Kauai North Shore Information
Kauai's North Shore past the town of Hanalei is one of the most beautiful spots on Earth. This is a truly remarkable place, a tropical paradise with verdant mountains, lush jungles and golden beaches. The area was hit hard by record-breaking flooding in April 2018. Several huge landslides caused by the flooding closed the North Shore's only road, and the area wasn't reopened to visitors again until the summer of 2019.
With the reopening of the North Shore to visitors, new rules have been introduced to better manage the number of visitors to this very popular destination, while also ensuring local residents are not overwhelmed with traffic through their rural neighborhoods. A shuttle service has been initiated to cut down on traffic, and prior reservations are now required to visit Ke'e Beach and the Kalalau Trail. The new rules, and various types of permits, can be somewhat confusing, especially to new visitors to the island. Moreover, a few local residents have disseminated false information to tourists about access to the North Shore, claiming there is no parking at all beyond Hanalei without a permit. This is absolutely not true, and in fact, with the exception of Ke'e Beach, access to all beaches is the same as before the flood. The following information is intended to help you on your visit to Kauai's North Shore.
First, a little information about the area. After Hanalei, the two-lane road continues for another 7.3 miles. The road follows the coastline. Some sections are next to the coastline, while other sections are set back behind beaches and coastal homes.
There are a number of beaches along the way, all beautiful beyond words. Lumahai Beach and Tunnels Beach are two noteworthy beaches. All beaches on the North Shore, and parking where available, are open to visitors without a permit except Ke'e Beach at Haena State Park.
There is parking in the trees and along the roadway at Lumahai Beach.
Lumahai, favored by local residents, has an expansive beach but dangerous waters. It's best not to go in the ocean here. A favorite spot at Lumahai Beach is near the mouth of the Lumahai River. Usually calm waters provide a nice water playground, complete with a rope swing, between the roadway bridge and the mouth of the river. Dangerous waves breaking on the rocks, and a possible rip current, make the actual mouth of the river a proven dangerous place. There are parking spots in the trees behind the beach and also along the roadway. You do not need a permit to either visit or park at Lumahai Beach.
Parking at Haena Beach Park (Tunnels Beach)
Tunnels Beach (known locally as Makua) is also a favorite destination. This gorgeous beach has a famed, world-class coral reef that is popular with snorkelers. There is free parking for Tunnels Beach at Haena Beach Park, which adjoins Tunnels Beach. You do not need a permit to either visit or park at Haena Beach Park. However, parking is limited, and an early morning (or late afternoon) arrival is best for securing a parking spot.
At the end of the road is Ke'e Beach and the famous Kalalau Trail. Both require prior reservations to visit. There are several different permit options, depending on whether you are taking the shuttle, driving and parking, or being dropped off. All permit options sell out quickly, so due diligence is needed to ensure your success in obtaining a permit. Here are the different options:
Entry Only: If you are being dropped off at Ke'e (and not parking or taking a shuttle) you only need an Entry Only voucher to visit Ke'e Beach and the first part of the Kalalau Trail. The Entry Only voucher can be purchased at www.gohaena.com. Click on Park Reservations and select Entry Only in the Select Voucher Type drop down menu. Parking is not included with the Entry Only voucher. The Entry Only voucher is for people who are walking, bicycling, carpooling, ridesharing or taxiing to Haena State Park. The cost of an Entry Only voucher is only $1 ($1.05 with tax).
Shuttle: Since parking at Haena State Park is limited to 100 spaces, the Kauai North Shore Shuttle may be your best bet to visit Ke'e Beach and the first part of the Kalalau Trail. There are two pickup locations for the shuttle, the Princeville Makai Golf Club in Princeville and Waipa Park and Ride which is right past Hanalei. We recommend the Waipa location since parking here is free. The Princeville Makai Golf Club charges $15 for parking and parking is limited. There are shuttles that leave throughout the morning at 30 minute intervals. The cost is $15 per passenger and DOES INCLUDE ENTRY INTO HAENA STATE PARK. The reservation also includes the return trip. If you print your reservation be sure to keep it for the return trip even if they don't ask you for it on the morning run. If you want to use your phone for the reservation, take a screen shot of the reservation with the QR code, as cell phone service is often not available at the Haena drop off point. Also, if you plan to hike to Hanakapiai Falls on the Kalalau Trail, be sure to get an earlier shuttle run so you will have time to make it to the falls and back to the pickup point by 5PM when the last shuttle leaves. We have seen the dates available for the shuttle anywhere from about one to three weeks out (as of this writing on September 1, 2019). However, in the future, dates may be offered even farther out. When planning your trip to Kauai, it's best to check availability daily or every few days to ensure that you are able to reserve spots before they sell out.
