Poipu sits right in the heart of Kauai's South Shore, and the drive down is just as beautiful as the crystal clear blue waters. A left turn takes you off the Kuhio Highway through Kauai's famous Tunnel of Trees. Old growth trees covered in leafy vines create a dense shady tunnel before opening up to the greenest horse-filled pastures you've ever seen.
Tourists tend to zip right to Poipu Beach which is one of America's gems, but a couple of off-beat turns take you to Shipwrecks Beach which may be even more beautiful. You're likely to hear loud island music being played out of a local's pickup truck at the beach's small parking lot on the eastern side of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa.
A short walk takes you down to the picturesque shore. Strips of black volcanic rock to the west and the towering Makawehi Bluff to the east bookend the beach, and tall old-growth trees make for a beautiful backdrop. Although, sharp spines dropped by the trees make walking barefoot uncomfortable underneath their shade.
There is no lifeguard at Shipwrecks Beach, and the short shore break can make for some powerful waves. Make sure to check the tide and the swell before daring a dip. And you'll only find experienced surfers enjoying the waves here.
This is a great spot for whale watching during mating season. Humpback whales swim from colder waters all around the world to breed in the warm waters of Kauai between the months of November and March. You can often see them breaching in Shipwrecks' deep waters with the cliff side serving as a frame for stunning pictures, and there's a brilliant viewpoint if you don't mind a little hike.
Walk to the eastern side of the beach towards the cliff. You'll notice a trail that ascends through the dry forest to the top. It's much easier if you wear sturdy shoes or at least have some strap-on sandals. Once at the top of the cliff, you have uninterrupted views down the coast. It's perfect for whale watching and turtle spotting, and it's a cliff-jumping spot made famous by Harrison Ford.
The Star Wars movie star jumped hand-in-hand with the actress Anne Heche off the Makawehi Bluff in 1998's "Six Days, Seven Nights." You can walk to the edge of the bluff to look down at the incredibly calm and clear waters. You're likely to see a sea turtle or two munching on mossy rocks, and you may even see some locals taking the famous jump. However, the 40-foot drop is incredibly dangerous and the choppy surf near the beach can make it impossible to get back to shore. The Harrison Ford jump is not advised.
The short hike you took to get to the top of the bluff is part of the Maha'ulepu Trail that continues east down the coast for a few miles where you'll find more stunning viewpoints.