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  3. What to do around Poipu: beaches, activities and walks
Written by Sandrine Updated on 27/12/19

Along with Princeville, the Poipu area is one of the most popular resort areas on Kauai Island. People who come here on vacation are not mistaken. It's one of the calmest, sunniest places on the island, and Lihue, the "capital" of the island with its shops, is fairly close, about 20 minutes by car.

You will find around the seaside resort of Poipu a rather consequent number of resorts more or less large. There is something for everyone! The typical profile of the traveller who comes to relax in Poipu is the one who comes with his family, often with young children, and who wishes to initiate himself and/or his family to the joys of idleness and snorkeling. Poipu can also be a good base camp to visit the south of the island.

Finally, the area of Poipu offers a good number of points of interest, beaches and other activities to discover that we will detail in this article.

1The beaches of Poipu

Poipu is a chic, family-friendly resort and it's easy to see why! Located south of Kauai, Poipu is one of the sunniest areas of the island and with its coastline dotted with small sandy beaches, it's the perfect place for a little lazy time in Hawaii!

These are the few easily accessible beaches you can find around the small town of Poipu, from west to east.

Kukui'ula Harbor Beach

This small beach with its rocks can be pleasant at sunset or for a picnic thanks to large expanses of grass and a few picnic tables in the shade. Shower and toilets on site.

Kukui Ula Harbor Beach
Kukui Ula Harbor Beach early in the morning.

Keiki Cove Beach

Here is a charming little bay that hides a tiny but beautiful sandy beach below the road. The small cove is protected from the waves by a reef that is clearly visible at low tide, forming a small lagoon when the sea retreats sufficiently. The place is really cute although located just below the road.

Little Keiki Cove Beach
Nice little Keiki Cove Beach.

There is only one parking space but it is also possible to leave your car a few dozen metres further on at Lawa'i Beach. We recommend that you come early enough in the morning, or at the end of the day to avoid finding yourself on the beach in too many people. 

There are no facilities on site but the nearby Lawa'i Beach has a shower and toilets.

Lawa'i Beach

Located 3 kilometres west of Poipu Beach Park on Lawa'i Road, the small beach of Lawa'i is a popular snorkeling spot. A grassy area to the west of the beach can be nice to sit under some tall palm trees.

Lawaii beach - Hawaii
View of Lawa'i beach from the rocks.

Here, the coral reef does not protect the beach, which exposes it to waves and sea currents, and therefore reserves it for the initiated. Although the seabed is not beautiful (no coral here), the fish are much more numerous here than in Poipu Beach Park.

In winter the waves may prevent you from swimming here. So be careful when swimming and possibly bring a float or a board to help you. Once in the water there is a good chance that you will encounter dozens of beautiful yellow fish.

Yellow fish at Lawa'i beach
Yellow fish at Lawa'i beach.

There is a shower on the outside wall of the public toilets, across the road from the snack bar. Parking is along the road just off the beach.

Baby beach

Small intimate beach but without any real charm which will have for main interest not to be too crowded. To access it, you will have to park directly in the street, in front of the houses when parking is possible, which can be tricky on busy days. There are no amenities on site.

Baby Beach, beach in the vicinity of Poipu
Baby Beach, a quiet beach in Poipu.

Kiahuna Beach

Kiahuna beach is a long and beautiful sandy beach, bordered by a few coconut trees, houses and hotels. It is adjacent to the Sheraton hotel, which has a few deckchairs for guests, but the beach is long enough with its 400 meters of sand. Enough so that you don't find yourselves too close to each other even though it is relatively crowded.

Kiahuna Beach on a weekend
Kiahuna Beach one weekend in October.

However, here again it will be difficult to park easily as the public car park at the end of the Poipu Beach Road leading to the beach is very small and allows only a limited number of vehicles to park there. However, there is a larger car park at the corner of Kapili Road and Poipu Beach Road, which provides access to the beach by walking about 400 metres along the coast (pedestrian walkway) to the west end.

There are showers and toilets on site.

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach is the most famous beach in the area. It is easy to get to and has a large car park with all the facilities you need to spend a pleasant day at the beach (large park, toilets, showers, picnic tables, children's games), so you can see why this beach is very popular!

Crowds in Poipu Beach
Crowds in Poipu Beach on a weekend in October.

The peculiarity of Poipu Beach is that the beach has two small rounded alcoves separated by a sandbank that overlaps at high tide. Poipu Beach is also the perfect place to start snorkeling as the depths are shallow and the fish are numerous. Moreover the swimming is supervised. Poipu Beach is therefore ideal for beginners or young children.

Be careful though, as the current can be strong in the middle sandbank. If you are with young children, the small pool on the left side of the beach is the best choice.

Longfin bannerfish in Poipu Beach
Longfin bannerfish in Poipu Beach.

You may also have the chance to observe one or more turtles (we were able to swim a few meters with a turtle on the beach when we first came!). Poipu beach is also the home of some monk seals that often come here to sunbathe.

Note that if turtles or seals are present on the beach, it will be necessary to observe a certain distance if their resting area is not already marked out, in order not to disturb them. This is valid everywhere on the archipelago.

