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NYTimes Misses on Polihale State Park | World’s Best Secluded Beach

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.

Visitor Details

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

View Larger Map

Updated 8/7/19.

14 thoughts on “NYTimes Misses on Polihale State Park | World’s Best Secluded Beach”

  1. It’s the “attitudinal approach” that makes all the difference when one visits Polihale Beacn! Go there with respectful attitude, anticipating being in the presence of serenity…meditative magnificence…joyous inner-radiance…the opportunity to feel the presence of a spiritual realm that is fulfilling and memorable! Be cautious…be considerate…be receptive! Enjoy! As a “life-long resident” of the island of Kaua’i for ALL of my 82 years (and counting), I “feel” the essence of Polihale, embedded in my heart and soul! Sincerely, MrB

  2. Absolutely a beautiful beach.. We were there in July 2017, and stayed all day until sunset, whew what an amazing experience for sure! It was breathtaking!

  3. I drove a rented Mini Van there, and yes it was bumpy and the car dirty but well worth it. It’s definitely not a swimming beach but it is quite beautiful and an adventure to get there. Just go to the car wash when you are done.

  4. People must realize that a Navy base is right there and the entire shoreline is under constant surveillance!
    No hanky panky!!

  5. We last took our rental car there in Feb 2018. No problems, just a slow bumpy drive, but we agreed that next visit we’d get a car with higher ground clearance for comfort. And a wash afterwards is absolutely necessary. Such a beautiful place, always worth it! It is hard when “secluded” places become more popular, but I think the fact that Polihale is as far west as you can go, and then a long bumpy 5 miles does deter non-locals and non-adventurous folk, so I think it will never be truly overrun.

  6. We love Polihale State Park Beach too. When were you last on the road? We were there on Feb.6. It was the worst we have ever seen the road in the last 12 years. It took us 45 minutes to drive it. We were in a 4 wheel drive truck. The road was very wet too. I have video of our drive back out, but it would probably make you car sick to watch it. It was worth it but it was a bad drive.

  7. I really do like Beat of Hawaii. However, I sadden when I read about “hidden gems” that are exposed by your site. Having been a former kamaaina growing up in Honolulu in the 50’s and 60’s I feel that some beaches be left alone and discovered by locals or adventurers. Hawaii is experiencing a boon to tourism never seen before 9/11 and is popular more than ever. Lanikai Beach is a good example of a once deserted beach enjoyed by local families now inundated with visitors.

    1. Thank you for this. I am also a former kamaaina that grew up in Hawaii during the 50’s and 60’s. I’ve lived on the mainland for 30 years now and I keep in touch with Hawaii news. Every time I read something like this it breaks my heart. Over tourism is hurting the Islands and controls are being discussed. Restrictions for Haunauma Bay were set up years ago with good results. I can only that more of these controls are implemented.


  8. Thank you. Took that road years ago before it was paved, quit a ride, but once you reach Polihale it was worth it. This is my favorite beach in Hawaii. THe first time there me and my husband were the only ones there, we stayed about 3 hours, just the two of us. Truly magical! An experience I will never forget. Don’t get back there much any more.

      1. My favorite beach, ever. I go to there whenever I am on the island. The waves are scary, but the location is devine.

    1. I’m sorry Linda but the road to Polihale Beach has never been paved. Perhaps you meant another beach.

  9. I believe that many car rental companies specifically prohibit driving to Polihale, correct? Not that you can’t, but if you do and damage the vehicle, you’re on your own for the repairs, regardless of whether you have purchased their damage waiver insurance or are covered by your credit card company. (AMEX’s insurance coverage specifically excludes damage incurred in the process of violating the rental agreement)

    Just an FYO

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