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Mahaulepu Beach -- Mahaulepu is the best-looking unspoiled beach in Kauai and possibly in the whole state. Its 2 miles of reddish-gold, grainy sand line the southeastern shore at the foot of 1,500-foot-high Haupu Ridge, just beyond the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa and the McBryde sugar cane fields, which end in sand dunes and a forest of casuarina trees. Almost untouched by modern life, Mahaulepu is a great escape from the real world. It's ideal for beachcombing and shell hunting, but swimming can be risky, except in the reef-sheltered shallows 200 yards west of the sandy parking lot. There's no lifeguard, no facilities -- just great natural beauty everywhere you look. (This beach is where George C. Scott portrayed Ernest Hemingway in the movie Islands in the Stream.) While you're here, see if you can find the Hawaiian petroglyph of a voyaging canoe carved in the beach rock.

To get here, drive past the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa 3 miles east on a red-dirt road, passing the golf course and stables. Turn right at the T-intersection; go 1 mile to the big sand dune, turn left, and drive a half mile to a small lot under the trees.

Poipu Beach Park -- Big, wide Poipu is actually two beaches in one; it's divided by a sandbar, called a tombolo. On the left, a lava-rock jetty protects a sandy-bottomed pool that's perfect for children; on the right, the open bay attracts swimmers, snorkelers, and surfers. And everyone likes to picnic on the grassy lawn graced by coconut trees. You'll find excellent swimming, small tide pools for exploring, great reefs for snorkeling and diving, good fishing, nice waves for surfers, and a steady wind for windsurfers. Poipu attracts a daily crowd, but the density seldom approaches Waikiki levels except on holidays. Facilities include a lifeguard, restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and free parking in the red-dirt lot. Plus, Brennecke's Beach Broiler is nearby. To get here, turn onto Poipu Beach Road, then turn right at Hoowili Road.

Prince Kuhio Park -- This tiny park, across the street from Ho'ai Bay, marks the birthplace of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, who was born March 26 (a state holiday), 1871. Kuhio's mother died shortly after his birth; he was adopted by his mother's sister, Kapiolani, and her husband, Kalakaua. When Kalakaua became king in 1874, Kuhio became prince. However, he did not become king because his aunt, Liliuokalani, ascended to the throne upon Kalakaua's death. In 1893, her reign was overthrown by the U.S. government. However, in 1902 Kuhio was elected as Hawaii's delegate (nonvoting member) to Congress, where he served until his death in 1922. This park is across the street from the ocean, where the rocky drop-off into the water is not very convenient for access (although snorkeling offshore is great). We suggest that you go a bit further east to Keiki (Baby) Beach, a small pocket of sand off Hoona Road, where swimming is generally safe. To get to Prince Kuhio Park, take Poipu Road toward the ocean and veer right at the fork in the road onto Lawai Beach Road. To get to Baby Beach, turn onto Hoona Road.

Spouting Horn Beach Park -- According to ancient Hawaiian legend, a mo'o (lizard) was returning to Kauai from Niihau, where he had just been to a funeral for his two sisters. With tears streaming down his face, he missed landfall on the south shore and got stuck in the blowhole here, where you can still hear his voice during high surf. One of Hawaii's most famous blowholes, Spouting Horn gets its name from the loud roar created when the surf rushes to the lava shoreline and gets funneled up in the narrow chimney, which then spits out the water. Don't be so distracted by this intense display of Mother Nature that you get too close to the blowhole; not only are the rocks slippery, but people have been killed here when large waves swept them into the ocean or into the blowhole. The main attraction here is the blowhole, as the shoreline is mainly rocks. There is a small sandy beach (most of the year) to the west, which does have good swimming when the waters are calm. However, when the surf comes up, the sandy beach disappears. If you look offshore, you can see several boats bobbing in the water; commercial dive and snorkel tour operators frequently bring their tour groups to this area. Facilities include a paved parking lot, restrooms, and vendors. Take Poipu Road toward the ocean, and veer right at the fork in the road onto Lawai Beach Road. Follow the road for about a couple of miles to the beach park.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.