Lumahai Beach is located on the north shore of Kauai, at the mouth of Lumahai river. This is the place where Lumahai river joins the Pacific ocean.
Lumahai beach was featured in the 1958 classic ‘South Pacific’, based on which it is sometimes called ‘Nurses Beach’. To this day, Lumahai beach attracts romantic couples from all over the world and many of these couples choose to get married on this spot.
Though popular among the masses, Lumahai beach is infamous for its strong waves and undertow (currents that move off-shore when the waves approach the shore.) Hence, it is considered unsafe for swimming, most of the year. Unlike the popular beaches in Kauai, Lumahai beach serves as a perfect relaxation spot and is not a place for water activities.
The beach can be divided into the Kahalahala and Lumahai portions, each with different characteristics. While the western or the Lumahai portion is wide open to the strong ocean currents, the eastern portion is relatively calm as it is protected by a natural rock barricade.
How to Get to Lumahai Beach
You can get to Lumahai beach by driving along the Kuhio highway (Highway 560) to the north of Princeville. As you drive past Hanalei (Bay) towards Haena, you will reach the access points to the beach.
There are two ways to enter Lumahai beach. To access the eastern portion or the Kahalahala beach, park your vehicle at the lookout just before mile marker 5 and descend the 100 foot trail. The lookout offers a splendid view of the beach from the top, which explains why this spot is so revered by the world.
However, finding the exact spot can be somewhat difficult as there are no directions pointing to the beach. There are a few unpaved turnouts along the way. Look for a small paved parking lot and a fresh trail that leads to the beach (not up the cliffs.)
The trail will lead you to a swim hole protected by rock barriers. Jumping into the swim hole is not advisable, and it is recommended that you carefully assess the ocean conditions before deciding to make the plunge. The kahalahala portion of the beach gets more visitors and is lovingly called ‘Tourist Lumahai’.
The second entry point is at the western end of the beach or the Lumahai beach. This is where the Lumahai river joins the ocean. To access this point, drive past mile marker 5 until you reach a bigger parking lot near Lumahai river. As you walk through the ironwood forest, you’ll come across another swim hole at the end of Lumahai river. Swimming in the freshwaters is much safer than in the ocean. You’ll often see children jumping into the river from over the bridge.
There is a rocky ridgeline near the mouth of the river. Though it is tempting to walk towards the end of the ridge and get intimate with the ocean, it is highly dangerous to do so. The rocks are slippery and the rough waves can easily drag you towards it. Few folks call Lumahai beach as “Luma-Die”, possibly for the same reason.
The Scenic Lumahai Beach Walk
Lumahai beach is a one mile stretch of white sand and is rich in scenery. This long, crescent shaped beach, rests beneath a backdrop of volcanic cliffs with lush vegetation. The sand here is a mixture of several compounds that impart a yellowish green colour to the beach.
Lumahai beach usually sees less traffic and has plenty of shade to rest. Considering the regal setting, this is one of the best beach walks you can have on the north shore. The entire stretch is 2 miles roundtrip and the soft beach sand will give your calves a good workout.
Along the walk, if your feet crave for the touch of water, it’s advisable to reach the shoreline on the calmer portion of the beach. The western or the Lumahai portion has steeply declining sand and sudden shore breaks, which can prove to be fatal.
However, if you choose to relax on the beach and enjoy the view, these fiery crashing waves do not fail to put up a good show.
At the mouth of the river you will find local vegetation like breadfruit, hibiscus and pendanus trees that were possibly planted by the Menehunes – mythological dwarf people in the Hawaiian tradition.
Depending on the flow of estuary, Lumahai beach experiences geographical changes throughout the year. During summer, the flow of river into the ocean is blocked by the formation of sand dunes. This is the time of the year when the eastern end of the beach invites swimmers- who dive into the ocean at their own risk. Lumahai beach does see some brave bodyboarders and surfers throughout the year, who love to tease the high surf.
As seasons change, the heavy rainfall and floods dissolve the sand barrier and restore the flow of estuary. For the same reason, Lumahai beach is prone to flash floods during winter and it’s extremely dangerous to tame the ocean during such times.
There are no public and lifeguard facilities on the beach, except for a phone which was installed to issue safety warnings in the case of floods.
This long strip of greenish yellow sand, separating the steep lush green cliffs and turquoise waters of the Pacific ocean, is a setting every photographer wishes for. Partly for its picturesque setting and partly for its famous history, Lumahai beach has been immortalised by numerous paintings and postcards all over the world.
This beach is not meant for swimming, surfing and other water related activities. Visit Lumahai beach for its beauty and see it as a scenic spot. Go for a romantic beach walk, take photographs and pick some puka shells to make a memorable puka necklace. This is one of the picturesque beaches where you can relax on the white sand and then go swimming in the freshwaters of Lumahai river.
However, if you crave for water activities, Hanalei Bay is only a few minutes away.