Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ron Garnett

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Ron Garnett

Shipwreck Beach - A Picturesque Beach with a Unique Name

Spencer Lowe

History - How did the Beach Get it's Name? 

Have you ever heard someone suggest going to Shipwreck Beach? Say, don’t you think the name is kind of interesting? The Hawaiian name for this beach is actually keoneloa, meaning “the long sands." But in Kauai, almost everyone calls it Shipwreck Beach. And... it’s because of a shipwreck!

So, back in the days, there used to be a wooden boat on the beach that likely had shipwrecked and was left abandoned. For many years, it lay near the shoreline. But with every storm, the boat deteriorated a little more - until hurricane ‘Iwa hit Kauai in 1982, completely destroying the boat. Although the shipwreck is now long gone, the name stuck.

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From the top, you can also see the Pa’a sand dunes. They are not like the normal sand dunes that might come to mind. The ones here, are more like petrified sandstone. 

Today, the beach still draws plenty of visitors for its convenience, surf conditions, and - of course - natural beauty. It’s also an access point to the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, a surreal trek across several Kauai beaches.

Now to explore the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, from Shipwreck Beach, go towards the left and follow the path that leads to the top of the large rock cliff. The vantage point from the top of the cliff is a breathtaking, panoramic ocean view. If you’re here between December and April, you might spot humpback whales that migrate from Alaska to Hawaii to breed! 

If you’re looking to experience the beach, heritage trail, and everything else this corner of Kauai has to offer, Shaka Guide’s Poipu and Koloa Driving Tour can help ensure you don’t miss anything essential. 

Poipu has no shortage of amazing beaches, but even so, Shipwreck really stands out as a beautiful place to spend some time. As we mentioned, the shipwreck hasn’t been visible for decades, but the beach and surrounding area are still perfect for a day in the sun.

The 40-foot cliff bordering the beach makes for truly unique scenery, and also grants access to the later portion of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. The heritage trail takes you across six miles of beautiful cliffs, coves, tidepools, dunes, and lava formations. Along the way you'll see ancient petroglyphs and you might catch a rare glimpse of a Hawaiian monk seal

RELATED: Protect Local Animals - Ways You Can Help

There’s a popular jump into the ocean from the cliff as well, but since it’s an almost 40-foot drop, and the waters in this area can be rough, we can’t say we recommend it. 

We also wouldn’t recommend this location for swimming most days of the year for this reason. Strong currents and large swells make this beach best for surfing, but you’ll see bodyboarders and experienced swimmers joining in as well. Exercise caution if you choose to get in the water. 

Parking and Directions

Access to Shipwreck Beach is at the end of Ainako Street between the Grand Hyatt and Poipu Bay Golf Course. There is a parking lot for the beach just beside the access path. If that fills up, there is more parking back the way you came on Ainako Street. 

Hawaii Tourism Authority/Pierce M Myers Photography


Shipwreck Beach doesn’t have any explicit hours, but we highly recommend staying out of the water after dark. 


Most of Hawaii’s beaches are publicly accessible, so you don’t have to pay anything to enter Shipwreck Beach. There aren’t any shops or food trucks nearby either, so it is safe to expect an inexpensive excursion to Shipwreck Beach!

Tips for Your Trip and FAQ

When should I visit Shipwreck Beach?

The area around Poipu is usually pretty sunny, so you don’t have to worry too much about the weather. That being said, Hawaii’s winter months from November to March are generally wetter. However, these same months are perfect for whale watching, so you’ll have to decide!

These months are also the best for surfing, and worst for swimming at Shipwreck Beach - due to the higher swells. It’s also important to know that all of Hawaii’s attractions are more crowded during peak travel seasons - like summer break, spring break, and the winter holidays. 

What should I wear and bring to Shipwreck Beach?

You’ll probably want to wear a swimsuit for sunbathing, regardless of whether or not you’re getting in the water. You’ll also find yourself wanting a towel to lay on and other sunny-day essentials - like plenty of water, a hat, and reef-safe sunscreen. 

Are there lifeguards on duty?

No, there are no lifeguards at Shipwreck Beach.

How long should I spend at Shipwreck Beach?

You might not be able to entertain the whole family at Shipwreck like other beaches, since the swimming conditions aren’t great for the kiddos. However, if you’re a surfer or whale watching, you could spend hours hanging out on the beach!

As usual, no matter how long you spend at Shipwreck Beach, or what you chose to do there, we at Shaka Guide are certain you’ll have an awesome visit! And, if you need any more help planning your time at popular Kauai attractions, be sure to check out our audio driving tours!

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Wanna visit Shipwreck Beach and see these views?

It's a stop on our Poipu and Koloa Tour!

RELATED: 10 Ways to be a Safe and Responsible Traveler in Hawaii

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