Kauai Sunsets: Top 10 Destinations for Sunset in Kauai

Blog cover image.  Title text overlaying an amazing Kauai sunset photograph at Queen's Bath on the north shore.

Few experiences in this world compare to the soul-touching magic of witnessing sunset in Kauai. The aloha vibes feel almost tangible as the skies burn red and orange while the tradewind breeze rustles the tropical palm leaves.

Generally speaking, the west coast of any island is best for watching sunset. However, most of the western coastline in Kauai is completely inaccessible by land due to the sheer edges of the Na Pali cliffs. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the Top 10 best locations for photographing Kauai sunsets on Hawaii’s Garden Isle.

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Best Kauai Sunsets #1: NaPali Coast

The Napali Coast is the best place to photograph sunset in Kauai.
The Napali Coast is the best place to photograph sunset in Kauai.

The Napali Coast is easily one of the best photography locations in Kauai. And, without a doubt, the Napali Coast is the absolute best place to enjoy as many Kauai sunsets as your Hawaiian vacation will allow.  The last light kisses the iconic, savage cliffs with golden light.  Dark shadows and brilliant highlights contrast exquisitely together above the blue water of the Pacific Ocean.  It is truly magical.

Being that the NaPali coast occupies the majority of the Western side of the island, it makes sense that this is the location where you will find the best Kauai sunsets.  The dramatic landscape means you will always have interest for your foreground as well.

Golden hour light creates beautiful contrast on the Napali Cliffs just prior to sunset in Kauai.
Golden hour light creates beautiful contrast on the Napali Cliffs just prior to sunset in Kauai.

On our visit, we booked a cruise with Na Pali Craze that allowed us to photograph through the best part of the day, returning while enjoying the magic of sunset.  We highly recommend this company for young action-seekers and photographers!

For other Na Pali Coast cruise and tour options click here.

Kauai sunsets are best spent on the Pacific Ocean!
Kauai sunsets are best spent on the Pacific Ocean!

Best Kauai Sunsets #2: Queen’s Bath

The lava-forged Queen's Bath is arguably the best place for photographing Kauai sunsets.
The lava-forged Queen’s Bath is arguably the best place for photographing Kauai sunsets.

The Queen’s Bath is an area of volcanic coastline on the north side of Kauai near Princeville.  This lava-forged shoreline gets absolutely smashed by waves during high tides!  The violent waves, textured rock sea shelf, and westerly views all combine to create our second-favorite place to photograph sunset in Kauai.

There is a caveat to visiting Queen’s Bath, unfortunately.  The trail was gated off in October 2018 due to the danger of this portion of shoreline.  Within a few days of your visit to Kauai, you will discover that trail closures are all-too-common.  During our visit, it was young local boys that we saw putting themselves in the greatest danger.  While counting wave sets, they would dive into the waters for the pure thrill of it.

Queen's Bath is one of the best photography locations in Kauai for sunset.
A local prepares to dive into the turbulent waters of Queen’s Bath.

As we’ve mentioned in many blogs… Our goal is not to condemn nor condone, but to educate our readers.  Be aware that the Queen’s Bath is now closed. However, it is technically still legal to visit as it is a public right of way.  With that said, we beg any visitors to go with respect.  Respect for the locals, respect for the island, and respect for the ocean.  We absolutely loved our experience here and found it extremely easy to avoid any danger with simple common sense.

With all that said, Queen’s Bath is one of the best locations to photograph Kauai sunsets on the Garden Island.  Bring an ND or polarizing filter and a tripod to catch some of that beautiful wave action in a long exposure photograph!

Pro Tip: We always recommend shooting ocean and water features with a CPL. Check our photography gear guide to discover what filters and gear we use.

READ MORE: Best Camera Gear for Epic Travel Photos

Best Kauai Sunsets #3: Hanalei Beach

Find a spot on the perfect-crescent beach of Hanalei Bay to enjoy a legendary Kauai sunset.
Find a spot on the perfect-crescent beach of Hanalei Bay to enjoy a legendary Kauai sunset.

The legendary Hanalei Beach is a magical scene plucked from a daydream.  Soft, golden sand form a perfect crescent beach that is tucked into the lush Hanalei Valley.  Distant mountains surround the blue and aqua waters that gently surge in and out.  When you close your eyes and think of sunset in Kauai, you probably imagine a Hanalei sunset!

Hanalei Beach is the most fabled location for enjoying a Kauai sunset.
Hanalei Beach is the most fabled location for enjoying a Kauai sunset.

While the Napali Coast and Queen’s Bath offer better photography opportunities, the Hanalei Bay is as good as it gets for Kauai sunsets on the beach.  Find yourself a comfortable spot in the sand, or frame your shot behind some iconic Hawaiian palms.  Either way, you are in for a truly special moment as the world is bathed in golden light and the sun slowly descends the Pacific horizon.

