Wailea Coastal Walk – Ulua Beach to Polo Beach

Wailea Coastal Walk revisedIt’s an easy mile and a half stroll on a paved path from Ulua Beach to Polo Beach. Of course, unless you take two cars, it’s a mile and a half back. At a leisurely pace, it takes about 35 minutes each way without stops.

On the other hand, you probably will stop. The views are beautiful. You’ll see turtles bobbing near the shore. The beaches have great snorkeling, swimming, boogie boarding, and sunning. Wear your swimsuit, take a backpack chair, bring snorkel gear. Make a morning or afternoon of it. Bring water and sunscreen.

The walk starts at Ulua Beach on the pathway in front of the exclusive gated community, Wailea Elua Village. As you walk, you’ll pass most of the major Wailea resorts and several condominium complexes.

Start at Ulua Beach

Beginning of paved walkway

2 Ulua Beach

Ulua Beach (great snorkeling)

3a Approaching the Mariott

Approaching the Mariott

4 Approaching Wailea Beach

Approaching Wailea Beach

5 Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach

6 Wailea Point

Wailea Point

7 Approaching the Fairmont

Approaching the Fairmont Kea Lani

8 Polo Beach

Polo Beach

There are public restrooms and outdoor showers at Ulua Beach. Polo Beach has restrooms, showers, and picnic tables at the public access point.

When is the best time of year to come to Maui?

There is no best time of year to come to Maui, but different times of year have different opportunities, costs, and somewhat different weather. Let your preferences be your guide.

One of the great attractions on Maui is whale watching. The whales start arriving in late October and November and are present in their thousands sometime in December. The most spectacular displays are usually in January, February and March. You can see impressive sights from shore, and even more amazing views on a whale watching cruise.

Whale calendar with dates

High Low SeasonThe HIGH season runs from a few days before Christmas until spring vacations for schools and universities. Most accommodations, including ours, are more expensive during high season. An even higher premium is charged for the days around Christmas.

The spring and fall tend to be quieter times. There is more room on the beaches, in restaurants, and at tourist destinations. There are more families with children in the summer.

Avg Rain and Temp on MauiThe average high and low temperatures near sea level vary by less than 10 degrees over the course of the year, but the extremes in summer are hotter than those in winter. You’ll see local school kids waiting at the bus stop bundled up for the “winter” weather when morning temperatures are in the 60s. Water temperatures change even less: the average low water temperature is in February and March at 74 degrees Fahrenheit; the average high (in August/September/October) is 79/80 degrees.

Rainfall is a different matter – both by time of year and location. Every month the average number of days of rainfall is less on the south coast of Maui (Kihei, Wailea, Makena) than in the northwest by Kaanapali and Kapalua.

Flowers of Maui – Stop and Smell the Plumeria

Our friends and neighbors from the mainland, Denis and Janet, visited us on Maui last fall and Janet kept snapping picture after picture after picture. I really thought she was going overboard. Then she shared her photo album with us. Wow! This collection of flower pictures is a small sample of the beautiful images she took. Good eye, Janet. (Click on any image to enlarge it and start slide show.)

West Maui Snorkeling – Black Rock

Black Rock with Moloka’i in the distance

In front of the Sheraton Maui at Ka’anapoli is Black Rock, a popular and easy snorkel. Ka’anapoli Beach is a large and fabulous stretch of white sand that can be very busy in the high season when the big hotels are full. It’s worth a visit all by itself.

If the waves are calm, you can snorkel out and around the point. Strong swimmers can even snorkel north to the next beach. The best viewing, however, is on the south side and at the end of the point. There’s not much coral and, for that matter, not a lot of fish. But we’ve seen green sea turtles near the shore and multiple spotted rays at the point in beautifully clear deep water.

Black Rock with Lana’i in the distance

To get to Black Rock, take the first entrance into Ka’anapoli and continue circling to the right. Look for the small sign for Beach Access after you pass Whaler’s Village. There are two small free parking areas. The Sheraton has 20 spaces in a corner of their parking garage. Just to the south there are 10 or so outdoor parking spaces that can be reached via the next driveway to the south. Getting a parking space can be a challenge. Go early or late or around lunch when people are leaving.

Hiking La Perouse Bay – The Hoapili Trail and Cape Hanamanioa

Getting to La Perouse Bay

If you drive as far south as possible through Wailea, Makena, and beyond, you come to La Perouse Bay. The drive takes you past Big Beach, through the Ahihi Kinau Reserve, and across a long stretch of lava from the last eruption of Mount Haleakala in 1790. After the manicured beauty of Wailea, the road gets narrower. Later it gets even narrower. Finally, it gets so narrow there are pull outs so cars going in the opposite direction can pass. The last few hundred yards are so bumpy you may want to park before the last turn toward the bay. Look for the horse corral and the stone monument. You can park there or bounce over the last bumps until you get to the water’s edge. It’s about 25 minutes south of Maui Vista.

The Hoapili Trail starts a few yards from the water’s edge on your left as you face the bay. The first portion of the hike is though a lava field. This, and other parts of the trail, need real shoes, not flip flops or sandals. Tennis shoes will do, walking shoes are better.

