Hawaii Notebook 3: 5 best snorkeling beaches on Maui

Maui

Third in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Plenty of bays and lagoons, off-shore reefs, lava rocks and sea life make snorkeling on the Hawaiian island of Maui a real treat. Here’s a list of the five best beaches to snorkel:

1. Ka’anapali Beach

Ka’anapali Beach is one of Maui’s longest beaches (three miles) and most popular beaches. Located in West Maui,  it once was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty.  There are many resorts along the beach, but you can easily find spots that aren’t crowded. On the north end of the beach is Black Rock, a renowned snorkeling destination. You also can check out smaller Kahekili Beach, an extension of Kaanapali Beach separated by lava rock and a hotel. Named for Maui’s last king, Kahekili Beach offers good snorkeling, but watch for strong currents.

2. Napili Bay

Napili Bay faces a resort area, it’s not as busy as the Kaanapali Beach area. Napili is good for snorkeling when n the surf isn’t rough. Sea turtles (honu) often visit reefs just off the bay shore.

Maui
The sheltered cove of Napili Bay on the northwestern part of Maui offers good snorkeling. (Thomas Baca from Pixabay)

3. Honoloa Bay

For those who don’t mind a bit of a drive and adventure, head to under-the-radar Honoloa Bay. Pros: Because Honoloa Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District that bars fishing, there always is plenty of sea life and coral if you swim out a bit from the beach. The left side of the beach is best for snorkeling. Cons: The shore is very rocky and narrow, so it’s not a place to lie and read a book. The shallow water is murky. Parking is farther away and can be difficult. There’s no sign for the beach; look for mile marker 32 off Honoapi’ilani Highway and cars parked along the side of the road at an S curve just after Slaughterhouse Beach. Walk along a marked path to the bay.

Maui
Honoloa Bay is a snorkeling only spot due to its narrow, rocky shore. (Rusty Gage from Pixabay)

4. Kapalua Bay Beach

Along a protected bay in northwestern Maui near the historic whaling port of Lahaina, Kapalua Beach (in the featured photo by me at top) is a great place for young kids to snorkel. The tide pools, lava rock and sea creatures and two offshore reefs make for some fun snorkeling. Two sea turtles played in the shallows when I visited. During the winter, you may see whales in deeper waters.

Sea turtle
This was one of two sea turtles that swam very close to the shore of Kapalua Bay Beach. (Sheryl Jean)

5. Keawakapu Beach, Ulua Beach and Polo Beach

I’m cheating here by combining three beaches in Wailea in South Maui, but starting with Keawakapu and traveling south, each beach is less two miles from the previous one. They all have great snorkeling and bathrooms and showers (at the south end of Keawakapu Beach).

Go to the southern end of Keawakapu Beach, which is just under a mile long, to snorkel amid patches of reef. Quarter-mile Ulua Beach offers easy snorkeling at its rocky north end. Warning: Parking at Ulua can fill up early. Two sandy crescents make up Polo Beach, which faces the Polo Beach Club and the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel. When the waves are small, snorkel around the rocky point at the north end of the beach.

I also recently wrote about new tourist restrictions in Hawaii, including Maui, and Maui’s best snorkeling beaches.

Hawaii Notebook 2: 12 stops along Maui’s Road to Hana

Road to Hana

Second in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Visiting outdoorsy Maui, you might not think sitting in a car would be that much fun.

But driving the heart-stopping Road to Hana, or Hana Highway, is a different story. It’s one of the world’s most scenic drives.

Maui
The serpentine Road to Han is in the wettest part of of Maui. Most of the road sits on the windward side of the Haleakala volcano. (abbs johnson via Upsplash)

With 620 curves and 59 bridges, most of which are one lane, the 64-mile highway is not for wimps. The reward is beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, waterfalls, swimming holes and stunning vistas along Maui’s eastern coast.

A typical start of the drive is from the town of Pa’ia on Maui’s northeastern coast. Drive clockwise for 53 miles on Highways 36 and 360 to the town of Hana, but it’s worth continuing for 11 more miles to remote Kaupo. From there, you can continue on the Piilani Highway (Highways 31 and 37) for a loop through Maui’s interior. The paved road turns to dirt with potholes, but I’ve driven the entire loop and it’s not that bad.

