When the surf is running from the south, some of the serious surfers on Maui head to La Perouse. Unless you have a key to the gate for the private road, the closest you can get by car is the end of the road well past Big Beach. Some locals have a key. Others carry their boards along the trail described below.
To get to La Perouse, head south past Big Beach and into the Ahihi Kenau Reserve. A few hundred yards past Kanahena Cove (near the west end of the Reserve), the road narrows and the potholes proliferate. You’ll drive about a mile through a large lava field dating from 1790. Shortly after the lava stops you’ll see horse stables to your left and a monument just beyond. You can park here or drive the last hundred yards over an incredibly rough road and park by the ocean. It’s a beautiful spot and if you go no farther the trip is still worthwhile. If you’re very lucky, you may see dolphins resting in the shallows near the shore. Be sure to check out the cove around the bend to the right where you can see many beautiful fish from the shore. It’s private property so please respect the signs – but someone at La Perouse has a sweet spot on earth.
To see the Surfer Memorial you have to take a hike. Much of the trail is exposed and windy, so put on sunscreen, wear a hat with a chin strap and take some water. It’s about 3/4 mile to the memorial over uneven but more or less level terrain. It’s not a difficult hike.
The trail head is obvious – you’ll see it to the left as you face the water. The first part leads through the lava field where you’ll see a few cultural and historic sites (mainly the remains of enclosures made of lava). About two-thirds the way through the lava field is a fun blow hole – at least when the tide is high and the surf is up. (NOTE: blowholes can be dangerous. Keep a safe distance. A tourist was sucked into a bigger one on the north shore of Maui in 2011. His body was never found. A youngster could easily be sucked into this one – and maybe you.)
Not long after you leave the blowhole, the lava field is replaced by a small sandy beach. Beyond the beach the trail enters a welcome shady grove. Look for wild goats in this area. You can’t miss them – there are lots. The one in this picture seems to be chewing on a stick.
The Surfer Memorial is near the end of the grove – just off the trail toward the ocean. If the surf’s up, you may see surfers in the background. Quite a striking sight. In fact, if you click on the picture at the top of this post and enlarge it, you’ll see a surfer paddling out to catch a wave.
In our picture of the memorial we show only one cross and broken board. When you get there, you’ll see two. It’s a great sport, but some of the surfers don’t come home.
Interested in other hikes on Maui? Check out our posts on Mount Haleakala hikes: The Sliding Sands Trail and The Halemauu Trail. To read more about hiking La Perouse Bay, click here.
UPDATE June 5, 2012: on a recent hike of La Perouse trail we discovered that both broken surfboards were gone. There were pieces of one laying beside the memorial but the other was nowhere in sight.
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