Best Kauai Sunsets #4: Waimea Canyon

Purple skies grace Waimea Canyon just minutes after another incredible Kauai sunset.
Purple skies grace Waimea Canyon just minutes after another incredible Kauai sunset.

We can’t decide if Waimea Canyon is too low or too high on our list of best locations for sunset in Kauai. The reason it may feel too high is that you don’t get many good views that look to the west over the Waimea Canyon.

Considered the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, we ranked Waimea Canyon so high because it is an absolutely incredible place to visit any time of day. And still, we preferred the photographs captured at sunset to any other captures.

True, you cannot actually see the sun go down over the Waimea Canyon. For that reason, some of you may view this as too high compared to other locations to photograph sunset in Kauai. Still, the soft, balanced light, and deep color in the sky made it a special place to spend an evening.

An argument could also be made that it deserved the #3 spot. There are so many similar places for photographing sunsets on the beach in Kauai, but there is only ONE landscape quite like Waimea Canyon anywhere in the world. Anyone who has ever visited can see a photo and instantly know where it was taken.

Regardless of ranking, any photographer looking for the best locations for sunset in Kauai should spend at least one night at the Waimea Canyon.

Best Kauai Sunsets #5: Tunnel Beach

Tunnel Beach is one of the most heralded Kauai sunsets destinations.
Image: Adobe Stock
Sadly, we could not experience one of the most heralded Kauai sunsets destinations on our visit due to road closures.

Tunnel Beach is a tropical oasis on the North Shore of Kauai. You will find this gem located on far West of the North coast, adorned by the mountains of the Napali Coast. It is an absolutely breathtaking beach for sunset photography.

Unfortunately, we were not able to visit and photograph this one ourselves as the road was closed during our visit. Don’t worry if you are planning a visit, however, as the road has since been reopened!

Despite not having been there ourselves, any search for the best Kauai sunsets will reveal incredible photos taken from Tunnel Beach.

Best Kauai Sunsets #6: Hanalei Bay Lookout

Aerial photography of the picturesque Hanalei Bay .
The Halalei Bay and Napali Cliffs as sceen from the Hanalei Bay Lookout.

This incredible overlook will reveal itself as you drive to Princeville along the Kuhio Highway. It is spectacular any time of day, but is particularly noteworthy for enjoying a Kauai sunset.

The high elevation allows you to look down over sweeping views of the lush, tropical Hanalei Valley. Depending on the time of year, the sun may go down behind the mountains or over the Pacific.

While this is one of our favorite places to photograph sunset in Kauai, parking can be a bit of a hassle. Parking is limited in the pull off. You will want to get there early and may have to circle back a couple of times before finding a space.

Best Kauai Sunsets #7: Kalepa Ridge Trail

We spent many Kauai sunsets enjoying the views from the Kalepa Ridge.
We spent many Kauai sunsets enjoying the views from the Kalepa Ridge.

If you have not heard of this place, there is a lot to know before visiting. We recommend you queue up our guide to the Kalepa Ridge Trail to read next before you plan your visit. The safety and legality of this amazing trail is somewhat debated, but it provides the best land access to the NaPali Coast!

Honestly, the Kalepa Ridge Trail probably deserves a much higher spot on our list of the best locations for Kauai sunsets. However, we visited 4 different times and had clouds spoil the party pretty much every time. Without having seen the views in full splendor, we weren’t sure how high to rank it.

The great thing about the Kalepa Ridge Trail over the other viewpoints in Koke’e State Park is that you are able to get to the edge of the ridge and have unobscured views both East and West over the NaPali Coast. This is one of the few places on the island that you can enjoy a Kauai sunset over the NaPali coast without a boat!

Late light and fast-moving clouds make Kalepa Ridge a favorite location for sunset in Kauai.
Late light and fast-moving clouds make Kalepa Ridge a favorite location for sunset in Kauai.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the Kalepa Ridge Trail

Best Kauai Sunsets #8: Hanalei Pier

Sunset photography from Hanalei Pier in Kauai.
A late afternoon sun begins to set over Halalei Pier.

Back we go to the Hanalei Beach! We would be remiss if we didn’t include the iconic Hanalei Pier as an awesome place for photographing Kauai sunsets. The leading lines, shapes, and backdrop make the compositions at Hanalei Pier an easy place to photograph.

Our biggest “complaint” (though we hate to use that word) is that the number of people parading back and forth can be challenging to deal with. You will also not be shocked at the number of Instagrammers changing outfits and trying thousands of poses to get one shot.

