Kealia Beach on Kauai, What to Expect

Kealia is a popular half-mile stretch of sandy beach, located along the highway on Kauai’s east side. A local favorite, it’s a great spot for fishing, swimming, bodyboarding and surfing. It is the closest beach to Kapa’a High School, where Kauai’s own 3x world surf champion Andy Irons and his younger brother Bruce, were students during the 1990s — the wild surf at Kealia was the brothers’ stomping grounds. The beach park’s large parking lot makes it an ideal place to socialize. By the water’s edge, activities like jogging, dog-walking, and kite-flying are common. It’s a magical spot to watch the sunrise and the moonrise and bonfires are allowed.

The beach runs alongside Kapa’a’s Coastal Bike Path “Ke Ala Hele Makalae” that translates to “The Path that Goes by Coast.” I hugs the perimeter of the coastline for almost 8 miles.  

What’s in a name: Kealia translates to “the salt encrustation” in Hawaiian. The family-oriented beach is known for unpredictable strong currents and wind swell.

Directions and Parking: The beach park is located on the east side of the island next to Kuhio Highway. It has a half-mile long parking lot that runs parallel to Kapaa’s Coastal Bike Path. The paved trail runs along Kauai’s scenic Royal Coconut Coast and it’s ideal for jogging, walking and bike riding while dozens of signs have archaeological, cultural and historic information. 

Water Sports

Surf: Kealia has waves for all levels of surfing enthusiasts. From beach breaks to point breaks and countless peaks along the half mile surf zone, it has the most diverse surf on the island. The conditions are glassier early in the morning before the trade-winds begin. Be aware that conditions can turn to “Expert Only” quickly. Always check the surf forecast before you go.  

Bodyboarding: Probably one of the top-rated beaches to bodyboard in Kauai with varying surf conditions and summer trade wind swells.

Fishing: Kealia is a great spot for shore-fishing year-round. During the warm-water summer months, be aware of the possible presence of the Portuguese man-o-war, a venomous blue bubbled jellyfish-like specimen, with long tentacles that pack a vigorous laser sting when they come into contact with bare skin. The excruciating pain can last from 1-3 hours, vinegar is recommended as a remedy. It has been known to cause cardiac arrest in the worst cases.

Facilities: Public parking, clean restrooms, outdoor showers, lifeguard tower, water fountains, sheltered picnic areas with trash cans and recyclable bins.

Shade: A few trees hug the edge of the parking lot and a half dozen picnic tables are sheltered under gazebo style roofs

Food: Across the highway, on the “maka” side (mountain-side), there’s the Green Pig Food Truck. It has a delicious menu offering a variety of local food, farmers market salads, sandwiches and cold drinks. A favorite is the BBQ pulled pork sandwich. They also offer surf rentals. 

Historical fact: A heiau (HEY-ow) is a Hawaiian sacred temple.

In the 1800s, during expeditions around Kealia and Kapa’a, the ruins of fourteen heiau were found, suggesting the political and spiritual significance of the sites in ancient times. In 1887, St. Catherine Church was built in Kealia, on the present cemetery site.

Annual Events: The Annual B-rad Festival is held at Kealia Store across from Kealia Beach, with live bands, entertainment, food trucks, a silent auction, a keiki zone (children’s area) and more. Proceeds go to the mission of the B-rad Foundation which exists to support youth and their communities by fostering individual empowerment through environmental stewardship, health and adventure programs. Email:


Photo: Andrea Gaytan
Mary Winnick

Mary Winnick

Mary Winnick is a writer, editor and web project manager based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She operates on two simple assumptions: Everyone has a story to tell. And a story well-told will always find an audience. Her work is characterized by exceptional clarity, depth and insight – no matter the topic covered. Haiken writes for AFAR, Forbes, Via, Yoga Journal and many other national magazines and websites. To view other articles on Hawaii by Mary click here.
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