Surfer Memorial at La Perouse

Surfer Memorial at La Perouse

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.

Kula – a Drive in the (Up) Country

Looking West from the Kula Highway

Too much sun or just looking for something new to do? Consider a drive to Kula and through the Up Country on the western slope of Mount Haleakala. It’s shorter (and easier) than a drive to Hana. You won’t see any magnificant waterfalls or show-stopping marvels, but there are fabulous panoramic views and several places worth a visit. In the picture to the right you can see the Island of Kahoolawe, the cinder cone by Big Beach, and the tiny crescent of Molokini. Click on the photo to to enlarge. Farther to the right (outside the photo) is a great view of the West Maui Mountains, Maalaea Bay, the Island of Lanai and, if the clouds aren’t in the way, Molokai.

It’s not far from Kihei to Kula as the crow flies (or Oprah drives). But unless you’re a crow or have a key to Oprah’s private road, you have to go through Kahului before you head uphill. (See our post What’s Up with Oprah and Maui? if that’s confusing.) As you get to Kahului, head toward the airport then turn right onto the Hana Highway. Turn right again at the stoplight a few miles down and follow the signs to the Haleakala Highway. It starts getting interesting from Pukalani on. For this post, ignore the cutoff to Haleakala National Park, we’re staying on the Kula Highway.

While a trip to the Up Country is about the journey and not the destination, there are fun things to see and do as you drive the Kula Highway. Sadly, our favorite botanical garden, Enchanting Floral Gardens, closed at the end of 2011, another casualty of 9/11. (Long sad story.) Continue on to Keokea where you’ll find a small but lovely Catholic Church (especially inside), a small county park (with the only public restrooms in town), an art gallery and Grandma’s Coffee House. (See our Grandma’s Coffee House posting – you’ll want to stop for the locally grown fresh-roasted coffee, a snack, or a meal.)

View from Sun Yat-Sen Park with Kihei in the distance

Look for the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Park between mileposts 18 and 19. It’s very small but it has a couple of cool statues, picnic tables, and a terrifc outlook. (Notice how close you are to Kihei in this photo!) The park grounds were donated by Ulupalakula Ranch and the improvements by the Sun Yat-Sen Foundation for Peace and Education. Often called “the father of modern China,” Sun Yat-Sen was a pre-communist revolutionary who lead the overthrow of the Quin Dynasty in 1911. A nice place to enjoy a picnic.

Past the park the road narrows and winds through pasture lands. The occasional house may be luxurious, ordinary, or “rustic.” The views, however, just don’t stop.

There’s not a lot of traffic on this road but people coming the other way may have been imbibing at the Tedeschi Winery where the samples are free or the Ulupalakua Ranch Store and Grill (where they’re not). I wouldn’t worry though – it’s probably more dangerous on South Kihei Road. And speaking of the Winery and the Ranch Store and Grill, that’s our next stop.

The Ulupalakua Store and Grill

The Ulupalakua Ranch and the Tedeschi Winery are well worth a visit. In the photo to the right, Kathy is making friends with some of the locals. I think they’re a little shy.The old guys sitting on the bench, and other solid country folk about the place, are a foretaste of what’s inside. There are the normal souvenirs, local arts and crafts, and so forth. But there are also old and sometimes odd things. One sign on the wall says “Bad decisions make for good stories.” A look around and a hamburger or sandwich from the grill won’t make a great story but it wouldn’t be a bad decision. You can eat there or take your food across the road to one of the picnic tables on the winery grounds.

Unlike a lot of wineries, tasting at the Tedeschi Winery is free. I’m not going to give a review here but if you like sweet wine (think pineapples), you may like what they have to offer. Suffice it to say, I’m not a fan of sweet wine. Like I said, it’s the journey, not the destination.

The small grounds around the tasting room are very nice with some amazing tree specimens. Check out this one!

If you drive the Kula Highway you get to do it twice. Unless you plan to keep on going you’ll eventually have to stop and turn around and the Ulupalakua Ranch and Winery are as good a place as any. The views are just as fine in the other direction.

There’s lots more to see and do on the roads above Kula – not the least Haleakala National Park – but I’ll save that for future posts.

South Maui Snorkeling – 3 Favorite Spots

You don’t have to take a snorkel boat to see great coral, fish, and green sea turtles – although a trip to Molokini can be spectacular.

The map to the right shows our three favorite spots in South Maui where you can snorkel from the shore: Ulua Beach, Makena Landing, and the Ahihi Kenau Reserve. The short access road to Ulua Beach is 2.7 miles south of Maui Vista. There is a conspicuous sign for Makena Landing 6.0 miles from our condo. The most accessable snorkel spot in the Ahihi Kenau Reserve is 9.1 miles away.