Nevertheless, the big disadvantage of Poipu beach is its crowds, especially during weekends and holidays. So don't come here for the peace and quiet! Finally if you are already well initiated in snorkeling, Poipu Beach will probably not satisfy you, as the seabed is non-existent here and the water is shallow and often turbid. Nevertheless fish are abundant and very easy to observe.

Brennecke's Beach

Located in the extension of Poipu Beach Park, Brennecke's Beach is an alternative to the crowded beach of Poipu. Nevertheless, the waves are more numerous there because the area is not protected, which makes it a popular surf spot for locals. A small car park allows a few cars to park in front of the beach.

There are picnic tables, showers and toilets at the adjacent Poipu Beach Park.

Brennecke's Beach from Poipu beach park
View of Brennecke's Beach from Poipu Beach Park.

Shipwreck's Beach

Shipwreck's Beach is the last beach easily accessible from the seaside resort of Poipu. It is located close to the Grand Hyatt and runs along a good part of the resort, but is quite secluded. A small car park with a few spaces allows you to park at the end of Ainako Street.

This beach is rather different from the previous ones because it is long, rather wide and rather wild. Here the waves come to break and make the happiness of the surfers. The bathing will not be really favourable there except during the calm days of the summer, but it is pleasant to come to walk there.

Shipwreck's Beach is also the start of the famous Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail, which we'll tell you about a little later.

Waves at Shipwreck's Beach
The waves are breaking at Shipwreck's Beach.

2Points of interest to see around Poipu

The Spouting Horn

At the end of the Lawai Road, west of Poipu, is the Spouting Horn Park, which is home to the Spouting Horn!

It's a kind of geyser formed by a cavity in the basaltic soil, which expels sea water at the rhythm of the waves that rush in. On days when the ocean is agitated, the jet of water can rise up to 15 metres.

Spouting Horn water jet near Poipu in Kauai
The Spouting Horn in action, early April.

A local legend is associated with this phenomenon: A giant lizard ("mo'o" in Hawaiian) once protected this area of the island. One day, a young man named Liko defied the lizard that threatened local people who came to fish or swim. During their fight, Liko pushed a pointed stick into the lizard's mouth. Liko then jumped into the ocean, pulling the lizard through the water to a small lava tube in the rocks leading to the surface. The lizard following Liko then got stuck in the lava tube. Today you can hear the lizard's roar every time the geyser gushes up into the air.

Access to the site is free, and there is a shop and toilet facilities on site.

Also note that there are 2 botanical gardens located near the Spouting Horn. As we haven't visited them, we won't be able to tell you more, but know that they are there ;)

Old Koloa Town

North of Poipu is the small town of Old Koloa Town. Without any real point of interest, the city is still pleasant to cross with its superb Banyan Trees and small shops.

Old Koala Town Centre
Near the centre of Old Koala Town.

Eucalyptus tree tunnel

Eucalyptus tunnel at Kauai near Poipu
The first few meters of the tunnel.

Finally, arriving to Old Koloa Town from Lihue, or leaving the small town, you will probably take Maluhia Road. Don't forget to make a stop or just admire the magnificent hundred-year-old Eucalyptus trees that adorn both sides of the road at the junction with the Kaumualii Highway for a few dozen metres. They are so old that their branches touch each other above the road, forming a small tunnel.

The part near the Kaumualii Highway is the most impressive because the Eucalyptus trees are intermingled with lianas and tropical vegetation.

3Play a round of golf

You like golf? Great! The Poipu area is home to three golf courses: Kukui'ula Golf Course in the west, Kiahuna Golf Club in the north, and Poipu Bay Golf Course in the east. Poipu Bay Golf Course is internationally renowned, being part of the PGA Tour. So if you like to putt in the midst of paradise landscapes of lush green mountains, coconut palms, and the Pacific Ocean, then you will enjoy Poipu!

4Stroll along the coastline

The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail

6 km round trip - 2h00 - Easy

For the walkers, a big walk or a very pleasant little hike awaits you in the surroundings of Poipu. The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail starts at Shipwreck's Beach and takes you along the steep and colourful coastline to Gillin's Beach. It takes approximately 2 hours to complete the round trip.

This walk will give you the opportunity to admire the ocean and have a beautiful view of the ridge between Lihue and Poipu. The ruins of an ancient Heiau (Hawaiian temple) are also visible halfway along the route. To know more about the full itinerary we invite you to read our dedicated article: Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail: hiking along the coast near Poipu

On the Maha'Ulepu Heritage trail
One of the most beautiful panoramas of the trail, the colors are superb!

At the end of the trail, some curiosities await us like Makauwahi Cave, an original cave, Gillin's Beach, a secluded beach, and finally Kawailoa Bay, a bay with beautiful beaches located a little later. We tell you about all these places just afterwards knowing that they are also accessible by road.

5Explore the little-known area east of Poipu

To the east of Poipu is a small, little-known area with some curiosities worth visiting. This area, located to the east of the resort, is home to a cave, turtles and several beautiful secluded beaches.

