Next to Poipu Beach, Salt Pond Beach Park is one of our top picks for family beaches. Salt Pond is the kind of place where children and parents can relax without a lot of fuss and with plenty to do to make the day fly by. Even those without children will appreciate Salt Pond’s long stretch of white sand beach and calm, gentle water to soak up the Hawaiian sun.
Locals describe the different swimming areas at Salt Pond in three ways: 1) the main bay, 2) the baby pond, and 3) the airport side. The main bay is protected by an underwater reef that stretches across the opening of the bay to serve as a natural breakwater for waves and currents. The main bay tends to be deeper and is great for swimming laps. The baby pond is located to the right of the main bay, where a large natural reef formation created a calm and shallow pond area, making it easy for the little ones to run and play. The airport side of the beach park is to the left, located next to the airport landing strip. This airport side has a pond area that is also very calm and the best spot for snorkeling. To get to this side of the beach, we recommend parking in the large parking lot next to the Salt Beds and airport landing strip and walking out to the beach. Also note, there are no shower or bathroom facilities on this side and you will have to walk to the main beach park (about five minutes)
Now that you have the basic locations of Salt Pond Beach Park, here are 10 reasons why Salt Pond Beach Park is a great family beach
- Kids and parents can feel safe here – As one of the only lifeguarded beaches west of Poipu, Salt Pond is entirely protected by reefs for nearly year round calm waters. While Poipu is known for having summer swells, Salt Pond is almost never affected and continues to be a safe swimming area all year.
- Tide pool and underwater exploration – Colorful reef fish, moray eels peeking out of their swimming holes, spanish dancer starfish and black sea cucumbers are just a few of the creatures inhabiting the tidepools at Salt Pond. The baby pond is perfect for “reef walking” and looking for little hermit crabs living in the shallow tide pools. Just be cautious of the spiny sea urchins that sometimes live in holes in the reef. The airport end of the park is the best spot for exploring underwater with safe snorkeling, clear water and plenty of fish swimming around.
- Winter whale watching from shore – During the winter months, it is not uncommon to witness humpback whales that have migrated from the colder waters of Alaska frolicking offshore on Kauai. Salt Pond Beach Park is one of their favorite places to play. Humpback whales tend to stay close to the shoreline, even as close as a ½ mile. From December to April, look for signs of humpback whales, which include spouting, tail slaps and even a full breach out of the water.
- Favorable weather – It is almost always sunny at Salt Pond Beach Park! Even when raining in other parts of Kauai, you are almost sure to find sunshine and a cool breeze from the tradewinds, making ideal beach going conditions.
- Full of culture – Salt Pond Beach Park is one of Kauai’s most important cultural assets. Next to the park, local Hawaiian families practice the art of making Hawaiian salt. Hawaiian salt making is a sacred practice that has been passed down for many generations. Each family has their own designated area to make this natural salt, by forming salt beds out of clay and taking water from a large hole in the ground that is filled with sea water, similar to what happens when you dig a hole on the beach near the shore and water comes up out of the hole. The water is then transferred to a shallow pool, called a puna, where it becomes even saltier as it sits in the sun. Once the water is determined salty enough, it is poured by bucket into the clay salt bed to evaporate, Tiny salt crystals begin to form in the salt bed, which are gently harvested by scraping the bottom of the salt bed with a net. True Hawaiian salt from Salt Pond is not allowed to be sold in stores and was traded between families for other commodities, such as fish or wild game from the mountains. Sand, dirt and other things can contaminate the delicate salt and the saltmakers take their responsibility very seriously. Hawaiian salt making is a fascinating process, however you should always wait to be invited in by a family instead of simply walking in to the salt beds or watch from a distance as a way of showing respect.
- Amazing sunsets – Gather up the picnic blanket and stop at Living Foods Market for some snacks before heading out to Salt Pond to watch the evening sunset. Salt Pond is an ideal vantage point to view the brilliant pinks, oranges and yellow hues that light up the sky. During summer, the warm water temperature at Salt Pond is perfect for a refreshing sunset swim.
- You can even spend the night – Not only is Salt Pond a great daytime beach, it’s park, picnic, shower and camping facilities make it a great place to camp. An overnight camping permit from the County is required in order to camp overnight in the designated camping area. Also, there are several pavilions and comfort stations spread out throughout the park with barbeque grills and picnic tables. Check with the County Parks and Recreation Department as some pavilions need to be reserved with a small deposit, while others are first come, first serve.
- Wide open spaces and plenty of breeze – If you decide you need a break from swimming, there is a wide open grassy area in the middle of the park that is great for flying a kite, tossing a frisbee, throwing a football or just simply playing a game of tag. Best of all, kids can run around freely while parents can watch from the safe distance of a picnic table and get some much needed relaxation time in.
- Rarely crowded – While other popular visitor destinations on Kauai tend to get crowded, Salt Pond is one of those rare jewels with few crowds and ample parking. The entire park area is six acres with enough space to find your own little slice of paradise. The baby pond is the most popular and therefore the most frequented area, especially for families with young children. Which is great for kids to mingle and make new playmates. The main bay tends to be the least frequented area, which means that you can find a spot that is quiet and serene just for yourself.
- Location, location, location – Just a short 20 minutes drive from Poipu, Salt Pond Beach Park is easy to get to and often less crowded than some of Kauai’s other more popular beaches. Salt Pond is located on the southwestern point of Kauai in a town called Hanapepe, which prides itself on being Kauai’s biggest little town. A visit to Salt Pond is also a great opportunity to explore Hanapepe’s historic town, take a walk across the swinging bridge or attend the Friday Hanapepe Art Night.
Salt Pond Beach Park represents old Hawaii, with traditions that have existed there for families for over 100 years and a laid back ambiance that makes the day pass slowly and quickly all at the same time. Local families have been choosing Salt Pond Beach Park as their beach of choice for many years and many birthday and high school graduation celebrations have been celebrated there over the years. If you feel like exploring out of Poipu, we highly recommend spending a day at Salt Pond Beach Park.