Haena State Park Parking Lot
Parking Reservations: Parking reservations are the most convenient way to visit Haena State Park, and they are also the most in demand, so due diligence is needed to ensure your spot. There are three time periods available for parking: Morning 6:30AM to 12:30PM; Afternoon 12:30PM to 5:30PM; and Sunset 4:30PM to sunset. The 12:30PM to 5:30PM is the most sought after time slot. Reservations are good for only the times indicated. You can also purchase two time slots, or even three time slots for all day, though not all time slots may be available on a given date. We have seen the dates available for parking anywhere from about one to three weeks out (as of this writing on September 1, 2019). However, in the future, dates may be offered even farther out, so your attention is required to ensure your success in obtaining a parking voucher. Parking reservations are available at www.gohaena.com. The cost is $5 per time period ($10 for two time slots and $15 for all three time slots) and includes admission for everyone in the vehicle.
There have been a few issues that have not been worked out with parking. The first issue is that more than a few visitors overstay their morning time slot, leaving not enough parking spaces for the afternoon time period. Also, we have been told (by the shuttle attendants) the sunset time slot is not needed since there are always enough parking spaces during that time. However, to be safe, it would be best to purchase that time period if you are planning to stay past 5:30PM.
Additionally, know that whatever method you use (drop off, shuttle or parking), you must still walk about a quarter of a mile from the parking area/shuttle dropoff to Ke'e Beach. This can be very inconvenient for those carrying coolers, chairs and more to the beach. Plan accordingly with selected/limited items or use something with wheels such as a small wagon or ice chest with rollers.
Kalalau Trail Options
The trailhead for Kauai's famed Kalalau Trail is at Ke'e Beach and access to this trail also falls under the new rules.
The trail generally follows the coastline of the Na Pali Coast for eleven miles to its ultimate destination Kalalau Beach. Access to the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail (to Hanakapiai Beach) is included with the Entry, Shuttle and Parking permits described above. Also included with these permits is the two-mile hike from Hanakapiai Beach to Hanakapiai Falls.
To go the full eleven miles you will need a special camping permit issued by the Division of State Parks. Napali Coast Camping Permits are available at https://camping.ehawaii.gov/camping/all,details,1692.html and can be purchased up to 90 days in advance (as of this writing). Napali Coast Camping Permits do include acess to Haena State Park (Ke'e Beach). However, since overnight parking is not available at Haena State Park, permit holders should either arrange to be dropped off at the park or use the shuttle. These permits are a much sought-after item and due diligence is crucial in obtaining permits.
Update: Overnight parking is now available in coordination with the North Shore Shuttle at Aliʻi Kai Resort in Princeville. For more information please call (808) 826-9988.
Entry Only Voucher: For those being dropped off at Haena State Park, includes access to Ke'e Beach and the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail (and Hanakapiai Falls). $1 per person at www.gohaena.com
Parking Voucher: Limited parking at Haena State Park with three time slots - 6:30AM-12:30PM, 12:30PM-5:30PM and 4:30PM to sunset. Includes access (for all individuals in vehicle) to Ke'e Beach and the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail (and Hanakapiai Falls). $5 per vehicle per time slot at www.gohaena.com
Kauai North Shore Shuttle: Shuttle service from Princeville and Hanalei to Haena State Park. Includes access to Ke'e Beach and the first two miles of the Kalalau Trail (and Hanakapiai Falls). $15 per person at www.kauainsshuttle.com
Napali Coast Camping Permit: Includes access to Ke'e Beach and all eleven miles of the Kalalau Trail including several waterfall hikes and overnight camping. Hawaii residents $15 per person per night, non-residents $20 per person per night (maximum five consecutive nights) at eHawaii.gov. Does not include transportation to trailhead.
Update: Overnight parking for Napali Coast Camping Permit holders is now available in coordination with the North Shore Shuttle at Aliʻi Kai Resort in Princeville. For more information please call (808) 826-9988.