For decades, Kauai has been the poster child for an adventurous vacation. Scenic beaches and adrenaline pumping adventure activities only manage to scrape the surface of what this island has to offer.
However, your memory of Kauai’s beaches can quickly turn ugly if you do not exercise caution. Unfortunately, the angry ocean waves have claimed many lives so far.
According to Chuck Blay (Ph.D) from ‘The Edge of Kauai, over 414 individuals have been reported to have drowned to death on Kauai through the years 1970-2012. Leaving aside inland water drowning, over 76 percent of these cases have occurred in marine waters.
Let’s take a look at some of the most dangerous beaches in Kauai and what makes them so dangerous.
Kauai’s Dangerous Beaches
1. Lumahai Beach
This is one of Kauai’s most beautiful but dangerous beaches. Some people mockingly call it ‘Luma-Die’ because of the lives it has claimed.
So, what makes this beautiful beach dangerous? The sand surface with a steep slope is the culprit here. This facilitates strong undertows, which can be detrimental to swimmers.
An undertow is the current of water below the surface that moves in a direction opposite to the surface. An undertow has the capacity to pull a swimmer towards the ocean with a strong force.
Along with undertow, this beach also experiences very strong shore breaks. There was an incident in the past where a girl was swept off the beach and sucked into the ocean- while she was not swimming! So,the warning applies not only for swimmers, but for onshore activities as well.
2. Hanakapiai Beach
Located on Kauai’s Napali coast, Hanakapiai beach is approximately 2 miles from the start of Kalalau Trail.
If you ask a hiker for important advice before going on the Kalalau trail hike, avoiding swimming at Hanakapiai beach would be high on the list. This is a rough beach and the ocean can mercilessly drag even an experienced swimmer until he/she’s not to be seen.
The sandy shoreline of the beach can only be seen in summer as it gets washed away by powerful and dangerously high tides during winter. The currents in this beach are so powerful that bodies of at least 15 drowning victims have yet to be recovered.
Unlike most beaches on Kauai, Hanakapiai has no reef barrier to resist the powerful ocean currents which hit the shore with full force. These conditions make Hanakapiai beach extremely dangerous. It’s important to pay attention to the warning signs that can be seen all over the place.
3. Queens Bath
This picturesque but dangerous spot is located on Kauai’s north shore and is sometimes called the ‘Pool of Death’. Although it is a public place, it is not endorsed or advertised by the county because of the dangers involved.
Queens bath is one of the many natural pools located along a rocky coastline. This place is dangerous for two reasons-
- The rocks are slippery and provide no balance to resist the powerful ocean waves.
- The waves are so powerful that they can even drag a person swimming inside the pool. Since there are no stationed lifeguards, the danger involved is very high.
A common cause for almost all deaths in this place was that people were not paying attention. A strong wave came out of nowhere and swept them out to sea. Last year alone, seven drownings have been reported here.
Although the county officials urge caution year-round, the beach is especially dangerous from November through March, as the surf is most dangerous during these months. A warning sign with skull and crossbones at the entrance keeps a tally of the number of people who have drowned here.
Over half of the documented deaths in Kauai happened on the north shore, mostly during the winter months. Winter storms cause large winter swells during this season.
Most drownings happen because people are unaware of the local conditions. Understanding the surf and wind conditions and knowing when to enter the water can be the difference between life and death.
We say this because, in Kauai, the conditions change without warning. The rip currents and undertow here are dangerous and can take swimmers by surprise. Even expert swimmers should keep their intense acrobatics on hold till they get a feel of Kauai’s ocean conditions.
Beginners should stick to beaches with stationed lifeguards and swim in areas where there are other people. It is dangerous to venture into secluded portions. Follow warning signs and when in doubt, don’t step into the water. A good practise is to observe the ocean for 30 minutes and study the conditions.
You can head over to Hawaiian Lifeguards Association’s website for Ocean safety tips and latest updates about beach conditions.
Summary and Infographic
The above list of dangerous beaches in Kauai is intended towards creating awareness and let it not hamper your perception of Kauai’s gorgeous beaches. There is a lot of fun and beautiful experiences to be had here. Its a request from our side to approach the beach/ocean with respect, humility and caution, so that you leave Kauai with beautiful memories to cherish.