Each location has something different to offer.  For pictures and more detailed descriptions, see our posts for each of these three sites. Here are the general characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of each location.

Thumbs up for Snorkling!

Ulua Beach

Ulua Beach is a convenient and popular county park with paved parking, restrooms and outdoor showers. Parking can be a problem and the beach crowded – especially in the morning before the winds pick up. There are reasons why Ulua Beach is popular: it’s easy to get to, the beach is lovely, there is both sun and shade, all the amenities you need are there, and there’s good snorkeling. It’s an easy snorkel but the farther out you go the better it gets. Expect to see lots of nice coral and colorful (generally small) fish. A great place for beginners and more experienced snorkelers alike.

Makena Landing

Makana Landing has lots of turtles. It’s rare to spend an hour there and not see turtles. At the north end of the cove there is a small paved parking lot, restrooms, and outdoor showers. (There is also parking on the street.) The beaches are sandy but small. You’ll see nice coral if you swim far enough to the south. Look for turtles near the rocks on the north side of the cove or in the little bays to the south. You can also sometimes see turtles resting on the bottom – often part way under a rock or large coral.

Ahihi Kinau Reserve

The Ahihi Kineu Reserve includes an underwater preserve where fishing is prohibited. As a result, you can see some big fish there. The Reserve is about a 20 minute drive south of Maui Vista and the road becomes narrow and windy for the last couple of miles. Drive with care – there are lots of blind spots and it’s sometimes difficult for cars to pass in the opposite direction. There is no parking where you put in for snorkeling and no showers or restrooms within miles – although there is a construction-type toilet a few hundred yards past the cove where you’ll also find a parking lot. The beach is rocky and can be hard on your feet. The big draw is big fish. For the best views, keep to the left as you swim past the mouth of the cove.

South Maui Snorkeling – Ulua Beach

Snorkeling at Ulua Beach is convenient, easy, and fun. Less than seven minutes south of Maui Vista, Ulua/Makapu Beach is well marked on the Wailea/Makena road. If you see The Shops at Wailea, you’ve gone too far.

Ulua Beach is VERY popular. Parking has been expanded recently, but in high season you still may circle and wait for a parking space if you get there at the wrong time. (Early morning or around lunch time – when people are leaving – are good times.)

Ulua Beach has everything except high surf. There’s good parking, restrooms, outdoor shower, wonderful sandy beach, shade, sun, and good snorkeling. There is often a knowledgeable person from The Pacific Whale Foundation on the beach at the bottom of the walkway. He/she can answer almost any question you might ask about the beach, snorkeling, and what you see when you’re out in the water. Look for the cardtable and display. The Pacific Whale person usually has coral-friendly sunscreen you can use for free. (The oils in most sunscreens can damage the coral.)

It’s common to see LOTS of snorkelers at Ulua Beach. The reef and coral is by the rocks at the north end of the beach. It’s not hard to tell where to go – just follow everyone else. You can see the rocks jutting out into the water in the picture above. Snorkel near these rocks (but not too close). The farther out you go, the better it gets. Out a ways, the coral is very nice and there are a variety of colorful reef fish – mostly on the small side. If you’re lucky you may see a green sea turtle or a moray ell. The latter are not friendly. In the unlikely event you see one, consider yourself lucky but keep your distance.

Stay away from the rocks, watch the surf’, don’t touch the coral, and don’t step on the sea urchins! (We have a friend who did – not a pretty sight.)

If you’re a good swimmer and experienced snorkeler, try snorkeling from Ulua Beach to Mokapu Beach. Just go out toward the end of the reef and keep turning right. The only thing between Mokapu Beach and Ulua Beach is the narrow reef. Have a GREAT time!

South Maui Snorkeling – Makena Landing, AKA Turtle Town!

This is the place to SWIM WITH TURTLES! The cutoff to Makena landing is six miles south of Maui Vista. Watch for the sign on the right-hand side of the road to Makena. It’s hard to miss. Head downhill and turn right as you get to the ocean. There’s on-street parking as well as a small county park with additional parking, restrooms and showers a little farther on. The beaches are sandy well out into the water – an easy put-in for snorkeling.

There’s no guarantee, but you may see turtles just about anywhere at Makena Landing. In fact, around the bend (to the right of Makena Landing as you face the water) is what the snorkel boats call “Turtle Town.” You’ll see boat after boat tie up to underwater buoys during the morning. They’re stopping near two underwater lava tubes extending perpendicular from the shore. There are caves in these tubes where the turtles like to rest. Every now and again they come up for air.

Turtle Town is a long swim from shore but it’s not necessary to go that far to see turtles. You can often see them near the shore in both directions from Makena Landing. In fact, if you stay on the high ground near the parking lot, you may see them swimming just below you. You don’t even have to get wet!

