According to the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, Kauai welcomes over a million visitors every year. A majority of these visitors are tourists wanting to explore the popular beaches on the island.
Kauai’s popular beaches can get crowded during the peak season. This leads a few intrepid travelers in search of lesser-known alternatives that are both scenic and uncrowded.
One such beach on the northeastern shore of Kauai is Moloaa Bay. It is mainly frequented by local families, fishermen, and visitors from the rental properties nearby. If you are in pursuit of a rustic and undisturbed setting along the north shore, this is the place for you.
Gorgeous like most beaches on the island, this horseshoe-shaped white sand beach is bordered by hilly dunes and high cliffs with green vegetation. Uphill from the bay is Moloa’a State Forest Reserve.
If the bay looks familiar, you probably have seen it in the initial episodes of the 1960s TV show ‘Gilligan’s Island’.
The Moloaa stream empties into the ocean on the north end of the beach. The river and the ocean tides come together to form a shallow area, dividing the bay into two sections. Both east and west ends of the bay are lined by a protective reef barrier and are safe for swimming and snorkeling when the conditions are right.
Owing to its seclusion, the beach has no facilities like restrooms, showers, and lifeguards. To avoid the strong ocean pull, especially during winter, it is advised not to jump into the ocean when the conditions are rough. During the 1946 earthquake and tsunami that struck Hawaii, the biggest waves to hit Kauai were at Moloaa Bay. The waves were said to be as high as 38ft in height!
A nice beach path winds along the ocean rim for half a mile before arriving at a rocky outcropping and reef area. If you intend on walking the entire bay, come prepared with appropriate footwear as you’ll have to ford the shallow river and walk over flat rocks.
When snorkeling conditions are not right, this less trafficked beach is ideal to spend time shelling, beachcombing and fishing. It also has ample shade for family picnics and Hammocking.
Not enough? Well, there is more!
Moloa’a Bay Coastal Trail
How about an easy one-mile hike through a valley with sweeping views of the crescent-shaped bay from above the cliffs? Considering how remarkable this hike is, It is surprising as to why very little is written about the trail.
Moloaa Bay coastal trail starts at the left end of the beach and traverses pine trees, boulders and green pastures to provide stunning views of Moloaa bay. This is an easy hike requiring support at only a couple of points.
Moloaa Bay Coastal Trail is said to be a part of an ancient network of footpaths that encircle the island. Earlier, it used to connect Moloaa Bay and Larsen’s beach, located on the north side of the bay. Ancient Hawaiians used it as a fishing trail and as a land trail to move between villages.
The trail mostly runs on private property. Due to a feud between the landowner and the government, the trail has been reconstructed and slightly deviates from the original one. When hiking, please stick to the trail and try not to trespass into the nearby property.
After an eventful hike through fruit trees, a bird sanctuary, and scenic vantage points, the trail ends with a high rise view of the shore and the ocean. This point is fenced and there is no scope to hike further along the trail.
Moloa’a Bay trail is great for a gentle morning walk if you are staying in the nearby vacation rentals. While there are ample bird watching opportunities along the way, this is a great place to spot Hawaiian Humpback Whales during the whale watching season.
How to Access Moloaa Bay
If you are along the coconut coast, drive north from Lihue on Highway 56 past Anahola. Near mile marker 20, when the road begins to curve westward, look for Koolau Road towards right (seaward). It’ll wind around to the junction at Moloaa Road.
At this point, take a right and drive through the rural residential area until you reach a fork or a “T” near Moloaa Bay. There’s a small parking lot nearby. Walk along the left fork to access the beach.
There are two entry points to the beach; one through a gate near the last house and the other one via the path between two houses in the end. If you head through the gate, you will have to cross the shallow river stream to access the bay.
Moloa’a Bay is the ideal place if you want to escape the crowded beaches and seek a few moments of seclusion amidst nature. While you may not enjoy the facilities available elsewhere, the remote feel and the scenic hike are totally worth it.