Travel Kauai's South Shore Like a Local

Top restaurants, hotels, and activities featuring the best of Poipu, Koloa, and Waimea, curated by local experts

  • Poipu translates to “crashing waves.”
  • The Spouting Horn blowhole shoots water 40 ft high.
  • The southernmost tip of Kauai is in Poipu.
  • On Kauai it is illegal to build a building that is taller than a palm tree.
  • Endangered Hawaiian monk seals love to sunbathe along Poipu beaches. Keep your distance, or risk fines of up to $50,000 or jail time.
  • In Kauai it is illegal to build a building that is taller than a Palm tree
  • The first successful sugarcane plantation in Hawaii was founded in 1835 in Koloa, the gateway to Poipu.

Let’s start off with the name, Poipu, correctly pronounced poh-ee-pooh, although you’ll often hear poy-pooh. The sandy twin crescents of sprawling Poipu Beach Park, a coastline of reliable surf breaks for beginners and body surfing spots for experts, and winters of relatively dry, sunny weather with calm waters explain much of the appeal of this South Shore resort area. But golfers, gourmets, spa goers and shoppers also find Poipu a vacation magnet, with attractions at nearly every price point.

The Shops at Kukuiula, for example, offer several fine dining options and luxury boutiques, but also shave ice and food truck-style shrimp plates; head to the nearby historic plantation town of Koloa (koh-low-ah) for more tasty, affordable fare. Greens fees at the region’s three 18-hole golf courses start at just over $100 at Kiahuna Plantation to about $225 for the championship Poipu Bay Golf Course next to the Grand Hyatt Kauai (home to the sprawling Anara Spa) or the elite links at the private Club at Kukui‘ula. Poipu Shopping Village brims with moderately priced restaurants, including coffee and juice bars, as well as souvenir and surfwear boutiques. 

Beyond the string of enticing beaches, nature also deserves credit for cliffs of lithified sand, part of the scenic Mahaulepu Heritage Trail that starts above Shipwreck (Keoneloa) Beach, and for the trusty, noisy blowholes of sea spray at Spouting Horn. The latter is near the National Tropical Botanical Garden complex, where visitors are shuttled down to an immense valley of botanic gardens and intriguing landscaping for guided and self-guided tours.

 Although it’s the darling destination of visitors now, Poipu is also home to the remains of a 20-acre Hawaiian village, Kaneiolouma, that dates back to the 1400s. You can witness the restoration of the home sites and fish ponds built around the sacred spring of Waiohai, close to Poipu Beach Park. You can’t miss it, thanks to a large platform of wooden tiki sculptures with interpretive signs.

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