A Great Site to Visit on Kaua’i—Makauwahi Cave Reserve

Entrance to the cave

Entrance to the cave–Photo by Erik Cords

We have visited the island of Kaua’i many times, without ever hearing that there was a prehistoric cave that attracted visitors and researchers from all over the world. According to the visitor’s handout, this cave “is itself a huge fossil, formed in the heart of an ancient sand dune that turned to stone over the ensuing 400,000 years. Groundwater etched away the limestone and dripping water mantled the walls with flowstone formations. About 7000 years ago the ceiling in the cave’s central room collapsed, leaving behind a freshwater lake in the midst of Hawaii’s largest limestone cave.”

The lake is gone now, but the walls of the cave still stand. If you have ever seen a sinkhole like the cenote in the Yucatan, or the Gouffre du Padirac in the Dordogne region of France, you can imagine this scene: you stand at the bottom of a great round abyss, rock walls going straight up, the sky high above. You can walk a trail that circles the top of the walls and look down into the cave, or you can find a narrow entrance, drop down on your hands and knees (mind your head), and crawl into the cave.

Last March we were on Kaua’i (that’s how it should be spelled) when we heard about the cave and that it was open on Sundays. We decided to visit the amazing site. It wasn’t easy. We left the pavement at the east end of Poipu Road and drove a long way over a deeply rutted dirt track, even longer because we missed an important turn and approached the grounds from a beach. The directions we had were vague. We left our car near a lot of other cars(!), followed a path through some greenery to reach a beach where lots of people were swimming and sunning. We walked along the sand to a stream, turned in-land to follow the stream to a bridge, crossed the bridge, and MADE A WRONG TURN! We should have turned right, which would have taken us to the entrance to the cave. Instead we went left, circled the high rim of the cave and crawled through the tunnel entrance just as the guide was closing up. We had time for just a short visit, to peek into the depths of the cave, and to buy a copy of Back to the Future in the Caves of Kaua’i by David A. Burney.

If you go, you will be better prepared than we were, because you have read my post, and now you know that you can go to: www.cavereserve.org, for more information, or you can email to makauwahi@gmail.com to get on a mailing list for info about the cave.

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2 Responses to A Great Site to Visit on Kaua’i—Makauwahi Cave Reserve

  1. Goldie, Now, six months after our 60th Reunion at Smith, one you couldn’t attend because you were in the Balkans, I think, Tom and I are in a, to us, new part of the world, and I just happened to read your Post about the cave on Kaua’i. We’re spending three months being nomads, staying for one to four weeks in various places in the SW US. This one is in the hills at the very southern end of the Sierras, near Tehachapi Mountain Park. Te-HATCH-a-pee is how it sounds. The land is hilly, covered with grey rock out-croppings, oaks and pines. We’re frosty at night with warm days. A Tibetan group has established a retreat high up near the park, and we plan to visit it next week. We drove down, going east up the Columbia to get to the east side of the mountains, and then taking five days, a leisurely pace, to come down through Alturas CA, Hawthorne NV, Beatty NV (for two nights, near Death Valley, where we had heavy, much needed rain) Lone Pine CA and in to Tehachapi. The Sierras were clear in all their glory over Lone Pine in the late sun as we came West in to Lone Pine. Look forward to being in touch with you again.

  2. “We should have turned right, which would have taken us to the entrance to the cave. Instead we went left, circled the high rim of the cave and crawled through the tunnel entrance.” This sounds like an adventure in itself. I often find the unexpected to have life well beyond the anticipated. Perhaps you might write about this mini-adventure and the mind-trip it provoked.

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