Polihale – a legendary beach on Kauai’s west side
With lush emerald spires and majestic 4,000-foot cliffs, it is no surprise that the Napali Coast is one of the crown jewels of Kaua’i.
Polihale is the beginning of this precious jewel.
With its long stretch of white sandy beach seamlessly colliding into the beautiful cliffs of the Napali Coast, plus a rich history rooted in the culture of Kaua’i, it’s no wonder this special place is so popular among locals and visitors.
Stretching around fifteen miles, Polihale is one of the longest white sand beaches in the state of Hawai’i. The beach is also considered one of the widest beaches in Hawai’i reaching up to 300 feet during summer months and sand dunes reaching up to 100 feet tall. Locals love to make their way down to this amazing place to unwind and enjoy some much needed vitamin “sea”.
Polihale is only accessible via a five-mile unpaved road that is often rough and damaging to vehicles. Many car rental companies strictly prohibit voyaging to this area due to the treacherous road conditions that often require four-wheel drive. Be sure to check the restrictions on your agreement before venturing to this secluded area.
Conditions vary significantly during the year, waves can reach over 30 feet in the winter months (Oct-Mar) while in the summer (Apr-Sep) it can be as calm as a lake. Depending on the conditions, it is a popular place for swimming, surfing, body boarding, boogie boarding, fishing, kayaking and boating. Entering the water is done at your own risk, there are no lifeguards, strong shore-break and hidden rip currents. Know your limits, and when in doubt – don’t go out. Instead, enjoy the beach for sunbathing, shell hunting, long walks, epic sunsets, and spectacular star-gazing.
Camping is allowed with permits, restrooms and showers are available as well as day-use pavilions; shade is important as this tends to be one of the hottest and driest beaches on the island. Be sure to bring everything you may need, including lots of water, as there are no supplies available past the town of Kekaha.
The heiau (sacred site) of Polihale is one of the oldest and most sacred on the island. This heiau bears the name of Chief Polihale, who built this heiau as the first home of Kane and Kanaloa. It was built as a “thank you” to these gods for answering his prayer.
Chief Polihale had a daughter, named Napihenui. One day, Napihenui attracted the attention of the first of the four Polynesian gods to come to Kaua’i, Ku. To be near Napihenui, he would take the form of a white dog. In this form, he would play with Napihenui and her maidens as they swam and bathed in a nearby pond. As his affection for Napihenui grew by the day, he asked Polihale for his daughter, but he refused. Enraged, Ku threatened to kill all residents one by one, until he received Napihenui’s hand in marriage. Using the form of a black dog, Ku started his assault on Polihale’s people. Desperate to even the playing field, Polihale prayed to Kane and Kanaloa. Answering his prayer, these two great gods came down in their mighty seagoing bird forms, defeating Ku.
The base of this structure is now covered by sand and the rest is overgrown with foliage. While the heiau may no longer be visible, this is a place that the people of Kaua’i hold near to their hearts, not only for it’s awe-inspiring beauty, but also its roots that run deep within the culture of Kaua’i.