You can drive the Road to Hana in one day, returning the same way, or you can stay overnight in Hana or another town and drive back the next day. You also can book a tour and let someone else drive.

The Road to Hana is teeming with waterfalls; I only mention a couple below. Parking is tough at many of the falls, so you may have to settle for drive-by views. You can stop at many other fun spots — from beaches to hikes to local fruit stands — and it’s a beautiful drive even if you never leave the car.

Map of Road to Hana

Starting in Pa’ia, many visitors drive clockwise to Hana and back the same route. You also can loop through Maui’s eastern interior. (Sheryl Jean with Google Maps)

Here are some of my favorite spots along the Road to Hana:

1. Ke’anae Aboretum: It’s worth a walk through this small state-owned park to see some of the 150 varieties of exotic flora, such as bananas, ginger and rainbow eucalyptus. Look for remnants of an historical lo’i, traditional terraces for planting taro. It’s free.

2. Wailua Valley State Wayside: This little park offers views of the Ke’anae Valley, Ko’olau Gap, Wailua village and the rim of Haleakala.

3. Hana Lava Tube and Kahanu Garden: After a volcanic eruption, the outer layers of molten lava flows cooled first, hardening into tunnels to form Maui’s largest lava tube. To reach Hana Lava Tube, take a left on Ula’ino Road around mile marker 31 and drive about four miles. Don’t forget a flashlight. Farther down Ula’ino Road is Kahanu Garden, run by the nonprofit National Tropical Botanical Gardens. There, you can see Pi’ilanihale Heiau, a lava-rock temple that’s the largest in Hawaii. Both places charge a fee.

Road to Hana
The black-sand beach at Wai’anapanapa State Park is a must-stop along the Road to Hana. (Sheryl Jean)

4. Waiʻānapanapa State Park: This is a must-stop around mile marker 32 before Hana town. It’s an easy walk to the park’s highlight: the dazzling Pailoa black-sand, crescent beach framed by green naupaka shrubs and the azure ocean. The park has many other natural wonders, including Hawaii’s largest wild hala tree grove; freshwater caves; seabird colonies; a lava tube; natural stone arches; and blowholes. Ke Ala Loa O Maui/Piilani Trail (3 miles round trip) starts beyond Pa’iloa and traverses lava-rock fields and hala trees to the cliff shoreline at Pailoa Bay. Along with spectacular views of the coast and Haleakala’s slopes, you may see gravesites, low stone walls and a temple inland. Stop at the boulder beach and return the same way, or continue along to Hana Bay. Plan ahead to camp here.

5. Hana: You can eat or stay overnight in this coastal town. Visit the Hana Cultural Center & Museum to learn about the history of Hana and East Maui. For more action, head for the shallow waters of black-sand Hana Bay for snorkeling, especially for beginners.

6. Hamoa Beach: South of Hana just past mile marker 51, turn on Haneoo Road to find calm waters at this beach that’s consistently named one of best in the world. (Skip the first beach, Koki Beach, which has strong rip tides.)

7. Wailua Falls: Named Maui’s “most photographed waterfall,” it plunges 80 feet down a cliff into a green pool. The falls are inland, along a bridge about 5 miles after Hamoa Beach. Park past the bridge.

8. Kīpahulu: The remote Kīpahulu District of Haleakalā National Park 12 miles past Hana is home to ‘Ohe’o Gulch (Seven Sacred Pools), the Pipiwai Trail and Waimoku Falls (hike two miles to the falls). When water levels are safe at ‘Ohe’o, you can swim in many of the pools. The area is rich in history, with ruins and ancient sites. Check the National Park Service calendar for activities, including guided walks and ranger talks. There’s a visitor center and camping.

Maui
If weather permits, you can swim in one of the sacred pools at ‘Ohe’o Gulch along Hana Highway. (Sheryl Jean)

9. Palapala Ho’omau Church: This 1857 limestone coral church is better known as the burial site of aviator Charles Lindbergh. He moved to the Kīpahulu area in 1968.

10. Kaupo: Lush rainforests give way to drier and rockier land when you reach this remote ranching area. Under the shadow of the Haleakala, you can take a challenging hike up (or down) the steep Kaupo Trail and Kaupo Gap to the crater with panoramic views of the Big Island. Stop at Kaupo General Store for a trip back in time and to stock up on supplies.

