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Secret beach has a reputation of being one of Kauai’s nude beaches (the other being Larsen’s) but typically only a couple people will be without clothing, preferring the eastern section of the beach.
A reasonably steep path leads down to the beach and may be difficult for people with mobility problems. Walking on the lava rocks to the left of secret beach is only safe on the calmest summer days when the surf report calls for waves less than 2 feet high. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. Also known as Kauapea Beach, Secret Beach (see more photos) is not exactly secret, but it takes a bit more effort to get to it. Directions: From Kuhio Highway (Hwy 56), turn onto Kalihiwai Road near mile marker 24 and then after 50 yards (46 m) turn right onto the first dirt road. I had a humble childhood in a small Northern California gold rush town where not much went on.
You can imagine my surprise when, while travel planning almost a year ago, it hit me: I had been to every major Hawaiian island several times, but never Kauai. I asked around about it to friends who had been, some of whom claimed Kauai was the best island of all. Hanalei is the closest town to the Kalalau Trail head, one of the most beautiful (and dangerous) hikes in the United States, and perhaps the world.
Close to the start of the Kalalau Trail, Ke'e Beach is equally special (though much more relaxing.) I took my camera through a trail and over a bed of rocks in search of the best spot to photograph the sunset. On the road to both, just off the main highway past Hanalei, one can find magnificent caves.
Though never directly accessible from any major road, there are a few sections of coastline that you'll want to make the trek to.
Journeying just a bit farther down, you'll find Rock Quarry Beach -- unique in its rock formations and coastal landscape.
Kauai has seemingly endless moments that have the uncanny ability to drop your jaw in complete awe. Last, but certainly not least, I wouldn't miss the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," Waimea Canyon. It is hard to believe that in today's ever-increasingly busy world, there are still places we can sit still and simply absorb the raw, natural beauty of our earth. This article is the second of a five part series by Leavenworth Washington photographer, Dominic Urbano, on vacationing and photography on Kauai. The drive to the Wailua Falls lookout was the first of many times during my time on Kauai that I was impressed with how rural the island is. The road to Wailua falls winds through some farms, under an abandoned railroad overpass, and ends at the lookout. For a wonderful hour our pilot took us low over the ridges, deep into steep canyons, and high over the Napali coast. It is worth noting that if you choose this helicopter for your tour you may not get a seat by the door. The name Secret beach is actually out of vogue: The beach hasn’t been a secret since the 70s. It's sometimes swimmable during the summer when the ocean is calm but really not suitable for novice swimmers. Because the lava shelf is near sea level, this is a particularly dangerous place to explore. I couldn’t actually swim there just admire and photograph because the waves were so insane. It stretches for 3,000 feet (915 m) and to the east offers nice views of Kilauea Lighthouse and Moku'ae'ae Island, a bird sanctuary.
Though we at times went on short family road trips, some are surprised to hear (given that I now work in travel) that I didn't grow up traveling very much, if at all.
Even though we weren't technically leaving the United States, Hawaii always felt like another world to me as a child.
In my time there I met with locals, I talked with other writers and photographers, and I explored aimlessly.
Each has its own bits of natural beauty, and often the weather in one will be different from another. At 11 miles round-trip, the full hike must be made with overnight equipment and the proper permits.

