Kauai’s North Shore has a lot of gorgeous beaches and interesting locations to see and explore. The Maniniholo Dry Cave is an excellent example of such a location and one that is right in the midst of a ton of other attractions, including the neighboring Haena Beach and Haena Beach Park.
You will find Maniniholo Dry Cave located right across the street from Haena Beach Park, just after mile marker 9 on Kuhio Highway. You can either park for free along the road here or use the small parking lot for the park if there is space. While the cave is next to the road, it is not level with the road. This means visitors will need to do some hiking, making their way down a steep cliff. This is a short hike but down a tiny trail with often slick rocks. So make sure to put on sturdy shoes before making the trek down.
The Maniniholo Dry Cave is called such to differentiate it from other “wet” caves in the area that are partially filled with water. Geologically speaking, the cave was formed thousands of years ago when this part of the cliff was once level with the sea. But Hawaiian legends have the formation not quite that old and rather than formed by the natural erosion of crashing waves, something a bit more sinister.
There are two local legends or stories that explain the Maniniholo Dry Cave’s formation, and both involve the Menehune, The Menehune is a mythological race of Hawaiians who stood only three feet high, were exceptional craftsmen, and worked only at night. The first story involves a fisher Menehune named Maniniholo. Maniniholo was the head fisherman of his peoples but had a problem of akua (evil spirits) always stealing and eating his biggest catches before the people could eat. So after a series of efforts to trick the akua, Maniniholo finally found success when he dug out this cave in which to both store the fish and to serve as an area to prepare meals secret from the akua. Yet, the akua still prowl the area trying to find a way in so as to feast on the hidden stores.
The second legend behind the Maniniholo Dry Cave’s formation involves a conflict with them and the earliest Polynesian settlers. Those settling tribes were chasing the Menehune down Waimea Canyon when the Menehune slipped down a secret underground tunnel that led out to the North Shore. Once through the tunnel, they caused the end to collapse and trap the invading Polynesians. That area of collapse is what we know today last the Maniniholo Dry Cave.
In the end, no matter how Maniniholo Dry Cave was formed, it is deserving of a visit. The cave itself goes back quite some ways and features a ton of unique nooks and crannies waiting to be explored. The cave actually was once even larger than this, but a massive tsunami in 1957 hit this side of the island and filled in the deepest parts of the cave with sand from the nearby beach.
-You can see much of the Maniniholo Dry Cave just fine during the day. But if you really want to explore those innermost walls and tiny nooks, or if you are visiting during the early morning or late evening hours, then you should bring a flashlight.
-Carve out a few more hours to explore all of the big caves on this part of Kauai. The Waikanaloa And Waikapalae Wet Caves can be found just a few miles up the road. Both will require a bit more of a hike than this one but are well worth the walk. You might even find yourself exploring some familiar territory as the Waikapalae Cave was used as a filming location for the Hollywood hit movie Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.