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Kauai

Hiking the Beautiful Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail on Kauai

Maha’ulepu Beach

There are not many easy hikes on Kauai due to the mountainous terrain, but there is one that shouldn’t be missed because of its ease and beauty. It is the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail in Poipu on the south shore. The Maha’ulepu Dunes are ancient sand dunes that have been hardened and compacted into spectacular limestone ledges and cliffs. Carved drawings and petroglyphs have been discovered here along with many fossils. This is a fascinating hike.

The true hike along the entire length of the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail starts at Shipwrecks Beach at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and is about 4 miles round trip. Park at the Shipwrecks Beach parking area and walk along the beach towards the cliff. There is a path up the cliff and here you may see some more daring visitors jumping off the cliff into the ocean. Not recommended.

Follow the coastline to Gillin’s Beach, a long beautiful beach that you will probably have all to yourself. Continue walking along the beach to Maha’ulepu Beach. You can stop here and enjoy this beautiful spot, or continue on to the end. The hike takes you past Maha’ulepu Beach, along more spectacular limestone cliffs and amazing formations, to the end of the trail at Kawailoa Bay.

limestone formations on the cliffs on the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail

You can also drive to Maha’ulepu Beach via a bumpy dirt cane road, part of Grove Farm. Word of WARNING: This dirt road is gated and closes promptly at 6 p.m. If you are still at the beach, or driving back on the road past 6 p.m., you will be locked in until the next morning.

While walking along the trail you may see a monk seal. Please stay at least 100 feet away from the monk seals as they are a federally protected species, and it is a felony offense to harass them. Oftentimes you will see the area around them roped off by volunteers with the Kauai Monk Seal Watch Program.

The Maha’ulepu area is also home to two endangered species. Both live in caves, so it is unlikely you will encounter them, the Kauai Blind Cave Amphipod (a crustacean), and the Kauai Blind Cave Spider.

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