Red Sand Beach (Kaihalulu Beach)

Last updated 14. Dec, 2013 by in Adventures, Adventures & Sights | Rd to H, Beaches, Beaches | Hana Hwy, Road to Hana, Road to Hana Beaches, Road to Hana Sites

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Red Sand Beach

Red Sand Beach is a dramatically beautiful scene.

Rating: ★★★★☆

In a nutshell: A dramatic and beautiful hidden cove unlike any other.
Minuses: The short hike to the beach is hazardous.
Sound-bite: “Has the Mothership departed without me?”

WARNINGS:
Part of the trail was lost to a landslide and has become more dangerous than it once was. This is not a safe hike for anyone unaccustomed to navigating cliff-edges with slippery/unsound footing.

DETAILS:
Red Sand Beach is a dramatic and beautiful hidden cove unlike any other. The ocean outside the cove is almost always a deep, almost surreal Kool-Aid blue, and rages relentlessly against the dramatic and rugged coastline.

The crescent-shaped beach is cut deep into the Ka’uiki Head cinder cone, whose rust-red lava cinder cliffs supply the beach with its red sand. These cliffs of loose crumbly cinders tower almost vertically, yet somehow remain intact to impressive heights.

The cove is protected on the ocean side by a wall of jagged black lava rock, further contributing to this almost otherworldly scene.

Red Sand Beach in Hana, Maui

View from the trail as you approach the cove.

While you are here you’ll likely see 'iwa and Koae Kea as they ply the sky above the cliffs looking for prey below. Both birds are impressive to watch. The Iwa are significant birds and masters of wind currents, and in this out-of-this-world setting look like pterodactyls cruising over a prehistoric sky. Koae Kea are of a lighter and more peaceful appearance – looking almost like white doves with a long streamer for a tail.

The icing on the surreality cake are the nudists and eccentric characters who also frequent this beach. Strike up a conversation with one of these folks and it is certain to add more color to your experience.

Speaking of eccentrics, if you are among the chosen few awaiting the Mothership, local hippie lore has whispered in my ear that this is where she will pick up her children. In fact, once a guy told me that he believes the Mothership resides just below the sands of this beach, waiting for the preordained moment to lift up above the surface and take off. Far out, man.

Cultural Insights

Ka ‘uiki Head is also an important cultural site being the birthplace of Queen Ka’ahumanu, and site of historic battles and an ancient Heiau.

The Hawaiian name means “roaring sea.”

Back on Earth, when you’re following the portion of the trail that bypasses the slide, and are down on the shoreline, take a look around. You will notice some large pieces of old grave markers from the Japanese cemetery above are down here. Now notice the landslide that erased part of the original trail, and how the cemetery is slowly being removed to erosion. I’ve never seen more than a marker down here, but I do know gravity doesn’t pick and choose what falls. Yikes!

I ranked it lower than five stars for two reasons: First, because I don’t want everyone who reads this site mindlessly going here – a crowd really does ruin the vibe here. Also, getting here can be quite dangerous for those who are not sure-footed enough to recover from inevitable a cliff-edge slips on the loose cinders. Please take the warning seriously and don’t make the wrong kind of vacation memories.

A couple makes their way up to the first view of the beach.

A couple makes their way up to the first view of the beach.

How To Find Red Sand Beach:
To get to this beach can be tricky; use the Google Map below, with the following notes:
1. Park on the side of the road just outside of the Travasa Hotel parking lot. You will walk across the Hana Community Center field looking for a trail on your right hand side. Recently the trail has been well-cleared (by far the most I’ve seen in well over a decade) and is now very easy to find. (The jungle grows quickly, so this could change!)
2. If you end up at the Japanese Cemetery, you need to back-track to one of the paths that go downhill. (I would definitely not take the suggestion of other guidebooks and use that trail right next to the cemetery any longer.)
3. The original ridge trail has been partially erased by a landslide, and a new narrow and more dangerous trail has replaced it. There is another trail that takes you down to the shoreline which is safer, walk along the shoreline and then climb back up to the trail beyond the narrow/slide section.
4. The trail is made of loose cinders and covered with ironwood pine needles. It is slippery, and there are several points where a slip could result in catastrophe. That said, the trail is short, so opportunities to tempt fate are short in duration; fairly experienced hikers may find these risky points somewhat trivial. Inexperienced/unlucky could be severely injured or worse.

Key Info:
Location: Park at the end of Uakea Rd. which runs on the ocean side of Hotel Hana Maui, parallel to Hana Hwy.
GPS Coordinates: 20.752803,-155.981736
Facilities: Mothership*
Get directions


View Red Sands Beach in a larger map

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8 Responses to “Red Sand Beach (Kaihalulu Beach)”

  1. Kris

    13. Jul, 2009

    Definitely bookmarking this post.

    We stayed at the Hotel Hana Maui for a night earlier this year, and our attempts to find this beach were unsuccessful. We were around the Community Center as you mention, so I guess we weren’t too far off. Something we will be trying to find next time.

