Go Remote at Polihale State Park
At the end of the highway 50 on Kauai’s west side a rough cane road offers access to the ocean. Follow this bumpy, unpaved road to its end and you will find yourself at Polihale State Park and beach, where 17 miles of white sandy beaches and 100-foot sand dunes meet the beginning of the Na Pali Coast’s soaring cliffs. Futher offshore, you may be able to see the silhouette of the Forbidden Island of Niihau.
The sunsets at at Polihale State Park are breathtaking, as the dying light turns the sky and water vibrant shades of gold and orange. Once the last light fades, the stars come out. The lack of light pollution allows Polihale to offer a night sky that’ll leave you breathless.
Activities at Polihale State Park
Camping at Polihale is by permit only (permits can be purchased at the Department of Parks and Recreation office in Lihue). Beachcombing and shelling are popular activities, especially just after a large ocean swell. The beach is a popular fishing and picnic spot for local families.
The one thing you shouldn't do at Polihale is get in the water. The shorebreak is infamous for its strong rip currents and a powerful undertow that can pull the unwary under and drag them across razor-sharp coral. Any surfers you see in the water are likely to be highly experienced locals with an intimate understanding of water conditions.
Guide books note there’s a sheltered lagoon at Polihale called Queen’s Bath, and locals sometimes swim there on calm days. Queen’s Bath is not as safe as local activity and guide books make it sound, however. Poipu Beach and other lifeguarded beaches are much more suitable for swimming and snorkeling.
Polihale has no lifeguard (the closest lifeguard is at Kekaha Beach, miles to the south). Beach amenities include restrooms, showers and a picnic area.
What to Take
The white sand of Polihale is beautiful—and also acts as a reflector for the sun’s rays. There’s little shade available, so be sure to wear a hat and plenty of sunscreen unless you want to turn into a lobster (local slang for a really sunburnt tourist). Bring plenty of drinking water, as the heat can cause dehydration, and wear beach shoes to protect your feet from the hot sand.
How to Get There
To reach Polihale State Park, follow Highway 50 to the end of the road. You’ll see an old sugar cane road heading makai (towards the ocean). Follow the road for five miles until you reach the beach.
The cane road is unpaved and rough, often with large potholes, so four-wheel drive is recommended. Be aware many of the island’s car rental companies prohibit the use of their vehicles on the Polihale road. Visitors may be able to park along the highway and hike to the beach.