Meander among ancient sandcastles on the Maha‘ulepu Heritage Trail that hugs Kauai’s southeastern coast. Jagged limestone pillars and cliffs, blasted by wind and surf over the course of millions of years, coupled with flakey sand dunes, dominate this remote shoreline that’s unlike anywhere else in Hawai‘i.
Hiking on this sunny side of the island is the perfect activity for the winter season. While not as lush and green as the North Shore, there are many other dramatic geologic wonder to encounter during this approximate 4-mile roundtrip hike. Before setting out on this journey, make sure to wear plenty of sun protection and closed toes shoes. The UV rays are intense and much harder to feel due to whipping winds, and proper footwear allows you to gain traction on rough, rocky surfaces.
The moderately easy trail starts at Keoneloa Beach, also known as Shipwreck Beach, adjacent to the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa at the end of Po‘ipü Road. Several trails extend beyond the beach but it’s best to stay on the path closest to the sea for the most spectacular views. You’ll instantly feel the power of the ocean as you traverse the craggy cliff sides. Lava tubes, limestone steeples and blow holes will have you staring in awe at many points along the way. Just watch your step while admiring the view, and remember to be on the lookout for native wildlife, including Hawaiian humpback whales and koa‘e kea or white-tailed tropicbirds.
Discover several historical surprises as well, like an ancient heiau and the largest limestone cavern in the state. In fact, at the midway point of this hike is the Makauwahi Cave Reserve, the most abundant fossil site in Hawai‘i with archeological findings dating back 10,000 years, such as bones of large birds that once roamed the island. If you’re lucky enough to visit when volunteers are at hand, you’ll be treated to many fascinating stories associated with this mysterious sinkhole.
Explore the sandy fortressed Maha‘ulepu Coast, unique to the Garden Isle, and be rewarded with many stunning views and unexpected experiences. Visit hikemahaulepu.org for the Maha‘ulepu Heritage Trail guide.
Photo by Nina B./ Shutterstock