Gorgeous Kahakuloa Bay shimmers in blues and greens on a spring day in Maui!

Exploring Maui - Up-n-Around West Maui

Snorkeling in Maui is our favorite pastime. But if we're not out exploring Maui's coral reefs, we love hopping in the car and discovering new, intriguing places all over the island. One of our favorites is following the road up and around the top of Maui's West side and back down into Central Maui to Kahului (the airport town). You'll find an abundance of things to see and explore… there's hiking along windswept lava shorelines, unique rock formations, Nakalele blowhole, and narrow, winding roads along steep cliffs and over rugged range land—all make the trip a memorable adventure.

As photographers, we enjoy getting off the beaten path and taking pictures of unique and beautiful landscapes.  The road around Maui's northwest side does not disappoint. Spring is a particularly nice time of year to make this drive, with the wetter months of winter greening up the scenery.  Here are a few highlights along the way...

Discover a beautiful view of Molaka'i from Punalau Beach.

A great view of Molaka'i from Punalau Beach.

Unique lava formations abound, take time to look for them!

Unique lava formations abound, if you take time to look for them!

Majestic Kahakuloa Head towers into view - West Maui, Hawaii.

Kahakuloa Head towers in the distance.

Kahakuloa Head towers above the chapel at Old Kahakuloa Village.

The chapel at Old Kahakuloa Village.

Driving the winding roads near Kahakuloa, West Maui is an adventure!

Scenery along the narrow and winding road.

The trip is just over 25 miles past Honolua Bay (one of our favorite snorkel spots on the west side). But don't let the short distance fool you, if you make as many stops as we do, this can easily be a half-day adventure or more. It's a quest that definitely follows the old adage, "it's the journey, not the destination." Our only caveat is the drive includes a few hair pin turns, and the road narrows down to one lane at times. So if you're a little spooked about cliff-side roads or backing up your car to allow another driver to pass—have the most self-assured driver behind the wheel. Other than that, taking the road up-n-around West Maui is a marvelous adventure, we highly recommend it!

For questions about snorkeling or exploring Maui, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling.  You can also contact us here or through social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.  We'd love to hear from you!

The Maui Swap Meet is held Saturdays in Kahului. It's a vibrant marketplace of great deals, local art, tasty tropical treats and more!

Discover the Maui Swap Meet

When we're not snorkeling Maui, we love to explore the island. With its gorgeous beaches and intriguing natural landscapes, there's an abundance of places to discover that are relatively inexpensive or free (other than the time and gas it takes to get there). While our primary focus is snorkeling, it's worth noting other activities unique to Maui. It's nice to have options for those days when you can't hit the water or are in the mood to explore the island above its shorelines. One of our favorites?  The Maui Swap Meet in Kahului.

There is so much to enjoy about this weekly Saturday event. For a mere 50 cents admission, you'll find a huge gathering of local vendors with a wide assortment of goods. The swap meet offers such a vibrant, entertaining feast it's easy to have your plans for a "quick visit" turn into a full-morning diversion.

You'll find an abundance of tropical fruits, flowers, and vegetables at Maui Swap Meet!

Top on our list are the tasty foods and treats... you'll find farm fresh veggies and tropical fruits to enhance your stay on Maui, as well as countless other delights... coconut macaroons... unique combinations of island fruits transformed into mouth-watering frozen treats... chocolate-macadamia nut confections... shave ice... freshly roasted coffee.  Just about any taste of the tropics can be found, including coconut water served in its "original container" and chopped with a machete before your eyes.  Tropical plants and fresh cut flowers round out the colorful array of swap meet offerings!

Along with the usual tourist trinkets, the Maui Swap Meet is also a great place to meet some of Maui's gifted artisans. There are many talented locals living on the island who make the Maui Swap Meet a primary place for selling their creative handiwork. You'll find original paintings, jewelry, photography, pottery, clothing, tile mosaics, woodwork, music... It's a gathering of talent that goes well beyond other tourist venues on the island. You'll discover unique art, meet the creators, and just may leave with an original piece to decorate your home or fondly remember your time in Maui.

So if you can't tell already—we love the Maui Swap Meet! If you're not snorkeling, it's a great way to spend a Saturday morning in Maui. You'll find it underway from 7 am to 1 pm every Saturday at the UH Maui College campus in Kahului (the same city as the main airport). For 50 cents admission and free parking, you can't miss!  In the meantime, if you have any questions about snorkeling or exploring Maui, please feel free to contact us here or through social media. You can find Maui's Best Snorkeling on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.  We'd love to hear from you!

