The sunny south shore of Kauai is popular with visitors and locals, who enjoy a one stop destination for sun, shopping, and a resort-like atmosphere with an island vibe. Though the golden sand beaches are the main attraction, the towns of Koloa and Poipu offer much more than a locale to worship the sun.
Your south shore adventure begins as you drive along Highway 520 (Maluhia Road) through a one-mile corridor shaded by the dense canopy of swamp mahogany trees (Eucalyptus robusta), better known as the Tree Tunnel. The trees, native to Eastern Australia and donated in the early 1900’s by successful businessman, Walter Duncan McBryde, were left over after McBryde finished landscaping his home in Kalaheo.
Three miles south on Maluhia Road takes you to Old Koloa Town. Historic roots run deep in Koloa, once a popular whaling and fishing district then becoming the site of the first successful Hawaiian sugar plantation that started in 1835.
The sugar cane industry became the catalyst for the influx of immigrants from countries such as China, Japan, Korea, Philippines, and Portugal. Hawaii became a melting pot for a lively blend of people sharing their culture, food, and festivals while living aloha.
Koloa Rum Company carries on the tradition of using sugarcane and other locally sourced ingredients, like rainwater from Mt. Waialeale. As the first licensed distillery on the Garden Isle, the company fosters and values its Hawaiian heritage by supporting the local economy and the preservation of open space.
Modern shops and restaurants give new life to the old plantation buildings, shaded by the green, leafy crown of monkeypod trees. The historic structures serve as a reminder of days long gone but of great significance.
The Koloa Heritage Trail (Ka Ala Hele Waiwai Ho‘oilina o Koloa) is a ten-mile, self- guided tour, which provides a unique educational opportunity to learn about the natural and human history of Kauai’s south shore. Brass plaques, describing the importance of each site, dot the scenic route, which spans from Koloa to Poipu.
Hawaiian for crashing waves, Poipu is the most popular tourist area, providing the most resort-like amenities such as shopping, dining, and golf. However, there’s much more to see and do than go to a beach that’s been named the best beach in America.
An easy coastal hike on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail is the ideal way to survey and take in the rugged, natural beauty of the south shore. The four-mile round trip takes you on a journey past Pa’a dunes (pa’a meaning dry and rocky) and a fishing temple called Heiau Hoouluia. Honu (green sea turtles) and Nene (Hawaiian goose) are sure to make an appearance and should be appreciated at a distance.
Travel west along the shoreline to witness the island’s geologic landmark, Spouting Horn. Water is pushed through an opening in the lava shelf causing this saltwater geyser. According to Hawaiian folklore, a mo’o (giant lizard) named Kaikapu, who guarded the area attacked and chased Liko, a local fisherman swimming in the water. Liko swam into a lava tube while Kaikapu followed. Liko was able to escape through a small hole at the top of the lava shelf, but the larger mo’o became trapped. You can still hear Kaikapu roar and take a breath whenever the seawater spouts towards the sky.
Adding to the natural wealth of Poipu and located across the road from Spouting Horn is Allerton Garden. Also known as Lawa’i’kai (near the sea), the garden features serene walking paths that take you through a tour past miniature waterfalls, statues and fountains.
With no shortage of land or ocean activities providing opportunities for adventure the south shore of the Garden Isle lures visitors to stay and play in paradise.