Gillin’s Beach Kauai

Gillin's Beach Kauai Hawaii
Gillins Beach and Ezras Beach from the end of Mahaulepu Heritage Trail near Punahoa Point

Want to be able to enjoy a remote beach on the southeastern part of Kauai?

How about one that is directly next to some amazing caves that are also worth exploring. That is exactly what you can get at Gillin’s Beach.

The waves here, like a lot of beaches on the east side of Kauai can be pretty intense. Often times it’s not even safe to swim in the water unless the conditions are good or you are ina protected cove. For this reason, a lot of other visitors tend to avoid this beach.

The most common types of visitors you see will be tours of people on horseback. If you are looking for an AWESOME horseback tour along the shores of Kauai, you must consider one that covers Gillin’s Beach.

Gillin’s Beach Quick Facts:

  • Other Names: Gillins Beach, Makauwahi Cave Beach, Mahaulepu Beach, Beach of Kawailoa Bay Beach, NOT Kawailoa Beach (on Oahu)
  • Known For: Proximity to Makauwahi Caves, strong waves and currents, horseback tours
  • Facilities: none
  • Lifeguards: none
  • Crowds: few
  • Parking: plenty, but mini hike required
  • Cost: free
  • Other: Plenty of trees for shade

One Beach – Multiple Names, all the same beach in Kawailoa Bay

Gillins Beach is referred to by a few different names; technically the official name is Mahaulepu Beach. Though it isn’t its name or even an official nickname, it sometimes gets called Makauwahi Beach after the Makauwahi Caves that are directly next door.

Regardless of the name, this beach is in Kawailoa Bay and at the very end of the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail, which also can contribute to the confusion.

The name Gillins beach comes from a historical resident that built his house along the shores of this beach.

Top ways to experience nearby attractions

Gillin’s Beach Parking

The dirt road to the caves had plenty of opportunities to park along the side as well as a small lot at the end. I always get a little nervous taking a rental car off of a paved road, but this one was very tame.

Gillin's beach parking
Gillin’s beach parking

How to get to Gillin’s Beach

There are three main ways to access this beach.

First, you can drive there directly and park in a parking lot at the beach, but it requires you to drive down a road that is probably not rental car friendly and is not always opened to the public.

Supposedly the gates are closed because the direct dirt road crossed private property.

I would suggest you only attempt this way if you have a 4×4.

Second, you can hike in from Shipwreck Beach on the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. I loved this trail, but it will require a decent amount of effort to finish it. You can read about it here.

The third and most common way to access the beach is by driving down the dirt road that serves as the unofficial parking lot for the Makauwahi Caves.

If you are coming this way, just put the caves into your GPS and follow the paved road until it turns into a smooth dirt road. This will lead you in from the east side.

From there you will have to do a quick hike down to the beach, but you should be able to finish it in about 5 minutes.

The path is clearly marked, just know the you will go straight past the caves rather than turning left into them.

Gillin's beach Kauai Hawaii
Gillin’s beach

What to Expect Once There 

Directly at the head of the beach you will see people coming out of the Makauwahi Caves. These caves are free and fun to quickly explore. You can read more about them here.

If you want to have more space to yourself all you have to do is walk a little bit away from the parking lot. When we did this we were alone on the beach, except for when a guided horseback tour came by.

Horseback Tours

If you are looking for the idyllic horseback ride, you should considering booking a tour that will walk you along the beach.

Some of my favorites are listed below.

Gillins beach horseback riding in Kauai
Horseback riding at Gillin’s Beach in Kauai


While I didn’t see any while on this beach, it is famous for being a resting spot for monk seals and a nesting spot for sea turtles.

Aggressive Waves

The waves on this beach keep a lot of visitors away. Often times they make it unsafe to swim in, but there was a small cove protected from the waves that had water so still kids could swim in it.

Conditions vary and change quickly, so proceed at your own risk as there is no lifeguard on duty.


If you don’t mind the lack of facilities and potentially not being able to swim due to scary waves, you can still fully enjoy Gillins Beach!


  • Dresses – Packing a few good dresses is essential for Hawaii. Dresses have become my go to on trips to help quickly put an outfit together. Revolve is one of my go to shops for beach dresses. ASOS also has great summer dresses.
  • Shorts – Anyone who is traveling to Hawaii needs a good pair of shorts. Khakis are great for guys. For women, cute athletic shorts or denim shorts are perfect for a breezy summertime look. These Levi denim shorts are my current favorites! These high waisted athletic shorts have gone viral on instagram and for good reason, they are AMAZING.
  • Sandals – LOVE these Teva’s! They are my new go to travel sandal. Shop my favorite Teva’s here. They are great to wear in the water snorkeling and also amazing for hiking in Hawaii.
  • Sports braThis SKIMS bra is the most comfortable sports bra you will ever wear! Trust me. I travel with 5 of them. Also, highly recommend checking out the SKIMS fits everybody bra is to die for as well.
  • Tank tops – Free people is my go to place to buy cute and affordable tank tops. I have this tighten up tank in almost every color.
  • Hat – essential. Shop the newest hats at Nordstrom.
  • Beach cover-up – Having at least one good cover-up is essential on any beach trip. I recommend ASOSNordstrom and Revolve as well.
  • Hiking boots – I have two pairs of hiking boots that I love. My Columbia waterproof boots and my Salomon hiking boots. Highly recommend checking them both out! Warning – they both sell out really quick.
  • Tennis Shoes – I guess you could wear sandals hiking this trail but I would recommend tennis shoes. It can get narrow and slippery in parts. These Nike high tops are my current favs. They look so cute with shorts too!
  • Packing cubes – I always go to Urban Outfitters for my packing cubes. They have the cutest ones!
  • Quick Dry Travel Towel – This quick dry towel is amazing to travel with. It really will come in handy when you need extra room in your suitcase.
  • Snorkeling gear – for obvious reasons.

Planning a trip to Kauai? Check out all our Kauai blog posts below.

My husband and I have been to Kauai many times and have written up more blog posts to help you plan your trip. These are my most popular blog posts and Kauai travel guides to help you plan your trip.

Kauai Beaches

Kauai Hiking Guides

Read about all the hikes we have done in Kauai here.

Read all other posts on Kauai here.

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Hey there! I'm Claire, the founder of & While spending 4 years completely bedridden and miserable from an unexpected illness I decided to begin writing about my past travel adventures and now the rest is history. Thank you so much for visiting the website. I hope you enjoy it!


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