Red Sand Beach

Red Sand Beach, or Kaihalulu Beach in Hawaiian, a dramatic and beautiful hidden cove in any language!

Rating: ★★★★½

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?”

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.

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.

View from the trail as you approach the cove.

View from the trail as you approach the cove. (and no, it is not photoshopped…)

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.”

Host Culture

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.

Red Sand Beach trail

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

  1. Just looking to update the comment feed as it appears to have only been commented last in January of 2022. So here it goes.

    I agree with all the above comments about risk vs reward when visiting the Red Sand Beach. It is definitely a risky trek with an amazing view! Should you take the right steps to ensure you are safe while doing so!…. Now, with the trail residing on the side of an old cinder cone makes the trek interesting as there is pebble like granules scattered across the trail which increase with erosion, limiting traction and grip, making every step risky. So ask yourself is it worth it?

    Now here in lies my biggest issue. Due to the high risk and danger of the trail, there is now an organization that has attempted to stop people from accessing the trail (from my impression) as they have placed a pop up tent directly across the trail head. Now talking with other people that were visit the site, they stated they are just protesters which is not correct and I’ll explain why later. However the interaction with the individual at the tent was not pleasant as he came across as just plain rude. He had no explanations as to why the trail was “closed” and would not provide any information as to why. He neglected to explain the terrain risk and simply stated “ this is private land, you are trespassing” when no signage was posted. Due to his blatant rudeness this statement seems fictional. As we were wearing great footwear, being relatively outdoorsy people along with avid hikers, we forged on. As we were walking along the trail, we encountered all the risks everyone has explained thus far in the thread. However we also encounter another individual who asked
    “Did you talk to my colleague at the top?”
    We stated “Yes we did”.
    He then went on to rant and state “ You still didn’t listen? You tourists just don’t get it.”
    As he walks past us holding the same yellow organizational shirt, soaking wet from his afternoon swim at Red Sand Beach with wet flip flops on, climbing the same extremely dangerous/treacherous trail.
    However we were extremely careful and made it to the beach and took in the magnificent view to say the least.

    Hiking back we again were extremely careful due to the granules and nuts/seeds covering the trail. We make it back to the trail head and the individual we encountered at the start was no longer sitting there, it was his colleague we passed on the trail. No words were exchanged. As we made our way back to our car the first young man was walking near the community center back toward the trail head/ tent area. My wife and I made it back to the car and just out of the interest of safety I kicked at the tires to check them before we left the area and they were fine. We continued our drive toward our next stop along the Hana highway. As we were driving along, all of a sudden a low tire pressure warning light came on. We pulled off when next safe to do so and check the problem tire. Nothing obvious as it was mildly soft but obviously starting to deflate. With checking the tire more closely, I noticed that the valve stem cover was not on properly and when I took it off there is a small pebble inside the cover as if it had been place in there to slowly drain the tire! My first thought was the guy from the trail head. As he clearly stated, after I said “have a nice day”. He had replied with “I hope you have a bad rest of your day.” We were however fortunate enough to have a few local people come to our aid and informed us that most newer vehicles/rental cars have a tire pump for the spare/ incase of situations of low tire pressure. As luck would have it the locals that helped us were from the exact same yellow shirt organization as the two fellows we encountered previously at Red Sand Beach trail head, with the exception of them being extremely kind and helpful as well as informative. They explained to us the risks with the trail of Red Sand beach and that there had been an increase of injuries over the past couple of years due to trail conditions. With theirassistance we were able to get back on the road and back to having an amazing day.

    To summarize be very careful if attempting this trail to the beach, don’t take it lightly or for granted as complacency can have big irreversible consequences. However if you do go, please be very careful and ensure you have good footwear with grip. Also please check your vehicle as there are some not so friendly people and apparently they will go to the extreme of putting people at risk by deflating tires in a very discrete way. Which to me seems counter intuitive as they represent an organization which (from our pleasant encounter while inflating our tire) promotes safety of all travellers by providing them with information along certain stops on the road to Hana to help make Hana Highway safer for travellers and for locals to drive/ visit the sites. The actions of the two young men sitting at the tent booth at Red Sand Beach trail head therefore very much juxtaposes the organizations main purpose by endangering those that travel the highway just doesn’t make sense to me. From our time here on the island there is one thing that seems to resonate with us and that is always leaving with Aloha (with love)

    So to end this comment please be very careful and stay safe out there. With Aloha and Mahalo.

    • Coach says:

      I find it interesting the locals say this is private property and to keep out, but when you arrive at the beach it is full of people, many of them obviously locals.

