Secret Beach – AKA Makena Cove

Makena Cove

Secret Beach as seen from the west

About a 20 minute drive south from Maui Vista is a small (and not very secret) beach that is a popular site for weddings. While small, it’s never crowded. There are usually lots of turtles off the rocks to the right and left of the beach. Not a great place to swim, but wonderful for relaxing in a beautiful spot. A word to the wise: there are  no facilities at Secret Beach (no water, no showers, not even a porta-potty).

To get there, drive south through Wailea and past the two entrances to Big Beach at Makena State Park. A low lava rock wall starts near the east end of Big Beach. The wall quickly grows in height so you can’t see over it to the presumably lavish residences on the other side. When you see a small break in the wall (see picture below), you have arrived.

Entrance to Secret Beach

Entrance to Secret Beach

See the fish without getting wet – Maui Aquarium

MOC 2

Want to see an amazing collection of tropical fish, but you don’t want to snorkel or scuba dive? Maybe you’ve had enough of the beach and the heat for awhile and you’re looking for something different. Or – heaven forbid – it’s raining and you need an indoor activity. If any of these apply, try the Maui Ocean Center – aka the Maui Aquarium – at Maalaea Bay.

The Maui Ocean Center has a fabulous collection of tropical fish and sea life: octopus, sharks, sea horses, shrimp, coral, turtles, and a rainbow of fish both large and small. It’s easy to find, just take the road to Lahaina and look for the signs. Admission in 2013/14 is $25.50 for adults and $18.50 for children through age 12.

Hammer head shark

Hammer head shark

 

MOC 15

Sea horse

Sea horse

Black tip reef shark

Black tip reef shark

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Moray eel

Moray eel

Octopus - note ink

Frightened octopus – note ink

 

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding at Kalama Park

Paddle boarding is easy

Paddle boarding is easy (even standing up)

In addition to surfboard rentals and surfing lessons, you can rent stand-up paddle boards and take lessons at the south end of Kalama Park, just a few blocks from our Maui Vista condo. Go in the morning when the wave action and wind are down. There are several trucks from which you can rent equipment, or you rent from Maui Wave Riders located across the street. Maui Wave Riders also provides lessons.

Lots of turtles off Kalama Park

Lots of turtles off Kalama Park

I’m not sure if it’s really necessary to take a lesson to learn to paddle board. I did and didn’t regret it, but it cost $65 for the board rental plus a “lesson” that lasted all of five minutes. On the other hand, the instructor was always with us and he took us to a great spot over turtle reef. Lots of turtles there. They’ll surface right next to you and swim under your board.

West Maui Hiking – The Kapalua Coastal Trail

Kapalua Coastal Trail Map

Kapalua Coastal Trail Map

The Kapalua Coastal Trail is an easy, beautiful walk along the northwest coast of Maui. The trail starts at the public access parking lot for Kapalua Beach and winds a mile and a half along the coast to D. T. Fleming Beach. Both the beginning and end of the trail are paved. In between there are sections of gravel, dirt, and boardwalk. By far the most spectacular part of the trail is the first two-thirds – from Kapalua Beach to Oneloa Beach.

Kapalua Bay

Kapalua Bay

The “trail head,” if you can call it that, is up the short flight of  stairs in the picture to the right. You could take a stroller or wheelchair on this part of the walk.

Alternatively, you can walk along the beach and access the trail later.

Namalu Bay

Namalu Bay

Along the way you’ll see beautiful beaches, rugged coastlines, native plants, lots of turtles, and multi-million dollar homes, condos, and resorts.

The path out to the end of the point (shown in the map above) is well worth the modest extra effort.

Rugged little coves form the west end of Oneloa Bay. Watch closely and you’ll see turtles surface for air and glide through the water below you.

Look for turtles in the coves at the west end of Oneloa Bay

Look for turtles in the coves at the west end of Oneloa Bay

Oneloa Beach

Oneloa Beach

Oneloa Beach is a lovely stretch of sand with good snorkeling. Wear your swim suit and carry some snorkeling gear and a towel.

