Imagine sitting on a long white sand beach, a distant forbidden island in view, clear blue sky, looming cliffs behind you, and waves rolling in as your soundtrack. This is Polihale. At the end of Kaua`i's west side, well past Waimea, the white sand stretches for miles, tall sacred cliffs are dotted with goats, chickens scamper around the beach, and the clear blue water offers good surfing and a refreshing swim. Watching the sunset over the forbidden island of Ni`ihau from Kaua`i's shore creates a special end to a day spent here.
Looking west at Polihale — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
At the very end of the sand, where the cliffs meet the ocean, is Echo Beach: a section popular for surfing that is reserved for those most experienced because of the rocks and the current. Cliffs in the area mark the beginning of the famous Na Pali Coast and are home to the Polihale Heiau (Hawaiian temple). This sacred spot is said to be where the souls of the dead leapt off the cliffs to the 'land of the dead,' a mythical underwater mountain a few miles off the coast. This beach is also a popular four wheel driving and camping spot.
Echo Beach — Photo courtesy of Jade Eckardt
To get here, drive until the pavement ends on Highway 50 and turn left on the dirt road at mile marker 33. It’s about a 3.5 mile, 20 to 30 minute drive to the big tree at the fork in the road. You can veer right to the facilities or go left for safer swimming. This takes you to Queen’s Pond, where a fringing reef creates a somewhat safer swimming area.
Lifesaving devices are attached to posts along the back of Echo Beach. Watch out for mud pits on the drive in.