On its good days, Hanalei Bay shines like no other in Hawaii. The beach is over 2 miles long and set in one of the most picturesque locations in Hawaii with majestic mountains providing the backdrop. During the winter, spring, and autumn, Hanalei often has some of the best surf on Kauai. In the summer months the bay turns placid. Hanalei Bay can be separated into 4 zones, each offering a slightly different experience.
At the right hand side of the bay is the old pier and Black Pot Beach Park (an outdated name alluding to a big pot that was once located here). The small park here is used for camping on weekends. This is where the Hanalei River flows into the bay and it's the departure point for kayakers exploring the river. There is no snorkeling at Hanalei Bay but fish do live under the pier. Kids enjoy jumping from the pier into the ocean during high tide. The pier is the location of the calmest swimming conditions during the winter and is a popular location for beginner surf lessons when the rest of the bay becomes too rough.
Hanalei Pavilion is located about 600 yards west of the pier. Most tourists visit this part of the beach since there's a life guard tower, and on average the swimming and boogie boarding conditions are good here. There are also bathrooms and showers (other sections have bathrooms and showers too).
Another 600 yards down the beach is the section called Pinetrees and Waioli Beach Park. In the winter time this is a popular surfing location and typically the first break surfers examine as they survey conditions. This section has a nice grass field behind the beach and plenty of parking.
West of Pinetrees is the second life guard tower and two smaller parking areas. Here you'll find a beach volleyball court and picnic tables. The beach here is sometimes referred to as Grandpa's. This area of beach is a little more exposed to wind and occasionally offers wind waves for beginner surfers in the summer months. The surf break known as Middles is about 500 yards into the ocean where a stream runs into the Bay.
Hanalei Bay is rarely crowded and offers plenty of room to play. Unfortunately the weather and surf don't always cooperate. Winter storms can bring chaotic ocean conditions, with run-off from rainfall sometimes dirtying the water. Storms and rainfall can also change the beach's sand by littering it with debris. Despite big winter surf, swimming is possible more often than not, even during big swells. In fact, dirty water due to run-off from the Hanalei River (following heavy rain) interferes with swimming more often than big surf.
If you're coming on a surfing vacation the best months to visit are October through May. The first winter surf typically arrives mid October.
Hanalei Bay Panoramic Pictures