The Queen's Bath is one of Princeville's favorite summertime attractions. A pleasant 10 minute hike past a waterfall leads down to a rocky landscape of lava rock. Another 5 minute trek over rocks leads to the bath. Roughly the size of a large swimming pool, the Queen's Bath is a natural tide pool with some fish. Water spills over the lava rocks to refresh the pool.
Although the scenery and bath are a pleasant excursion, like many ocean attractions on Kauai the area should be approached with caution. Visiting the Queen's Bath without appreciating the potential hazards can be dangerous. Please read the following guide before you decide to visit. The recommendations below are based on our experience from living near the bath.
From October through May the coast here is exposed to very big surf. People have drowned after being swept off the rocks. The path and rocks are not suitable for those with mobility problems and entering and exiting the pool requires agility. Sprained ankles, bruises and cuts are common from slips on wet or uneven rocks and dirt.
Many are confused about the location of the tide pool - there are other areas where it is also possible (but more dangerous) to swim. In the aerial photo above the yellow triangle shows where the path emerges from the trees. The green star shows the location of the pool.
A - Sometimes confused for the QB. This area is exposed to open ocean and difficult to reach. It's never safe to swim here.
B This inlet, located just before the bath, is a popular spot for locals who like to jump off the 15ft ledge. As alluring as it looks, don't be tempted to swim here. The inlet is subject to massive turbulence and exiting can be difficult.
C This inlet is just past the bath. It's exposed to open ocean and judging conditions is very difficult. Do not swim here.
D - This inlet is safe for confident swimmers who are willing to risk slippery rocks, provided the ocean is completely flat (the surf report says less than 3ft). Walking to this area becomes dangerous in bigger surf because it is nearly at sea level. Don't swim in the small tide pools here.
Queen's Bath Kauai Safety
It's important to check the surf report before you visit the ocean on Kauai so that you know what's possible. Simply watching the sea for 20 minutes before you approach is not good enough. The biggest waves of the day, as predicted by the surf report, could arrive at any time without warning. Ask yourself, Can this activity be done safely if those waves arrive?
Queen's Bath Safety Checklist:
- Check the surf report the morning you want to visit.
- The Queen's Bath is safe to swim in when waves are 4ft high or less.
- If the surf report predicts waves bigger than 4ft, skip it and try another day.
- Never play on the rocks between the bath and the ocean.
- Don't jump into the pool. The depth can fluctuate from day to day.
- Only swim in the pool, not the ocean.
In the winter months the odds of the ocean co-operating are slim, but there are calm days. Conditions in the summer are much better but always check the surf report first.
Queen's Bath Safety FAQ
The biggest danger at the Queen's Bath is getting pulled into the ocean while watching big surf. Much of the lava shelf is 10 - 15ft above sea level, and there are areas that are higher. This leads to a false sense of security. Compounding the problem are people approaching the ocean blind (not knowing the surf forecast).
Between 1970 and 2012 there have been seven drownings. The death toll sign at the bottom of the path indicating 25+ deaths is fictitious but a necessary alarm.
We advise against visiting the Queen's Bath when the surf is over 4ft because judging the risks becomes difficult, and 4ft provides a good safety margin. In 6-8ft surf some dangers can be hidden by temporary calm conditions (like visiting area D, swimming in the ocean, venturing on rocks near sea level etc.).
To "safely" watch big surf from the Queen's Bath requires experienced "surfer-level" appreciation of the behavior of the ocean and previous knowledge of the area's geography. The best place for watching big surf is the Kilauea Lighthouse. There are also several safe vantage points in Princeville.
The following video shows what the area looks like in 4-6ft vs 12-15ft surf (different days in March).