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.