Spot Monk Seals and Turtles at Poipu Beach
Located on Kauai’s sunny south shore, Poipu Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island. Poipu Beach Park gives you access to three different beaches: Poipu Beach, Waiohai Beach, and Brennecke's Beach. The three beaches offer chances to see endangered monk seals and Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Poipu Beach and Waiohai Beach
Poipu Beach is a crescent-shaped beach, with a protected paddling area at one end of the beach for children. The right side of the beach ends with a tombolo--a small island sometimes connected to the beach by a shallow sand spit. To the right of the tombolo is Waiohai Beach, which offers deeper water.
Snorkeling is excellent at both Poipu and Waiohai. Keep your eye out for humuhumunukunukuapua'a (reef triggerfish), colorful parrotfish, and snowflake eels. Well-camouflaged scorpionfish can often be found in rocky areas.
If you prefer boogie boarding to snorkeling, Brennecke’s offers reliable wave action, and it’s not unusual for boogie boarders to find themselves floating close to sea turtles as they wait for their next wave. Turtles can often be spotted from the park, feeding on limu (seaweed) just off the rocky shorebreak between Poipu Beach and Brennecke's.
Poipu Beach is a favorite basking spot for the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Known as ilio-holo-i-ka-uaua (“dog running in the rough water”) in Hawaiian, only 1,100 monk seals are left in the world. Most live in the northwestern Hawaiian islands, with approximately 200 living in and around the main islands. To see a monk seal is a rare treat.
Monk seals haul out of the water to sleep, and they do so with some regularity at Poipu. They especially like the tombolo, where there are fewer people, but it’s not uncommon for one to take a nap on the main beach.
It’s illegal to approach or harass monk seals. If you're lucky enough to see one, maintain a respectful distance. Volunteers often rope off areas where monk seals sleep and are always willing to answer questions about these fascinating animals.
Poipu Beach Park Amenities
Poipu beach has plenty of amenities, including changing rooms and washroom facilities at either end of the park, pavilions, picnic tables, and showers. Two lifeguard stations watch over Poipu and Waiohai.
Parking is plentiful, but the popularity of the beach means parking lots are often full, especially on weekends and holidays. Weekdays are usually less busy.
Poipu and Waiohai are generally safe for swimming and snorkeling. During the summer large swells sometimes make the south shore unsafe, and the current that runs between the beach and the tombolo can be powerful at all times of year. Check with a lifeguard before entering the water.
How to Get to Poipu Beach
To get to Poipu Beach, take Kaumualii Highway (Hwy 50) southeast from Lihue. After approximately seven miles turn left onto Maluhia Road, also known as the Tree Tunnel. Turn left onto Ala Kinoiki Road and continue on until Poipu Road. Turn right onto Poipu Road, and turn left just after the Kaneiolouma Heiau, a sacred cultural site with the remains of ancient Hawaiian houses, fishponds, taro fields, and religious sites.