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  2. C&D

    08. Feb, 2012

    We will definitely try to find the beach based on your excellent directions. It sounds amazing!!!

    Reply to this comment
  3. J &T

    17. Jul, 2012

    We were unable to get down to the beach itself-with all the rain it was pretty nonexistent anyway. We were able to take a trail that looks down on it from a few hundred feet above. The trail was tricky but well worth the climb. What an incredible view!

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  4. 1st time Hana Visitor

    02. Sep, 2012

    I almost gave up finding the trail myself. Here are some pointers from someone that’s never been here:

    Drive down Uakea Rd. until it dead ends at what I think is a parking lot for the hotel mentioned above – it’s just past the baseball diamond (on your right) and Hana School (on your left). Turn around and park where it’s legal to park nearest to that point.

    Walk back down Uakea Rd. and just before that dead end you reached above, you’ll see a grassy area with a yellow gate on the left (not sure if they ever shut the gate, it was open when I went). People might be camping in there, at least they were when I went. Don’t worry about them, just go into that area. Watch on your right hand side for a trail. You may need to poke around a bit. Head down there. Follow your intuition the rest of the way, down and along the shore into the bay where the beach is.

    If you have a GPS on your handheld, bring it with you and turn it on when you’re around the Hana School. You can track your way to match the map above. That’s how I figured this out.

    Don’t expect a nude beach haven – in the time I was there, one guy showed up and snorkeled in the buff. I was surprised to see so many people getting into the water fully clothed, never mind a bathing suit!

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  5. Red Sand Adventurer

    19. Apr, 2013

    I found this beach because a group of 5 were walking up the trail; if I hadnt seen other visitors, we would have never assumed the trail to be hidden here. But this is also a sign that this beach is becoming very populated; i passed at least 15 people on my trip to the red sand beach. Many of them touring families/groups; only 2 people were there to use the beach rather than sight see.

    The main trail currently goes over a pretty gross heap of rot; im not sure if it was intentional; or if the new trail just spawned where someone happened to dump a huge pile of palm tree/coconut waste. But the point is that nothing about the trail seems like you should walk it; its fairly well hidden and the trail is only visable when you look down the hill; Not from the road.

    If you are looking for a nudist beach; i think you might be out of luck. The beach seemed really touristy now; and i was guided by following the other groups of people who were exploring it.

    The current trail leads down to a regular beach, and at first i thought i had found the beach. But the current trail from the community center doesn’t lead to the beach; the land slide killed that trail (the trail still exists, but its toeing a VERY fine and SLIPPERY line and i only saw a local attempt it). Once down the hill, you have to go to the left of the beach you land at, and continue left over 3 lava rock walls (VERY slippery and can be dangerous, requires multiple jumps) But even crossing slippery coastal rocks next to crashing waves is STILL safer then taking the needle-thin trail that is asking for a 30 foot tumble. (again, this isnt the old trail; after erosion all that is left is a 3 inch dirt trail on a hill with a 50+ degree angle. dont take it).

    But this is just the new danger. once you climb up the last rock wall (when the red beach is in sight) the trail that brings you down to the red shore is the same. And thats still the tiny dangerous trail that the author stresses. It is indeed very dangerous; the adults on our trip decided to follow us as far as the last rock wall; but the climb up and down to the red shore is daunting to say the least.

    This shore is really magical; you get used to empty beaches on Maui because they are heavily beach combed; but on red sand beach there are still tons of shells and coral laying about; giving a good idea of how abundant cretaceous life should be without beach combers.

    Im a sucker for souvenirs myself; so instead of taking any of the shells or coral i took a bit of the red sand. People say that even sand is inadvisable to take; but since the red sand is replenishing from the overhanging red rocks; taking sand here has less of an impact than non replenishing sand colors; like black and green.

    So if you plan on going there; please just dont take and of the shells or coral. This beach is quickly becoming popular, and im guessing that the internet and google maps is to thank for the increase of activity here. But it truly is a sight to see a beach full of coral and shells unpicked by beach combers; so if you require a memento; take the sand, not the shells :P. (most people will still tell you not to take the sand. But Its a great way for me to remember my Hana trip without hurting the environment much; and TSA didnt care about my 1 cup of sand.)

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  6. Clayton

    19. Nov, 2013

    There’s more of a curse that follows around the sand being taken from the beach that it’s from.

    Maybe it doesn’t apply to you – but please send it back if you encounter any bad luck. That would be the only solution.

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  7. rosemary kincaid

    15. Jul, 2014

    We just returned from from Hana and had no trouble finding the red sand beach. We did take the trail down to the beach and then climbed the rocks to get to the final trail that leads up and then down to the beach & that didn’t look too scary; however, it was late and the tide was washing up on the beach so we just took pictures. We have been to Hawaii over 8 times and have made this beach every time. It is well worth it

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  8. Rane

    22. Aug, 2014

    Im going in September for my birthday and this looks amazingly beautiful, I will have to check this out as this trip it strickly for sight seeing and relaxtion.

    aloha, and mohalo

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