Wai’anapanapa State Park – Maui, Hawaii
One of the most popular and famous stops on the Road to Hana is the black sand beaches of Wai’anapanapa State Park. One change to this park in the post-pandemic era is the requirement to have a reservation (non-residents only) to enter the park which can be a big downer if you did not know that ahead of time as they are not accepting same day reservations. Reservations can be made 14 days in advance and the parking fee per vehicle is $10 (non-residents only). The reservation slots are in three hours windows so if you want multiple time slots, it will require multiple reservations. And trust me, it is every bit worth the extra step.
I made our reservation for 3-6PM since I knew it would take several hours to reach Kipahulu District and then several hours at Kipahulu District itself so it felt like a safe bet to pick the final slot of the day. We ended up arriving around 2:00PM and we were permitted into the park to a fairly empty parking lot.
There is a trail – roughly 3 miles long – that leads guests around the different sites at the park. We were so excited to see the black sand beach so we started the descent down the stairs to see them. I was surprised to discover that it is actually not sand at all but tiny pebbles.
The landscape reminded us of a previous stop earlier in the day at Ke’anae – there was the bright crystal blue water, the white foam that crashed into the black lava rock, and then the green from the vegetation. And the waves were big and aggressive, constantly crashing into the tall rocks creating loud cracks and a mist that mimicked a constant rain.
We crossed the beach and made our way up the rock trail which led to the top of the lava rock. This area gives such a phenomenal view of the enter coast line, constantly slamming into the rock. We watched many people walk up to the edge and get soaked by an unassuming wave. This ocean means business!
I was reminded of our Galapagos trip – it had a similar landscape with the lava rock and bright blue water with vivid green plants. I set up my Tripod for a few photos and a time lapse of all the waves.
We stepped far away from the ledge by the plants as another couple made the journey to the edge. We heard the loudest crash, and in slow motion witnessed the massive wave that somehow made it over the rock… there was no way it would hit us but those poor people… we were so far from the edge. But then Kevin exclaimed – it’s going to hit. And hit it did. I was standing so I turned around so my back was to the wave and Kevin was sitting so he tucked down. I was SOAKED. I could not believe it – I am not exaggerating at all when I say we were not at all close to the edge – we were by the plants – and how wet I was. I could not believe it and of course, a wave like that never happened again.
As the tide continued to come in, I could see our black beach that we crossed before was losing passable beach so we timed a “run” to be able to cross without getting hit by a wave.
While there is a designated blowhole, the waves were so crazy that every crash into the rock created a blowhole size eruption of water! We made our way over there to witness the waves – keeping a very far distance. At one point, the midst was so strong, we never noticed it actually started raining! Since I no longer leave the car without the rain jackets, we were good to go – even thought I was still soaked. The few remaining people in the park rushed to their cars and we had the park completely to ourselves.
After a few minutes of rain, the sun reappeared as a rainbow struggled to reveal itself.
Unfortunately the portion that leads to the Anchialine Pool Caves is gone and has not been recovered yet so keep an eye on that status because this part sounds amazing!
I cannot imagine what this park is like on a normal day – we had it completely to ourselves! This was one of our favorite stops on Road to Hana so it is definitely a must stop on your drive.