Beaches of Hana: Black Sand Beach, Red Sand Beach, World Class


The east side of Maui has character, but does it have beaches, visitors ask?

East Maui is where you come to experience old Hawaii and nature’s glory. Rough conditions along the windward side of the island often preclude swimming, but that doesn’t mean you can’t explore the shoreline of the Hana region and appreciate all that it has to offer. East Maui doesn’t have the abundance of sand in all the beaches that South and West Maui boast, but it has something special — beaches of black, red, and gold sand all within a few miles of Hana.

So don’t turn around once you get to Hana. Visit Hana and beyond and you will find black lava sands, red sands, a surfing paradise and a beach that consistently ranks as a top 10 in the United States just a few miles beyond Hana. Not bad for a little jungle area!

Pa‘iloa Beach (Black Sand Beach)

View of black sand beach swimming area from a coastal trail

The black sand beach at Wai‘anapanapa State Park is the most popular in Hana, and despite requiring a reservation and entrance fee as of 2021, is still worth the visit if you want to swim at a black sand beach. Other black sand beaches on the east side of Maui are rather rugged and unsuitable for swimming.

Kaihalulu Beach (Red Sand Beach)

Kaihalulu Beach beyond the protective rocks

Red Sand Beach is a beautiful little cove that requires a little walk along the steep coastal cliff to access. While it is relatively private and can sometimes be a nude beach, I find that most people make the walk, take a few photos, and leave.

Make sure you are feeling up to the task of walking to Red Sand Beach. The path is not too far but there are rock slides, slippery scree slopes, sheer drop-offs, and a rocky ocean below. If you are unsure of your footing or have mobility issues, then skip this one.

Keep in mind that should you decide to risk the walk to Red Sand Beach and end up hurting yourself, a lawsuit would result in Red Sand Beach being closed to all visitors — resident or tourist. So assume all responsibility for your actions, please. Visitor access to Red Sand Beach is already on shaky ground and can be revoked at any moment, so please, act responsibly and respect all “No Trespassing” signs.

Now that the safety issues and liability talk has concluded, should you feel you meet the criteria to visit Red Sand Beach, you are in for a treat, nude beach day or not.

Getting to the Red Sand Beach: Directions and Hazards

Do you need reservations for red sand beach Maui?

There is no reservation system or access fee needed to go to the Red Sand Beach on Maui, but keep in mind that you will be walking on private land to access the beach, so be respectful of their private property.

To find the trail for Red Sand Beach, find the legal parking area on Uakea Road beside by the ballpark (park legally in the right direction, please) and walk toward an open grass field next to the community center. Yes, it seems odd. Walk across the grass field, while looking at the bushes on your right for a couple of narrow trails.

Wade through waist-high grass and you will pop out at a small dirt trail that scrambles down the roots of a tree. The footing on this trail can be slippery, so wear some closed-toe shoes or just go in your bare feet. Don’t trust sandals or flip flops.

View from the path to Red Sand Beach (Kaihalulu Beach)

The narrow trail continues to the left up and over a bluff, so be aware of possible landslides and debris on the trail. When you reach the top of the bluff, you will see your first photo-op of the massive cove.

Almost there! From here you are a one-minute walk away from the red shoreline.

Kaihalulu Beach (red sand beach) in Maui, HI

This hidden cove nestled in the mountainside offers decent swimming and a protected sandy beach the color of cedar wood. Beautiful even on a cloudy day.

I like to eat at the Thai place just up the street. You pass it on the way to the beach.

Stop for lunch at “Thai Food by Pranee”, a block or two back on Uakea road.

Amenities: none.

Good for: swimming; sunbathing in the nude; taking photos.

World-Class Beaches in East Maui?

To reach Hana’s two famous beaches, travel 1.5 miles past the center of Hana town (the landmark is the Hana Ballpark) and then make a left on Haneo’o Road towards the coast (obviously). Going downhill, the first beach you will see is Koki Beach, a cool little hangout of local surfers. You’ll see all the cars and trucks parked along the roadside.

Koki Beach: Surfer Central

Koki Beach is just past (south of) Hana town and is definitely worth a visit, especially if you like to play in the waves

I love Koki Beach, and so do a lot of other people as this is one of Hana’s most popular beach spots and is just 2 miles beyond Hana town. It feels like a California beach, with tons of surfers and enough space to sit and relax and watch the kids play in the surf.

Thanks to its location on the east side, rip currents can be strong. Luckily for surfers but detrimental to swimmers, the water on most days is choppy and wavy, so be careful if you go into the water.

If you want a calmer beach, go there in the morning; Koki gets windy during the afternoon.

Hint: If the tide is low and you want some space, go left on the beach and walk over some rocks to reach some “hidden” sections of sand. These sandy areas disappear when the tide returns, so most people who make a day of it choose the main beach area.

The dark-red sand is a product of a cinder cone known as Ka Iwi O Pele (“the bones of Pele”). According to legend, Pele, the volcano goddess, met her mortal end here. Her bones were stacked high on the shoreline before her spirit traveled southeast to the Big Island. The Koki shoreline was hard hit during the tsunami of 1946.

Amenities: none.

Best for: surfing, taking photos, chillaxing.

Hamoa Beach: World Class Beach in East Maui Beyond Hana

Hamoa Beach, Maui. World class beach 2 miles south of Hana town

Once you leave Koki Beach, continue driving around the Haneo’o Road parallel to the ocean. On clear days, look across the ocean and you might glimpse the snowcapped peak of Mauna Kea on the Big Island. At low tide you can also see the remnants of the ancient Haneo’o Fishpond (don’t try to access it, the fishpond is on private land). As the road rounds to the right, you will have arrived at one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (according to Mark Twain) — Hamoa Beach.

Your next adventure is to find parking on this narrow road. No matter where anybody else decided to illegally park, park only on the right side of the road so that traffic flows smoothly on the left. Don’t stress if you need to drive past the beach before you can find a space. Once parked, the rest is easy. Walk to the beach down the stone stairway.

Some people claim this beach is private — it is not. The park area at the bottom of the stairs is property of the Travaasa Hana hotel, yes, but the sandy beach itself is public property and open to everyone.

Welcome to Hamoa! This is the best spot in Hana for a relaxing day at the beach. There is plenty of soft sand, plenty of room to spread out, and a gorgeous view to feed the soul. If you are looking for an activity, on the calmest of days you can snorkel along the rocky coastline, and on wavy days, why not do some bodysurfing on the shorebreak? Hamoa has one of the best surf breaks in the area.

The beach can be crowded as it is a popular spot published in world magazines, yet it retains its healing virtues.

As the wind picks up in the afternoons on this side of the island, if you want to go swimming then aim to be here for early morning and late afternoon.

When we go there early in the morning, hardly anyone is there. You might see a few couples walking along the sand and living their hobby of “long walks on the beach” for once.

Where: Hamoa is half a mile past Koki Beach on Haneo’o Loop Road, 2 miles south of Hana town.

Amenities: toilets.

Best for: surfing; swimming; reading a book.

Other things to do in East Maui:

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I like to share my travel experiences and save others some time, money, and effort in planning their own adventures.

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