The Koloa District, also known as the SOUTH SHORE area of Kauai, begins at Nohiu Bay to the east and ends with Hanapepe Bay to the west. This is one of the most popular resort and tourist areas on the island and has some of the best weather and beaches.
The communities of historic Koloa Town, Poipu Beach, Omao, Lawai, Kalaheo and Eleele are in the Koloa district. Also in the area are many cultural sites as well as the National Tropical Botanical Garden.
Kauai’s south shore is a wonderland of diversity, with world-class beaches for swimming, snorkeling, surfing, diving and a wealth of historical and scenic sites. This also is where you’ll find the National Tropical Botanical Garden, the only garden of its kind to be chartered by Congress. Also, be sure to visit Spouting Horn, whose natural lava tube formations creates one of Kauai’s more spectacular locations.
Koloa Town, in the heart of the South Shore resort area, was once the site of Hawaii’s first successful sugar plantation. Though sugar has long been replaced by tourism as the community’s economic mainstay, evidence of those colorful plantation days lives on in its restored buildings, its history center and its churches, one — St. Raphael’s Roman Catholic Church — dating back to 1841.
Continuing past Koloa on Poipu Road, you’ll find Poipu Beach Park. This is one of the most popular and safest beaches on Kauai, so safe and so popular that critically endangered Hawaiian Monk Seals have joined the crowd. The waters off Poipu Beach are crystal clear and good for snorkeling, swimming, surfing and diving. There is a natural wading pool for toddlers and young swimmers and the park is protected by lifeguards (a Monk Seal Watch team protects the seals). The shaded park adjacent to the beach has restrooms, showers and picnic tables. At the east end of the park is Brennecke’s Beach, a great place to bodyboard, snorkel, scuba dive, fish or swim.
Shipwreck Beach (Keoneloa Bay) for many years was one of the best “hidden” beaches on Kauai. Today, the sandy, rock-studded beach is still beautiful. But it is no longer hidden. The Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa now borders the beach, which means it’s harder to have the beach all to yourself – but easier to find a cool drink when you tire of beachcombing. This beach is a popular local surfing and bodysurfing beach. The cliff trail will reward visitors with excellent views of the Mahaulepu coastline.
Nearby Mahaulepu Beach, the last undeveloped shoreline on Kauai’s south shore offers miles of undeveloped shoreline which is great spot for exploring. There are petroglyphs in the area, and the water is usually calm due to a protective reef and shallow water. Foot-trails weave through a mixed terrain of sandstone cliffs, beach coves and reefs. It’s an exquisite beach with a priceless heritage. Here an intriguing assortment of natural and historic remnants tells the continuous story of 5 million years of change to the island. The beach, on privately owned land, has avoided private development thanks to vigilant landowners and strong community sentiment. Mahaulepu is two miles from the end of Poipu Road. Go east past the Hyatt on the dirt canefield road to the main cane haul road intersection and turn right.
Prince Kuhio Park, located on Lawai Road west of Poipu, marks the birthplace of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, one of Hawaii’s most cherished royals. This area is locally referred to as PK’s, and has three surf breaks and a good snorkeling spot just off the narrow, short sand beach.
The “Spouting Horn” blowhole, further down the same road, shoots a large plume of sea water into the air. Water, forced into a lava tube by the surf, gushes into the air making an eerie hissing noise. Every wave produces another spray. Spouting Horn frequently spurts salt water 50 feet into the air. The phenomina is especially exciting at sunset when the spray becomes incandescent with the colors of the rainbow. The ancient Hawaiians believed that Kaikapu, a lizard goddess, was trapped by a clever fisherman in the lava tube and the hissing is the sound of her angry roar. Likely one of the most photographed spots on the island, it’s also a great place to look for whales or dolphins cruising along the Poipu coastline.
National Tropical Botanical Garden is located in Lawai Valley, it is the only tropical botanical garden in the U.S. to be chartered by Congress. The tour of the grounds, ablaze with a multitude of plants and flowers, includes ancient Hawaiian stone walls and taro terraces.
Less than 5% of the landscape on Kauai is devoted to commercial and residential development, leaving the vast majority of land divided between agriculture and conservation. So it’s not surprising to turn off a highway and find yourself suddenly shaded by a canopy of eucalyptus trees. The gateway to the Koloa/Poipu area provides such an experience. Long called the Tree Tunnel, this delightful stretch of Maluhia Road is just past the six-mile marker off Kaumualii Highway. These eucalyptus trees were first planted over a century ago by a Scotsman and cattle rancher named Walter Duncan McBryde. Today these trees are still thriving to form a beautiful canopy providing a lush corridor to drive through on the way to Po’ipu.
As of the 2003 census, the Koloa district’s population is approx. 13,545.
To learn more about Kauai’s South Shore area, please click on Koloa, Poipu, Lawai/Omao and Kalaheo individually.