Honolua Bay

Last updated 09. Oct, 2010 by in Beaches | West Maui, Snorkeling, West Maui, West Maui Beaches

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Honolua Bay, view towards beach

Honolua Bay, view towards beach

Rating: ★★★★☆

In a nutshell: Honolua Bay is a spectacular place to snorkel or dive, if you know where to go.
Minuses: Beach uses are mediocre.
Sound-bite: “Honey, your back is really red…”

DETAILS:
Honolua Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District, so there is no fishing (or taking of any natural resources, including marine life and even rocks.) We could take a lesson from the early Hawaiians, who were superb stewards of the land and carefully managed all of their important fishing grounds – including this area – in order to protect the abundant natural resources for future generations. The bay has been been recognized as an area of significant cultural, historical, and environmental value by present day Hawaii as well.

Honolua means “two harbors” in Hawaiian, and this bay was historically used by Honolua Ranch to receive supplies and ship products.

The primary draw here today is snorkeling and surfing; you’re always guaranteed to see lots of fish, turtles and coral as long as you’re willing to swim out a bit from the beach.

Okay, now some caveats (but stick with me here, and don’t bail out without reading through.) The beach is very rocky, and between a sometimes stagnant stream inlet to the ocean, and a rural/agricultural property right at the beach where farm animals are kept (think odors) it is not the kind of beach that you go to to lay out and sun yourself. The water is also very murky at the shoreline, so you need to swim a bit out for good visibility – combined with parking that is further away than many other snorkel locations – Honolua Bay isn’t a “drive-by” snorkel.

BUT the bay here is huge, and the visibility improves greatly further form the beach. Add the fact that it is a reserve where taking of fish is prohibited; the place is teeming with life – so there are abundant snorkeling and SCUBA opportunities for all levels if you’re interested in investing a couple of hours into fully enjoying what Honolua Bay has to offer.

Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay

The best areas to snorkel at Honolua are further from the beach. That said, the west (left-hand) side is the best for snorkeling, follow the rocky shoreline all the way out and around Kalaepiha Point (see map below.) Diving is best on the east side which is deeper and contains many interesting coral formations.

In winter months storms bring excellent surf to Honolua – among one of the best surf breaks on Maui (and thus the world.) Needless to say, when swells come in surfers flock here in droves. There is an overlook on the east cliff where you can pull up to watch the action. Snorkeling & diving are to be avoided in such surf conditions.

When you get to Honolua Bay:
Parking can be tough because it is limited to a few turnouts around the area. On the Google Map below, I placed the marker at what should be your first preference to park, the set of cars just on the other side of the bend there is also just as good. There is a well-marked path through a nice jungly area down to the bay from both of these areas.

It should also be noted that the parking areas around these parts are favorites for smash-and-grab break-ins. As is suggested for all locations that are popular with visitors, always take your valuables with you and leave your car unlocked so the dirtbags don’t have to break the glass to find out you outsmarted ‘em.

Tips:
- At the beach you’ll see a DNLR sign at the start of a cement boat ramp that enters the bay. The sign is a must-read as it gives some great info you can use here, and at other snorkeling spots.
- The boat ramp is the easiest way to enter the water for snorkeling and SCUBA as well.

Key Info:
Mile Marker: #32 (Honoapi’ilani Hwy aka Hwy 30)
GPS Coordinates: 21.011896,-156.636854
Facilities: No facilities/no lifeguards
Get directions


View Honolua Bay in a larger map

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4 Responses to “Honolua Bay”

  1. Sharon Newhardt

    26. Sep, 2010

    The reason for the “Honey, your back is really red” sound bite is because sunscreen is prohibited anywhere in the marine reserve. Make sure you have a rash guard or a shirt to throw on while you are snorkeling here!!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Mark

    15. Oct, 2010

    Thanks for the comment Sharron – the suggestion to limit sunscreen use is definitely a good idea. Many visitors lather up with waaaay more sunscreen than is needed – and the only difference between a very, very, very thin layer of sunscreen and the thicker amount of sunscreen commonly applied by most people is wasted sunscreen. The sunscreen just above that thin layer on your skin washes right off as soon as you get in the water, releasing chemicals that are destructive to marine life.

    All sunscreen washes off – even waterproof stuff. Best bet for melanin-challenged snorkelers is to wear a t-shirt or rash guard.

    Now, all that said, the use of sunscreen is not actually prohibited anywhere in Maui to my knowledge. But please be responsible when you use it! (Another tip to keeping sunscreen out of the water is to apply well before entering the water. )

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  3. Mella

    13. Nov, 2010

    Hi Mark, I was wondering about Honolua Bay… we stopped by the other day and were really surprised to find a sort of angry guy and all his signs (and cars and stuff and garden) sort of standing guard. He had a donation box encouraging tips to keep Honolua Bay “free”. We’ve also learned about a not-for-profit group, working to keep the land protected from developers and private enterprise…

    Do you have any additional info along these lines? When did all of this happen? It was one of our favorite spots, six years ago; what happened!?

    Reply to this comment
    • Mark

      14. Nov, 2010

      Aloha Mella –

      There has been a group protecting the bay from development for many years now, but this one guy on his own is probably new. Was he aggressive, or was it just unsettling the way it appeared that he was on public property that you had every right to go to without being hassled? Native Hawaiian groups are small, and sadly they’re fairly unorganized – so one passionate person can go out and do what he thinks is right, and often no one will bother him. I’ve seen small groups take over public places for a time – it can sometimes cause shutdowns. I recall the Iolani Palace on Oahu was taken over in 2008 for a short time….hard to imagine coming from the mainland, but as I recall it, a Native Hawaiian group just came in one day, peacefully, told people to leave and locked the gate and proclaimed that they were taking back the palace and would be ruling the Hawaiian Kingdom from there! On the mainland this kind of thing ends in armed conflict with law enforcement. I don’t recall how it was resolved here, but I don’t think anyone was hurt, or even prosecuted.

      It is kind of like the Native Americans on the mainland, except much of the society here has not been fully Westernized or forgotten that the land here really belongs to the Hawaiians – vast tracts of land are still disputed property of the Hawaiian people. As much as American History books would lead us to all believe that Hawaii becoming a territory and then state was a peaceful thing, the fact is that this land was taken by force and deception over a period of may years, and most Hawaiians lost a way of life that many would still like to retain. Now places like Honolua Bay – which was a very important fishing grounds for the Native Hawaiians, are being degraded year after year by the impacts of tourism, environment and development. Many people (not just Hawaiians) are very upset about that, and some of them take it upon themselves to stand there and try and get that known to visitors, because they think that will help get their voices herd.

      Unfortunately, they usually do a poor job with communication to visitors, and they just upset people in a way that does not help their cause.

      So, seems like I have written a novel in response, but I think that is what you saw?

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