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Keep Mahaulepu Wild

The spectacular watershed of Mahaulepu, Kauai encompasses the peak of sacred Mt. Haupu, coastal ridges, ancient agricultural valley, dramatic headlands, bays and beaches. This is the last accessible undeveloped coastal region on Kauai’s rapidly urbanizing South Shore. At Mahaulepu, a collection of irreplaceable natural, cultural, historic, agricultural, scientific, scenic and recreational resources comprises a significant heritage landscape, revealing five million years of natural and human history.

The presence of many ancestral remains and burial sites, submerged petroglyphs, a heiau awaiting restoration and un-excavated sites underpin the importance of Mahaulepu to Native Hawaiians. At the same time, the area is vitally important as a place where families currently practice and pass on traditional fishing, gathering and hunting.

Nine endangered species, including a blind spider and a blind cave amphipod, nene and monk seals, inhabit or visit Mahaulepu. On the coast, healthy colonies of low-lying salt resistant native species thrive. Ongoing paleoecological, archaeological and historical research at the Makauwahi Cave Reserve guides restoration of native plants and wetland features. Increased care and resources devoted to further research could inform restoration throughout the area.

Sugar history remnants are also part of the story in this Koloa region where the first corporate plantation was established. Mahaulepu’s open spaces, which include leases for cattle ranching and cultivation of kalo, native plants, and seed corn, continue Kauai’s rural character and island lifestyle.

For generations, families have picnicked, camped, fished, and dived here. Artists draw, paint and photograph. Water sportsmen find windy Mahaulepu ideal for windsurfing and kite surfing as well as surfing and body boarding.

Because of its beauty and accessibility, Mahaulepu is under high threat of development. In the past, landowner Grove Farm Company, Inc. has planned to build the hotels, golf courses, condos, second homes and commercial facilities common to resort residential enclaves. Citizens have opposed past proposals. Presently owned by Stephen M. Case, a preservation future may be brighter.

Malama Mahaulepu exists to keep this special place natural and open, ensuring that residents and visitors can experience its unparalleled abundance of natural and historic attractions:

Geological Features

  • Stratified lava rock of 5 million year old Waimea Canyon Basalt, the oldest volcanic rock of the eight main islands, found in Mt. Haupu
  • Lava formations of the Koloa Volcanics, 2 million to 500,000 years old
  • Cliffs of ancient lithified sand dunes formed during the Ice Age, 350,000 years ago
  • Makauwahi Cave, containing the largest sinkhole in Hawaii, where paleoecological excavations reveal flora and fauna over the past 6,500 years, including over 40 bird species, nearly half of them extinct, and evidence of coastal plants now thought to live only in upland areas
  • Sand dunes, including some a mile inland, created by wind in the past 2,000 years
  • Wetland remnant areas


  • Coastal colonies of ground-crawling native species
  • Three rare plants:
    • Pua pilo
    • A coastal Lepidium
    • Nama


  • Kauai blind cave amphipod (Federal List of Endangered Species)
  • Kauai blind cave spider (Federal List of Endangered Species) probable
  • 14 extinct species of land snails


  • Nene, the State bird (Federal List of Endangered Species)
  • Koloa Duck
  • Hawaiian moorhen
  • Hawaiian stilt
  • Hawaiian coot
  • Newell’s shearwater, a threatened species
  • Nesting wedge-tailed shearwaters and white-tailed tropic birds
  • Sanderling and wandering tattler

Marine Life

  • Hawaiian monk seal
  • Green sea turtle (Federal List of Endangered Species)
  • Humpback whales and dolphins
  • An intact reef system of Porites compressa coral

Scenic Features

  • Beaches, bays, headlands, limestone cliffs and caves
  • Panoramic vistas up to Mt. Ha`upu from the coast and the valley
  • Views from the valley walls and ridges back across the Koloa plain with its distinctive volcanic craters to Mt. Waialeale

Cultural & Historic Resources

  • Site of Captain Cook’s first contact with Native Hawaiians
  • Sacred Heiaus
  • Petroglyphs, Waiopili Heiau, and other excavated sites
  • Dune and cave burial sites
  • Kapunakea Spring and Waiopili Pond
  • Archaeological and historic records of fisherman shelters, coastal and valley settlement
  • 40 Native Hawaiian land claims when the Great Mahele (land distribution proposed by King Kamehameha III) was enacted in 1848
  • Continued fishing and gathering practices

The Sugar Landscape

  • Chinese farmers grow and mill cane around 1835
  • Koloa Sugar Company, established in 1841, growing sugar in 1878, pumping water from 1897
  • History of irrigation water improvements
  • Story of changing land control/ ownership: from the Native Hawaiian alii (chiefly class) to Native Hawaiian Hui, to the Koloa Sugar Company
  • Remains of the sugar industry: mill at Pa`a, irrigation ditches, roads, water pumps still in agricultural use

Recreational Resources

  • Beachcombing, sunbathing and picnicking, especially at Maha`ulepu Beach, Kawailoa Bay and Haula Bay
  • Hiking and horseback riding
  • Many kinds of fishing, including pole, throw net and spear fishing
  • Limu and opihi gathering
  • Body boarding, surfing, body surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving
  • Painting and photography
Help us keep Mahaulepu wild. Donate, volunteer, and join our mailing list in the effort to preserve Kauai’s wilderness heritage.



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