Access to the various points of interest in this area is via an unpaved road that occasionally turns into a track but is still quite passable in dry weather with a small car.

Access is from the south, continuing eastwards from the main road to Poipu. Do not try to access it by the direct road further north proposed by the GPS as the access is blocked. Look on the map at the bottom of the article to see the route to follow.

Despite their remoteness, all the points of interest listed below are accessible by car. They can also be reached on foot from the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail which starts at Shipwreck beach.

Panorama of the surroundings from the Makauwahi Cave
Panorama of the surroundings from the Makauwahi Cave.

Makauwahi Cave

Makauwahi Cave is a small cave that is easy to explore by sneaking rumped into a small hole that marks its entrance. But it's better to be agile to avoid putting your hands and knees on the ground because the carpet is all muddy!

Entrance to the Makauwahi Cave
The passage is not very wide!
Sandrine entering the Makauwahi Cave
Close-up of me in the entrance hall ;-)

Once inside there is a first cavity decorated with a few small stalactites in the process of formation, which leads to an open area where a few palm trees grow.

Inside the Makauwahi Cave
The inside of the Makauwahi Cave.

We then have to cross this open area, formed by a collapse of the roof of the large cave a long time ago, to reach the second cave. The latter ends in a dead end in the dark.

The open-air area in the Makauwahi Cave
The open area between the two caves.

There is no charge for the visit but donations are recommended for the preservation of the site. Brochures to understand the formation of the site and the local ecosystem are available at the entrance. Access to the cave is open every day from 9am to 4pm. There is a dirt car park near the cave at the end of the trail.

After the visit do not hesitate to take the small numbered path which allows you to go up to a viewpoint above the cave and which gives indications on the history of the place by following the numbers of the leaflet you will have found at the entrance (in English only). 

Panorama of the Makauwahi Cave from the high trail
Panorama of the cave collapse zone from the heights.

Lida's Field of Dreams

Just in front of the cave's dirt car park, you will notice several enclosures where large land turtles live. This is a preservation area where land turtles have been reintroduced to try to reproduce the original ecosystem, when one of the kinds of large birds now extinct, populated the area.

A large tortoise in its protective enclosure.

The link between tortoises and big birds? Tortoises are said to be the animal most similar to one of the extinct animals whose fossils have been found in the cave: the Turtle-jawed moa-nalo, which is in fact a kind of goose that looked like a tortoise? Yes, quite strange I grant you!

It is possible to approach the tortoises by using the small stepladder that allows you to step over the fence at the parking lot. There are also other accesses by going back up on the track.

Flo climbs on the stepladder to access the pens
Flo climbs on the stepladder to access the pens.

Gillin’s beach

Gillin's large sandy beach starts at the cave's dirt car park and stretches almost 800 metres to the east. It is a very long sandy beach where the waves come to crash. Here you will hardly find anyone. The place is ideal for a leisurely stroll along the ocean listening to the sound of the waves.

At the beginning of Gillin's beach
The beginning of Gillin's beach at the parking lot of the cave.

You will be able to reach it directly from the parking lot of the cave, facing the ocean. Gillin's beach is also the ultimate goal of the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail.

Another access is possible by following the gravel road for 600 meters from the fork to the cave. You then come to another parking lot from where a small path of about 100 meters leads to the beach. This second access will take you directly to the middle of the beach.

Gillin's beach
Gillin's beach in the middle.

Swimming is unsupervised and there are no facilities on the beach. Be careful as the waves and currents are strong.

Kawailoa Bay

In the continuity of Gillin's beach is a bay even less frequented and full of charm! It can be reached by continuing on the track that continues on the right after the car park at Gillin's beach. This time it's a real dirt track with some big pools of mud, but we managed to cross them gently with our little city car. At the end of the track, a small dirt parking lot allows us to park close to the ocean.

Dirt road to Kawailoa Bay
The dirt road to Kawailoa Bay from the parking lot at Gillin's beach.

Here the large sandy beach is wider and the colours more beautiful than at Gillin's Beach with slightly orange sand. Moreover it seems that snorkeling is interesting in the bay (we haven't tested it), but to be reserved for experienced swimmers because of the waves and currents.

The main beach at Kawailoa Bay
The beach at Kawailoa Bay, in the extension of Gillin's beach.
Kawailoa Bay Sand
Contrasts between sand and water in Kawailoa Bay.

But the most beautiful place is just after the parking lot, following the track on foot for about 50 meters. Here a second small hidden beach appears below.

Small hidden beach at Kawailoa Bay
The small hidden beach in the hollow of Kawailoa Bay.

This little beach enchanted us! It's a real little place to relax, because you'll probably be alone and far from everything! We fell in love with this remote place where the coast forms a pretty little bay. 

Haʻula Beach

Even further away, there is the Haʻula Beach, which can only be reached by foot. Unfortunately, we have not been able to access it but the few pictures you can find on the internet may motivate you to discover it!

To continue
The seashore from Lihue to Kapa'a: the beaches of East Kauai
Let's discover the different beaches and points of interest that follow one another east of Kauai, between Lihue and Kapa'a.

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