Small waterfalls lead down the coastal cliffs to meet the sea, waves take shapes unlike those you've even seen, and watching the glow of golden light that emerges as the sun begins to set is a remarkable experience. With a name like 'Secret Beach', it's hard to imagine that it's much of a secret any longer. Watching the water crash and depart from the pools and pockets of the shore here is almost meditative. Being so taken with a place that you forget your phone, your problems, yourself -- that to me is perhaps the most magical of all.
The viewpoint is some distance from the falls and I was left feeling that there wasn’t really anything visually worth capturing. A steep and sometimes slippery trail leads visitors to this secluded beach area that is a mix of yellow sands and dark volcanic rock. We had scheduled a helicopter tour of Kauai so we just stood on the rocks and enjoyed watching the surf for a half hour or so. Through the headsets he gave a running commentary of what we were seeing, history, and trivia. If you loose sight of the high vibration platform you are shooting from you can easily end up with motion blur. In order to post comments, please make sure JavaScript and Cookies are enabled, and reload the page. The beach is subject to shocking amounts of sand redistribution as Kauai’s massive winter surf changes the beach’s landscape from season to season.
Also, Hawaiian place names are preferred over modern substitutes, it being recognized that the Hawaiian names infer additional meaning and cultural significance. To the west, about a quarter mile beyond the west end of the beach, is a sizable waterfall that plunges about 15 feet (4.5 m) into the ocean.
In the summer months when the ocean is usually calmer, swimming is possible here, but can be dangerous even then. Some people prefer to hike it barefooted because of the reddish clay that is difficult to remove from shoes and clothing. From its rocky lava landscapes and hidden beaches, to the tropical gardens and colorful underwater world and beautiful Polynesian culture, to this day, the islands of Hawaii never fail to captivate me, no matter how often I visit. The whole island did in fact feel almost mystical; even more so in the presence of some grand piece of nature, or when I encountered a pocket of the island that I had all to myself. I settled instead for the first four miles round-trip, a hike through mud and across waterfalls and streams -- but during which I caught myself quite literally gasping at the views around each corner. You'll arrive to the rocky shoreline amidst a bunch of wooden signs, warning of the tide's strength and commemorating those who have lost their lives here. Yet the unmarked, dirt path and fifteen minute walk keep this stretch of sand, for the most part, still hidden. Accessible only by boat, helicopter, or rigorous hiking, one can still get a sense of the enormous, craggy coast from the lookouts in Kokee State Park.
Perched scenically on the edge of a peninsula, it is a particularly awe-inspiring spot to stand. This is the only place I have been that has both the incredible green foliage and the mild temperatures found in the Pacific Northwest during the summer. With views of the Kilauea Lighthouse in the distance the beach is bounded on each end by the dark volcanic rock that gives such great contrast to the yellow sands and white surf. Thirty minutes is a long and wonderful time when you are taking in beautiful scenery for the first time. But the beach is somewhat sheltered from wind, so conditions aren’t as choppy as many other places.
The rocky coastline leads to a beautiful waterfall, but some rock climbing is required to view the falls (the fourth panoramic photo below shows the waterfall). Strong currents can be present even if the ocean appears calm, and there are no lifeguards stationed here, so be careful. I've traveled to more than 40 countries, but our 50th state is still one of my favorite places in all the world. From waffles topped with tropical fruit and coconut syrup, to back door sushi markets and taco stands, I found myself fueling up in Hanalei before (or after) a day spent in the wild.
Because it's a bit of a downhill hike to get to them, chances are you'll have the caves to yourself -- making them all the more mystical in nature. A short walk down the way you'll come to what appears to be a natural swimming pool, a cove protected from the wide open ocean.

The Kalalau Lookout comes first, and the even better Pu'u O Kila marks the end of the road (there is no road connecting the entire island.) From here you can take the magnificent Pihea Trail through beautiful tropical vegetation for even more views. There is only one main road following the coast so no matter where you are going you will be following the two main coastal highways north or south from Lahui. Secret Beach is found at the end of an unmarked dirt side-road that leads to an unmarked trail that shoots unceremoniously straight down the side of the hill.
My head was up against the top of the door, my rear was three inches off the seat, and my right foot would have been more comfortable hanging outside the helicopter.
The immense beauty of Kaui played out under and around us like a you might see in an IMAX movie. Two passengers will be put in the back on the  jump seat and one will be jammed into the tiny space that is left between the pilot and the front right passenger.
So I would advise you to plan on shooting with your fastest wide angle lens and think in terms of shutter priority. Depending on seasonal sand erosion it may not even be possible to explore the lava tide pools, as the beach that connects to this area may be missing.. On the first visit we stayed on the road and looked at the falls from behind the wall at the lookout.
There are some Hawaiian native ruins along the road up to the falls and a nice view of the river valley on the opposite side of the road from the falls viewpoint.
The lack of signs and a designated parking area had me wondering if I really had the right place at first but the four or so cars at the end of the road seemed like evidence of a trail-head to me.
Unless you include the helicopter itself in your shot you won’t have to worry about a wide depth of field for foreground so you can open your aperture as wide as needed to keep your shutter speed high enough to negate vibrations of the helicopter and your own movement.
Conditions can change quickly, so swim at your own risk -- or stay out of the water and simply take in the view. On our second visit, on day five, we ventured down the steep scratch trail to the valley floor so I could do some landscape photography at the base of the falls. Both of these were more interesting than the falls viewpoint.  We will pass on this area on our next trip to Kauai.
Sure enough, just off the end of the road is a trail that skirts along a fence-line before it drops down to Secret beach. If you are trying to decide on where to spend your vacation dollars… a helicopter tour of Kauai is very worthwhile.
It was a little slow getting though Kapaa and we were a little late getting to our helicopter tour orientation. Take your time on the drive, roll down the car window, enjoy the countryside, and the falls will certainly not disappoint. Our tour safety instructor had told me just before we took off that all I had to do was turn the nob on my chest harness to the left or right an inch or so and I would immediately be released from the security of the straps that were holding me into the helicopter. The variety that Kauai has to offer is incredible and every minute of the helicopter tour was filled with new sights. Sloan did not complain, but I know that I would have been quite disappointed to have ended up there. The broad basin that showcases Wailua falls has a deep pool, red cliffs, and is full of mist from the crashing water. It was his intent to make sure I was confident that I would not be stuck in the helicopter in the case of an emergency. That way I could vary my aperture as I wish (most of the shots out the door would likely be done in the f4 – f8 range) and let the camera take care of the other two settings. An A+ in waterfall design and execution!  Toss in a rainbow for extra credit and Wailua falls is an absolute wonder.
Sitting with nothing but open air to my right as we flew over the island I think it would have been a little more comforting to have the release mechanism be a little more complicated than that.
Of course I was perfectly secure an I enjoyed capturing aerial shots with my camera directly out the door.

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