A multi-use natural playground, Honolua Bay provides the best natural wilderness of the West Side with forest walks, surf watching and snorkeling all on your adventure menu. Part of the Honolua-Mokuleia Bay marine life conservation district, the bay's inner-portion to about mid-point is mostly sheltered from the wind and surf. It is one of the best snorkeling spots on the island, great for seeing a myriad of fish and coral. The outer bay break is a legendary powerful right break that rolls in steady and heavy during winter or westerly swells. Best surf watching is along the newly preserved Lipoa Point gravel road access, up on the cliffs to the right of the bay.
AT A GLANCE
HIGHLIGHTS: One of Maui's best snorkeling places, and a champion outer bay break that provides some of the best surf watching on island.
ACTIVITIES: Snorkeling, swimming, forest walk, experienced-level surf break.
WARNINGS: submerged rocks and reef in some of the near shore areas, enter water carefully especially during low tides. Avoid snorkeling after the heavy rains, as bay waters can be murky during those times.
AMENITIES: portable restroom at the northern trailhead dirt parking lot; not ADA-accessible.
State Marine Preserve area web link:
This is the closest you can get to a jungle in all of West Maui. Just 15-minute drive north from the Ka'anapali region and 5-minute from Kapalua, Honolua's forest and shoreline are largely undisturbed and wild. To get to the shoreline, park roadside once you have reached the large predominant scenic view point on the left or oceanside 1.8 miles past Kapalua (there is a 20 mph right arrow curve sign just before it). To access the south trail walk past the pull out and look for small road on left that goes to the locked gate with a yellow environmental sign on it. For the central trail drive across the one-lane bridge and park in the dirt parking lot on the left. Look out for the Hawaiian carvings master who often works in the area; the carvings are traditional and unique, and very interesting. The northern trailhead is behind the carver, by the portable restroom in this dirt parking lot. It is a 10-minute walk down the dirt path to get to the water. This site is remote, with no lifeguards or amenities, and requires good judgment of your abilities to determine what level of exploration you choose to undertake. Here is a breakdown of the most common uses of the Honolua bay area.
This forest is undeveloped and old, with huge monkeypod trees draped in pathos vines, a place of superb natural beauty and photographic possibilities. The spectacular banyan tree close to the water is a particular favorite. If you are spending the day at this preserve, the forested area is great for a shaded picnic or a nap, as every shade of green surrounds you and the high canopy of treetops blocks off the sun. Two main trails lead from the two roadside parking areas to the rocky beach, and the smaller footpaths crisscross the park.
This area being a marine-life reserve, the snorkeling here is superb. The shore is a boulder beach layered in stream sediments from the run off during rainy periods with small fishes and crustaceans like hiding amongst these shallows. Swim 150 yards out toward the north (right) side of the bay and you enter into coral heaven with schools of smaller and larger fish, and an occasional green sea turtle or a baby octopus. Water at the edge of the bay is shallow, but as you swim toward the center of the bay the coral shelf drops off to 60-foot depth. Snorkel boat charters sometimes enter the bay and moor in this area. The south (left) side of the bay has large slabs of rock that are encrusted with coral and provide a multitude of hiding places for fish and other marine life. If you are new to the area and happen to have a body board available to you, we highly recommend you tow it along and use it as a rest station as you slowly peruse the bay.
The outer bay has a great winter surf break (experts only!) that hosts several world-class competitions, and viewing is best from the gravel road (access on the left past the second pull-out) on the far side of the bay where the road climbs up the cliff side. The bluffs at this end of the bay are placed precisely above the break and provide excellent front-row seats to surfing action, as well as spectacular views of the shoreline and the ocean year-round.
Closest town: Kapalua
Take Route 30 from Ka'anapali area heading north to Kapalua. Once you pass "Office road" aka the entrance into Kapulua resort area, the road goes downhill and merges into a single lane and the speed limit drops. The roadsides become forested and undeveloped. Look for large pull-out on the left (ocean side) 1.8 miles past Office Road. Parking starts here and continues intermittently along the road until you reach an off-road parking area just past a small bridge.
Save Honolua non-profit link.