The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai’s South Shore is a striking coastal hike that takes you from the end of Shipwreck Beach along sand-dune cliffs, Kiawe trees, limestone formations and rocky bluffs and inlets to Mahaulepu Beach and beyond. It is the last stretch of accessible coastline on the south shore that remains undeveloped.
Mahaulepu’s name (MA-HA OO-LAY-POO) comes from a legendary battle that took place in the 1300’s when Kalaunuio Hua, a Big Island ruler, tried to conquer all the islands. Legend has it that Kukona, the 7th Alii Aimoku (King or Chief) of Kauai at that time, met the invaders on Mahaulepu Beach, led them on a merry chase inland and then conquered them when they were all tuckered out. This gave Kauai the historical distinction as an island that was never conquered.
Hiking on the trail is fairly easy with no great elevation gains or losses and you can walk for as little or as long as you want before turning back. The scenery is stunning. Some of my favorite photos from the whole island were taken on this hike.
There is no shortage of interesting things to look at and photograph on this trail. We stopped to watch a local getting into the water (spearfishing?) at a location that I wouldn’t have thought possible. I was quite sure he was going to get pounded into the rocks by the large waves but evidently he was experienced at it. You can see him at the base of the cliffs in the photo below.
Towards the end of the first section of bluffs on the trail there are interesting pillar formations.
We found some carvings on some of pillars but somehow I don’t think its from the ancient Hawaiians.
As you continue along the cliffs you begin to get views of the emerald green mountains which lie along the coast between Poipu and Lihue. At the base of the mountain you can see a little bit of the Poipu Bay Golf Course.
The trail continues past the golf course to Mahaulepu Beach. We were getting hot and thirsty so we decided to head back to Shipwreck beach and go up to the Hyatt for cold drinks (highly recommended by the way, a cold beer never tasted quite so good!).
A few days later we had the opportunity to visit some of the farther sections of the trail. My wife had booked a horseback ride at CJM Stables (highly recommended, she had a great time) which is just beyond the golf course. I’ve long since learned that back problems and horses don’t mix well so while she was on the ride I took my camera for a hike on the trail and beach. It worked out well since the path taken by the trail riders comes down onto the beach so I got some shots of them there.
If you drive past the Hyatt you pass a gate and enter a dirt road. This road takes you CJM Stables (turn off to right) and also allows you to drive down and park very close to Mahaulepu Beach. This is a very good access point for the farther sections of trail but the road is a little rough. There is a lot to explore in this area including Gillin’s Beach, limestone cave, the lovely Mahaulepu Beach itself and the striking area of trail beyond the beach. Make sure you get back out past the gate before 6pm, however, since they seem to close it for the night.
The beach area is very scenic with views of sand, water and mountains broken up by very colorful green plants which seem to thrive on the sand. Not a lot of people seem to go there and at one point we had the beach all to ourselves.
I spent some time watching a local spearfisherman getting ready to go out.
Continuing past Mahaulepu Beach, there is another area of rugged coast and gorgeous views.
I didn’t have time to fully explore this area when we were there. I’m definitely going to spend more time here the next time we visit. If you love hiking and gorgeous coastal scenery I highly recommend this hike.