Makawehi Lithified Cliffs

Makawehi Lithified Cliffs: Rugged & Photogenic Limestone Bluffs on Kauai’s South Shore
The Bottom Line:

The rugged Makawehi Lithified Cliffs are a scenic highpoint of the Mahaulepu Coast, the last undeveloped stretch of Kauai’s South Shore. These impressive, fossil-bearing limestone formations near the Poipu area’s Shipwreck Beach offer endless photo opportunities and are readily appreciated from a hike on the highly recommended Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.

- The Local Expert Team

Situated just east of Shipwreck Beach and Makawehi Point near Poipu, the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs are part of what’s sometimes called the Mahaulepu Coast. This is a rare stretch of Kauai’s South Shore that’s mostly undeveloped, which is reason enough to seek it out. The Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, about four miles there and back, is an easy hike hugging the coastline’s beachfront, dunes, coves, and rocky headlands. 

The Makawehi Lithified Cliffs represent ancient coastal dunes composed of lime sand heaped up by the trade winds some 125,000 years ago. The sands were originally derived from broken-up coral, shells, and other biological material. Over time, rainwater and groundwater dissolved the dunes’ lime minerals, which then reconstituted as a mineral called calcite. This hardened—or lithified—the dunes into solid rock: limestone, to be specific. 

Weathered, eroded, and wave-pummeled over the millennia, the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs form a shallow but strikingly rugged shore contrasting sharply with the powdery dunes seen on other parts of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail.

Sharp points, alcoves, arches, blowholes: These tawny bluffs are fascinating to observe, especially in different casts of light. (Speaking of, both sunrise and sunset are especially beautiful times to find yourself at the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs.)

The Lithified Cliffs are rich in fossils, though if you spot any resist the temptation to remove them. 

We also don’t recommend cliff-jumping here, though it’s not uncommon to see visitors doing just that at spots such as Makawehi Bluff. In general, too, be mindful of your footing anywhere near the bluff edge.

Besides admiring the convolutions of limestone, scan the nearshore waters off the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs. Green sea turtles can often be seen cruising along the coastline here, and during the winter humpback whales spout, tail-slap, and sometimes breach within view. If you’re very lucky, you might even see a Hawaiian monk seal doing a fly-by. You’re likely to see seabirds on patrol as well.

The Makawehi Lithified Cliffs are a magnificent expression of the Mahaulepu Coast’s mostly unblemished beauty. Geology buffs and rockhounds will get a special kick out of them, but just about anybody will appreciate these dramatic formations—and the Pacific sightlines beyond!

Insider Tips:
-It’s worth taking the rest of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, which runs from Shipwreck Beach to Mahaulepu Beach, after admiring the Makawehi Lithified Cliffs. Other eye-catching geology awaits on this gentle and rewarding hike. There are tidepools along this stretch of coast, and the biggest limestone cave in the Hawaiian Islands—open for guided tours—lies close to the trail’s endpoint at Mahaulepu Beach.
-Definitely wear sunscreen and a good sun hat when you walk to the Lithified Cliffs. Most of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail along the oceanfront is sun-blasted (and often quite windy). Drink plenty of water, too!