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Kipu Falls Closed

Property owners say they are preventing additional accidents, while locals are lamenting the loss of a favorite swimming spot.  As the result of earning a “beautiful but deadly” reputation, Kipu Falls is being closed off to visitors.

While locals have been coming to the falls for years, tourists are increasingly visiting the spot thanks to recommendations from guidebooks that call Kipu a “glorious little hidden place” and “swimming hole extraordinaire”.  The guidebooks invite tourists to access the falls by following a dirt trail on Grove Farms property, but fail to mention Kipu’s deadly reputation.

Five deaths in five years prompted the local tourism bureau to launch a campaign last year to force guidebooks to remove references to the falls.  But the bill - that would have held writers and publishers liable for their readers who die or are injured after being advised by guidebooks to trespass – was snuffed out by protests of publishers who argued that the law would violate their First Amendment rights.

Without the support of this type of legislation, property owners can become liable.  So rather than risk further injuries or deaths, Grove Farms has announced it will create barriers to the falls to keep out residents and tourists - and potential lawsuits.  After plans to convey the land to Kauai county to be made into a park failed due to liability issues, the property owners say that the decision to close Kipu was a last resort.

A Grove Farm spokeswoman, Marissa Sandblom, expressed the company’s regret at having to lock down the area around the falls, stating “It wasn’t an easy decision, and we can understand that a lot of people out there will be very disappointed at the loss of access to the area but we feel it’s the right decision”.

Starting as soon as Wednesday, the company will build a fence, post additional signs, increase security patrol, and place boulders where people previously parked.  Although Sandblom says Grove Farms does not “want it to get to that point”, violators will be towed and trespassers can be prosecuted or fined.

Some residents blame tourists and their carelessness for the Kipu closure.  But not all of those injured or killed at the falls are visitors.  Just last year, a 26-year-old Kaneohe man drowned in the pool at the bottom of the falls.

Some speculate that an angry Hawaiian water spirit lizard – a “mo‘o”– is living in the falls and causing injuries and death.  Others have suggested that strange currents are at work.  But John Blalock, the deputy chief of the Kauai Fire Department, reports that there are no unusual currents and that the water under the surface is actually quite calm.

Whatever the cause – carelessness, ignorance, angry spirits, strange currents, or otherwise – the fact is that many people have been injured and even killed at this “glorious little hidden place”.  And now Grove Farms has been forced to make a decision that will protect locals and tourists but will also prevent them from enjoying one of Kauai’s beloved swimming spots.


1 Kyle { 01.20.12 at 3:21 pm }

I live on O’ahu, and I visited Kipu Falls on Kaua’i in August 2011 with a couple of friends from the mainland. The swimming hole and the falls themselves are a beautiful site to visit without swimming, but jumping from the falls or swinging off the rope swim brought me back to my days as a whipper-snapper. Great fun. I did not notice a strong current, not even directly underneath the falls where a friend and I posed for a picture. I knew about the alleged danger before we went, and swam with caution, but do not understand how one person each year for the past 5 years drowned there. It is a shame that this sight will be off limits, but it is for the best if it prevents more deaths.

2 admin { 01.27.12 at 5:05 pm }

Yeah Kyle it is kinda tough with the changing times. I remember as a kid going there and nobody but the local knew about it. Then coming back after college and it was basically a crowded tourist attraction. It was so crowded I never went down there anymore anyway. So I guess I prefer they closed it so no one gets hurt.

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