Aside from the epic Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand, the Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail ranks as one of my favorite hikes to have completed in less than perfect weather. While sunny days are always lovely, there's just something special about walking the coastline on a windy and rainy day. The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail runs four miles one way (eight miles round trip) along varying coastline past many points of historical and geological interest. You won't need any special equipment for this hike - there's nothing particularly technical and a number of options for varying the route depending on your preferences. Perhaps my favorite part about this trail was the different coastal environments and potential for exploration.
Starting out just west of the Grant Hyatt in Po'ipu, the trail begins on Shipwrecks Beach and quickly works it's way up lithified sand dunes towards Maka-wehi Point. There are endless examples of erosion at work - just be careful not to step too close to any edges. No need to speed the process along and risk injury to yourself! Much of this portion of the trail is sandy and known as the Paa Dunes - meaning "fence of lava rock" or "dry and rocky."
After the Pinnacles you'll pass through a special protected area known as Heiau Hoouluia. This area is believed to have been built to offer fish to the god of the sea, Keoniloa. Stick to the trail in this section out of respect to it's ancient history.
Next up, you'll spend a bit of time traversing a golf course - signs will warn you to pay close attention and to watch out for those golf balls. I'm ultra paranoid so I felt incredibly nervous during this section and almost wished I had a helmet! On the other hand, it presented a perfect opportunity for my husband to ham it up big time. The cliff here really starting to erode so stick to the path because it's quite the drop!
After the golf course you continue along a meandering path through some of the oldest sand dunes in the area and beautiful ferns before turning slightly inland towards the Makauwahi Sinkhole. While it's called a sinkhole, it's actually just a small portion of the largest limestone cave in Hawaii. It's filled with all sorts of archeological treasures, unique creatures, and Hawaiian history. If you are trekking on a weekend or simply lucky, you may find some of the volunteers in the cave who might give you a short tour. The entrance to the cave is on the opposite side of where the trail passes above it. You'll have to get on your hands and knees to crawl through the entrance, but it's worth it.
Onward from the cave you'll cross a stream and head back out to Maha'ulepa Beach - which just so happens to be my favorite. It's long, sweeping, and has some of the softest sand. I could have extended our lunch time stop here indefinitely.
Continuing on towards the end of the trail, you'll round Kamala Point and walk around Ka-wai-loa Bay where a fence will end your walk. A few things to keep an eye out on this section of the trail include some pretty great examples of erosion, a rope swing, and a hole right near the trail that will blow air up your skirt Marilyn Monroe style! Seriously, that last one is so much fun - when I finish our trip video you'll get to see and hear it!
The Maha'ulepu Heritage Trail is an out and back route, which works perfectly when the exploration opportunities seem so endless. Make sure to go back to the places you wish you stopped on the way out.
We hiked the trail beginning in the early afternoon, but easily could have spent the entire day checking out all the interesting features it has to offer.