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.

Maui Tacos – Yummy Fast Food

Maui Tacos – now two locations in Kihei to serve you!

Head toward the beach from Maui Vista and turn left on South Kihei Road. A short 10-minute walk brings you to Maui Tacos. Head toward the beach and turn right on South Kihei Road and the same thing happens in the other direction. If you like Mexican food both are good – with the fish tacos being especially yummy.

Both locations serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner and the menus are about the same. Both are often busy and, since they cook everything to order, consider the “fast” in “fast food” to be measured in island time. With so much the same, what’s to choose between the two?

The Maui Tacos to the south of Maui Vista is at 2411 South Kihei Road at the somewhat ambitiously named “Kameole Beach Center.” The “center” has just a few shops and the Maui Tacos sign is easy to miss. Look for it just after Snorkle Bob’s. This small restaurant has a few inside tables and bench seating but we far prefer to order take-out and go across the street to the grassy area at the south end of Kameole Beach I. There you’ll find picnic tables and a few benches facing the ocean where the view sure beats looking at the parking lot from inside Maui Tacos.

The Maui Tacos to the north of Maui Vista is at 1933 South Kihei Road about a half-block before you get to Foodland. This is the “new” Maui Tacos in Kihei. (For those familiar with the area, the new Maui Tacos occupies the same storefront as the now closed Alexander’s.) The distinguishing feature of this location is ample outdoor seating – much of it shaded. You can also order take-out and walk across the street to enjoy your food in Kalama Park. The picture above is from the “new’ Maui Tacos.

Surfing the Big Water at Honolua Bay

When the surf is up the best surfers head for their favorite spots. In the winter months, Honolua Bay, past Kapalua at the northwest corner of Maui, can be one of the best. This picture was taken in December, a day before a women’s pro event sponsored by Billabong. The best vantage point is down the dirt road on the east side of the Bay. Unless there’s an event going on, there’s lots of parking available.

While you won’t always see great surfing at Honolua Bay, it’s well worth the trip. When the surf’s not running some of the West Maui snorkling boats stop there. But you don’t have to spend the big bucks to see the fish and fine coral of Honolua Bay. Take some beach chairs, towels and snorkle gear from our condo and head out. Past the paved view point overlooking Honolua Bay from the east, the road goes downhill and curves around the bay. Park at the bottom of the hill (you’ll see other cars) and take the trail to the beach. You can swim out from there.

Oh yes, the beach isn’t sandy – so take some water shoes or reliable sandals to protect your feet.

Paddle Board Dog at Charley Young Beach

Paddle boarding – it’s so easy your dog could do it.

Maybe you didn’t bring your dog, or your paddle board to Maui. You can rent a board at places all over the island. (Sorry, no surfing dogs for rent – at least that we know of.)

The closest place to Maui Vista for paddle board rental is Maui Wave Riders at the south end of Kalama Park. They give lessons too. Some people surf with paddle boards. You can watch them off the park – particularly in the morning. Others just paddle around – with or without their dog.

The best time to go is in the morning when there’s not much surf and the winds are calm. It’s not hard. But unless you really know what you’re doing, please don’t try to do what you see those little specks way out in the ocean do. That would be a bad place to be caught in a big wind. Use common sense and you’ll have lots of fun. If you’re lucky, you might even paddle with a turtle or two!

Castles in the Sand on Charley Young Beach

There’s a lot of construction down on Charley Young Beach. But don’t worry, the builders and their tools aren’t likely to disturb you. Most of the “projects” range from modest to completely random. But then, what can you expect from a six year old?

Occassionally, however, the inspiration and perspiration combine to make something memorable – albeit temporary. Here the whole family has gotten into the act. Pretty ambitious if you ask me!

While the construction noise probably won’t ruin your day, watch out for what creeps out of the deep!

Frank Lloyd Wright and the King Kamehameha Golf Club

As you approach the building on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains, the silhouette of the King Kamehameha Golf Club clubhouse might remind you of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Marin County (California) Courthouse. However, if you thought the clubhouse is a derivative of the Marin County design, you’d be mistaken. The clubhouse has an interesting history that long predates the Marin County building.

The 75,000 sq ft clubhouse evolved from unrealized plans for a 7,000 sq ft luxury home for a couple in Forth Worth Texas in 1949. Two years later, Wright enlarged and adapted the design for another client, this time in Mexico for a site on the cliffs above Acapulco. Again, the house was never built. In 1957, he once more adapted the design for none other than Marilyn Monroe and her third and final husband Arthur Miller. Because of this, the clubhouse is sometimes called the “the Marilyn Monroe house.” The next year, before the house could be built, Monroe’s marriage to Miller ended in divorce. Wright died in 1959 and never saw the building except on paper and in his fertile mind.

Of course there is a huge difference between a large house and a 75,000 sq ft clubhouse, so much of the design is actually by Taliesan Architects who inherited the original concept and drawings from Wright. Nonetheless, the much expanded building includes many elements by the master himself – including a lovely staircase, expansive art glass, and an amazing elevator door. The overall design concept was preserved by putting two thirds of the expansion underground.

Seen from the entry on the Mauka side (literally the “mountain side” or “toward the mountains”) all resemplance to the Marin County Courthouse falls away.

Outside the front entrance is a 7 foot bronze statue, The Conch Blower, by Maui artist Dale Zarrella. Legend has it that the Pu (shell) of Waikapu could only be blown by warriors of particular merit. They say the shell’s call could be heard in Hana, 50 miles away. Those warriors must have had some powerful lungs!

Additional works of art by Dale Zarrella and other Maui artists can be seen inside the clubhouse, elsewhere on the grounds, and by visiting the golf club’s website (see link below).

Oh yes – you can golf too. While King Kamehameha Golf Club is Maui’s only private 18-hole course, you can buy a “guest for the day” pass and enjoy a round of golf in a spectacular setting.

To learn more about the King Kamehameha Golf Club – the Frank Lloyd Wright design, the club’s art collection and golfing opportunities – visit their website at To see our other posts about Dale Zarella, click here or, for a little wimsy, here.

Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula

Located at 9232 Kula Highway, Grandma’s is one of those destinations reached more by curiosity than intent. It’s past the cut-offs to Haleakala National Park and the Lavender Farm but before you get to the Tedeschi Winery and long before you get to Hana by the back way.

From the outside Grandma’s looks like a hole in the wall; but behind that humble facade is some of the best coffee and desserts you’ll find on Maui. In fact, Grandma’s coffee may be one of the best coffees anywhere. (Note: this is from a guy born and raised in Seattle where coffee is either an obsession or an addiction. I can still remember the first time I sipped fresh-roasted Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee on a trip to the Carribean 30 years ago. Grandma’s coffee is in the same class.) Since 1918, four generations of the same family have been growing, hand-picking, and roasting organic coffee on the slopes of Mt. Haleakala. They even have a few coffee plants growing next to their outdoor seating.

Grandma’s also serves breakfast and lunch. Once, when we were there with friends, there was live music in the outside seating area – a guy with a good guitar and nice voice. Another claim to fame is that Oprah has a home nearby and occassionally drops by. At least that’s what we were told. If I were you I wouldn’t go there just for the chance of seeing Oprah. I’d go there for the tiramisu. Check out this beauty. And how about that cool table?

Want to learn more about Grandma’s? You can even have some of their great coffee shipped to you on the mainland by visiting their website at

Perhaps a pound of Grandma’s coffee is too expensive for your taste. Fly to Maui (and stay at our condo!) At Grandma’s a latte or other coffee drink is no more expensive than at your local Starbucks. And believe me, those young ladies working at Grandma’s know how to pull an espresso!