  2. Caroline L says:

    Extremely narrow and dangerous. I fell on this trail back in 2016 and slid down the edge of the the hill, falling off the cliff and landing on the shore. In total about 23 feet. Luckily grabbed a branch on my way down, slowing my fall, and escaped with only a broken foot and some cuts and bruises. Trail is slick sand/gravel. Signs on the way in tell you that it is private property and to proceed at your own risk. LISTEN! I had to be carried out by firemen, who struggled to not slip themselves while carrying me in a rescue basket. Come to find out this has happened to many others as well.

    Also – the closest hospital is 2 hours away, and the local medical center/clinic, while they gave me amazing care, are simply not equipped to treat severe traumas.

  3. No ethical Hana resident will give tourists directions to Kaihalulu. The original trail washed out years ago, leaving only a tentative path that is covered in volcanic scree and dangerously close to the cliff. Every year tourists are injured or killed attempting to get there, putting our first responders at risk. The most recent injury was to a 10 year old who had to be rescued by helicopter and flown to Kahului. The commentators here who minimize the risk are not doing anyone any favors.

  4. We did the Road to Hana drive last month using an App that mentioned the Red Sand beach as one of the stops. The App mentioned the trail to get there was tricky and not recommended for children and elderly. It however did not mention, what we know now, that police and Fire Depts have had too many issues with injuries and deaths in that trail. It also did not mention that the original trail had been partially erased by a landslide, and a new narrow and more dangerous trail has replaced it. But, we had not researched this specific beach before the trip, so we were unaware of these facts.
    We asked about it to a few people returning from the trail and they said just to be careful. In spite of posted warning signs indicating that it was dangerous, but based on people responses and seeing other people going for it, we went ahead. It was fine at the beginning, but about halfway into the trail we encountered the narrow, slippery and really dangerous part. I had a terrifying experience, to say the least! Really feared for my life! I don’t think I had the right shoes, as I was slipping a lot, holding on to whatever grass or root I could hold on to and praying all the way. I am not a hiker, so had I known what I know now I would have chosen a different way to get to the red sand beach, or not go at all, but definitely not this dangerous trail.

    • This is the problem with people that ruins it for others. Trails are closing all the time because tourists are not using common sense and are going places they shouldn’t be and not doing any research.

    • Dinara says:

      Thank you for this honest review. Honestly, you just saved us a whole trip.

  5. BE CAREFUL!!!! My husband, daughter and I all went to the Red Sand beach today and on our way we saw a sweet family making their way back around one of the sharp turns. I was letting the grandma pass me and then all the sudden the ground came out from under her and she FELL – 40-50 feet onto rock, we all ran to her rescue and called 911. Here’s the miracle, SHE SURVIVED, she got up and walked. It was the most surreal moment. This trail is not for children or older folks. Please take EXTREME CAUTION I’d you decide to embark on this journey.

    • I would say that statement is too general. I did the trail when I was in my 60s and had no problem. I am not saying it that there is no danger (what makes it challenging and exciting) , but if one is in relative good physical shape and uses caution it can go just fine. I loved it and would do it again. Of course, getting to the red beach is the reward that makes it all work the hike.

      • I’m 68, in reasonably good shape, and thoroughly enjoyed the trail. It was a little scarey at times, but as long was you wear shoes (not sandels), hug the cliff side, take your time, and don’t do anything stupid, it’s very doable. I did see two people doing things I considered stupid, one was on the far side of the Red Sand beach climbing a rock and bridging a decent size gap to the next rock, but seemed to manage.

  6. Kate says:

    Hello, can you get to the beach following the coast line?
    Thank you.

  7. Ano ‘ai malahini, please understand this sacred beach is discouraged to visit by the local community, the trail is dangerous people have been seriously injured attempting it. But many malahini (visitors) who visit these places leave them altered. If you do find this hidden trail and decide to attempt it please go with humbleness for the significance of this place to the Hawaiian community and leave it as you find it or better, take nothing but pictures and memories. Kaihalulu does not mean “roaring ocean” or anything, kai= ocean/ Ha= breath of life/ lulu= calm, you can figure the meaning

    • All very good points. I also like what your translation adds to my understanding! I did not define this myself, my cultural source when I originally wrote this article had explained the definition as I defined it, and I just double checked looking in the dictionary both lulu and halulu. Halulu means: “To roar, thunder; roar explosion, loud noise, racket. (Isa. 5.30.) Leo halulu, deep voice. hoʻo.halulu Same as above; to produce a roaring noise. (PCP (f,s)alulu.)” – but (as I’m sure you know) Hawaiian language is so beautifully nuanced with sounds that have double (or more) meanings, it sure does seem likely that this could be the case for this special place! If you are interested in discussing so that I might understand better your knowledge, I invite you to email me. Just put a mark@ in front of this website domain name to get a hold of me 🙂

  8. The trail is currently very easy to locate. There were 30-40 people at the beach when we were there. The cinder and pine needles on the trail, especially around the area of the last pic in this post, are loose and can be slippery so take your time.

