Situated in southern Kauai and off the beaten path, Gillin’s Beach is an idyllic private beach getaway. Here, beach lovers will find soft golden sand with crashing blue waves on one side and only the tropical nature and seaside cliffs on the other. If you are looking for a beautiful place to enjoy sunbathing and beachcombing on Kauai, then this beach should be at the top of your go-to list.
The name “Gillin’s Beach” is actually a nickname as the official name for this South Kauai beach is Mahaulepu Beach. The nickname comes from longtime resident and Koloa Plantation civil engineer Elbert Gillin. Gillin built his home just off this beach in the 1940s. His descendants lived in that home and it survived up until the 1990s when it was destroyed by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. The house was later rebuilt and is the only structure you’ll see when carousing on the beach — hence its name. The local county council voted in 2001 to preserve the rest of this area for future generations.
This beach is located along Kawailoa Bay and is accessible in two ways. First, you can take the official road down to the Gillin’s Beach Parking Lot. This is a small parking area but sufficient for the small groups that come to this beach. There’s also parking available at Makauwahi Cave. You’ll also find here a nicely paved trail down to the beach. Alternatively, you can start at Shipwreck Beach to the south and follow the stunning Mahulepu Heritage Trail across sea cliffs and beneath tropical canopies to reach Gillin’s Beach.
As with many of Kauai’s more isolated beaches, Gillin’s Beach is not very swim-friendly. The currents here are swift and no large reefs protect the shores from heavy wave breaks. As such, swimming and snorkeling are not recommended. There is likewise no lifeguard stationed here. But just because you shouldn’t swim at Gillin’s Beach doesn’t mean there’s nothing worth note here. Some days the wind and surf conditions are prime for surfing-styled activities. Kite surfing and traditional surfing are both popular along this stretch of beach. But unless you’re experienced, it isn’t recommended starting out here. Talk to a local outfitter for more information.
Another thing that draws people to Gillin’s Beach every year is the fantastic wildlife sightings here. Monk seals are frequently sighted lounging on the soft sands of this beach. Further out to sea, spinner dolphins and whales are often seen crashing and playing in the waves. Finally, everywhere, there are birds. Seabirds and more native inland species of birds love this part of Kauai thanks to how wild this part of the island is. There’s also a nearby turtle sanctuary, with some turtles using this beach as a nesting and resting location. This beach is very popular with locals for fishing and if you do experience crowds when you visit, it’s often a fishing crowd. You might even consider renting a pole during your time on Kauai to take part in the pastime.
For those wanting to do more than lounge in the soft sand, check out the nearby beach trail to Makauwahi Caves. You’ll need to crawl on all fours to get into these caves, but the interior quickly opens up to where most adults can stand.
When we say that Gillian’s Beach is located in a scenic and wild location, we do mean wild. This part of the island really is not developed much. Gillin’s Beach might now have a dedicated parking area, but that’s about it. You won’t find any restrooms, showers, or other facilities here. There aren’t even picnic areas. So be prepared for an adventure away from such amenities.
-The Gillin’s family house we mentioned above actually offers the house available for rent now. This is a 3-bedroom home that’s ideal for those looking to truly enjoy a backcountry Hawaiian vacation with their friends or family.
-The location and privacy of Gillin’s Beach make it ideal for sunrise viewings. Some days, you might even be the only one here, enjoying a gorgeous Hawaiian sunrise over the Pacific Ocean with just you and your party.