Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Poipu is Kauai's Sunny South

Cacti aren't usually among the images on postcards of Hawaii. But you will see plenty of those desert plants, as well as other dry-loving flora along the miles-long sand-and-sun coast that is centered around the resorts of Poipu Beach. (Moir Gardens, nestled into the Kiahuna Plantation Resort, is one of the world's top cactus gardens.) The interior mountains of Kauai get nearly 40 feet of rain per year. The sunny south coast gets around 10 inches. The west side of this coast features two of the world's five National Tropical Botanical Gardens (Allerton and McBride), as well as some of the island's best snorkeling at Prince Kuhio Beach Park.

Poipu Beach is a run of low-slung condos and resorts, with the Sheraton at one end and the fabulous Grand Hyatt at the other. Poipu's yellow-sand beaches have year-around swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. Shipwreck Beach (pictured) in front of the Hyatt, also has great surfing, and is the starting point for a several-mile coastal hike on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. Whale-watching, bird viewing, and ancient sites keep hikers' eyes full. You can also drive a (very) bumpy road from the Hyatt to Mahaulepu. Monk seals, Hawaii's endangered mammals, are known to share the sand with tourists. From road's end, a trail continues along the tawny bluffs to rugged Haula Beach (also pictured). Kauai Trailblazer covers the sunny south coast in detail from pages 115 to 126.