I recently hiked the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, along Kauai’s southern coastline, from Keoneloa Bay to Kawailoa Bay. This three mile trail has many geological and cultural sites for our Kauai vacation rental guests to explore.
It’s an incredible place to spend the day walking, relaxing, observing, listening and discovering all that this Kauai beach has to offer.
David Burney, professor of paleontology at Fordham University describes Mahaulepu as, “…the Olduvai Gorge or La Brea Tar Pits of Hawaii. We keep finding things. We could dig here forever!”
Where to Start Your Hike: Begin at Keoneloa Bay which is also known by Kama`aina as “Shipwrecks. This is the first beach after the Grand Hyatt and just a short distance from our South Shore Kauai vacation homes and condos. Shipwrecks got its name from the wreckage of a fishing boat here in the mid 1970’s.
Interesting Fact: You’ll be walking on lithified sand dunes from Makawehi to the east. This was sand about 125,000 years ago.
Here Are Some of the Natural Resource Sights You Will See:
- Stratified lava rock of 5 million year old Waimea Canyon Basalt, the oldest volcanic rock of the eight main islands, found in Mt. Haupu.
- Lava formations of the Koloa Volcanics, 500,000 to 2 million years old.
- Cliffs of ancient sand dunes formed 350,000 years ago during the Ice Age.
- Paa Dunes, meaning “fence of lava rock” or “dry and rocky” formed about 8,000 year ago. The tradewinds blowing from the northeast or mauka (mountain) side, have had the most influence determining the shape of the dunes along this section of the coast.
- Pinnacles formed by rain-water washing down along the vertical fractures in the limestone. Bones from two extinct species of a large, flightless goose and an owl have been found here, dating back to between 3,000-4,000 years BC.
- Heiau Hooului’a or “Fishing Temple” was likely created by humans and is thought to have been a place of worship where fish were offered to Keoniloa, the god of the sea to make certain good fishing.
- Makauwahi sinkhole is a small portion of the largest limestone cave found in Hawaii. Excavations of the sediment place it at some 10,000 years old and have revealed 45 species of bird life, nearly half of them extinct, and evidence of coastal plants now thought to only live in upland areas. The findings also show how the first humans that inhabited Kauai affected the pre-human natural environment. It is only one of a few sites in the world that shows such impact.
- Wetland remnant areas are sometimes visible.
- Waiopili Petroglyphs found in 1887 on a rock at Mahaulepu Beach near the mouth of the Waiopili Stream. The carvings were exposed for ten days as the waves washed over and cleared the sand. Sixty-seven pictures and markings were noted. The carvings are usually covered by beach but if tide and ocean conditions are right, they can occasionally be seen.
Tip: If you go the distance it will be 3 miles each way. The trail is not difficult and perfect for families. Bring your camera, carry water, wear a hat, sunglasses and athletic shoes. Use sunscreen and enjoy your hike!
Mahaulepu is assuredly one of the unique treasures found on Kauai. If you have been on this hike be sure to share your experience.