Few words can describe the beauty and power of Polihale State park in Kauai.
Polihale state park is a seven mile long segment of a 14 mile long beach on Kauai’s western most edge.
The access road to Polihale beach is a long rutted dirt road that ends at the western most point in the united states, this is truly as far west as the western world goes. This is a rutted road, 4wd is reccomended and even required by some car rental companies. My experience of driving it was that 4wd helped but a standard car in good weather going very slow would make it. Be cautious when driving onto the sand as it is easy to spin out and get stuck. This road would be very difficult to pass in rain and mud even with 4wd.
In 1994 the Dali Lama came to visited Hawaii and made an unplanned stop in Kauai. There were two places he wanted to see, Anahola and Polihale. Upon seeing Polihale this master teacher validated what the local hawaiin legends say; this is the place where souls go to depart the physical realm.
The experiences that my girlfriend Lara and I shared at this place were distinctly otherworldly.
The long stretch of tempurpedic-soft golden sand stretches along Kauai’s western coast ending in dramatic high cliffs of the napali coast.
Hawaiian’s would use this beach as a burial place for royalty. Those who were worthy of transitioning this plane of existence where ceremoniously dropped to their demise along with gifts and offerings from the cliffs to the hard rocks below. Mounds where then created with rock and are now covered in sand creating hills along the upper beach which go largely unnoticed by most travelers.
The water at this incredible place is powerful. The clarity is consistently rated as some of the clearest in the world. Even with the turbulent weather surrounding our visit it was amazing to look right through giant waves 60 feet out into the surf, or straight to the glistening bottom of queens pond. The currents are incredibly strong here, swimming is not recommended and the surf is often very high.
This is the only place in the world to find sunrise shells. These incredibly rare and valuable shells and incredibly beautiful and have given their color to the sand of this beach.
In the summer temperatures can get very hot and the sun can be relentless, be prepared!
This is a remarkable place and see’s alot of visitors while still providing the possibility for rich experiences of solitude, please show extra respect when visiting, if you choose to camp or just visit for the day please pack out what you bring in and be respectful to the land and people.
There is dispersed camping and a multitude of places to pull off the road and enjoy this incredible beach. To camp one needs to purchase a permit here.
Camping permits for up to six people are exceptionally reasonable at $12 for residents and $18 for non residents, a welcome perk on an expensive island and at the end of a long dirt road.
This is the dry side of the island but that doesn’t mean that intense weather shouldn’t be planned for, rain, wind, sun and heat are all important considerations to plan for when camping or spending the day here. In February we were very comfortable in our tent on a pad with a lightweight sleeping bag used as a quilt. Though it was hard to sleep with the stars being so beautiful and powerful.
The dunes are festooned with the naupaka plant, a beautiful and rare flowering bushy ground flower that has be a beautiful legend behind it. Every part of the place seemed to resound with importance, reverence and universal energy.
Growing up in a rural state and adventuring my whole life I have seen many milky way filled night skies and I cherish anytime I get to spend under a truly black sky. The night spent in Polihale however was unique.
Lara and I happened to be there during a new moon in February. The sky was very dark. Being the winter the galactic center point was in the southern hemisphere but even without the center point the landscape was luminated with star light. I have never seen so many shooting stars, traveling in seemingly random directions, ever in my life. The sky seemed alive and seemed to participate with us as we walked along the shoreline after an amazing sunset.
After a magical night under the stars we woke at first light and were greeted by an incredible shift in palette. The sky was a pastel of pinks, purples and blues. After a walk and some yoga in under the luminous dawn sky we returned to camp, packed up, made tea and sliced papaya for the mornings breakfast, got into the Jeep and wandered slowly back down the road a few miles to queen’s pond.
The first feature along the park, and the only real safe place for swimming on this beach is called the Queen’s pond and is a left turn not long after turning towards the state park. This popular spot has a small reef protecting an area where one can enjoy a safe swim in the strikingly clear water.
As one gazes westward from Polihale beach the island of Niahu is visible. Beyond that stretch over 2,000 miles of open ocean until one reaches the asian coastline.
The island of Niahu is a private reserve of Hawaiin culture, it is not possible to visit there without permission.
Some correlate the Hawaiin islands to the chakra system. While I personally think that correlating each island to a energy center must include an individuals experience, Kauai is often referred to as being linked to the third eye and Nihau the crown. Polihale certainly felt like a transition point, a place of stepping off into the cosmos, into the beyond.
In my book, a stop at Polihale beach is a must do on the island of Kauai. If you can camp a night or too and take in the incredible sunsets and starry nights, do it, if you can visit for a moment, do it.
For us this is a place half real, half a dream. No photo or words can describe standing in the soft sand in the warm surf surrounded by stars and the sounds of waves.