4/4/22: West Maui’s Beaches & Hairy Hwy. Drive

Family & friends,

Steven and I were so, so excited to go to two of Maui’s most famous beaches but left both of them mostly disappointed by the beaches themselves and the snorkeling at each except for a glorious, close interaction with a Hawaiian green turtle. The day wasn’t a total loss, luckily, as our return to Central Maui was via the very exciting, albeit hairy Kahekila Highway that turned out to be a mostly one-lane road along the jagged coastline, blowholes, and rolling hills. 

All the best to you and your loved ones,


En route to spending some time at some of the beaches on West Maui, Steven and I passed one of Hawaii’s former sugarcane factories.

Although you may not realize it from my most recent posts about our time on Maui whose nickname is the Valley Isle, the island is far more well-known for its more than 80 public beaches. Even though we’d seen our share of ultra-rich exclusive resorts on Maui, Hawaiian state law requires that all beaches are public property and therefore all resorts and even residential communities must offer public right-of-way access to the beach.

The black beach at Olowalu Beachwas known for good snorkeling but its location right beside the highway made it extremely noisy. Steven and I took turns snorkeling but its cloudy water didn’t make for decent fish-viewing that day at least. 

Though we swam out 150 feet plus from the shore, we were bummed we didn’t see any turtles lining up to have cleaner wrasses pick off small parasites at a “cleaning station.”

When the noise got to be too much, we headed onto the far more popular Kapalua Bay Beach further up the west coast. I was surprised at the big crowds as it was so different from Olowalu. It was hard to find a space to call our own on the caramel-colored sand.

The beach was also supposed to be great for snorkelers but the murky water didn’t do much for either of us.

However, and it’s a big, however, my opinion about the beach changed for the better when I spotted this huge Hawaiian green sea turtle and followed it for several minutes at a safe distance for the turtle.

It was really distressing to see some middle-aged men trying to touch the turtle when it neared the shore as there are signs at every beach warning beachgoers everyone must keep 10 feet away from the endangered animals. 

The small community of Honolua near the northwest coast looked very much like the lodging and shops in national parks in the western US.

Rather than turning back inland from West Maui to reach our condo in Central Maui, we decided to take the scenic route along the Kahekili Highway. The road was named after an 18th-century Maui king who built homes from the skulls of his enemies!

Described as a “back-to-nature experience,” it sounded far more appealing even though the word ‘highway’ was a bit of a euphemism for the paved but rather precarious narrow road! Some rental car companies don’t even allow their cars on this road and we were advised to skip it entirely after any rains because of potential mud or rock slides.

The beautiful Honokohau Bay was at thenorthernmost tip of the island. The bay around this point was designated a Marine Life Conservation Area which meant that taking any fish, shells, or anything else was prohibited.

Selfishly, I was glad that Steven was driving so I could just spend my whole time admiring the magnificent views as the narrow road weaved along, following an ancient Hawaiian coastal footpath to Honokohau Bay.

We heard a couple of helicopters overheard and wondered if there were tourists aboard taking in the views of the steep ravines, rolling pastoral hills, and jagged coastlines. The photo opportunities were heavenly and looked like they might have come straight from a postcard.

The spouting Nakalele Blowhole caught our attention but we intentionally didn’t get too close as we knew unwary people had been swept out to sea! People visiting in the winter might see whales from this spot.

The view reminded us of the Scottish Highlands.

The tour book wasn’t “kidding” when it said we might share the road with goats and other animals!

Yup, this was indeed a two-lane ‘highway.”

I could see how extremely easily someone could take his or her eyes off the road for just a moment and be involved in an accident


There were several spots along the Kahekili ‘highway’ where we had to pull over to allow a stream of oncoming cars to pass or, conversely, follow a stream of cars without the chance to stop at interesting sights.

I would have loved to stop in the picturesque village of Kahakuloa and take a few minutes to look at the weatherworn houses and red-roofed church but Steven didn’t want to lose our spot in the line of cars. At least, I was able to snag this shot from the hill above the village before we headed on.

A few years ago, Steven and I spent a month wandering the highways and byways of Ireland. Never had Steven driven on such narrow lanes as he had there. This part of the ‘highway’ came in at a close second!

 After all the blind curves we’d just driven, this sign was sort of the understatement of the year! We joked that we were in training for the next day’s legendary Road to Hana in eastern Maui. 

Next post: The aforementioned road to Hana in northeastern Maui!

Posted on May 5th, 2022, from our home in Denver’s western suburbs as we continue to pack and prepare for our extensive road trip that begins next week. 


8 thoughts on “4/4/22: West Maui’s Beaches & Hairy Hwy. Drive

  1. I would not like driving on those narrow roads, but the scenery is beautiful. I am glad all the beaches on the island have public access, the big resorts can close the beach for guests and it is so unfair on the locals. How lovely to see the green turtle, like yourself I don’t like when people harass the wildlife trying to touch them. How long did you stay in this island? Is it a very expensive place to visit?


  2. Thanks, Gilda, for reading and commenting on this post. There are so many things to love about Maui – its out-of-this-world drives and beautiful beaches which thankfully have been made accessible to the public for all to enjoy. But how people can possibly think it’s ok to get close to any endangered animals was shocking to me.

    None of the Hawaii islands are reasonable places to visit in my opinion. They’re certainly not for budget travelers. We’ve never spent so much on accommodation anywhere in the world and the condos we chose were definitely not high-end. Food in grocery stores was likewise very expensive and fresh meat or chicken was non-existent. Conversely, travel to and within the islands was fairly reasonable – go figure!


  3. I would much rather be the passenger on that road than the driver too! The scenery is wonderful, I’m glad you were able to capture it on camera. I would want to do the same for sure 🙂
    A shame the snorkelling wasn’t great but what a super turtle sighting!


  4. Just wait until you see my photos of other turtles we saw on the Big Island – all the better, too, without the thoughtless visitors there!

    That hairy drive more than made up for the indifferent beaches and snorkeling earlier in the day, didn’t it? I certainly got the better end of the stick by being the passenger, especially since I could just look down at the scary spots or just knit!


  5. That was a hairy, windy road! We’ve been on tricky ones as well (as you have read and seen), but it was never as busy as this one seemed to be. The stress level goes way up when you have to share these so called two-lane roads with other cars, coming from either way. I’m glad you got to enjoy this scenic drive, Annie! For Steven, it was probably a white-knuckle experience at times…


  6. It’s a huge responsibility for Steven as he does ALL the driving on our trips while I have the minor chore of navigating, now made far easier thanks to Google maps!

    Actually, the road to Hana was relatively easy compared to the drive FROM Hana later that same day! At least we weren’t in a truck like you are on these hairy roads!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah, you gotta love drives like that, it’s a bit scary at the time but always fun and great to look back on – as long as there wasn’t a mishap! I think our scariest to date was Costa Rica, the roads around Atenas in particular. Interested to read your answer to Sarah – sounds very pricey.


  8. I think you said it right – the drive is always more fun looking back on it! At least the roads in Hawaii were generally in great shape, just a few dirt stretches. How did that compare with those you drove in Costs Rica?

    Yes, a trip to Hawaii isn’t for the budget-minded traveler but it can be done more reasonably if you take food from home as we did. Steven is a big tuna fan whereas I like peanut butter so we each brought enough of both for lunches on the beach or on our mega drives around the islands. It’s funny, though, that neither of us can stand the other’s lunch preferences so we made sure to eat a few feet apart!


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