Many visitors to Kauai get right off the plane, jump into their rental car and head south through the tunnel of trees to get to their favorite Hawaiian beach -- Poipu. The beach is named after its heavily touristed southside town. Kauai, despite being rather small, features four main climate zones, and the southside is always bright, warm and dry. It's a reliable place to kick back for a weekend of relaxation. It's also an incredibly popular destination for weddings, so don't be surprised if you have to share the white sand with a wedding party.
You also might have to share the soft sand with some sea creatures. It's common for monk seals and sea turtles to take a well-earned break from the surf on Poipu Beach despite the fact that it's rather dangerous for the wildlife. Some tourists just can't seem to resist the temptation to touch the resting seals and turtles despite strict local laws prohibiting the behavior. Luckily for the critters, Poipu Beach has lifeguards and a police presence to help enforce the laws. In fact, you might arrive on the beach to see the resting wildlife surrounded by a police tape barrier. So, it goes without saying -- if you plan on visiting Poipu, enjoy the wildlife from a distance. This holds true for turtles wading in the water, as well.
And the turtles love to feed on the mossy rocks in the little pool at Poipu. A sandbar splits this beach in half to create a protected "Keiki" pool. It's a cute little bay where
turtles find some rest from the surf of the deeper ocean. It's perfect for children and first-time snorkelers. You'll find plenty of fish, perhaps a turtle or two and the water never gets very deep all while the sandbar protects you from the waves.
That sandbar can disappear altogether at high tide, though, so always keep an eye on the ocean. But, for most of your visit, the volcanic rock covered sandbar will delineate two very different ocean experiences. Just make sure to watch your feet near the sandbar as the beach is covered in sharp volcanic rocks.
On the other side of the sandbar, you'll find a much deeper swimming area. The water gets quite deep right off of the sand, but the ocean is rarely mad. Poipu Beach can be one of the safest ocean swimming areas on the island as it stays relatively calm throughout the year. This isn't the type of beach that is suited for body surfing or boogie boarding. It's more of a place to wade in deep water with friends and family to cool off from the Hawaii heat.
Poipu is incredibly popular, so you'll find plenty of tourists lounging out. Near the parking lot, you'll find bathroom facilities, some barbeques, picnic tables, and freshwater showers. Parking at Poipu Beach is abundant in public lots opposite the street from the beach near Brennenche's Beach Broiler restaurant. You can walk to the beach past the bathroom facilities or you can walk to the west end of the parking lot to take a sandy path through the Marriott Beach Club.
The Marriott Beach Club dominates the western side of Poipu Beach. The sand is public, but you'll see plenty of hoteliers lounging out just past a private gate near a pool and bar. Feel free to use the freshwater showers near the Marriot's gate even if you're not a guest, and you just may be able to walk onto the grounds to order up a drink and some food.
Peer out past the Marriott to the west and you'll see plenty of local surfers taking advantage of the southside's waves. The surfers begin to become a silhouette as the sun sets, and, as the sun dips into the ocean at the end of the day, the silhouettes make for a great photo. It really gives your Hawaii sunset picture some perspective to make the social media-worthy pic even more jaw-dropping.