In a nutshell: Blowhole and scenic rugged coastline hike.
Minuses: If you’re not sure-footed parts of the trail can be challenging.
In Maui it has been customary to allow the careless free control over their destiny. But if you come from a place where they would put a barrier around dangers, then they would most definitely have one around the Nakalele Blowhole.
You’ll undoubtedly see visitors walk up to the blowhole and look in, or position loved ones very close while they try and snap that perfect picture. If you get too close to this you can be sucked in, and that’s the last anyone will ever see of you. It has happened here.
What also happens here are larger unexpected waves sweeping across the lava and pulling visitors into the ocean. Observe the waves for some time before walking down. Look for signs of water sweeping across the area and stay back from areas that are experiencing wave action.
If you’re looking at the map below, first thing you’ll notice are two parking areas with trails to the blowhole. If you’re less mobile or traveling with little ones, the closer area at the 38.5mm would probably be your best choice. This area is also overlooking the blowhole so those who prefer can view it from a distance without having to hike.
I’m going to describe Nakalele Point as it unfolds on a 1.25 mile hike (round-trip) from the other parking area (38mm.) As long as you’re able to hike though somewhat rough terrain, taking this route is actually better for seeing all the places listed below.
What’s a blowhole?
A blowhole is hole in the ground that connects to an underground, partially submerged ocean cave. The cave and opening are shaped in such a way that when the ocean rises or waves crash into it, a jet of water and air is violently forced out through the hole.
Dirt Bike/ATV Trails
Between the 38mm parking area and the light beacon is a maze of dirt bike and ATV trails. These trails were laid without a destination in mind, so just pick any trail that suits your mood and meander out toward the light beacon.
Light Beacon & Tidepools
GPS Coordinates: 21.028951,-156.590506
Light-what? Think of it as a lighthouse, only smaller and stripped of all charm and artistic value. (I can just see that slogan now on the travel brochures!) But what this beacon lacks in ambiance it makes up for in views. Stand on the concrete slab adjacent and you’ll also get a good view of the tidepools below. What you’ll also see is an old rickety ladder, precariously positioned on the cliff-edge, beckoning with the promise to deliver adventure. (At least that’s the way it looks to me…) As tempting as it may look, going down to this tidepool area (let alone on an old precariously positioned rickety ladder of questionable functionality), well…lets just say it is certainly not advisable.
As you continue on, the trail goes downhill for a short bit, and this is the likely going to be the strongest test of your sure-footedness. If you’re with a group (and especially kids who can’t resist the temptation to release kenetic energy) being at the back of the line here is key strategy for remaining upright throughout your descent. Once at the bottom you’ll begin to get some previews of the “Acid War Zone” and some more dramatic views of ocean and coast, along with another very nice tidepool, this one fed in part by a small blowhole of its own. (Don’t confuse this with the main attraction!)
Acid War Zone
GPS Coordinates: 21.027820,-156.589235
The fantastic name of “Acid War Zone” has been coined for an area between the light beacon and the Nakalele Blowhole. It is a sight that is definitely impressive and worth checking out when you find yourself out here for the blowhole. As the name aptly describes, it is a barren landscape where boulders have been severely pock-marked, sculpted, perched precariously, and otherwise dramatically eroded by countless years of salt water spray.
(38.5 mm) Nakalele Blowhole
GPS Coordinates: 21.027013,-156.588559
The prime attraction of the Nakalele Point is, of course, the blowhole. A blowhole’s effect is much like that of a geyser: a hole in the ground with a jet of water shooting periodically into the air. (See sidebar for technical description & safety.) This blowhole is large enough to accommodate a manhole cover and is powerful enough to easily blast it high in the air – especially during high surf and tides. (tide forecast) Some jets can approach 50+ feet and if you’re close enough you can feel the ground tremble beneath your feet as water is blasted skywards. Now, I know no one likes safety lectures – but I have never once been here without seeing several people do incredibly stupid things. I figure it is because they don’t know the safety info above and/or figure some governmental authority is looking out for their safety (just for the record, they’re not.)
View West Maui’s North Shore Sights in a larger map