Drive down to the popular Poipu Beach, but continue to drive past the beach east on Poipu Road. Drive a few minutes until you see the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa. Immediately turn right after the opulent hotel onto Ainako Street before you get to the golf course.
The small street will take you down to tiny little parking lot. You’re likely to encounter locals enjoying the beach and blasting music out of their trucks here at the end of the road. Walk south out of the parking lot, and you’ll find yourself on the soft sand of Shipwrecks Beach.
There’s no shipwreck at Shipwrecks, but the beach is famous. It was featured in the movie “Six Day and Seven Nights” in which Harrison Ford and Anne Heche jumped into the ocean from Shipwreck’s 20-foot cliff. And you can’t miss the cliff. It dominates the south side of the beach.
The swimming here is not great. There’s a short break which makes for large waves, and the undertows can be powerful. But Shipwrecks is a great place for whale watching, and you’ll leave the crowds of Poipu Beach behind.
Take a stroll to the eastern end of the beach to explore the famous cliff. Look closely enough, and you’ll find a trail that leads to the top. Take your time and be careful. The path is steep and can be slippery if it is wet. Make sure to grab a hold of tree roots, and use the roots for footholds on your way up.
The limestone cliff gives you stunning views of the crystal clear water below, and the elevated perch makes whale watching a dream. If the water is calm enough and deep enough during high tide, you can attempt to reenact Harrison Ford’s famous jump. Just make sure there are no sea turtles down below. They like to feed on the mossy rocks at the base of the cliff.
The jump is extremely dangerous.. You should only attempt the jump if you are incredibly confident in your swimming abilities. And it’s only advisable to attempt the stunt if locals are enjoying the jump. They can tell you where and when to jump safely. Remember -- Harrison Ford and Anne Heche likely had a crew of divers and lifeguards in the water as they jumped. You won’t have that luxury.
At the top of the cliff, you can make out the Mahaulepu Beach Trail heading east. You’ll hike along the coast, descending and ascending limestone cliffs, and it will take you to Mahaulepu Beach two miles down the trail. Along the way, you’re bound to run into resting sea turtles and monk seals in rocky coves.
This is the only stretch of southern coast that has yet to be developed, and there locals want to keep it that way. Mahaulepu Beach is beautiful with its white sand and solitude, but it’s not good for swimming. You’re better off picnicking while watching for sea turtles, monk seals and whales.
This is a sacred area to local Hawaiians. Make sure to pack out what you packed in to take care of Kauai’s Ohana.