Hidden inside the high cliffs of Kauai’s Na Pali Coast is a scenic ancient sanctuary. Known on the island as Nualolo Kai, this secret area is home to an early Hawaiian settlement and native plant sanctuary. It’s only reachable through boat landing and rests behind a 1,500-foot cliff that’s been around for centuries – enough to get tourists curious about what secrets lie in this clandestine garden. Read on as we share 5 interesting facts about the mysteriously beautiful Nualolo Kai beach, including some rare finds you’re sure to stumble upon on your visit.
Nualolo Kai Beach on Kauai: 5 Special Facts You Need to Know
1. Home to adorable monk seals
Monk seals are earless seals of the tribe Monachini. They are the only earless seals found in tropical climates which make them a rare sight to behold in the Pacific Coast. The Hawaiian monk seal is an endangered species that is endemic to the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaiian monk seal is one of two remaining monk seal species. The preservation of their species is of utmost importance, which is why the locals and tourists alike should treat them with care.
Monk seals often frequent the protected waters inside the reef and come to lay up on the north end of Nualolo Kai beach. Looking comfy on the sandy shores, Monk Seals enjoy their times of leisure by resting their bodies on the lush shores of Nualolo Kai Beach for all to see. Getting to see these monk seals in their natural habitat is a once in a lifetime opportunity that nobody should ever miss.
2. Sitting on an ancient fishing village
Fishing is a big part of the culture in Kauai, a culture preserved from even its earliest civilization. The island is teeming with marine flora and fauna, with fish being one of the main sources of food on the island, it’s no surprise that fishing villages.
Evidence points to Nualolo Kai Beach being one of those ancient sites, the last residents vacated the remote valley in the early 20th century and left behind a complex series of rock walls and platforms, proving the existence of an orderly society and rich life full of culture. Tourists and locals alike can venture into the site of this ancient fishing village to explore the remains and ruins of the civilization.
3. Considered a Hawaiian temple
There are various temples all around Kauai, these temples locally referred to as Heiau are created in diverse architectural styles ranging from simple earthen terraces to elaborately constructed stone platforms. Each temple was used differently in the earlier civilization of Hawaii. They were used to treat the sick, offer first fruits, offer first catch, start rain, stop rain, increase the population, ensure the health of the nation, achieve success in distant voyaging, reach peace, and achieve success in war.
In this particular temple situated by Nualolo Kai Beach there is a spring that is believed used to provide settlement to the early inhabitants of the island. However, the water has turned brackish due to nearby coconut trees lowering the water table. The trees have been removed, and restoration is currently being done to restore the spring to its former beauty.
4. Peppered with petroglyphs to discover
Inscriptions on rocks, valleys and mountains can be found all over Nualolo Kai Beach. These ancient inscriptions are called Petroglyphs, or kii pohaku. Petroglyphs are lava rock carvings etched into stone centuries ago by Native Hawaiians. The meanings of these stone carvings are generally unknown, but it is believed that they were inscriptions used for recording births, recording deaths and other significant events in the lives of the island’s early inhabitants. Carvings of human forms, canoes, turtles and many other symbols are etched within the rock formations of Nualolo Kai Beach for people to discover.
The wall of the valley is marked with a giant “X,” approximately 400 feet in height. It is not a marker of buried treasure, but instead was formed naturally by crossing vents in the lava, which was later filled with the more dense blue stone, creating the illusion of a massive carving. Be it natural or man-made, petroglyphs are scattered all over Nualolo Kai beach making the thrill of discovery all the more worthwhile.
5. Only accessible by water
There used to be a rope ladder that hung at Alapi’i Point connecting Nualolo Kai Beach to the neighboring farming settlement at Nualolo ‘Aina which provided some form of accessibility to the beach. However, the rope ladder is now gone and the only way to access the untouched beach and all of its rich history is via boat by landing at the pristine Nualolo Kai Beach.
However, landing at the beach requires a permit as well, making it even more difficult and well worth it. Travelers that opt to go to the beach via kayak must drop their anchors offshore and swim to the shore itself, which might pose a risk to inexperienced swimmers.
Stepping foot in Nualolo Kai is truly a very special experience. It remains to be one of Hawaii’s most well-preserved pieces of history and offers a serene space to take in nature. Go on, feed your curiosity. Take that boat to Nualolo Kai and see for yourself all the wonders you can find behind Na Pali’s gigantic cliffs.