Nestled along Kauai’s 17-mile Na Pali Coast is a landmark valley surrounded by a beautiful mystery. The Honopu Valley, which is easily spotted for its distinctive natural arch is filled with stories and wonder that you’ll want to explore if you’re planning a trip to Kauai’s most famous coastline.
At approximately 90 feet tall, the Honopu Valley is considered the tallest peak in Kauai. The end of the valley houses two secluded small beaches collectively called Honopu beach or Cathedral Beach – both believed to be spiritual spots for their calm waters and history.
In this article, we’ll take you through the stories surrounding this mysterious valley and equip you with tips on visiting the spot, as well as the two beaches located by the valley’s fascinating arch.
The Stories of Honopu Valley
Because Honopu Valley is isolated and not easily accessible except by water, many stories have formed about what events occurred in the area in olden times. Some tales talk about the valley having served as a home to Kauai’s lost tribe, while some involve tales of the supernatural as it served as burial grounds for Hawaiian chiefs in the past.
In 1922, visiting archaeologists found several skulls thought to be primitive, pre-Hawaiian people. This discovery supported claims regarding native tribes having lived in the area in the mid-19th century. This tribe was believed to consist of Marquesans, who were Polynesians originally from Tahiti.
However, later studies of the valley and the found artifacts determined that all of Honopu Valley’s residents were Hawaiian. The erroneous legend endures up to this day, but the isolated valley is also widely believed among locals to be a place of temples and a burial site for the island’s chiefs. This belief is the source of many Hawaiian legends and myths, which we’d love to give you a glimpse of.
In olden times, it was believed that once a chief died, their bones were collected and taken to the cliffs, and the warrior who transported the bones had to die in order to ensure the secrecy of the location of the bones. This is due to the belief that a chief’s bones gain a supernatural power upon death, which could be used against the chief’s tribe.
There may be more legends surrounding the valley, but it does make sense for it to have served various island tribes in the past. The land on Honopu Valley is highly fertile, making it a great base for communities and even castaways! One could survive in the area simply on the large amount of wild fruit, such as guavas and grapefruit that grows along its coast.
Exploring Honopu Valley’s Beaches
Once you step foot on Honopu Valley’s beaches, you’ll understand why it’s been given such a name. It comes from the conch-like sound the arch makes in high winds, and “conch shell” in Hawaiian is called Honopu.
The two hidden and pristine white sand beaches at the end of Honopu Valley are joined by a 90-foot high arch through the base of the rocky outcropping separating them. On one side a waterfall flows onto the beach from Honopu Valley, while sand dunes can be found on both sides. These spots are better appreciated through a helicopter tour or a boat cruise through the Na Pali Coast.
No landing of any boat or aircraft is allowed on the beach or in the valley, unless they belong to Hollywood movies, of which several have been filmed here. When Hollywood needs a dramatic, exotic, tropical beach, they often head to Honopu. Movies filmed at Honopu include the 1976 remake of King Kong, Six Days Seven Nights, Pirates of the Caribbean ‘On Stranger Tides’ and Honeymoon in Vegas.
While the beach is difficult to access, it is only one valley past the famous Kalalau Valley and Beach, which is only accessible via a strenuous 11-mile backpacking trip. Once at Kalalau Beach, some choose to strap on their fins, grab a snorkel, and make the 400-yard swim to Honopu.
The swim is only possible in the summer months, only during low tide, and only before the winds have picked up. Alternatively, you can also jump off a boat cruise and swim to shore, so long as you have the go signal and guidance from your captain.
However, make sure you have the stamina to take this route to get to Honopu Beach – it’s deemed as the most difficult beach to reach in Kauai, with Only the strongest, most ocean-hardened swimmers attempting to reach it by swimming.
When you do get to Honopu Beach, make sure to keep in mind that it is treated by the locals as a sacred piece of Hawaiian culture. Being burial grounds for Hawaiian royalty, it’s essential that you remain sensitive to your surroundings while visiting the beach. Remember to respect the quiet atmosphere and leave no trace behind as you head on to your next adventure.
Visit Honopu Valley
It’s no question why Honopu Valley and Beach is listed as one of the world’s most beautiful and dramatic spots. With its picturesque structure, a solid minute spent looking at it in awe is enough to last a lifetime. If your resources allow, we recommend putting a cruise through Na Pali Coast on top of your Kauai bucket list, so you may catch a glimpse of the valley’s grandness.
Just as beautiful as the valley’s surroundings are the legends that have formed from its mysterious location. When you get a chance to step foot in this gorgeous landmark, always keep in mind to respect each element in the area, as well as the history that encompasses years and years of Hawaiian culture.
We hope that this article has given you a wonderful image of Honopu Valley and Beach and encourages you to come out and see this natural wonder for yourself. Until then, Honopu’s sand dunes and amazingly blue waters will continue to stay enchanted for twinkle-toed adventurers to discover.