We just returned from our 9th trip to Maui. We had a great time visiting the places we love and learned a few new things.
Out of the 4 major Hawaiian Islands Maui remains our favorite because of the varied scenery – lush, green and tropical north of Ka’anapali, warm and relaxing around Kihei/Wailea, dry and arid around the lava fields of La Perouse Bay.
On this particular trip we mainly laid on the beaches and went snorkeling rather than taking trips like we’ve done in the past to the Olowalu petroglyphs, Iao Needle, drive to Hana, the bamboo forest near the misnamed “seven sacred pools”, etc.
The beaches below are ordered from north to south on the western side of Maui.
Napili Beach (has showers and bathrooms)
This is one of our favorite northern beaches. It was probably a 45 min drive from Kihei to Napili with morning traffic. The drive itself is beautiful and relaxing, although they opened the Lahaina bypass road (highway 30) which takes you into the hills and away from the tranquil waterfront scenery. For more details see Lahaina Bypass Map with Satellite View.
Parking at Napili continues to be difficult which is why we tried to arrive by 9am.
Over the years I’ve noticed that the snorkeling can be good or cloudy – it’s never consistent. The depth in the middle is about 12-15 feet. Below are a few pictures from Napili.
The Lei Triggerfish below is aptly named since it has markings just behind it’s eyes that resemble a Hawaiian lei. They are beautiful fish and are difficult to photograph since when frightened they quickly dive into a cavern in the coral to hide from any predators.
Kahekili Beach (has showers and bathroo7ms)
This still remains one of my favorite beaches because of the following reasons: the beach is wide and long, there’s plenty of parking, showers, bathrooms and just a little south of the bathrooms is a shaded area along the beach. Most importantly, I always find great snorkeling here. The water is relatively clear and the abundance and variety of fish is amazing. The depth away from shore is around 15 feet but continues to gradually slope downwards into the deep blue ocean.
Kama’ole Beaches (has showers and bath7rooms)
Kama’ole 1, 2 and 3 are a stretch of beaches in Kihei. I often walk from one end to the other over low lava formations that divide each beach. The snorkeling remains good.
Any of these beaches is a great place to watch the sunset.
Ulua and Mokapu beaches (has showers and bathrooms)
These beaches are in Makena. The beaches are connected by a lava outcrop around which the snorkeling is usually good, although it can be cloudy at times. It’s a popular snorkeling spot so there can be many other people floating in the water.
The Great Barracuda below wouldn’t let me get too close to him so this is the best picture I could get. It was about 3-4 feet long. They tend to skim the shore looking for a meal. I see them infrequently in Hawaii so this is a rare picture for me.
Below is a puffer fish known as the Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby. They only grow to be 2-3 inches long. When they are attacked they “puff” up and secrete an unpleasant tasting substance from their skin.
Secret Beach (no showers or bathrooms)
Secret beach is located in Makena. It’s well known for weddings. The entrance way is through a narrow pathway in a brick wall.
Facing the ocean across the water is the island of Kaho’olawe and a little north is Molokini. I’m not sure what the snorkeling is like here. Any entrance to the water seems rough and unforgiving.
Once you set foot on this beach you tend to forget about… everything…
Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve (no showers, may have a porta-potty)
This was a new Snorkeling spot that recently opened. Since it’s a natural reserve the snorkeling is probably the best on the island – very clear. The variety and amount of fish and sealife is amazing. Of course, this is where I took most of my underwater photos. Below are the best ones from this location.
This beach is covered with smooth rocks and has a decent amount of shade although there really isn’t much sand. During our trip we visited this location 3 times. I noticed that people tend to go snorkeling then leave so the parking lot is in a constant state of flux. Even in the afternoon we found a good parking spot.
I was snorkeling along, following some fish closer to shore then I looked straight below me and noticed the Whitemouth Moray staring back at me.
The wide open mouth does not mean that he was about to attack, rather this is how they breathe. I hung over his head for a few minutes and took a number of photo’s and a video.
There were several turtles at this location as well – like the enormous male below and the smaller turtle in the following picture.
To determine whether a turtle is male or female just look at the length of the tail. If the tail is almost as long as the back fins then it’s a male (like the one above). However, if the tail barely protrudes past the end of the shell it’s a female.
Over the years I’ve found it very difficult to photograph Soldierfish since they tend to hide deep in coral crevices during the day but emerge at night to feed.
Black Triggerfish are amazing. At a distance they have a black appearance with a neon blue stripe running down both dorsal and anal fins.
I love to watch them swim since their dorsal and anal fins sway from side to side to propel the fish forward. When they need a burst of speed their tail kicks-in!
When they become agitated their foreheads become a blue-ish color.
Some of the most beautiful fish you’ll discover in Hawaii are Butterflyfish. They nearly always tend to swim in pairs. One common feature on most Butterflyfish is that their head-end closely resembles their tail-end. This decoration is necessary to confuse predators since they likely expect the Butterflyfish to swim in one direction but it swims in another. They gracefully swim over the reef and feed on coral polyps.
For more details, maps, etc. on this location, visit the Hawaiian Department of Land and Natural Resources.
La Perouse Bay (no showers, there might be a porta-potty)
On a relatively cloudy day we decided to skip the beach and go for a walk/hike. We drove south from Kihei until the road ended then drove further until the ocean was right in front of us. We reached La Perouse Bay.
As you can see from the photos it’s very rugged and exposed. Most of the trail consists of loose lava rocks so it’s not a smooth hike.