The trails around La Pérouse offer lots to explore while you're visiting Maui.

Exploring the Trails at La Pérouse, Maui

When we're not snorkeling we love to explore Maui. If you haven't driven down Makena Road to La Pérouse Bay in South Maui it's well worth your time.

Heading south from Kihei and past Wailea, you'll reach the area known as Makena. Neither Wailea or Makena have their own zip codes, but they are by no means just an extension of Kihei. Each area has its own distinct feel. Driving along the tree lined, manicured resorts of Wailea there's a definite sense of upscale luxury. The further you go, Wailea-Alaluni Road melds into Makena-Alaluni and the vibe changes from "lively tourist zone" to "mellow residential" with a whole cast of beautiful beaches along the way...Po'lenalena, Makena Landing, Maluaka, Little Beach and Big Beach—all should be on your list for visiting while you're in Maui. But if your goal is LaPérouse Bay keep on driving; past the big red hill (known as Pu'u Ola'i), past Secret Beach (a tiny, beautiful spot that nearly always has a wedding underway), and on down the road with its fantastic views of Molokini and shore side homes you'd love to call home.

Look for yellow tangs in the shallows along Makena Road in South Maui.

The further you go, the more narrow the road becomes hugging right alongside the lava lined shores of the Pacific. Take it slow and you're likely to see bright yellow tangs flitting about in the shallows. It's a whole different feel from the hustle and bustle of Kihei or Wailea, no sprinklers keep the landscape green, it's hot and dry with scant shade from the thorny Kiawe trees overhead.

Kiawe Trees along Makena Road offer a bit of shade and lots of thorns!Soon you'll soon reach Ahihi Cove, it'll take all your willpower to resist the urge to pull over for a swim at this idyllic spot. Beyond the cove you'll enter the lava fields on the southwest side of Haleakala.  The road becomes one lane from here on out as it gently ascends and descends through the stark lava landscape. You'll want to keep your speed down to accom­modate oncoming traffic and bikers, as well as wild goats that amble along the road. After passing the parking area for Ahihi Bay, your destination is just a mile and a half away. You'll know you've arrived when the pavement ends at a gravel parking area beside the bay.

Wild goats often ramble the trails of La Pérouse.

If you've never visited this part of the island, the trip alone is a "mini adventure." But there's plenty more to see depending on how much you want to explore. A private property sits just to the right of the parking area, please don't trespass even if other visitors disregard the posted signs. When it comes to being visitors, we live by the golden rule and encourage you to do the same. The trail starts to your left close to shore. You can follow it until you feel like turning around, though many don't venture beyond the first half-mile or so. You'll pass by early Hawaiian ruins, rugged shorelines, lava arches, and see the ocean erupt from a small blowhole as waves roll in. Rock cairns dot the trail, along with tide pools bordered by "salt and pepper rocks" (black lava and weathered white coral).  Further along you'll find a memorial to surfers under shoreline trees. When the south swells are up, La Pérouse is a favorite surf spot and a few have lost their lives here.  If you continue down the trail you'll eventually reach a light marking Cape Hanamanioa (just under 1.5 miles from your start). Some call it a light house, but it's really not much more than a light on a pole marking one of the southernmost points on Maui.

You can continue along this path or on the Hoapili Trail, a route once used by ancient Hawaiians and also known as the King's Highway. If you're the tenacious type and don't mind hiking through lava in the heat, King's Highway eventually leads to Keawanaku Beach and further yet, Kanaio Beach. It's a memorable adventure hiking to these oasis-like spots, but neither beach is marked so it takes a bit of guesswork and plenty of patience while making your way through "alotta" lava!  If you try snorkeling at Keawanaku, take care, we've encountered exceptionally strong currents here.  Remember, you're on-your-own at this very isolated spot.

Keawanaku Beach Maui is an oasis among the lava. From the La Perouse parking area, it's about 2 miles.

La Pérouse is a uniquely beautiful place offering adventure for just about everyone. We recommend timing your visit for early morning or late afternoon/early evening to avoid the windiest times of day (as the area is notorious for high winds). If you plan on hiking the trails, bring plenty of water and wear appropriate footwearflip-flops won't cut it. Twisting an ankle while navigating the rugged trails here is a real possibility, and likely NOT on your vacation bucket list!

For more information on snorkeling or exploring Maui, pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel:  The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!  You can also contact us here or through Social Media.  Look for us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+.  We’d love to hear from you!

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