Dispatches from Paradise: On Kauai, life's a beach.

Kauai overwhelms your eyes and senses with extraordinary beauty everywhere you look. Not the least of which is the island’s beaches. Varying from rugged lava rock coastline and crashing waves, to favorite surfing beaches, beaches graced with palm trees and miles of sand, incredible snorkeling havens and beaches gentle enough for a baby to wade in their parents’ arms, there is something for everyone to discover. Some are easily accessible and popular. Others are hidden spots for those willing to hike and descend narrow, slippery trails or clamber down large lava rocks to capture a world of solitude. 

Whatever you seek in a beach, it awaits you on the island of Kauai. 

Many of Kauai’s beaches have memorable names, or are immortalized as famous film locations for movies such as South Pacific or The Descendants. It’s quite a feeling standing on the same rocks or sand where Mitzi Gaynor once washed that man out of her hair, or where George Clooney went for a morning run. 

 Map of the principal beaches of Kauai. Source:  The Parrish Collection Kauai.

Map of the principal beaches of Kauai. Source: The Parrish Collection Kauai.

Have fun. But be safe.
As beautiful as Kauai’s 91 beaches are, the island’s waters can also be very dangerous. Since 1990, over 200 people (150 of whom were tourists) have drowned in the waters off Kauai. Strong rip currents and rogue waves abound, especially during the winter months, challenging even the strongest and most experienced swimmers. Kauai’s locals take water safety very seriously, and you should too - virtually every Kauai resident has had a near-drowning experience.

A perfect example is Queen's Bath on Kauai's North Shore. It can be a spectacular place but is also extremely dangerous. Huge winter swells keep visitors away, but in the summer months, Queen's Bath can look very enticing. But days when the ocean is only four feet can bring in deadly rogue waves that have claimed many victims. Be smart. View Queen's Bath from a safe distance above. 

If you’re planning to go out into the ocean, do your homework. Ten of the island’s beaches have lifeguard stations, and each is excellent. You might be tempted to swim, snorkel or bodyboard the island’s unattended beaches, but if you’re not a pro, think twice. Should you get in trouble on an unattended beach, you’re on your own. And that could have tragic consequences.

To play it safe, consider swimming at lifeguarded, enclosed reef or rock beaches such as Lydgate, Ke'e, or Poipu Beach. But no single beach is guaranteed to be a safe place to swim on a given day. Conditions change rapidly and every beach on the island can be dangerous, depending on daily water conditions. When in doubt, ask a Kauai lifeguard. They are highly trained and experienced. 

 Don't ignore the posted signs. Ever.

Don't ignore the posted signs. Ever.

Some things to remember for ocean safety on Kauai:

Swim at one of Kauai’s 10 lifeguarded beaches. The lifeguards can advise you on current conditions.
Obey posted warning signs.
Conditions can change. Fast. Waves come in sets, so observe ocean conditions for at least 20 minutes before going in.
Don’t swim alone. Always swim with a buddy.
Be aware of rip currents. Seriously. Your life could depend on it. 
If you’re caught in a rip current, DO NOT fight it. Stay calm, float, don’t panic, and wave for help. Go WITH the current and safe your energy.
When in doubt, don’t go out.

To learn more about Kauai beach and ocean safety, visit the Kauai Beach Guide website. If you have an iPhone, download the Kauai Beach Guide App.

Some great sources of information about Kauai beaches can be found at:

The Parrish Collection Kauai - Beaches Web page
Activity Kauai - Best Beaches Web pages
Kauai Beaches Guide Web page

And please be sure to take six minutes to view the Kauai beach safety video below. It's time well spent. 

Be safe and have fun. Aloha!

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