Trail Route

There are cultural artifacts in the lava fields – the lower walls of shelters built by Hawaiians sometime after the 1790 eruption. There’s not much to see, but some people find them interesting.

Look for the a small blow hole about halfway across the lave field. If the tide is high and the surf is up it makes a good splash.

A pretty bay greats you at the end of the lava field. After that you walk under the welcome shade of mesquite trees (locally known as kiawe). Lots of feral goats here. Keep a lookout for a surfer memorial on your right after you’ve walked for 5 or 10 minutes.

As you come out from under the trees you have three choices of route. You can keep on the “road” which will take you to the next shady grove or on to your destination at the end of Cape Hanamanioa. Alternatively, you can turn off the road through the broken wire gate and follow the King’s Highway cross the second lava field until you come to a sign that tells you it was reconstructed in its present form during the first half of the 19th century. If you take this route, turn right at the sign to return to the road or to the second grove. Finally, you can walk along a very rocky beach to the second grove.

Into the woods

As indicated in the map above, once you get to the second grove, there is an easier and harder route to the end of Cape Hanamanioa. The easier route is fairly boring, with little to see but lava and views in the distance. The harder route takes you along high cliffs over sometimes rough terrain with spectacular views of the bay and beyond. The water is multi-colored shades of crystal clear blue. Sometimes the trail is hard to find. Persevere, the rough parts lead to an actual trail.

Views from the coastal trail

It’s often very windy at the end of the cape – hold onto your hat. One way distance from start to finish is about 1.25 miles. It will take you longer than you think.

From the end of the cape you can return or follow more trails (for miles) onto new coves, beaches and interesting sights. Enjoy.

Hang onto your hat at the end of the trail

Haleakala – Into the Crater (The Sliding Sands Trail)

Horse back riders on the Sliding Sands Trail

There are several great trails into the Haleakala erosion crater. If you click on the picture to the right you can see a line of horses and riders ascending the Sliding Sands Trail. It’s only when you see something like this that you get an idea of the scale of the place.

While this is all explained in the Maui trail book in our condo, the trail head is a short walk around the cinder cone on the south side of the parking lot. From the start of the trail it’s 2,500 vertical feet to the crater floor – so the hike down is pretty easy. The hike up is another matter. Depending on your physical condition and how you react to the thinner mountain air, it will take 1.5 to 2.0 times as long to hike out as it takes to hike in. Keep this in mind if you’re hiking later in the day. It gets dark (and cold) fast when the sun goes down. Even in summer it can be chilly in the shadow of the west rim of the crater in the late afternoon.

Haleakala Crater – Photo by Dick Morgan

As you can see from the photos, you are entirely exposed on this trail. Use sunscreen and carry water. We generally hike with a daypack with water, snacks, extra clothing and anything else we might need.

Consider adding a hike to your Haleakala experience. If you come early for the sunrise, you can hike in and out before lunch and then enjoy a meal in the Up Country. Alternatively, if you’re not into starting your day at 2 or 3 AM so you can see the sunrise, you can hike in the afternoon and time your return to see the sunset from the top of the mountain. It’s a whole lot like the sunrise, but without the busloads of tourists and people standing five deep at the best vantage points.

Speaking of sunrise and sunset, did you know that Haleakala means “house of the sun” in Hawaiian? To find out more, click here.

For another great (but harder) hike into the crater, click here to see our blog on the Halemauu Trail.

Haleakala National Park – Come Prepared

There’s lots to do on Mount Haleakala: hiking, biking, horseback riding, star gazing, watching the sunrise (or sunset), camping, birding, or just escaping the heat of the beach for a day.

Haleakala Crater – Photo by Dick Morgan

While you’re there or on the way, you have a good chance of seeing rare plants and rare birds and, at the top, a landscape not unlike the pictures from Mars. There is also a chance you’ll see nothing. If the mountain is shrouded in clouds, wait for another day. If you can see the top from outside our front door at Maui Vista, it’s worth a try. Even so, the weather on Haleakala can change rapidly and the erosion crater can fill with clouds in minutes. On the other hand, it can change for the better just as fast.

If you go, be prepared. According to the National Park Service, the average temperature at the summit is 17 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than at sea level. And that’s an average. It can be very cold especially at night and in the shadows. If the wind is blowing and you don’t have layers of clothing, you will not stay long.

In addition to the drop of temperature, several other things happen at 10,000 feet. First, many people feel light-headed due to the thinner atmosphere. Take it easy until you know how the altitude affects you. The thinner atmoshpere also means the UV rays are even stronger than at sea level. Fortunately you’ll probably be wearing more clothes than your normal beach wear, but remember to bring sunscreen. Finally, if you’re active, you may need more water than usual. There’s precious little water and no food at the summit. If you plan to stay a while, bring your own.

It’s about a two hour drive from Maui Vista to the top of Haleakala over good, but windy roads. It’s a National Park so, if you don’t already have a pass, there is a $10 entrance fee per vehicle. The pass is good for three days and includes the driver and all passengers. There are also things to do and places to eat in the Up Country below the park. (See our posts Kula – a Drive in the (Up) Country and Grandma’s Coffee House in Kula.) Make a day of it!

See our other posts on Mount Haleakala by clicking here and here.