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Exploring: Island Tours > Kauai > South Shore
Between the Haupu Mountain Range south of Lihue and the Spouting Horn Beach Park you'll find: Poipu, a dynamic resort area; Koloa, a mill town founded around the first sugar plantation in Hawaii; Maha'ulepu (pictured), a prinstine reserve of untold beauty; and a mellow lifestyle that's centered around warmth, sunshine and a sparkling blue ocean.
You'll discover Koloa and Poipu by first driving through the Tree Tunnel, a mile-long stand of tall eucalyptus (or swamp mahogany) trees that completely shade the road. Emerge from this mesmerizing tunnel into bright sunshine and acres of sugar cane lining both sides of the road.
Old Koloa Town, the gateway to Poipu Beach, is located at the south end of this road. The ruins of Hawaii's first sugar mill are here, and in a small, adjacent park, the history of the sugar industry and the Koloa area is engraved on a circular sculpture commemorating its historic past. The stores and restaurants on the main street open onto a wooden boardwalk, encouraging lively interchanges among shoppers, diners and passers-by.
One of the rustic buildings was the community's general store, another a medical office, and a third was a hotel for traveling salesmen in the late 1800s. Koloa Landing on the edge of town was the state's third largest whaling port in the 1800s and was also used for the export of raw sugar and sweet potatoes. Most of the houses built for plantation workers are now overshadowed by huge mango or poinciana trees, sprawls of bright scarlet and magenta bougainvillaea, and banks of orchid plants.
Every year, in late July, the town celebrates its plantation heritage and the many cultures that coexist in Koloa with a festive parade, country-style fair, and other events aptly named Koloa Plantation Days. The steam locomotive that once pulled tons of cane to the mill is loaded on a huge trailer, all polished up, and joins the parade, letting out the occasional bellow on its whistle.
Farther south is the sunny Poipu Beach Resort area (pictured). This region is known for its exceptionally warm and sunny weather. The golden sandy beaches are favorite spots for sunning, picnicking, volleyball and a wide variety of water sports. Snorkeling and diving are great fun, for there are many kinds of fish, lots of them darting and hiding among the nooks and crannies of the intricate lava formations. The south shore's bays create year-round ideal wave conditions for body boarders and surfers. Surfing and body boarding competitions are occasionally held in Poipu, so girls and boys start surfing at an early age. They turn 360s on their boards and make it look so easy.
The entire Poipu Beach area is dedicated to recreation and relaxation in all forms, including two beautiful and challenging PGA-class golf courses. The Poipu Bay Resort Golf Course (pictured) is home to the annual PGA Grand Slam of Golf tournaments in the fall. Both have full-service pro shops and fine clubhouse facilities. Tennis facilities are available at most of the resorts and offer lessons and a variety of tournaments. Numerous trails from the beach to the cliff tops at Mahaulepu can be hiked, biked, or traveled on horseback.
Poipu is near the southernmost tip of Kauai known as Makahuena Point, so from many oceanside vantage points you can watch the sun rise and set on another day in paradise. Accommodations range from a luxury hotel with Hawaiian flair, to fully-furnished beach or golf course homes, to spacious condominium resorts, charming cottages, and cozy B&Bs.
Dining means making a choice between a sumptuous buffet, northern Italian, fresh fish, innovative Hawaiian island cuisine, Mexican or Japanese food, pizza, sub sandwiches, cook-your-own steaks, or a picnic. Dancing, a polite session of pool and Hawaiian entertainment round out the evenings.
On the west side of Poipu Beach is Spouting Horn, a lava tube in an outcropping over the ocean. When waves surge in, a geyser erupts from the hole accompanied by a loud roar. According to one legend, these are the cries of a dragon god mourning the loss of his sisters. In another legend, a lizard goddess trapped in the lava tube by a clever fisherman is angrily growling.
Also on the west side of Poipu is Prince Kuhio Park, the birthplace of Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole. He represented the Territory of Hawaii in the U.S. Congress for over 20 years. He established the Hawaiian Homes Commission and many other civic organizations and projects to protect and improve the lives of native Hawaiians. The foundation of Prince Kuhio's parents' home, a fishpond and an altar are preserved within the park grounds, along with parts of an ancient heiau (sacred temple or site).
Kauai's south shore, like the leeward shores of the other Hawaiian islands, is the mecca for those who revel in bright sun, warm temperatures and crystal-blue ocean waters. Many visitors return year after year to Poipu Beach, to play in the ocean, shop for treasures, golf, and to just plain relax. Imagine ending each day with a favorite libation in hand, looking out over the ocean, enjoying the sunset. Whatever your tastes, you'll like what you find in sunny Poipu Beach.
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