You'll have to do a little poking around to find the trailhead of Hideaways Beach. Drive up the Kuhio Highway north to Princeville. Find the St Regis Hotel and Ka Haku Road. Drive to the end of Ka Haku Road and you can find the trailhead near the hotel's gate house.
There is a small parking lot that is big enough for about nine cars to the right of the gatehouse. Don't take your chances parking illegally in the Princeville neighborhood. Local law enforcement is quick to give rental cars a parking ticket and the area's condos will call a tow truck. It's best to get here early in the morning to secure a spot.
Alternatively, you can use the St Regis Valet service to park your car. It costs a few bucks, but you'll be inclined to spend more time at the beach, and you just might be enticed to explore the hotel. The St Regis has a beautiful lobby, a five-star restaurant, different art galleries, a fine cocktail bar, and beautiful views of Hanalei Bay. It isn't a bad way to spend a few hours.
The trail to this beautifully secluded beach is short and steep, but it can be dangerous. The 15-minute walk takes you through a little forest with Kauai's infamous red dirt underfoot. The dirt can get extremely slippery when compacted and wet. And there's bad news -- Hideaways Beach isn't so hidden away any longer.
That means there are plenty of tourists making the trek down to this northeastern Kauai beach. This compacts the dirt, and, even when it isn't raining, tourists soaked in sea water can make the trail very wet. Make sure to wear sturdy shoes with good grip, and heed this warning -- Kauai's red dirt can become as slippery as lake ice. If you fall, you could be sliding for quite a while. Go slow, step carefully, and you'll make it just fine.
The trail brings you to a rusty metal staircase that takes you down to the beach. At the top of the staircase, you'll get overhead views of the ocean conditions. First, you'll marvel at the beauty of the reef that protects the water at Hideaways, but then you'll have to appraise the surf. The coral reef usually does a fantastic job of keeping the water safe, but large swells can reach up and over the reef, especially in winter.
If the water is calm then the swimming and snorkeling will be good. Just make sure to keep an eye on the surf throughout the day in case a swell moves in. And you should take these extra precautions because you won't have the protection of a lifeguard down here at Hideaways.
After descending the staircase, you'll be greeted by a series of ropes. The trail gets steep once again and the ropes are for your safety. You can hold the rope as you descend to the beach on Kauai's infamous red dirt. After the ropes, the trail flattens out and you'll be in the clear.
The snorkeling at Hideaways is good for experienced swimmers, and the water is usually calm. There's a thin strip of white sand where you'll find plenty of shade under cliff-side trees. In past years, you'd have plenty of romantic seclusion in this hidden cove. But now the beach has grown in popularity, so expect to share the sand with a few other hearty tourists willing to brave the steep 15-minute trail.