Escape to Nature’s Mystical Destination
Polihale is hands-down one of the most breathtakingly beautiful beaches in the world. This seemingly deserted locale on the western end of the island is several miles from the nearest town and holds a vibe of enchantment and mystique, still alive on Kauai today. Polihale is accessible to the public and encompasses nearly 140 acres of coastal land. While the beach may seem a bit desolate at first—more like an arid desert than an island paradise—take a closer look. There are many hidden treasures to discover.
Overtime, the name Polihale has been incorrectly translated to represent the afterworld. But in Hawaiian, Polihale literally translates as “House Bosom.” The root Po refers to the original night and darkness from which creation is manifested (the Hawaiian “day” began at nightfall), in this case, symbolizing “the source.” Poli in Hawaiian means "bosom" or “breast,” often believed to represent birth or life. This divulges the word’s root in the concept, the “source of life.” Quite fitting for such a wild and majestic place.
There is also a Hawaiian myth and legend behind Polihale that originates from a unique sea lettuce known as pahapaha that grows in the waters surrounding the beach. It is said that the sea lettuce has been blessed by the Hawaiian goddess of ocean, Na-maka-o-Kahai; and when a wreath of pahapaha was made, it would dry out and fade, but when soaked in water, it would return again to its fresh and vibrant state.
Today, this beach destination is a great place to visit for the day—perfect for picnicking and beachcombing in the sun, and also a romantic spot for an evening of stargazing or camping with the family. If you listen closely, you just might hear goats calling out from the ridges of the Napali Coast. Located at the beach is also an ancient heiau (place of worship) and the sheer rock cliffs that line the backdrop hold yet another surprise—if you look closely, you will see that there is a giant door built right into the facade of the mountain—another mysterious feature of this curious place!
Polihale is a state park and allows camping by permit. If you plan to stay overnight, wake up early and take a morning stroll along the seemingly endless, golden sand beach. Polihale brings promise of finding the much sought after, Sunrise Shell. These shells (that resemble the Shell Oil logo) are of great value in today’s jewelry industry and are said to have been exclusive property of the Hawaiian monarchy in old Hawaii. Shell picking here is great throughout the year and best during the months of December through March, as winter surf stirs the sand and uncovers rare seashells.
Polihale is also known by locals as one of the best spots on Kauai to catch the sunset. Described as an almost spiritual experience, here you can get the perfect glimpse of the sun setting over the mysterious neighbor island of Niihau—the closest you’ll probably get to the Forbidden Isle without taking an air or boat tour or a personal invitation to the Forbidden Isle. Stargazing is also at its finest with the dark night sky, several miles from the glow of any streetlights. If you like to wish on shooting stars, you surely won’t be disappointed.
But visitors, be forewarned. Polihale is not recommended for swimming or snorkeling and precautions need to be taken. Polihale has strong rip currents and the beach has no reef protection from the open sea, making waters extremely treacherous. There is, however, a small, encircled reef area known as Queen’s Pond that is usually safe for swimming. Located on the south end of the beach, Queen’s Pond is the only recommended spot to get in the water, though proceed with caution during the winter months, as high surf can be extremely dangerous.
It gets hot at Polihale, especially during the summer months, and there is little protection on this barren landscape. Day-trippers and campers alike may want to bring a beach umbrella for shade and always carry extra sunscreen. You will find facilities with simple amenities like running water, semi-private showers and flushing toilets. You’ll want to bring plenty of drinking water and food, being that you won’t find anything for sale on this beach and the nearest town, Kekaha, is several miles away.
Directions to Polihale Beach: Getting to Polihale isn’t difficult, but it does take a while; and the road can be very rough and muddy after heavy rains. Small cars are highly discouraged and four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended. Be sure to check road conditions and the weather forecast before heading out.
Take Highway 50 until you are just past the Pacific Missile Range Facility gate. To the left, you will see a sign for Polihale pointing to a dirt cane-hauling road. Take the dirt road and follow for 3.4 miles (approximately five minutes), until you reach a large monkeypod tree. At the tree, veer right until you reach a makeshift parking area. Just a short hike away, you will reach your destination at one of the best beaches on Kauai.