Waimea Beach in west Kauai provides a serene spot for watching the sunrise. // © 2018 Scott Laird
Feature image (above): Clients have the place to themselves at Secret Beach in west Oahu. // © 2018 Scott Laird
Enormous tourism growth has made many of Hawaii’s landmark attractions feel crowded. Some travelers, on a quest for finding their own perfect stretch of sand, may put themselves in danger by visiting places with unseen hazards. Others might upset residents by trespassing or disturbing areas considered culturally important.
Here are four safe, legal and secluded beaches that clients can enjoy — all to themselves.
Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii Island
Hawaii Island isn’t generally known for large expanses of endless beaches. Instead, the shoreline is mostly punctuated with caves and cliffs. Debris from lava flows and changing currents mean beaches can arrive and depart on the island’s shores with the tides.
Those not lucky enough to happen upon such pop-up beaches can depend on the shores of Kealakekua Bay. Clients can park at Hikiau Heiau and relax in the picnic area at the heiau (temple). Clients can also walk along the shore, rest under a tree or sit on the stony beach and listen to the sounds of the surf. On most days, their only company will be the rock crabs that camp out on the seawall. This is a culturally treasured site, so activities should be kept quiet and reflective.
Polihua Beach, Lanai
Lanai has some 3,000 residents and no traffic lights, so almost any place on the island is secluded. At Polihua Beach on the far northwest tip, however, it’s common for visitors to have the place entirely to themselves.
Polihua is a trek from the resorts on the other side of the island, and a four-wheel drive vehicle is a must. But once there, visitors enjoy unspoiled vistas of Molokai and even Oahu on clear days; fine sand; and sometimes endangered green sea turtles, who also prefer to sunbathe without crowds. The beach is not swimmable due to its strong currents, and visitors should take plenty of water and inform their car rental company or hotel of their plans, since the area is located miles away from any facilities.
Secret Beach, Oahu
Within the Ko Olina Resort complex in west Oahu awaits a small, hidden beach with a royal past. Although access to this beach is hampered by the lack of free public parking, visitors already staying or playing at Ko Olina resorts such as Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa are located just a short walk away. The payoff is calm surf, tranquil swimming and general solitude. Queen Kaahumanu, consort to King Kamehameha I, is said to have bathed here daily on regular visits away from the capital.
Secret Beach provides a far more natural Hawaii beach experience than the man-made lagoon beaches at the resorts. It fronts some off-limits private property, so be sure to pay attention to the posted signs.
Waimea Beach, Kauai
With just one primary lodging option, Kauai’s dry, sunny west side is by far the island’s least crowded coast accessible by road. Waimea Beach has fine brown-black sand that is great for beachcombing and leisurely strolls, and it offers views of the island of Niihau across the channel. Swimming isn’t recommended, because the beach is near a river mouth and the water is consistently murky — which also helps keep away the crowds.
Fronting the historic Waimea Plantation Cottages, this beach has a lazy, secluded feel and lack of modern development that imparts a strong character of old Hawaii. It’s not difficult to imagine how British Captain James Cook was transfixed by the island’s charms when his expedition first anchored offshore in January 1778.