Kauai’s Mahaulepu: A dreamscape so close, yet so far away

Only a few miles separate Mahaulepu from the Grand Hyatt and the busy resort strip of Poipu Beach on Kauai’s arid south shore. But those miles are on a hellishly potholed dirt road that dissuades many rental car drivers from making the trip. Hawaiian monk seals (above) avoid the traffic and arrive by sea to bag rays. (Federal law and good manners require giving Hawaii’s only native mammals a wide berth.) 
Kawailoa Bay (above) marks the end of the road, at a beach with very good snorkeling.
A trail skirts the bluff away from Kawailoa Bay. You can also go the other way on the beach from Kawailoa around a sandy point (shown above) to Gillin’s Beach, where a long strip of sand and a protective reef draw sunbatheres and swimmers.  (Actually, you can walk from the Grand Hyatt Poipu to Gillin’s Beach on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.)
CMJ Stables, on the dirt road to Mahaulepu, offer a chance to visit the remote shores from high in the saddle. Ironwoods provide shade and shelter all around the area.
Local kids take the plunge from (sort of) low cliffs at the outer edges of Kawailoa Bay. As a rule, jumping from a cliff into the ocean is not recommended for visitors.
The coastal trail crosses open grasslands amid portrait-quality seascapes.
The trail ends with a steep downhill section that drops to Haula Beach, a deep scoop of sand that is often unsafe for swimming. A sketchy trail climbs through the Haupu Forest Reserve to the peak (above right) that affords a view of Kipu Kai Beach. Featured in the Descendants movie, this beach is on private property and only reachable by sea.
For driving and hiking directions, consult your Kauai Trailblazer guide. See the right column of this blog to order it.