CRAMP Study Sites
Geographic Name: Nu‘alolo Kai
CRAMP site code: KaNua
22° 09.9‘N, 159° 42.2‘W
Nu‘alolo Kai is located in the southwestern end of the Na Pali Coast State Park on the north coast of Kaua‘i.
Chart of Nu‘alolo Kai. Arrow points to CRAMP transect site. (Click image for larger view.)
Nu‘alolo Kai extends from Alapii Point on the NE to Makuaiki Point on the SW.
The cove at Nu‘alolo Kai is one of the few places on the Na Pali Coast where boats can safely land. Note protection by reefs on both sides of the channel. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Alapii Point and the extensive carbonate reef flat and reef crest. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Makuaiki Point and the boulder beach lying on carbonate platform. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
The shoreline between Alapii Pt. and Makuaiki Pt. consists of a narrow strip of land approximately one half mile long located at the base of steep cliffs that rise to elevations of nearly 1000 feet. The coastal plain consists largely of sand dunes and talus deposits fronted by a gravel and boulder beach. This coastal plain is less than 200 m in width at the NE end and narrows to a steep boulder beach and talus slope near Makuaiki Pt. During rainstorms intermittent streams cascade from the perched valleys above. The perched valley of Nu‘alolo Aina is located at the NE end of Nu‘alolo Kai. The floor of Nu‘alolo Aina valley is on the cliff face approximately 100 feet above Nu‘alolo Kai. When Nu‘alolo Kai and Nu‘alolo Aina were inhabited by Hawaiians, ladders were used to allow access between the two locations. At that time, Nu‘alolo Aina was an agricultural area and Nu‘alolo Kai was a fishing village.
A boulder beach fronting the carbonate platform demonstrates the severity of wave action during the winter months when North Pacific Swell strikes this coastline. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
A wide fringing reef flat approximately 100 m in width occurs at the NE end of Nu‘alolo Kai near Alapii Point. the reef flat substrate is limestone reef, boulders, sand patches and very low coverage by corals. The carbonate platform overlies a basalt foundation and consists largely of well-bedded lithified sand dune and reef materials that were deposited during periods of lower sea level stand. The structure does not represent active reef growth, except for a carbonate veneer of corals and coralline algae on some portions of the reef flat. coralline algae has accreted on the outer margins form an algal ridge reef crest) which exposes at low tide. The reef flat is interspersed with holes and cracks and the reef face cut by surge channels. The carbonate reef flat narrows to the SE to a width of only a few meters at the SE end of Nu‘alolo Kai. A deep channel cuts into the center of the carbonate platform to form a protected cove. The channel is marked with navigational range markers on shore. Small craft can anchor very close to shore in this protected cove under low surf conditions. Small craft can be landed on the cobble-sand beach.
Immediately offshore of the carbonate platform the depth ranges from 6-10 ft on pinnacle tops to 20 ft in sand channels, increasing to approximately 30-40 feet at a distance of a half-mile offshore. Inshore, the channel bottoms are littered with volcanic and carbonate cobble as well as sand. Farther offshore sand deposits fill the bottom of the channels. Relatively shallow water (less than 60 feet) occurs to a distance of 1/2 to1 mile offshore of Nu‘alolo Kai and Miloli‘i (see chart above), which probably explains why shoreline deposits and a beach occur here instead of a wave undercut cliff as occurs along most of the Na Pali shoreline. Offshore bathymetry is extremely steep, promoting rapid removal of eroded material into deep water. A system of submarine canyons whose heads approach the shore in along this coastline, dropping steeply to depths of several thousand feet (Moberly, Cox, Chamberlain, McCoy and Campbell. 1963. Appendix I).
Reef Structure, Habitat Classification:
Wide carbonate reef flat with a reef crest on NE end, extending and narrowing to the SE. Coralline algae appear to be the principal reef building organisms throughout this area. A broad reef platform extends farther offshore, characterized by basaltic "spur and groove" features with low to moderate (5%-10%) coral cover. Overall, the shallow reef structure is reminiscent of a developing fringing reef, but appears to actually be a thin veneer of carbonates over an erosional pre-existing basalt foundation that has been highly modified by wave action. Surge channels of varying size cut into the reef slope. Some are quite narrow and deep (10-20 ft). Others are broad sand channels.
Diver measuring rugosity at Nu‘alolo Kai. Note dominance of encrusting coralline algae and paucity of coral cover. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Corals are sparse close inshore, consisting mainly of a few encrusting colonies of Porites lobata and Montipora patula. Slightly deeper water (1-2 m) is characterized by low coverage (<2%) of the corals Pocillopora meandrina, Porites lobata, Porites evermanni, Pavona duerdeni and Montipora spp., Cyphastraea ocellina and the soft coral Palythoa tuberculosa. Pavona maldivensis occurs on vertical surfaces.
Adjacent Land Tenure and Use:
State Park, conservation.
Human Use Patterns:
This area in not accessible by land. Visits by boat are made by local residents of Kaua‘i as well as by tourists. Commercial power boat, sailing boat and kayak tour operators use this site to make shore landings. Shelters, picnic benches, toilet facility, showers and grills are available. subsistence fishing occurs here at a low level due to the remoteness of the site and adverse surf conditions during the winter months.
Economic Value and Social Benefits:
Nu‘alolo Kai is an important resource to the visitor industry and provides a valuable recreational area for local inhabitants.
Status (Degree of Legal Protection):
State Park with open access to the reef resources. Authority for managing the marine resources within three miles (4.8 km) of the high tide mark lies with the Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources. All laws pertaining to the management of state marine resources apply (see pamphlet "Hawai‘i Fishing regulations, September 1999", 51 pp. available from Division of Aquatic Resources, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Kalanimoku Building, 1151 Punchbowl St., Rm. 330, Honolulu, Hawai‘i).
Overuse is the primary concern. The impact of large numbers of commercial tours as well as local visitors could impact the area by anchor damage and trampling.
Nu‘alolo Kai is rich in archeological sites and is a culturally significant area. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
The NE portion of the coastal plain has numerous archeological and culturally significant sites including terraces, burial sites, house sites, walls, heiau and a water cistern. Nu‘alolo Kai is within the Na Pali Coast Archaeological District is listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. A visit to Nu‘alolo Kai allows one to experience an area that has been largely unaltered since first Western contact. Studies at Nu‘alolo Kai could be important in describing the possible relationships between ancient Hawaiians and the reef environment.
The carbonate reef platform with reef crest at Nu‘alolo Kai. Photo by Paul Jokiel. (Click image for larger view.)
Scientific Importance and Research Potential:
The carbonate reef structure at the NE end of Nu‘alolo Kai is an interesting geologic feature worthy of further study. Nu‘alolo Kai is an excellent location for the study of high wave energy impacted coral reef communities. Structure of the reef fish community in relation to benthic habitats and coral cover in this environment will be informative. Variation in coral coverage and fish biomass over a period of years will allow for testing the importance of rugosity vs. coral cover and importance of unusually severe winter swell on these communities.
Moberly, Cox, Chamberlan, McCoy and Campbell. 1963. Appendix I
Last Update: 02/23/2011
By: Dan Lager
Hawai‘i Coral Reef Assessment & Monitoring Program
Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology
P.O. Box 1346
Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744