Not only is Maha`ulepu a great place for Kauai hiking, it’s also a heritage site revealing 5 million years of timeless Kauai history. This living museum and research area is the habitat for many notable plants and diverse wildlife including Hawaiian Monk Seals. It’s just a short walk or drive from many of our Poipu vacation rentals.
Watch endangered Humpback Whales. Visibility from the dunes at Maha`ulepu makes a perfect site for viewing. Humpbacks migrate back to the islands from Alaska from November through March. The warm, shallow waters around the Hawaiian Islands are one of the world’s premiere habitats for them and the only place in the U.S. where Humpbacks reproduce.
Honu or Green Sea Turtle can be seen along the Mahaulepu coastline surfacing for air. Named after its green-colored fat tissue which comes from the limu (algae) in their diet, the life span for the Honu is around 80 years. They can grow up to four feet in length and weigh up to 400 pounds.
Kolea or Pacific Golden Plover is a charming Kauai indigenous bird frequently seen at Maha`ulepu Beach. They are also found on front lawns, ballparks, parking lots and beaches. At night, they mostly roost on rooftops. Kolea are found on Kauai year-round except during the summer when they migrate for a two-day, 3,000 mile trip to Alaska. The amazing Kolea can fly for long periods at 50-60 miles per hour and will often live over 20 years. For those here on Kauai for prolonged visits will be treated with the Kolea’s striking change in plumage.
Hawaiian Monk Seal (Ilioholoikauaua) is everyone’s favorite sighting. Fewer than 1,500 Monk Seals exist today but fortunately it’s fairly common to see them basking in the sun at Maha`ulepu Beach. They rest on Kauai beaches after foraging for food in the ocean. Hawaii state law prohibits disturbing a Hawaiian Monk Seal or approaching them within 100 feet.
Look for Hinahina Kahakai Pua, an indigenous, succulent-like plant. It grows on rocky, sandy coastal island areas except for the islands of Lanai and Kaho`olawe. The fragrant flowers of the Hinahina range from white to a pale purple with a yellow center. It is used medicinally to treat weaknesses in the body, dry throat and asthma and various lung troubles.
Kiawe tree was planted as part of a reforestation program at the Makauwahi Sinkhole. This deciduous tree can grow up to 60 feet tall. The entire population of kiawe trees in Hawaii came from a single tree planted in Honolulu. Kiawe is used for fuel and charcoal and gives a flavor similar to mesquite when burned.
Maha`ulepu is a rich source of rare and impressive animal and plant life on Kauai. Because of everything which can be seen, learned and felt here, Maha`ulepu must be preserved. Today it continues to be a favorite discovery spot for locals and visitors alike.
Where to Start Your Hike: You can either drive to Maha`ulepu Beach, it’s at the end of the dirt road past the Grand Hyatt, or walk from Shipwreck Beach along the coastline to Maha`ulepu.
Anne looks forward to hearing your tips and questions in the comment section.