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The North Shore of Kauai is lined with stunningly vibrant tropical beaches. Kauapea Beach, known by the locals as Secret Beach, is located between the towns of Kilauea and Princeville. At approximately 3,000 feet in length and 75 feet in width, it can be reached by driving down an unmarked long, dusty and bumpy red dirt road off of Kalihiwai Road. The steep downhill trail to the beach takes a few minutes to hike, and the roots and rocks can be very slick when wet. Once you arrive, however, the beach is massive, with beautiful white sand and amazing black lava rock formations that have been eroded into interesting shapes by the ocean. There's plenty to explore for many return photographic opportunities, including an island landmark, the Kilauea Lighthouse, which can be seen from Secret Beach on top of a distant cliff. Several cliffs covered in lush green vegetation line the area.
The climate on the North Shore of Kauai can change from one moment to the next. You could be sunburnt, drenched by the rain, then blessed with an amazing double rainbow, all on the same trip. The ocean temperature is always in the 70s, which makes waist-deep wading in the water possible, even with gear. There's always a nice breeze to help keep things cool, but sometimes when the wind stops it can become humid and the "vog" can set in. Vog is volcanic smog that can settle over Kauai and make visibility and breathing difficult. Overall, the temperatures are very pleasant and warm year-round, with average highs during wintertime at 78º F and lows around 66º F. During summer, the average high is 85º F, with lows averaging 75º F. The North Shore of Kauai receives about 85 inches of rain annually.
The weather can change in an instant when you're out photographing sunrise and sunset on the beaches—it can be sunny one moment and pouring rain the next. Rain gear is essential to carry with you at all times. An all-weather backpack is fantastic for keeping everything dry and carrying your own personal rain gear. A tripod is a critical piece of gear for achieving slow-motion water effects. Circular and linear polarizers are great for cutting the glare from the wet lava rocks and ocean; they also enhance the rich tropical colors. Wide-angle lenses are best for capturing seascapes. If you have a tendency to be rough on your gear, be aware that you'll actively need to clean your equipment, as the salt and sand can do damage. Hose down your tripod as soon as you can to prevent the leg hinges from seizing up from the salt. Don't forget to wipe down your camera body, as well, because the sand can get into the dials and prevent them from functioning properly.
Photographing Kauapea Beach is excellent in all seasons. The beach is known to look different from one week to the next depending on the amount of rainfall, tides and ocean surf. Winter can be dangerous due to an unpredictable shore break and high surf. It's a good time of the year to get fantastic wave shots, but never turn your back on the ocean and pay attention to your surroundings. Brief showers are welcome because they can be followed by rainbows that frame the Kilauea Lighthouse to the east. It's a very large, beautiful beach that can be explored many times throughout the year.
Contact: Visit the Hawaiian Islands tourism website at www.gohawaii.com.