A public uprising ignited when a once-sort-of-famous Hollywood director bought the land and gated access to Papa'a (pah-pa-ah) Bay on the northeast shore about 15 years ago. People were arrested at a march-in. Alas, the road is still closed, but, since beach access is a civil right in Hawaii, a new trail was created, beginning from near the parking lot at Aliomanu Bay.
You catch a dreamy first glimpse of the aquamarine cove from the steep trail in an ironwood forest. The red-dirt route drops to the mouth of the bay, where a shoreline boulder-hop of 80 yards begins. Big rocks catch surf spray at times. Then the going is easy when you reach the sand. The rock hop adds a minor obstacle that is Papa'a Bay's saving grace.
At the far end of the beach is a small stream with a powder sand shore. A near-shore small reef provides a snorkler's pool. Swimming is good in the center of the bay. No beach is always safe, but this one usually is, even in winter.
Local dudes love the point break on the south, right where the trail first reaches sea level. Papa'a Bay is one of about two dozen hike-to, off-the-tourist-radar beaches on this coastline—from Kealia Beach all the way north to Princeville. Kauai Trailblazer has details on all of them.