Still, the beauty of the Hanalei Beach and the Hanalei Pier cannot be denied!

The Hanalei Pier dressed in the colors of a Kauai sunset.
The Hanalei Pier dressed in the colors of a Kauai sunset.

Best Kauai Sunsets #9: Polihale State Park

Spend a day and stay through sunset on the remote Polihale Beach.
Spend a day and stay through sunset on the remote Polihale Beach.

Poliehale State Park is one of the few accessible beaches for sunset on Kauai’s west coast. Due to its incredible remoteness, it is not only a great place for sunset, but for night photography as well.

Your biggest obstacle in enjoying a Kauai sunset from Polihale will be getting there! 4WD is strongly recommended, and some rental car companies will strictly prohibit travel there.

If you can manage to get yourself there, you will have one of the few unobstructed views of the horizon on the west coast. You will also find plenty of space to have a beverage and watch for the famous “green flash.”

Best Kauai Sunsets #10: Wailua River

Wailua River is on the east, but still receives beautiful sunset light.
Wailua River is on the east, but still receives beautiful sunset light.

Wailua River is not thought of as a destination for photographing sunset in Kauai, which is exactly why it made the list! While most of the other locations are more obvious and well known, we loved watching the light change from here!

From the bridge that leads to Wailua, you look west over the stunning Wailua River that winds through tropical palms and meanders toward distant mountains. Kayakers and paddle boarders often float in and out of the scene while the clouds turn golden and the light fades.

Though it is not the best view of the sunset itself, we love the magic that unfolds during the sunset golden hour.

You can even kayak the river and visit a secret waterfall. While it is possible to do this by yourself, we’d recommend taking a tour or having a local show you the way.

Honorable Mention: Waioli Beach Park

One of many postcard-worthy Kauai sunsets under tropical palms.
One of many postcard-worthy Kauai sunsets under tropical palms.

Waioli Beach is an absolutely incredible beach for sunset in Kauai! So why is it only getting an honorable mention? Well, because it is basically the same as Hanalei Beach.

Effectively, this small beach park simply occupies a small piece of Hanalei Beach. Still, that small piece ended up being perhaps our favorite spot on the beach. We felt we couldn’t include it on the list of the best Kauai sunsets separately from Hanalei Beach. But we also couldn’t bear to leave it out!

Hanalei Beach at sunset is among the best Kauai photography locations.
Sophie poses between two palms to complete this Insta-worthy scene from Hanalei Beach.

Other Useful Kauai Blogs

We assume most of you are here in preparation for that special trip to Hawaii and the Garden Island of Kauai. If that’s you, be sure to check out our other helpful Kauai travel guides:

7 Day Itinerary for Kauai

Only have a week in Kauai? Don’t worry, you’ll be able to see all the highlights if you plan well. We’ve created this guide detailing the perfect 7 day itinerary for Kauai to help you maximize your time and see it all!

The Best Kauai Photography Locations

Looking for more than just the sunset spots? This guide reveals our favorite Kauai photography locations for those of you visiting with landscape and travel photography in mind.

Final Thoughts on the Top 10 Locations for Kauai Sunsets

A rainbow graces the landscape for our final sunset in Kauai.
A rainbow graces the landscape for our final sunset in Kauai.

If the NaPali coast were more accessible, I have no doubt you could find dozens, maybe even hundreds more secluded beaches and vistas to enjoy the famous Kauai sunsets. In the effort of making this guide travel-friendly, however, we opted to include only those locations can be accessed by vehicle.

We hope you have found this useful as you plan your once in a lifetime vacation to Kauai!

Enjoyed this guide to the best places for Kauai sunsets? Pin it! 🙂

8 Comments

  1. June 17, 2020 / 6:31 pm

    Beautiful photos and gorgeous sunsets! The sunsets at Queen’s Bath and Kalepa Ridge Trail look particularly stunning. I’d love to visit these spots one day!

    • June 17, 2020 / 6:35 pm

      They were easily our favourite spots for sunsets in Kauai. But the entire island is spectacular.

  2. Megan
    June 17, 2020 / 6:31 pm

    Wow your pictures are STUNNING!

  3. June 17, 2020 / 7:12 pm

    SAVING THIS LIST!! I’m always searching for the best sunset spots on every vacation!

    • June 20, 2020 / 10:42 am

      Same!! There’s nothing quite like watching sunset in a new place 🙂

  4. Melissa
    June 18, 2020 / 9:26 am

    So beautiful! I am dying to go to Hawaii! I will be sure to check this out when I finally get to go!

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**All photos contained in this photography-based travel blog are copyright of Adam Marland & Sophie Clapton. 
They are not to be used for any purpose without the expressed, written consent of their owners.**