Information and Beach Analysis
Location: Between Pu'upoa and Makahoa Points, Hanalei.
Description: Hanalei Bay, the largest bay on Kaua'i, is bordered by a white sand beach approximately two miles long and 125 feet wide. The beach is located between Hanalei River to the east and Waipa River to the west. Three rivers, Hanalei, Wai'oli, and Waipa, cross the beach, mixing some stream-carried sediment into the beach sand at the east and west ends. Most of the beach, however, is clean, white sand. The ocean bottom slopes gently to overhead depths. Several shallow sandbars are located in the center of the beach. Large coral reefs are found only at the ends of the bay, Pu'u Poa Reef to the east and Waikoko Reef to the west. Some smaller patch reefs are found in the center of the bay.
Three beach parks are located on Hanalei Bay: Black Pot Beach Park, Hanalei Pavilion Beach Park, and Wai'oli Beach Park. Each of them has restrooms, showers, and parking. Several public rights-of-way are also located along the bay. Black Pot Beach Park borders the mouth of the Hanalei River and is also the site of a public boat ramp and a 300-foot-long pier, the former Hanalei Landing.
Precautions: Hanalei Bay is subject to high surf, especially during the winter months. High surf generates a pounding shorebreak and powerful rip currents along the length of the beach that, over the years, have caused a number of drownings and neardrownings. Lifeguards are stationed at Black Pot Beach Park. Check with them before going in the water.
Highlights: Hanalei means "lei-shaped bay," a fitting description of this almost perfectly circular bay. With over two miles of clean, white sand bordering its inner margin and a backdrop of waterfalls and mountains peaks ranging from 1,000 to 4,000 feet high, Hanalei Bay is considered by many visitors and residents to be the most beautiful beach setting in Hawai'i. One of the best views of the beach is from the Princeville Hotel, located on the bluff above the east point of the bay.
In addition to its beauty, Hanalei Bay offers just about every ocean recreation activity in the islands, from boating to windsurfing. During periods of high surf, if you are not an expert bodyboarder or surfer, you can still kayak through the solitude of the taro fields along the Hanalei River.
Black Pot Beach Park, at the eastern corner of the bay, has for many years been the traditional gathering place for residents of Hanalei. The area was named after a large, black community cooking pot that sat in the park for many years, and although the pot is now long gone, residents still use the name and continue to congregate there. Hanalei Landing, the long pier at the west end of the park, was constructed in the early 1920s when interisland steamers were still the primary means of transportation. Today, the pier is used only for fishing and swimming. Off shore, the pier is a midbay anchorage on a sandy bottom at depths of thirty-five feet. Many yachts and other large boats anchor here during the calm summer months, when Hanalei Bay becomes a popular destination for trans-Pacific and interisland sailors.
This description is taken from John R. K. Clark's book - Hawaii's Best Beaches which is published by University of Hawai'i Press and available from University of Hawai'i Press. We thank John R. K. Clark for providing his description of Hawaii's beaches to improve beach safety.