Kaua‘i’s southern coastline is a beautiful island paradise blessed with plentiful sunshine, endless white sand beaches, and panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean stretching to infinity. One of the most pristine sections of this beautiful coastline is the Maha’ulepu Heritage Trail, a 3.7-mile out and back hike that skirts dunes, shrub-lined coastal hills, and the rocky coves of southeastern Kaua‘i’s wild shores. Stretching from Shipwreck Beach on Keoneloa Bay to the secluded cove that harbors Maha`ulepu Beach, this gently undulating hike is perfect for all skill levels.
The starting point for this coastal trail, Shipwreck Beach offers a glimpse of the attractions in store for those undertaking the hike. The powerful waves of the Pacific crash upon the rocky shoreline, reverberating through the jagged cliffs and providing stunning scenery for those sunbathing on the sun-soaked beach. Leaving the beach and heading east, the trail winds over the cliffs and past thick groves of kiawe trees, rolling sand dunes, and limestone formations endlessly carved by the surf. Numerous side trails drop down to small secluded coves and beaches 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 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 takes intrepid adventures to the remote and breathtaking Maha’ulepu Beach. While the ocean conditions are generally too rough to swim, the beach is ideal for whale watching, beach combing, and sunbathing. The stunning views alone are worth the beautiful walk. 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 petroglyph carvings.
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.