    Make sure you’re parked 100% legally! The guide we were using indicated that citations are plentiful in the area for infractions such as parking left wheel to curb. We saw a car with a citation for having the front 2 feet of the car past a No Parking sign.

    • That is very true we had almost the same experience when we went there.

  9. rhonda says:

    We went and it was worth it .. but i’m terrified of heights and the hike there was very scary for me. Being on the edge of the cliff. But once we got there i was so glad we found it. It’s definately someplace you won’t find on accident or see any signs for … you have to research where it is. Finding parking is another fun challenge.

    • Jessica says:

      We are going in July. Red Sand Beach will be our first stop. Can you give me some pointers about where to park? Where did you end up parking? Also anything in particular to look for to find the trail?

  10. Cristina says:

    In dry weather, not a bad hike. We took kids ages 10, 8, 3 with us, but they are hikers and follow instructions. I slupped a couple times but caught myself. Not too bad. Worth the hike, be careful and good shoes. A bit more dangerous in the rain.

  11. So this hike is really not that bad, we did it today and I’m 5 months pregnant. I recommend putting your beach wear in a backpack, wearing good shoes (no sandals or flip flops) and get out of the way when others are coming and you have more room. Just pay attention to your feet and those around you, hang on and take it as slow as you need. I don’t recommend taking young kids because it is right by a drop off and can be slippery. If you’re physically capable to get here, this spot is beautiful and highly recommended. Good luck, be safe!

  12. I just came back from visiting the Red Sand Beach. First of all let me just start off by stating it is not as dangerous as people have made it out to be. I would not wear flip flops, do the trail under the influence of drugs or alcohol , or do it after it just rained. As long as you are healthy and you pay attention to where you are stepping then you can do this trail.

    • For fit, sure-footed people accustomed to hiking non-maintained trails this is a fairly accurate comment. However it must be said that there are several significant injuries and rescues from this location every year. The trail can be quite slippery in places, and people can and do lose footing and fall off the cliffside. The most recent fall wasn’t less than two weeks ago, requiring a helicopter to bring the injured party to the hospital.

  13. Robert says:

    Nice beach. But to many families and people just coming to check red sand beach off their tour bucket list of Maui. No nude to many kids and families . WAste of time to get naked on a beach . Will try another beach .

    • Nudist says:

      It is in fact a nude beach. The dumb prude families can deal with the jarring reality that everyone is nude since birth under their expensive threads and fashion.

  14. Lynne says:

    The most dangerous part of this trail was the other hikers. Other people can be inconsiderate so be careful and aware of your surroundings when making your way to the Red Sand Beach. It is truly beautiful and be sure to stop and appreciate the views!

    Thank you for all the info in this post! It helped me locate it with no troubles.

  15. francisco says:

    it seems so interesting. im 58 years old but with manageable body and energy. do you think i can make it? are there no tourist guide for this trip? i hope i can get an answer at once since we are planning in about two days to go to red beach sand… thank you! wink

  16. One thing that was not mentioned is the full nudity when i visited February 2016. Many topless females but more bottomless males doing snorkling and swimming. We did not mind but wanted to add a word of caution to those that may not be aware. Ratio was 50/50 for nudity to clothed. Trail was not as extreme as mentioned but must be cautious.

  17. Beach User says:

    Just went this past week. I would say the trail is pretty well defined now as mentioned above. The instructions above are perfect for finding the beach. Park on the side of the road along the community centre as there are no parking signs on the opposite side.

    Look in the trees along the right side of the community centre for a well defined trail. There are signs indicating they are not responsible for any liability. Futher down the trail, there is a warning about the upper trail that was damaged as described above. Instead hike down to the bottom and onto the beach. Climb back up and over the crest (this part is the slippery part) and you will see the beach and the cove around the corner.

    I wouldn’t say the hike is particular dangerous, I’ve had much more dangerous situations hiking, but there are areas where you can get into trouble if the ground is wet or you lose your footing wearing flip flops.

  18. 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

  19. rosemary kincaid says:

    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

  20. 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.

  21. Red Sand Adventurer says:

    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.)

    • Jalipio says:

      You are a greedy idiot, all about yourself. Don’t you people listen to Clayton or anyone that’s lived here for years and know that you are being advised not to do something that could bring you bad luck and to respect the land, but then again you take it upon yourself to do it and act as though this beach was meant for only you and not anyone else! Good luck to you,I dare you to take a lava rock!

      • Leave no trace! Do not take or leave anything! You sound like the type that ruins all of these special places for us locals that have lived here our whole lives.

    • Caroline Huang says:

      Shame on you!!

      This is a sacred site to the Hawaiian people. Do not take ANTHING!

  22. 1st time Hana Visitor says:

    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!

    • Randall Douglas says:

      Must be that Baptists are taking over. Why can’t the fully clad go elsewhere.

  23. 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!

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

  25. 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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