Maui
This inland view is near Kaupo Gap off Hana Highway. (Sheryl Jean)

11. Alii Kula Lavendar Farm: This 13-acre farm and store in Kula is home to about 55,000 lavender plants and 25 varieties. Entry is $3, or $12 for a 30-minute walking tour.

12. Maui Wine: Yes, even outback Maui has wine. This winery on Ulupalakua Ranch makes pineapple, sparkling and small-production estate wines. It offers two tours and tastings daily for $12 or $16 in the King’s Cottage, which was built in the 1870s for Hawaii’s King Kalākaua. It also offers a $40 reservation-only tasting in its historic “Old Jail,” the former office of pioneer planter Captain James Makee. Maui Wine offers cheese and charcuterie boards or grab lunch at the nearby Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill.

While driving, follow the Road to Hana Code of Conduct to be a responsible visitor. Last month, I wrote about new tourist restrictions in Hawaii, including Maui. Next, look for my post on Maui’s best snorkeling beaches .

Note: The featured photo at top is by Monica Bourgeau via Upsplash.

Hawaii Notebook 1: Be aware of new tourist restrictions

First in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Hawaii has joined the list of places around the world restricting travel due to overtourism.

Such restrictions are becoming more common in areas of high historical or natural significance, including Angkor Wat (Cambodia), Machu Picchu (Peru) and Santorini (Greece), which are inundated with visitors, especially at peaks times like summer. Such places are limiting the number of visitors, regulating short-term housing rentals and increasing fees to preserve the very Instagramable features and ambience tourists flock to see.

What does that mean for you if you plan to visit Hawaii? Travel restrictions may require you to make some changes, including planning farther ahead, making reservations and paying new fees.

To explain such actions to visitors, Hawaii has implemented various educational campaigns. The Hawaii Tourism Authority recently rolled out the “Kuleana (responsibility) Campaign” for all eight islands. Short educational videos feature Hawaii residents talking about cultural etiquette, highlighting topics such as land and water safety, conservation and “pono (righteous) tourism.” Some airlines will show the videos on arriving flights.

Here are some island-specific highlights of restrictions:

Maui

Earlier this month, Hawaii closed a cliff face in the Lihau section of the West Maui Natural Area Reserve for up to two years to protect native plants. Rock climbers had installed hardware and footholds into cliffs, affecting threatened and endangered plants, according to the Maui News. Climbers who hiked through the area to reach the cliff trampled West Maui’s only known population of yellow hibiscus.

Visitors to Maui can pledge to behave responsibly by taking the Road to Hana Code of Conduct. The 64-mile Road to Hana has 620 curves and 59 bridges that meander through beaches, dramatic cliffs, lush rainforests and waterfalls on the eastern side of the island.

Road to Hana
Visitors can stop for a swim at this black-sand beach or take a stroll at Wai’anapanapa State Park along Maui’s Road to Hana. (Sheryl Jean)

Oahu

Earlier this year, Oahu passed a law restricting the number of short-term rentals outside of the resort areas of Waikiki, Ko Olina and Turtle Bay.

Kauai

On the island of Kauai, the number of visitors to its North Shore are limited to 900 a day and visitors must make reservations to go to Hā’ena State Park and Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. A new reservation and shuttle system began in June, when both parks reopened after severe flooding closed them for 14 months. It’s part of the Hā’ena Master Plan to reduce overcrowding and better protect resources. Hā’ena State Park is home to the trailhead for Kalalau Trail, Kē’ē Beach and Hanakāpī’ai beach and waterfalls.

View from the Kalalua Trail
The Kalalua Trail on Kauai provides incredible views like this one. (Pixabay)

You can book park entry, parking and the shuttle on the Ha’ena State Park Reservation website. The current fee for bicycle or walk-in entry is $1 per person. The current entry/parking fee for a non-Hawaii resident is $5 per vehicle. The North Shore Shuttle offers park-and-ride service, including park entry and a “Hop On Pass” to stop at sites along the way, from Princeville or Hanalei for $11 per person.

Island of Hawaii

The Hawaii Visitors Bureau encourages visitors to take the nine-part Pono Pledge to treat the island with respect and not endanger yourself or others.

