by Sheila Heathcote; Photos by Francisco Monsalve
Inaccessible by foot, vehicle or aircraft, this remote camp site on the rugged Na Pali Coast is a diamond amongst the many jewels the island of Kauai has to offer.
With only six camp sites, this hidden stretch of beach and scrub vegetation appears to be small from the only access, which is by kayak or boat.
The majestic palis stand like monoliths reaching almost 2,800 feet at the back of the beach, and the wide apron of sand -- thick, creamy, pristine -- is long and deep.
The ruins of a state park cabin is the only evidence that humans administer this remote stretch, which in antiquity was home to hundreds of Native Hawaiians, who farmed taro and lived in the area, and even had a school house.
With an outdoor shower (cold water only), a spigot for running water (not drinkable), composting toilets/outhouses and picnic tables, the area is a peaceful, and remote – like a castaway’s settlement. No electricity, no cell service; none of the trappings of modern society, add to the quiet splendor of Miloli'i.
Because Milolii is located on the dry western side of Kauai, the campsites are nestled under huge Australian pines, affording a pleasing canopy of shade. A favorite stop off point for kayakers who are on the day trips from Hanalei to Poipu, the beach becomes littered with colorful boats that look like rainbow colored pick up sticks that a giants has tossed on the beach.
Sunrise is uneventful due to the western location, but sunsets are spectacular, and snorkelling at Milolii is superb in the absence of trade winds. Beach combing to gather coral and shells on the sand, sometimes affords a glimpse of a near-shore sea turtle, or an endangered monk seal who has hauled up on the sand for a long daytime nap to diest its meal. (Please do not disturb the seals!)
Logistics and packing for this wilderness adventure is challenging on several accounts. All food and drinkinhg water mst be carried in along with tents, kitchen gear, propane stoves and utensils. Packing a cooler with a second fabric cooling bag will keep a block of ice viable for several days. Coordinating a boat or kayak to get to the area involves either a lot of paddling (from Ke'e Beach to Miloli'i is about 13 miles, and if you find a boat to take you in, boats are not permitted to land on the beach, so swimming the food and gear to shore can be exhilirating and a bit frightening when wind kicks up ocean swells.
At the westernmost end of Miloli'i is a bubbling stream and a narrow valley that becomes a narrow ravine between dry, 1500 foot walls. Despite a fraction of the rainfall experienced in Kalalau Valley or in the Koke'e mountains, the stream runs year round. Waterfalls and wading pools offer respite and cool refreshment against the blazing sun. From an ancient settlement, modern day officials from the Department of Land and Natural Resources have piped the shower and water for washing from this stream to the campground area. Besides the life-giving water, the stream provided native shrimp and o‘opu gobys, the latter a fish remarkabe for its ventral sucker that enables climbing waterfalls. These animals spend their very early life in the sea but soon ascend and colonize the mountain streams. The Milolii people also irrigated taro on the backshore flats behind the beach, and of course fished the extensive reef, whose bounty is revealed even today by the rich shell collecting it offers.