Kauai’s 5 Best Beginner Surf Breaks

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Most people associate surfing in Hawaii with Oahu: Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline, Waikiki and Makaha are all famous surf spots. Oahu’s less visited neighbor, Kauai, also has great surf breaks and several are perfect for beginners. Below are the 5 best beginner surf breaks on Kauai.

how to go Lawai Beach
Lawai Beach

Understanding Hawaii’s ocean will help you pick a home base for a surfing vacation. In the winter months, Hawaii’s northern coasts experience big surf, the result of far away storms in the north Atlantic. In the summer months, the situation reverses. Since the southern hemisphere experiences winter those storms send waves thousands of miles across the pacific until they reach Hawaii’s southern coasts.

visit Hanalei Bay
Beautiful Hanalei Bay

1. Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay is a two mile long beach on Kauai’s north shore and one of the best surfing locations in Hawaii. The bay contains many different breaks including a few reef breaks for advanced surfers. Depending on swell direction and size there are several beach breaks that are ideal for beginner surfers. A favorite location during the winter months is around Hanalei Pier. The location is protected as big waves have lost their energy by the time they reach the pier.

travel Kalapaki Bay
Kalapaki Bay

During the summer months, lake-like conditions return the Hanalei and surfing lessons move to the south shore. There is still the occasional day when 1-2 ft surf rolls in, particularly in June and July, so keeping an eye on the surf report is important.

2. Kalapaki Bay

Kalapaki Bay is a beach that’s situated beside Nawilili harbor and hence protected from large waves. Beach boys have been giving surf lessons here for decades. Kalapaki Bay doesn’t have as many good wave days as Hanalei Bay, and the waves break in deep water, but this is one of the cleanest breaks for beginners because there tends to be less turbulence in the water compared to other locations. For people vacationing near Lihue this would be the first location to check.

tour Rock Quary Beach
Rock Quary Beach

3. Kiahuna Beach

For kids getting into surfing, Kiahuna beach is the preferred south shore location for lessons. The break is usually only about 1 foot high, but instructors stand in the waist high water and help students by pushing their boards. Although Kiahuna beach is mostly sand, there are rocks in the water and reef shoes are recommended. The break is only 20-30 yards from shore.

hotels Kiahuna Beach
Kiahuna Beach

4. Rock Quarry Beach

Rock Quarry Beach, also known as Kahili beach, is situated on Kauai’s north shore. Surfing schools will sometimes take students here when Hanalei Bay is flat. This is not a clean break as the area experiences mostly wind waves, but for beginners with the right equipment (big boards), it’s still fun and instructive to catch the white water. It’s also often the only north shore option in the quieter summer months.

5. Lawai Beach

At Lawai beach directly in front of the Kuhio Shores Condominiums is a popular reef break. Although not suitable for beginners, novice surfers will want to investigate this location when the rest of the south shore is flat. As with any reef break, checking the surf forecast and tides is important, and this location should only be surfed during high tide. Surf instructors may take more experienced surfers here for advanced lessons.

There are many surf schools and instructors on Kauai. If you’re not a confident swimmer it’s important to chose a semi-private lesson as opposed to a group lesson so that the instructor can assist you at all times.