The trail turns inland at the east end of Oneloa Bay where is meets up with the Lower Honoapiilani Road. Here the “trail” is actually a sidewalk. Not so interesting here. Just past the Ritz-Carlton wedding chapel, the trail becomes a path through the grounds of the resort, finally winding down to D. T. Fleming Beach.

DT Fleming BeachReturn to your car the way you came. It’s just as nice going the other way.

GETTING THERE: Drive north from Lahaina to milepost 29, turn left at the stoplight and head makai (toward the ocean). Turn right at the T-intersection onto Lower Honoapiilani Road. Look for the beach access sign just past the Napili Kai Beach Resort.

For information on other hikes on Maui click here for Hana – Oheo Gulch and the Pipiwai Trail, or Hiking La Parouse Bay, or Haleakala – the Halemaluu Trail, or Haleakala – the Sliding Sands Trail.

Dale Zarrella and Helper Carve a Vision in Sand

Dale Zarrella and Helper

Sometimes artists play at their work. From our other posts (and maybe other sources) you know that Dale Zarrella is an accomplished sculptor on Maui. (See Maui Artist Dale Zarrella at Work and Frank Lloyd Wright and the King Kamehameha Golf Club.) We can’t call it a timeless work of art, but in this photo Zarrella and his granddaughter have created something wonderful out of the shifting sands of Charley Young Beach.

This female turtle has laid a clutch of eggs. Like her more sentient sisters she will soon disappear beneath the waves – never to know her young.

You can never tell what you’ll find when you cross the road from Maui Vista and explore Charley Young Beach. We do it every day we’re here.

Sea Kayaking in South Maui

Kayaking off Charley Young Beach

There’s nothing like being on the water. In Maui you can use a paddle board, surfboard, boogie board or – to travel in style – you can rent a kayak. The nearest kayak rentals are at Maui Wave Riders, a few blocks north of Maui Vista on South Kihei Road. In May 2012, two hour rentals for a two-person kayak were $35; all day rentals $50. Since the best (and safest) kayaking is in the morning before the winds pick up, you may be able to get by with the two hour rental if you’re efficient with your time and don’t travel far. On the other hand, most days have at least four hours of reasonably calm seas, so a $50 rental may be worth the extra bucks. At Maui Wave Riders the price includes pads and tie-downs so you can take your kayak just about anywhere. Start early in the day to have the  most fun.

Almost all the kayaks you see on Maui are one-piece hollow molded plastic boats. You might get your bottom wet from splashed water but, without taking an axe to the hull, they are virtually unsinkable. That said, be aware that kayaks will roll when sideways to the waves, so be cautious. If you don’t know what you’re doing, think about signing up for a group kayaking tour before going out on your own. They provide guides, give instruction, and, if there is a problem, someone is there to help. It’s no joke to be out on the ocean when the seas get rough and the winds are against you.

Our favorite place to kayak is Makena Landing. If you’re at the Landing in the morning you’ll see lots of kayak tours starting from there. Many of these tours are combined kayak/snorkel groups. You paddle out to a good snorkel spot then roll out of your boat into the water. The tour guide secures the kayaks so they don’t float away while you’re snorkeling. I’ve never tried it but I think it’s probably a lot easier to roll out of a kayak in deep water than to get back in.

A turtle swimming past our kayak

The reason why so many kayak tours start at Makena Landing is why we like it too – green sea turtles! From the beach it’s a short paddle to the area the big snorkel boats call “turtle town.” When the snorkel boats are there it’s easy to find. If they’re not, paddle out from the cove and keep to the right. There are two long fingers of lava jutting out under the water from the end of the point. Float over these and look for caves in the lava tubes. That’s were the turtles are – including big adults that can weigh hundreds of pounds! Listen for their hiss when they surface and exhale. We had to pull our paddles out of the water to avoid bumping the beauty in the picture above.  They get that close.

