await. On the south end is Moloaa Beach, which hides behind a wall of secluded homes. To get there, turn right on the first Koolau Rd., between mi. marker 16 and 17. Turn onto Moloaa Rd. toward the beach and drive mi. Keep to the left, and park on the left near the end of the road. Walk to the right, to the southern end, where the daunting waves give way to gentle swells. Larsen’s Beach can be reached from a road about 1 mi. south of the point at which Koolau Rd. intersects Hwy. 56, heading toward the ocean. A “beach access” post marks the turn onto the dirt road which leads to a trail to the beach. Snorkelers will enjoy clear waters during the calm summer months; at other times, a strong rip current can make the waters unsafe.

START: Kapaa

FINISH: Kilauea

DISTANCE: 13 mi.

DURATION: 2-3hr.

SEASON: Any.

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