Lush plant on Road to Hana (Sheryl Jean)
All of the Hawaiian Islands boast many exotic plants and flowers. (Sheryl Jean)

Over the next few weeks, I’ll blog about Maui’s Road to Hana scenic drive and Maui’s best snorkeling beaches.

The classic American road trip still rules

Despite higher prices at the gas pumps this summer, the classic American road trip remains one of the most popular travel options.

At $2.86, average U.S. gasoline prices are at their highest level in about four years. Though the price for regular unleaded gasoline on July 8 was up 60 cents from a year ago, it was down 7 cents from a month ago, according to AAA. Gas prices were highest in the West ($3.66 in California) and lowest in the South ($2.53 in Alabama).

However, AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano said “elevated crude oil prices and other geopolitical concerns could tilt gas prices more expensive in the early fall despite an expected increase in global crude production from OPEC.” If U.S. demand remains strong, inventories rise and oil continue to sell at over $70 a barrel, drivers could see average gas prices hit nearly $3 a gallon in the coming months, she said.

In the meantime, families are hitting the road.

Nearly two-thirds of the 88 million Americans planning to take a family vacation this year expect to hit the road, according to AAA. About three-quarters seek a destination they’ve never been to before. Families also seek attractions, such as beaches and mountains (61 percent), sightseeing (59 percent) and relaxation (56 percent).

If you’re thinking about a road trip this summer or fall, here are some favorite road trips I’ve taken over the years:

Pacific Coast Highway: Fort Bragg to Los Angeles
This cliff-top, panoramic 123-mile drive on Highway 1 along much of California’s coast will leave you breathless. Start near Fort Bragg and drive south along rugged coastline. Build in time to explore the cities of San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Los Angeles. Don’t miss Bodega Head, Old Mission San Juan Bautista, Carmel-by-the-Sea’s 17-mile Drive (see featured photo at top), Big Sur’s Pfeiffer Beach, elephant seals at Piedras Blancas, Hearst Castle and Venice Beach.

Bodega Head, Calif.
You’ll see views like this from Bodega Head in Bodega Bay, Calif., which is on scenic U.S. Highway 1. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Oregon Highway 101: Near Portland to Cape Perpetua
This drive is similar to California’s Highway 1, but I think the Oregon coast is wilder and more lonesome. There are plenty of beaches, trails, state parks and small towns. Don’t miss Cannon Beach and its 235-foot Haystack Rock, Devils Punchbowl near Newport and Cape Perpetua Headland, which is the highest viewpoint accessible by car on the Oregon Coast. If you have time, drive farther south to Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, with sand dunes up to 500 feet high. Combine this with the Pacific Coast Highway for a longer adventure.

The Road to Hana: Maui, Hawaii
This famous 64-mile road on the island’s western coast features too-many-to-count ess curves and single-lane bridges. Start in the small beachy town of Paia. Watch the surfers at Ho’okipa Beach Park, stop at as many plunging waterfalls and walking trails as you like, sample banana bread and fresh coconut milk at roadside fruit stands, enjoy the view from check out Pua’a Kaa State Wayside Park’s waterfall and natural swimming hole, Hana Lava Tube and Black Sand Beach at Waianapanapa State Park.

San Juan Skyway: Southwestern Colorado
This 200-mile loop goes through some of the prettiest country in Colorado, a must-see national park, hot springs, an old railroad and lots of great hiking. Start in Durango: Take Highway 160 West, take 145 North, cut across on 62 and then head south on 550. Your first stop should be Mesa Verde National Park. After that, you’ll pass through beautiful meadows, see jaw-dropping mountain views in the ski town of Telluride, relax in the Ouray hot-spring pools, ride the train on narrow-gauge rails originally laid in 1882 in the mining town of Silverton and end with a nice meal in Durango.