There are turtles to the south of Makena Landing as well. Avoid the obvious rocks, and those that are barely submerged, but keep reasonably close to shore while you float over coral formations and look for turtles and fish. As you head south you’ll pass an old stone church and then come to a large sandy beach and resort. Kayaking further south toward the cinder cone is fun too.

As you may have noticed, green sea turtles aren’t actually green – at least on the outside. From what I’ve read, it’s the meat inside that’s green. Perhaps the color comes from their diet of sea grass and algae. Despite what sounds like an unappetizing color, green sea turtle was a delicacy for whalers and others before it became a protected specie.

Even when the waves are small, landing a kayak can be difficult. The trick is to keep the boat perpendicular to the surf. Move slowly toward the shore while looking over your shoulder to time the waves. Paddle quickly just before the break and glide in. It’s best if the person in back jumps out and holds the handle/rope at the stern to keep the kayak from turning while the person in front gets out. If you do get sideways, you’re going to get wet. That’s why you wear a bathing suit and leave those valuables behind. If you want to take pictures, keep your camera in a secure water-proof container when not in use.

If you want to get close to turtles but don’t want to rent a kayak, see our post titled South Maui Snorkeling – Makena Landing.

Snorkeling at Molokini

School of fish at Molokini

There are many boats that will take you to Molokini for snorkeling. Some also go to “turtle town” where it’s likely you’ll see a turtle or two. (See our posting on “South Maui Snorkling – Makena Landing” for a no-cost option to swim with turtles.) Some trips to Molokini are longer and some shorter. Some provide food and drinks. Some do snuba at extra cost. (Snuba is sort of like scuba but without the  freedeom of movement and without the air tank on your back.) While we provide free snorkel gear at our condo, all the boats provide their own. Shop around to find the trip which is best for you.

The seas are generally calmer before the wind picks up so go in the morning unless you have no other choice. On a clear day you can see to a depth of 80 feet or more so the ideal time to go is a calm morning with no, or few, clouds. Of course, you usually have to make reservations in advance, so the conditions may not always be perfect.

Snorkel boats leave from Maalaea Bay – about a 20 minute drive north of Maui Vista. (They also leave from Lahaina, but don’t bother.) Take the road toward Lahaina and watch for the signs to Maalaea Bay. Allow time for parking and walking to your boat.

The Island of Molokini isn’t large but it looks tiny from the shore because it’s far away. Dependng on the speed of your boat the trip over will take about 45 minutes plus or minus. From December through March you’ll probably see whales while you’re cruising. If you’re lucky you can see dolphins any time of year. Some dolphins may even ride the bow wave and spinner dolphins can put on quite a show.

As the boat arrives as Molokini one of the crew will dive overboard with a rope. He or she will disappear below the surface to attach the rope to an underwater bouy. An anchor at the stern keeps the boat in place while you enjoy the sights. Each snorkel boat has it’s own designated bouy. I think they all say they have the best location.

You will see lots of fish and beautiful coral at Molokini – maybe an eel or two. In whale season you can sometimes hear the whales singing when you’re under water. It’s probably the premier spot to snorkel in Maui.

Snorkeling at Turtle Town

After as much time as almost anyone could want in the water, your boat will leave Molokini. If your boat goes to “turtle town” it will head east to a point just north of Makena Landing on Maui.

At “turtle town” there are two parallel lava tubes jutting out from the shore which support coral and form underwater caves. The turtles like to rest in these caves where they feel safe from the few predators that can do damage to a full grown turtle. While they can hold their breath for long periods of time, eventually these turtles have to breath. In this picture that Kathy took a large male is coming up for air. If you’re on the surface you can hear them hiss as they exhale. They’ll generally take a half dozen breaths or more before decending for another rest. It isn’t necessary to go to Molokini to have a great time snorkeling on Maui but, if you go, you won’t regret it.