Kauai’s south shore never ceases to amaze tourists. Mahaulepu beach is an undeveloped, yet, visually stunning stretch of coastline along the south-eastern shore of the island.
The beach has a golden sand shoreline and rocky landscape with varying elevations. Mahaulepu beach pleases tourists and locals alike with appealing views of the waves crashing against the rockline and that of the magnificent Haupu mountain.
The beach is home to a variety of marine species and you can often find monk seals resting on the shoreline. Humpback whales can be spotted during winter months.
The best experience is to explore the beach by walk and have the privilege of discovering things on your own. The waters are better suited for experienced swimmers and surfers because of the strong winds in the region. The beach is also a great place for hikes, bodyboarding, whale watching, kite surfing and exploring the heritage sites.
The Mahaulepu beach consists of three separate beaches namely Gillin’s Beach, Kawaiola Bay and Ha’ula Beach. The beach is often uncrowded as it takes more effort to come here than other popular beaches on the island.
The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail
An integral part of Kauai’s heritage sites, the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail begins at the Shipwreck Beach near the Grand Hyatt. The trail leads you through a 2-mile stretch of coastline with sand dunes, lava tubes, sinkholes and white sand beaches.
The Mahaulepu Heritage site magnifies the history related to ancient settlements, migrants, wars and local wildlife. This is an easy walk and there are some spectacular views along the trail.
The trail goes parallel to the coast for a short distance before you are guided over the cliffs. Once you reach the end of the cliffs, you will be greeted with a mind-blowing view of the coast. The trail eventually leads to the secluded Mahaulepu beach.
The Mahaulepu Cave
The Mahaulepu cave, also known as the Makauwahi cave, is a sandstone sinkhole near the Gillin’s beach and has been a subject of fascination for a long time now. It is an ongoing archaeological project and a lot of scientific research has occurred here.
The research has led to the finding of remains of ancient species of birds and fishes along with ancient artifacts. This can be considered as the richest fossil site in the entire island.
The cave entrance will greet you with a wide atrium decorated with a lining of palm trees. The Makauwahi Cave Reserve is closed and gated most of the time due to its archeological importance. However, if you wish to learn more about the history and geology of the area, you can visit the cave reserve on a sunday morning, where a stationed interpreter will educate you with all the relevant details about the ancient habitation site.
The Makauwahi cave can be accessed via a detour along the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail or through a short walk from Gillin’s beach.
Directions to Mahaulepu Beach
To hike your way to the Mahaulepu Beach, you can park your vehicle at Shipwreck Beach and follow the trailhead that starts from the eastern end of the beach. Follow the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail and enjoy the splendid views along the way. The round trip should not take more than 2 hours.
There’s also another option to access the beach. Turn right on Poipu road and take a left where the road forks. Drive past the Grand Hyatt along a 1.5 mile dirt road. You can park your vehicle past the old guard shack and hike the rest of the way to witness all the three beaches in the Mahaulepu region.
Follow the short trail to Gillin’s beach, which was named after Edward Gillin who built a house on this beach. Also referred to as the Mahaulepu Beach House, Gillin’s house is now a vacation rental and is the only house you can find on the beach.
Walking past the vacation rental and crossing a stream will lead you to Kawaiola Bay which is popular site among kite surfing enthusiasts. You can then access the Ha’upu beach by following the trail that starts from the edge of the cliffs.