Trail along Kawailoa Bay, Kauai

Trail from Gilian's Beach

The resort coast of Poipu ends, and ends abruptly, beyond the Grand Hyatt on Kauai’s sunny south coast. The unpaved road becomes one unending pothole for a few miles before reaching wild Mahaulepu. There, a mile or two of sand backed by an ironwood forest runs from Gilian’s Beach to Kawailoa Bay. Snorkeling is good-to-excellent, with clear, reef-protected waters. Monk seals often haul out to join sunbathers (though people need to give these endangered fellow mammals 100 feet of space).

From road’s end Kawailoa Bay, a trail hugs ragged coastal bluffs for a mile, dipping into a cove and then coming to an end at Haula Beach. Above this little bay, a hunter’s trail switchbacks up a head of land and comes to a remote overlook of Kipu Kai Beach—which was the “ranch” featured in the movie, “The Descendants.” Kipu Kai is private property. Kayakers also access this beach (all beaches are public land) by paddling around the head of land visible from Kawailoa. This paddle, though not extreme, is not for beginners or for anyone else when the surf’s up.