If you’re a good swimmer and accomplished snorkeler, the coral between Makena Landing and Maluaka Beach is very nice. You’ll see plenty of fish and I’ve literally had to keep out of the way of turtles feeding on the rocks in some of the coves between the Landing and the Beach. It’s a long swim. If you don’t want to do it twice, you can walk back by the road.

The south end of Maluaka Beach has good snorkeling as well. I’ve only seen a few turtles there, but the coral is nice.

Parking for Maluaka Beach is opposite the old stone church (you can’t miss it). You’ll find restrooms and an outdoor shower there as well. It’s a short walk to the beach and the old stone church (established 1832!) is worth a visit. Click here to read more about the old stone church.

Remember, the turtles are not afraid of people and it’s sometimes possible to get quite close to them. They are gentle creatures and they won’t hurt you, but please DON’T TOUCH THE TURTLES or HARRASS THEM IN ANY WAY. Sadly, you may see some of them infected with parasites. The growths look like tumors. That’s not the fault of humans (as far as I know) but it is usually fatal.

For a little extra sigthseeing as you leave Makena Landing, head north on the road you drove in on. It will take you through a very swank neighborhood and back to the main road. Rumor has it that behind one of those gates on the Makai (i.e. “toward the ocean”) side is one of Tiger Wood’s homes. Another is said to belong to Jennifer Aniston. Ho hum, celebrities everywhere.

South Maui Snorkeling – Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve

Ahihi Kinau Reserve with Steven Tyler's house in the background

Ahihi Kinau Reserve with Steven Tyler’s house in the background

As you continue past Big Beach the road becomes narrow and windy with dips and rises and lots of “limited sight distance” signs. Soon you are driving next to the ocean with spectacular views and the occasional spectacular house. About a mile after the first cut-off to Big Beach you’ll see a sign announcing the start of the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve. The Reserve includes about three miles of coastline as well as portions of the last lava flow on Maui (I think we’re safe – it was 1790). Not far into the Reserve you’ll come to Kanahena Cove. The cove is shown in the picture above. There’s no parking here, but this is the best place to put in for snorkeling. On a fine day you’ll see plenty of people in the water.

There is limited on-street parking just past the cove. A few hundred yards farther down the road there is a gravel (and rocky) parking lot. The only nearby facilities (a portable construction-type toilet) are here.

Some people just wade in and put their facemask in the water. You can do that if you’re not comfortable snorkeling. If so, you might want to bring some water shoes or strap-on sandals that will stay on your feet in the water. However, the real views are out past the mouth of the cove and along the rocky shoreline to the left as you swim out. The red line on the aerial photo to the left shows what are probably the best places to see good coral and lots of big fish.

On the downside, there is only a tiny sandy beach here. Almost as soon as you’re in the water you’re walking on rocks. Not to worry – you’ll soon be swimming and enjoying the views.

If you want to do the reverse swim, you can park in the lot past the cove and take the (long) trail out to the water and swim back to the cove. You’ll need shoes to take this trail. Not sure what you should do with them while you swim to the cove.

For those who care about such things, the house on the point at the west side of the cove belongs to Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and, more recently, judge on American Idol. According to the Wall Street Journal, the 3,000 sq ft house was listed for $6.5 million and Tyler picked it up for a mere $4.8. That should leave plenty of room for those necessary upgrades. Click on the picture at the top of this post to make it bigger and you’ll see his fence, private gate to the cove, and the peak of Tyler’s octagon shaped house.

What’s up with Oprah and Maui?

As can be expected with anyone so wealthy and famous, lots of stir is created by Oprah’s presence on Maui. Here’s what we can piece together based on newspaper and magazine articles.

Oprah owns three properties on Maui. The first property she bought is 1,000 acres near the rainy town of Hana. That’s right….the town that’s about 65 slow miles from us at Maui Vista 2418. The second property is about 300 acres in the up-country outside Kula which is on the slopes of Mt.Haleakala and looks down over Kihei. We can see “her road” from our front door as shown by the red arrow in the photo below. This road is controversial because Maui County approved Oprah’s private road which would save all of us from many miles of driving to get to Mount Haleakala National Park and other up-country destinations. Many Mauians wish the county would have built the road instead. At almost $5 per gallon of gasoline, it would have spoken well for sustainability!

Oprah’s most recent purchase is reportedly a waterfront home in the posh Makena neighborhood just a few miles south of Maui Vista 2418. The homes in that area are incredibly expensive. For example, we know of someone who paid $14million for a non-waterfront lot!

When we were at Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula the lady who works there reported Oprah having been in the restaurant a few times. Other than that, Oprah is known for being very private and is not able to saunter around the island on foot like many other stars such as Steven Tyler, Willie Nelson, Mick Fleetwood and Kris Kristofferson. My advice: don’t go to Kula for the chance to see Oprah.