Jaws Surf Break (aka Pe’ahi)

When the North Shore surf is big, Jaws is gigantic.

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Rating: ★★★★☆

In a nutshell: The biggest wave surfed in the world each year has been at Pe’ahi more than any other place.
Minuses: The access road can be 4WD
Sound-bite: [crashing waves, cheers and helicopters]

Disclaimer on the rating:
Pe’ahi is only “must-see spectacular” when the North Shore is having monster surf (look for high surf warnings and consult the real-time wave data chart below.)

Key Info:
Mile Marker: Between #13 & 14 (Hana Hwy aka Hwy 36)
GPS Coordinates: 20.942202,-156.300688
Facilities: None
Map: Below | Get directions
Current Wave Data: Below

Summary
Pe’ahi is Maui’s biggest surfing break, and the yearly Billabong XXL Global Big Wave contest has listed Jaws as the winning break more than any other place. When Jaws is going off, the top names in surfing flock here – and mere mortals follow to watch in awe.

What is Tow-in Surfing?

Tow-in surfing is when the waves are so large that the only way a surfer can get in to them (in one piece, anyway) is to be skillfully towed in, and dropped off, via Jet Ski. In recent years surfers have started paddling in to this break that was previously only attempted as a tow-in.

Tidbits

“Jaws” is certainly the most well known, and also the most geographically specific name for the surf break. The name “Pe’ahi” has become more popular with surfers trying to draw connection with local culture as of late – so it is now common to hear that name used as well. (Pe’ahi is actually the name of the much larger ahupua'a.) If two names weren’t enough, according to Kupuna Leslie Kuloloio, the traditional Hawaiian name for this spot is “Ke Kai ‘o Waitakulu”, which he translates as “The Teary Eye.”

The Bad News
Before you add this to your must-do list for your Maui vacation, here is the bad news: chances are you won’t be able to. Most years there are just a few big-wave events with the perfect conditions for surfing Jaws. So, you’re going to need some luck with timing!

If you are lucky enough to see this in person, you’re sure to appreciate the magnitude of these feats of athleticism. (Check out the You Tube video below for better perspective of how big these waves actually are.)

How to Know if Jaws is Going Off
Check out the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) live wave observation charts here.

The Pe’ahi Lookout
The lookout on the Peahi cliffs above the break are the best vantage points outside of a boat or helicopter. As far as driving to the overlook goes, the best route is shown in the Google Map below. This 1.5 mile dirt road currently is graded to a point that cars that aren’t especially low can get in or out when it is dry. That said, it can rain suddenly on the North Shore, and what looks like a sunny beautiful day can be sprinkled with sudden downpours turning the steeper parts of the road to a surface that’s as slick as ice. Depending on what you’re driving, you could get stuck and need assistance. There are a few places you can park off to the side of the road (be sure not to block access roads), so if walking 3 miles round-trip is not an option, you can drive in as far as you feel comfortable given the current conditions, and opt to walk the rest of the way.


View Jaws in a larger map

  1. One other note: I brought my 300 mm lens to Maui, but left the 500 at home. Big mistake, though I got some great shots at 300 mm.

    The cliff is wonderful for viewing, but if you have the resources the best vantage point would be on a boat.

  2. Mark H,

    I was very lucky to be at Jaws Feb. 10 ( see this video by Xensr https://vimeo.com/154970043 ). The road was narrow, crowded, and too dangerous to walk. However, we were able to park at the Hana Road turnoff and catch rides for $10 each way — one by a commercial van, the other by an entrepeneur with a dune buggy. On a day with no big waves there will be no crowds here and walking or attempting the drive is possible. Of course, there will probably not be any surfers either. Then try Hookipa just down the road.

    Seeing a spectacle such as Feb. 10 is an event not to be missed. Check the surf forecasts!

    • Brandon says:

      Thanks alot dude, useful info, me and my family are going to check it out if the conditions are prime.

  3. Found this place on accident heading back from Hana. It was quite amazing but getting there is quite a feat. Google maps doesnt show you that regular cars are not advised. You need 4wd but then you also need to be a smart car, the roads are narrow and quite dusty. I walked it in sandals, probably a bad choice, but I was walking and following the crowd! 1.5 miles later you are at the cliff, with everyone else! Be patient and you will see that it is all worth it! My advice: wear comfortable shoes, bring water, and have a way to shower afterwards, so many cars kick up dust. Lucky us our next stop was the airport. 5 hours covered in dust but worth it!

  4. I am on vacation and would love to go there this week.Could I please get direction to view from the cliff. I am not sure what exact road to take from Hana Hwy.

    • Check out the map in this article, it shows how to get to the lookout via Hahana Rd. 🙂

  5. spiritofaloha says:

    I have been a resident of Maui almost ten years. I was at Peahi aka Jaws on Big Wednesday Dec. 14th 2004. It was called that for a reason. The crowd was enormous as well. Lots of bad behavior. Just because you’re not indoors while you’re a visitor here or not don’t forget your manners. Treat this island with the respect it deserves. Be “pono”..do what is right. A few people in 4WD’s didn’t want to wait in the traffic on the single lane road so they went through the pineapple fields destroying them!! That is someone’s crop and private property. The list is long. You get the message. Please don’t litter or leave anything behind. Nobody’s coming to clean up after you. Soon very soon there are serial multi-million dollar homes going in here so I suspect this area to be inaccessible anyway. In the meantime, hug the person next to you. You’ll never see anything like it unless you travel the world to surf. Remember to spread the spirit of aloha I hope you have experienced here. MAHALO

    • Hi, we are coming to Maui the first two weeks of March and would love to be able to see Jaws. I have been to Hawaii six times and this has been a dream. Could you help us in any way? Please let me know,
      Mahalo,
      Mike

    • What a shame that Serial Housing Development will crush this beautiful Place for Regular People to experience.
      Why do a few wealthy folks have to bar all others to the joy? Let’s learn to share this beautiful World.

  6. Just left jaws around 4pm local time. Was close to 15ft. But most sets were 10-12. One surfer out in the water w/ sled partner. Didn’t need towing in.

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