Southwestern Colorado
This is what the terrain around Durango, Colo., looks like. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

The Blue Ridge Parkway: North Carolina
The Blue Ridge Parkway winds through the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina for 469 miles. Whether you like to hike, bike, swim or go antiquing in quaint little towns, there’s something for you. The velvety green valleys and the Blue Ridge Mountains often are shrouded in heavy mist. In North Carolina, stop at Grandfather Mountain State Park, 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell (the highest peak in the eastern United States), Linville Gorge and Asheville, N.C. before heading into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Highway 1A: Coastal Maine
Coastal Maine offers many quaint old fishing villages, historic downtowns, beaches and lighthouses. Head north on U.S. Highway 1A (later take smaller routes 9 and 77), stopping in York (the cliff walk near Stage Neck and Nubble Lighthouse), Ogunquit (walk on the beach or Marginal Way), Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Kennebunkport Lower Village (shopping and scenic waterways) and the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse. Don’t miss the city of Portland, which offers good food, craft beer and history. Just a bit beyond Portland is Freeport, home to L.L. Bean’s headquarters and the giant boot. I blogged here about my visit to L.L. Bean in November 2017.

Kennebunport Lower Village
Small coastal roads in Maine will take you through quaint places like Kennebunkport’s Lower Village. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Route 66: Tulsa, Okla., to Arizona
You can’t talk about road trips without mentioning Historic Route 66, one of the nation’s original highways built in 1926. The iconic route originally stretched for nearly 2,500 miles from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to end in Santa Monica, Calif. Today, you’ll find lots of Americana in the form of landmarks, kitschy statues and vintage diners and motels. Drive this coast-to-coast route in sections. In Oklahoma, don’t miss the Blue Whale of Catoosa, Tulsa’s Art Deco architecture, Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Lucille’s Gas station in Hydro, Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Coleman Theatre in Miami, Tower Theatre in Oklahoma City. In Texas, stop at Cadillac Ranch, Palo Duro Canyon State Park and the MidPiont Café and sign. New Mexico offers Acoma Pueblo and old town Albuquerque. The grand finale is Arizona’s Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon.

Cadillac Ranch
A stop at these 10 colorful, half-buried Cadillacs is a must on Historic Route 66 through Amarillo, Texas. It’s free and open 24/7. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Route 50: Colorado and Utah
This 3,000-mile route stretches from Ocean City, Maryland, to Sacramento, Calif., passing through a dozen states and following the same route as the Overland Stagecoach and the Pony Express. One of the prettiest sections goes through the mountains and canyons of Colorado and Utah. After picking up Route 50 outside of Colorado Springs, you’ll go through lots of mountainous national park land (check out Gunnison Gorge National Recreation area). Route 50 follows Interstate 70 for a while through Utah, passing near several outstanding national parks (Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef ) before living up to its name as “Loneliest Road in America” as it heads into Nevada.

Of course, there are too many road trips to mention in this blog post. One that tops my list to do is the Alaska Highway.

Next Wednesday, look here for my post on what mobile apps to download for your road trip.

Surf’s up: Hit the top 10 beaches this summer

Maui

It’s summer. That means it’s time to hit to the beach.

Whether you grew up near a beach, vacation at a beach or married on a beach, chances are you have fond memories of surf somewhere at some time.

The nation’s No. 1 beach this year is Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii, according to coastal ecologist Dr. Beach, aka Stephen P. Leatherman. (See my photo of Kapalua Bay Beach at top.) He’s a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. The rest of his top 10 list is at the end of this post.

Sea turtle
This was one of two sea turtles that swam very close to the shore of Kapalua Bay Beach in April. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

When I visited the crescent-shaped, white-sand Kapalua Beach along Maui’s west coast in April, I could stand right next to sea turtles frolicking in the shallows.

Kapalua is one of the island’s safest swimming areas and its clear azure water and sheltered location (the bay is protected by two headlands formed by lava flows ages ago) make it a good snorkeling spot. It’s also near a few restaurants, bars and a water sports rental hut.

Great beaches

So, just what makes a beach great?

For me, it either has to be large enough for long walks or have a great surf for swimming and boogie boarding.

For Abbey Burns, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, a great beach must be swimmable, have little to no wind and provide “an insurance plan in case you forget something,” such as a snack shack or shop, according to Abbey Burns.

Her favorite beach is Mayflower Beach in Dennis (Cape Cod), Mass. During college, she went there every year to stay at a friend’s family home.

“I really love it because at low tide the beach is huge and you don’t even notice other people are there,” Burns said. Beaches in the Bay Area are too windy, she said.

Feet in the sand
Criteria for Dr. Beach’s top 10 list include the type of vistas and the color and softness of the sand. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Click here to continue reading and see the rest of the Top 10 list: Continue reading Surf’s up: Hit the top 10 beaches this summer