Visit a Wilderness Area – Mahaulepu

By Team
Photo:  Ellyn B.

Photo: Ellyn B.

Mahaʻulepu, the last undeveloped shoreline on Kauaʻi’s southern coast, is much more than an exquisite beach and favorite kiteboarding, windsurfing and horseback riding spot. This 2,900-acre wilderness area is really a living museum. Populated with rare plants and endangered animals, it also stands as a record of Native Hawaiian life and sugar plantation history.

The beach, on privately owned land, is a couple of bumpy cane roads away from Poʻipū. Here the polished and pruned resort landscape; the hotels, golf courses and second homes falls away, and the land and sea seem to burst into movement, twisting, rising up and reclining.

A Geological Storybook

Makawehi Bluff, Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail, Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii, United States.  Photo:  Robert Linsdell.

Makawehi Bluff, Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, Koloa, Kauai, Hawaii, United States. Photo: Robert Linsdell.

Possessed of an intriguing assortment of natural and historic wonders, Mahaʻulepu tells the continuous story of 5 million years of change to Kauaʻi’s land and waters. The shoreline is characterized by its unique lithified coastal sand dunes, which provide a geologic record of several major sea level changes over the past 500,000 years. A large sinkhole in the limestone is the subject of on-going excavation and analysis of sedimentary deposits. The lumbering Hawaiian Monk Seal, a critically endangered species, makes frequent visits to this coastal area. Please stay at least 100 feet from these 400 to 600-pound animals. They haul up out of the water to sleep or nurse babies and have been known to bite humans when harassed.

A Historically Significant Place

Important pages of Kauaʻi’s history were written on this coastal landscape. It was here that King Kamehameha sent his troops in 1796 in an attempt to capture Kauaʻi, which was the only Hawaiian island not already under this powerful and ruthless king’s rule. But when the party attempted the trip from Oahu, most of the 1,200 outrigger canoes carrying his 10,000 bravest warriors sank or were turned back by a series of vicious storms.

Taking in the Raw Beauty of Mahaulepu

As if Mahaʻulepu’s geological and cultural significance were not enough, it’s also a place of scenic beauty where you can snorkel in the Crayola-blue, reef-protected waters of Kawailoa Bay or swim at Haʻula Beach, a 10-minute walk over an old lava field.

Mahaʻulepu is located two miles from the end of Poʻipū Road. The road turns to a rutted cane field track just past the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa. Watch for an intersection. If you turn right, you’ll park at the dunes and hike to the beach. If you go left, you’ll continue on to Kawailoa Bay. An organization called Malama Mahaʻulepu ( is working to legally preserve the property, which is owned by former AOL Chairman Steve Case.

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