Kauai Sea Cliffs

South Kauai Sights

Whether you're an armchair geologist or simply appreciate Mother Nature's stunning handiwork, you'll want to check out the fascinating Makawehi Lithified Cliffs on Kauai's South Shore.

Located next to Shipwreck Beach in South Kauai, these ancient limestone sea cliffs have been virtually sandblasted by a combination of wind, salt, and water over millions of years. Lithified cliffs form as weathered fragments are removed by erosion and transported by gravity, running water, glaciers, waves, and wind. These weathered rock fragments then eventually come to rest as layers of loose, unconsolidated material called sediment. This material may subsequently be subjected to compaction and cementation, causing it to be lithified into solid rock.

Sediment is lithified when it is compacted by the weight of overlying layers and cemented as percolating groundwater fills pores with mineral matter. When sea levels drop, these cliffs are exposed as we see them today at Makawehi.

This entire stretch of Kauai's coastline is also a treasure trove of fossils, petroglyphs, and burial grounds. The numerous fossils in the sand can also be explained by the lithified cliffs as they formed under water. As fish and other organisms died, they would fall on top of the sediment layers and eventually be covered up by new layers. This allows them to be preserved as the fossils we find in the sand today.

Please DO NOT remove these fossils from the cliffs and sand so that others may also enjoy them. This area is considered particularly sacred and valuable to both locals and conservationists.

To get there: Take Highway 50 from Hanapepe and turn right onto highway 520 toward Poipu. Turn right onto Koloa Road and then left on Poipu Road. The cliffs are located at the east end of Shipwreck Beach.

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Article Edited/Contributed by: John C. Derrick & Michele Lopez

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