Kauai Hawaii beach

When I went to Hawaii for the first time, to the small and vibrant Green Isle of Kauai, I expected all the beaches to be placid, calm and serene. Scenes from a beach storybook. While this was true in many cases, my favorite beach on the entire island was easily the romantic and unforgettable Shipwreck Beach.

Discovering Shipwreck Beach

We stayed at the  Sheraton on the South Shore, a gorgeous hotel with an oceanfront pool right on Poipu Beach. One morning, before the sun had risen high enough to drive us under umbrellas clutching iced drinks, we ventured out along the strip of beaches on the southern shoreline. We had no intention in mind: our thoughts were simply on following the white sand on its sinuous course along the coastline.

I gasped when I saw it: Shipwreck Beach. A cliff, covered in twining greenery and crowned with stone, jutted its way out of the ocean, forming a solid wall next to the sand. In the cooler forested area adjacent to the beach, locals to Hawaii were selling fresh coconuts. A massage therapist had set up a table and was giving a full body massage in the sunrise.

I could have stayed on the beach forever, staring up at the wild cliff whose jutting stones gives Shipwreck Beach its romantic and intimidating name. Instead, we followed a small procession of adventurers up the rocks to the top of the cliff, another couple whispering that this was the setting for the film Six Days and Seven Nights.

Once on top of the cliff, I looked down in awe (at a safe distance from the edge) at the arms of the Pacific striking the jutting rocks at the bottom and hurling up great spouts of white foam. While the deep water was an inscrutable dark blue, the waves near the bottom of the cliff were turquoise and bright.

In the small pools collecting at the foot of the cliff, I spied five or six giant Hawaiian sea turtles cavorting in the waves, seeming to beckon with their graceful flippers. I was in absolute awe of the beauty of this remote and somewhat inhospitable beach.

We stayed up there as the sky slowly brightened with the dawning of the day, and the exposed location on top of the cliff became too hot.

We returned to the Sheraton, to the calm and safe waters of Poipu Beach. But I’ve never forgotten the raw beauty of Shipwreck Beach, the way the cliff reared its head from the waves like the head of a giant and the turtles lapped its feet.