Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
100.00 ft (30.48 m)
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
6.50 mi (10.46 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail is an experience that few visitors to Kauai take on, but one that will leave an impression on those who do.

At 6.5 miles round trip, the trail requires a moderate amount of work with all of the ups and downs, much of it in soft sand, and a small amount of trailfinding and navigation required. What this trail offers is a wide variety of scenic views and geologic features as it passes by varied cultural sites, tourist attractions, hidden beaches, and wide views of the surrounding turquoise seas and landscapes, all on land that is sacred to Native Hawaiians and some of the last undeveloped coastline in southern Kauai.

Beginning at Shipwrecks Beach, the path quickly leaves the beach to climb the slopes toward the jagged and dramatic lithified cliffs - cliffs made up of the sand dunes of 125,000 years ago. Tracing the coast, the path rises and falls all while waves crash upon the rocks below. At one point wedged at the edge of a golf course, the route passes the Waiopili Heiau. This temple is an active research site, as archaeologists say that the land throughout the area continues to unearth new secrets and understanding for researchers.

The trail opens up to views of Gillin's Beach, a long narrow sandy beach frequently visited by those looking for an alternative to Po'ipu's far more populated beaches and resort areas. There are a couple ways around this beach - either bypassing it through the hills where visitors will likely find themselves on the Makauwahi Cave Trail before descending down toward a petting zoo and meeting back up with the foot trail, or alternately crossing the stream immediately upon descending to Gillin's Beach and finding the path through the forest to the trails.

Continuing east, the trail parallels a dirt road, which merges together at Kawailoa Bay. One of the most interesting sections of the hike are the lithified cliffs stretching from Kawailoa Bay toward the turnaround point of the hike at Ha'ula Beach, which dramatic stone formations, wet and dry blowholes, and large trenches that send earth-shaking saltwater spray into the air during high tides abound.

The trail ends at Ha'ula Beach, which sits beneath Kauai's dramatic mountainous landscape and sees very few visitors.

As a whole, the trail passes a diverse and varied landscape that touches on the cultural history and natural wildness of Kauai. 

There are no markings or signs along the way, so hikers should have an idea of navigation, and be ready to wayfind and make a couple wrong turns en route. As long as you follow the tracks of past hikers and head in an easterly direction, you'll find your way to the end eventually. Stopping to just observe and enjoy the landscape here will give a far different experience than what most resort visitors are having just a short distance away.

There are no facilities or amenities at the trailhead or along the way. Those looking to hike shorter portions of the trail can park at Gillin's Beach or Kawailoa Bay. However, the roads accessing these areas are on private property and are closed by locked gates from sunset to sunrise.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Amazing landscapes. Accesses hidden beaches.

Cons

Limited parking. No water or amenities.

Trailhead Elevation

10.00 ft (3.05 m)

Highest point

85.00 ft (25.91 m)

Features

Big vistas
Geologically significant
Cave

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

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