Kauai’s Salt Pond Park: Beach haven for little kids and little critters

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The beach at Salt Pond Park, Kauai, in the early morning
With jet lag on your side, you can arrive to a quiet beach in the early morning, even on a weekend.

If you’ve ever stumbled onto something so great while traveling that you can’t wait to tell all your friends, but then you pause to think, well maybe just my best friends, you’ll have a good idea of how much we enjoyed our visit to Kauai’s Salt Pond Park. Well, friends, here’s what we found. (You’re welcome.)

While Kauai’s best known beaches lie on its north, east, and southeast shores, Salt Pond Park is located in the southwest of the island off Highway 50, just past Hanapepe Bay. The park is named for the still-active “salt farm” near it, which you can see from the entrance to the parking area.

Overlooking the nearby salt ponds in Kauai
Overlooking the nearby salt ponds for which Kauai’s county park is named.

If you plan to drive to Waimea Canyon during your stay in Kauai, Salt Pond Park makes a great stop along the way with easy swimming in fairly calm waters–particularly during low tide. Just be sure to bring your snacks and essentials as it’s off the track and away from any restaurants, shops, or resorts (part of the magic).

Discovering the rocky tidepools at Salt Pond Park, Kauai
Banded coral shrimp, crabs, anemone…

With jetlag on our side, we were able to time our first visit to Salt  Pond to coincide with an early morning low tide. This was absolutely the best timing we could have had, as there was only one person, a camper, at the beach when we arrived.

Sea cucumbers at Salt Pond Park, Kauai
Can you spot the three sea cucumbers?

We discovered that the large rocky formation that broke the small waves coming in was like its own small planet teeming with marine life. We immediately spotted banded coral shrimp, crabs, pipe fish, anemones. We discovered three types of sea cucumbers within a couple of feet of each other. And as I tried to stay ahead of the kids taking pictures all the while, I suddenly froze in my tracks.

Harbor seal sleeping on the beach at Salt Pond Park, Kauai
There was more than one camper sleeping on the beach at Salt Pond Park.

I realized this harbor seal was snoozing peacefully behind me in the sand! We hurried away to leave him alone.

As the tide slowly turned, it brought in more and more little fish and a perfect waveless wading area began to deepen between the rocky ledge and the sandy beach. To the kids’ delight, a small waterfall began trickling of the rocks into their private swimming lagoon.

A small waterfall begins to trickle into the swimming lagoon at Salt Pond Park, Kauai
How many places can a kid do this (safely) in Pacific waters?

As the morning passed and the tide crept in, more people arrived on the scene, mostly local families coming to enjoy a beautiful Sunday at the beach. It had become one of those lovely places you can sit in calm water beside your splashing toddler and little kids afloat on their “looky boards” (highly recommended – available at Snorkel Bob’s) watching for fleeting fish.

Calm waters for swimming at Kauai's Salt Pond Park

You should note that when we returned later that day, during high tide, the scene was quite different. Nearly every parking space was taken. The cove beside this lagoon was dominated by water sports enthusiasts, and the lagoon itself was awash with small waves and bobbing swimmers, while bigger waves splashed over the rocky ledge. Still, it was a beautiful place, and calm enough for mediocre swimmers. 😉 If possible, I strongly recommend visiting Salt Pond Park on  a low-tide morning. Bring your kids, bring your snacks, bring your beach goodies, and definitely… bring your camera.

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