Kaua‘i’s southern coastline is blessed with plentiful sunshine, pristine white sand beaches, and beautiful resort paradises. One of the most pristine sections of this beautiful coastline is the Maha`ulepu Heritage Trail, a 3.7-mile out and back trail that skirts dunes, shrub-lined coastal hills, and rocky coves of southeastern Kaua‘i. Stretching from Shipwreck Beach on Keoneloa Bay to the secluded cove that harbors Maha`ulepu Beach, this undulating hike is perfect for all skill levels.
The starting point for the Maha`ulepu Heritage Trail, Shipwreck Beach offers a glimpse of the attractions in store for those undertaking the hike. Here the unimpeded waves of the Pacific crash upon the rocky shoreline, reverberating through the jagged cliffs and providing stunning scenery for those sunbathing on the sunny shore. Leaving the beach and heading east, the trail winds over the cliffs and past thick groves of kiawe trees, rolling sand dunes, and formations of limestone scoured by the surf. Numerous spurs drop down to small secluded coves lined with caves begging to be explored, but use caution as changing ocean conditions can make for treacherous experiences at the water’s edge (as a general rule of thumb, if the rocks are wet, don’t go).
The Coastal Trail
Once underway, you will be treated to spectacular views of this unspoiled and otherwise inaccessible coastline, the last enclave of paradise that has not been developed. From your perch atop the cliffs and dunes you are afforded excellent views of the breaking waves as well as green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals lounging on the pocket beaches or playing in the surf below. During the winter months, the Maha`ulepu trail is an excellent vantage point for whale watching as the migrating humpbacks gather just offshore to rest and feed their young.
The coastal path reaches its terminus at the remote and rugged Maha`ulepu Beach. The ocean conditions here are generally too rough to swim, but the beach is ideal for whale watching, beach combing, and sunbathing. Before you head back, be sure to dip your toes in the surf, explore the rocky tide pools, and keep an eye out for ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs carved into the cliffsides.
The heritage trail is undergoing active preservation, and is a unique and lightly-traveled path to some of Kaua‘i’s most pristine and secluded coastal areas. A highlight to any trip, we urge you to enjoy Maha`ulepu trail, but remember to take only photographs and leave only footprints.