One of our favorite Kauai beaches, Polihale State Park, received national attention yet again this week. NYC says “On Kauai, Paradise Requires Four Wheel Drive.” While their many notions might wax poetic with some, others might disagree. Read on, then let us know your thoughts.
1. A 4-wheel drive controversy.
Yes, a low to the ground car will definitely require more caution, but regular cars may do just fine going out to Polihale, so long as the road isn’t flooded. With that said, on rental cars, you are doing this at your own risk, and likely without regard to the type of rental car you have. So check your contract terms and conditions. Regarding flooding, this is summer, right? While it can happen, it is rare and it doesn’t rain much at Polihale on Kauai’s dry west side.
2. Cell phone service is excellent.
There was a time, back in the day, when there was little to no coverage at Polihale, that has changed. We’ve found on recent visits perfect coverage in terms of both voice and data, and were busy sharing photos from under the Napali cliffs, at the end of the beach.
3. You’re not likely to see marooned vehicles.
The article says, “you might see a rental sedan crawling along or spinning its wheels in a bottomless pothole.” Well, slow drivers you can expect (and you can also pass safely if need be). But marooned vehicles? We have never seen one.
4. Can you take a rental car vehicle there?
Rental car agreements typically do prohibit taking your car to Polihale because it is a long gravel road. That having been said, it seems that perhaps half the cars out there are rental car vehicles. If you choose to take your rental there, it is always smart to go through the car wash afterwards, since excessive dirt will result in a surcharge. To reiterate, do not drive out to Polihale if the road is flooded and you cannot see the potholes.
5. Acclaim for Polihale.
Last year, Travel and Leisure said Polihale State Park is the world’s best secluded beach. We personally still agree with their choice, and return frequently to its seven miles of spectacular shoreline with sand dunes up to 100 feet tall. It’s something we simply never grow tired of seeing.
6. Recent improvements.
In addition to the good phone coverage, new facilities and shelters for day or overnight camping and road improvements have cut the drive down to frequently a quick 15 minutes from the highway. Previously it was a 30+ minute drive on the five mile sugar cane road to reach its sandy shores.
Polihale State Park | World’s Best Secluded Beach Revisited
Polihale State Park should be on everyone’s bucket list of things to do on Kauai. Located on the far west side of the island, it is tucked under the foothills of the majestic Na Pali Coast.
Beat of Hawaii: Polihale is the perfect place for a Kauai sunset, a picnic and getting away from it all. This is iconic Kauai!
Travel + Leisure: Verdant cliffs frame the westernmost public beach on Kauai, accessible only via old farm roads.
Polihale Beach is reached by driving west past Kekaha town. Driving directions and map are included below.
Facilities. There is running cold water, toilets, picnic shelters and outdoor showers. No food service and little shade.
Entrance fee. There are no entry fees for day use.
Activities. Polihale is dangerous and is almost never good for swimming (even for locals). It is known for rough conditions, rip tides, rogue waves and even sharks. There is no lifeguard. “Queen’s Pond” at the south/east end sometimes offers safer swimming.
Road to Polihale. Trust us, you still won’t forget this
very now somewhat bumpy dirt and rock sugarcane road about 5 slow miles long, starting at the highway. While 4 WD is generally not needed, expect to take that drive slowly. If it has been raining, it may be best to wait until the road has dried out.
Car rentals. Do remember to keep your car rental clean, since there are enforced fees for excessive red dirt. You may want to visit one of the two car washes in Puhi on your return drive from Polihale and come clean again.
Camping. Permits are required. $12/night, per person. The state is advising there may be a delay in processing permits, so plan early.
Map and Directions