The Koloa Heritage Trail on Kauai’s south shore is a treasure hunt of the past. All the gold that can be found on this map are within each stop, where landmarks, scenic lookouts and monuments showcase Koloa and Poipu’s rich history, dating from pre-contact Kauai to present day.
The self-guided 10-mile Koloa Heritage Trail, or Ka Ala Hele Waiwai Hoolina o Koloa, winds through numerous historical, cultural and geological sites. Driving, walking or biking are all acceptable ways to experience the path. The best part about this trail, it doesn’t all have to be done at once and going at your own pace is the only way to fully experience all of its splendor.
Here are ten reasons why the Koloa Heritage Trail is a must do while on Kauai:
- Koloa was the first sugar plantation town on Kauai. In the early 1900’s, immigrants from China, Japan, Philippines, Portugal, and Germany moved to Kauai in search of a brighter future. Their arrival shaped the charm and character of Koloa Town, with clapboard style buildings and old churches built around town. Stops along the trail that are reminiscent of the sugar plantation life include the sugar monument in the heart of town, Yamamoto Store and Koloa Hotel, Old Koloa Missionary Church and the Koloa Jodo Mission.
- The ancient Hawaiians walked here. The Hapa Trail is an ancient footpath once used by the early Hawaiians as early as 1200 AD to traverse from Koloa to Poipu. The trail still remains largely intact, with hand constructed lava rock walls indicating the way.
- It’s the birthplace of Hawaii’s last reigning prince. Prince Jonah Kalanianaole Kuhio of the House of King Kalakaua was the last reigning prince of Hawaii when the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893. Prince Kuhio was imprisoned for a year for his efforts to restore the Hawaiian monarchy and later became a United States delegate for ten consecutive terms. Prince Kuhio’s life was so significant, his birth date was declared a State Holiday that is celebrated with a ceremony to honor and remember his life every year at the Prince Kuhio Park.
- A giant lizard lives in the Spouting Horn blowhole. Legend has it that a giant lizard named Kaikapu once guarded the Poipu coastline, eating anyone who tried to fish in this area. A young boy named Liko outsmarted the lizard by diving in the ocean and swimming through a lava tube where a there was a small opening. Kaikapu chased Liko but found itself stuck in the lava tube, where it has continued to remain. Today, Kaikapu continues to hiss and spew water at the Spouting Horn blowhole, sending a salty ocean mist in the air. Onlookers can watch this amazing natural wonder from the safety of the lookout above.
- Poipu sunsets are No ka Oi (the best). The rock wall overlooking Koloa landing and Hanakaape Bay is one of the most scenic spots to sit and watch the sun disappear each day. Koloa landing was once the third largest whaling port in Hawaii and the only port for foreign goods. Later, Hanakaape Bay across Prince Kuhio Park was also used for the transferring of goods and people to larger ships.
- It’s home to one of the world’s best cactus and succulent garden. So maybe it was given this designation in 1948. The Moir Gardens, known as Pau a Laka, continues to be a unique attraction along the Koloa Heritage Trail. Planted in 1930 by Alexandra Moir, who was the wife of a Koloa Plantation Manager, this cactus and succulent garden is located within the grounds of the Kiahuna Plantation Resort.
- Endangered green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals play here. Poipu Beach is not only a favorite of families, but is also loved by the endangered species that often seek rest on its sandy shores. These creatures should never be approached; however admiring from a safe distance is welcomed. The protect keiki (children) ponds and excellent snorkeling are also highlights.
- Ocean trails make the happiest trails. Makawehi and Paa Sand Dunes are a coastal trail on the cliff from Keoneloa Bay to Mahaulepu Beach. Interesting limestone formations, lithified sand dunes, and Paa (hard rock) are just some of the highlights along this coastal trail. Some of the earliest archeological sites have been found on Keoneloa Bay, where the ancient Hawaiians lived as early as 200-600 AD.
- You can see one of the youngest volcanic cones on the oldest Hawaiian Island. Puuwanawana Volcanic Cone is one of the many volcanic cones that make up Kauai, which is over five million years old. These cones were vents where lava last erupted from the volcano that formed Kauai and poured through this fracture in the earth. The Puuwanawana Volcanic Cone is the remainder of what was once a very active volcano.
- It’s just really cool! The Koloa Heritage Trail shows you a side of Kauai that most never get to see, one that is diverse and rich in culture and history. Along the trail are many beautiful beaches to take a dip and get refreshed while you explore outdoors. And best of all, you are in Kauai, and what could be better than this?
So what are you waiting for? A map outlining the trail can be downloaded at www.poipubeach.org. Enjoy exploring the Koloa Heritage Trail and everything else the sunny south side has to offer!