Maha‘ulepu Beaches, Kaua‘i

For a little adventure into the outskirts of Kaua‘i’s south side, take the drive out to the Maha‘ulepu Beaches at the east end of Po‘ipu. You’ll travel down a long road through undeveloped land with great views of the green mountains. The road is fit for two-wheel drive cars but is usually pocked with potholes, making the ride quite bumpy. To get here, drive past the Grand Hyatt Kauai until the road turns to dirt. You’ll see the CMJ Stables sign as the road turns to dirt and a gate with a sign that states the gates are locked at 6pm. Access is privately owned, and locals are hoping the owners won’t close it, so respect the area and take out all that you brought. The long strip of beaches consists of Gillin’s Beach, the first you come to; Kawailoa Bay, the second; and the third and most secluded, Ha‘ula Beach.

Gillin’s Beach is accessed via a short trail through the forest. Parking is out of sight from the beach and behind the forest, so bring any valuable belongings to the beach or leave them at home. The beach is very, very long with fine white sand. Swimming is doable, but be careful and use good judgment. Conditions can be windy with a strong current. Although the beach is very long, it’s not the widest from dunes to ocean. As the tide gets higher the sand gets narrower, and you will most likely see sunbathers bordering the dunes. To the right of the beach after Elbert Gillin’s house, whom the beach is named after, is the Makauwahi Sinkhole, which is fun to explore. The open sandstone sinkhole has some fun elements to check out and has unearthed archaeological finds.

A Hawaiian monk seal enjoying Gillian's Beach.
A Hawaiian monk seal enjoying Gillian’s Beach. Photo © Robin Wendler, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Swimming is the most protected east of Gillin’s at Kawailoa Bay. You can keep driving and notice the beach as it becomes roadside, or walk from Gillin’s east around the bend. The cove is calmer here than anywhere else on the beach, but the beach isn’t quite as nice as the rest. A nice aspect of Kawailoa is that since it’s in a semi-protected cove, the whipping winds can be less offensive here.

To get to Ha‘ula Beach you must walk for a while along the lithified cliffs. The cliffs look wild and prehistoric; they’re rough, and you’ll want shoes for this. After about 15 minutes of walking while taking in the unique landscape, you’ll reach Ha‘ula Beach. Swimming out here is almost always dangerous, but on the bright side, secluded beachcombing and sunbathing are plentiful. There is rarely anyone out here and you’ll most likely be alone, the main appeal of making the trip.

Farther east and accessible only by boat or over the gnarly ridge is Kipu Kai Beach. So unless you want to rent a boat or hike over an extremely uncomfortable ridge, you shouldn’t visit this beach.

Travel map of the South Shore of Kaua‘i, Hawaii
South Shore of Kaua‘i

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