Ke’e Beach Kauai (Snorkeling, Swimming, How to make Reservations)

Ke’e Beach Kauai North Shore
Ke’e Beach Kauai North Shore

Ke’e Beach

This tropical paradise is justifiably one of the most popular attractions on Kauai. It is gorgeous!! While Kauai has a lot of great beaches, Kee Beach stands out as extra awesome for a few reasons. 

Kee Beach is located at the end of Kauai civilization and at the beginning of the Napali Coast. Even with other people around it feels like you’ve actually escaped to an undiscovered tropical paradise . This intimate cove beach is perfectly framed with a gorgeous mountain rainforest backdrop. 

Also, a reef protects the shoreline typically leaving the water a perfectly clear turquoise blue. The calm water and accompanying reef make it perfect for snorkeling (especially for beginners).

This beach is absolutely as gorgeous in person as it looks in pictures, BUT visiting it does come with a few pretty painful trade-offs.

Quick Facts about Ke’e Beach

  • Location – Inside Haena State Park on the north shore of Kauai
  • Facilities – restrooms, showers, lifeguards
  • Good For – swimming, snorkeling, kids, filling memory cards with photos
  • Reservations – yes, admission as well as parking or shuttle
  • Other Names – the beach at the start of the Kalalau Trail, Ke’e Beach
Ke’e Beach Kauai North Shore
Ke’e Beach on the Kauai North Shore

Proper Ke’e Beach Beach Pronunciation

For those of you that are like me and don’t speak Hawaiian, you are probably mispronouncing the name. It’s pronounced keh-Ay and not key. 

Location of Ke’e Beach Kauai

Kee Beach is located on the north shore of Kauiai at the end of the road, literally. If you could go further you would end up on the famous Kalalau Trail that takes you along the Napali Coast. 

Kauai is not a big island but the drive to Haena State Park from the airport is about 1 hour and 15 minutes (without traffic).

If you are coming from the Poipu area you should plan on about 2 hours. The drive will take you along the coast of the island and through the Hanalei area.

The good news about this drive is that it will take you past a number of other awesome places that are worth stopping it.

Ke’e Beach: One of The Best Kauai Beaches

Plain and simply Ke’e Beach is one of the best Kauai Beaches. It is every bit as amazing as the pictures make it look.

The beach is smaller than I expected, but somehow looked even prettier than the pictures. The lush mountain backdrop really creates an intimate feel when you are lounging on the beach.

The reef blocks the wave and creates clear blue water that is perfect to snorkel in. I’m not the strongest swimmer, yet I felt perfectly comfortable swimming, which is definitely not the case at a lot of the Kauai north shore beaches.

When I was there the beach was full of a lot of families.

I think the protected cove and lifeguards makes the beach extra attractive for families with kids. Capacity restrictions guarantee that it won’t be crowded, but definitely do not expect to be able to have it to yourself.

Ke’e Beach swimming
ke'e beach trees in Kauai Hawaii

Another perk of the beach is that there is a lot more shade than most others. The gorgeous trees allow you to rest in the shade if you need a break from the powerful Hawaiian sun.

Ke’e Beach Snorkeling

If you are looking for Kauai beaches for snorkeling Ke’e beach is perfect for that too!

The water is crystal clear and there is a ton of reef surrounding Kee beach making it a perfect snorkeling spot on Kauai. When we were there almost everyone else there was snorkeling as well.

kee beach snorkeling in Kauai Hawaii
Kee beach snorkeling

The Ke’e Beach Reservations Process

Full disclosure, the Ke’e Beach reservations process sucks. It is difficult, expensive, and confusing. The hassle will make you wonder if it is actually worth it.

Ke’e Beach is located inside Haena State Park and costs $5 per person to enter.

The problem is that they limit capacity and require a reservation made between 1 and 30 days in advance and most of the days sell out. Also, your park reservation must be set at a specific time. If you aren’t able to walk into the park, the situation gets even more complicated.

To be able to park at the beach you have to pay $15 and have an advance registration, which is also really difficult to get since they sell out in advance. A shuttle is offered, but it costs $30 and not only requires an advance reservation, but it also requires you to plan to arrive at a specific time that will be strictly enforced.

Reservation Summary Details

  • Park pass reservations must be made 30-1 days in advance (very likely to sell out) and will be for a set time
  • $5 per person
  • $15 parking (likely sold out)
  • $30 shuttle (locked in to a specific time)

Not deterred? Make your reservations here.

Pros and Cons of visiting Ke’e Beach

Pros

  • Truly stunning beach with mountain backdrop
  • Calm clear blue waters perfect for kids
  • Colorful reefs with amazing sea life that is even easy for a beginner snorkeler to access
  • Once you have a reservation, easy to park
  • Lifeguards on duty

Cons

  • Reservation process is an expensive nightmare
  • Shuttle is time consuming and difficult to match reservation time with arrival due to traffic
  • Long drive from most of the resort areas
  • Beach relatively small
  • Spotty cell phone service

What to Bring

Reef-safe sunscreen or a rashguard: The sun here can be very strong. Make sure to wear a reef safe sunscreen or a rashguard. I wear the one from Skims and I love not having to worry about getting burned when I am out in the sun ALL DAY. Free people also has some amazing rash guards you can shop here. 

Backpack or waterbottle sling – This is my favorite travel backpack. It holds all my camera gear but it is probably more than most of you need. If you don’t want to bring a full backpack this waterbottle sling is my absolute favorite. It fits a waterbottle, iphone 13 pro max, plus some extra space for bars or snacks or your wallet. Anything else you might need. I always hike with these That’s it bars from Amazon. OMG, they are sooo good and only have a few minimal ingredients. 

Should you visit Ke’e Beach on your trip to Kauai?

If you can fight through the reservation process to get into Haena State Park and then Ke’e Beach, you won’t be disappointed.

If you can’t get a reservation or aren’t able to commit to a certain time then you don’t have to worry. Tunnels Beach is nearby on the Kauai north shore and it provides a very similar experience without the reservation and permitting requirements.

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