The Ke’anae peninsula is a protrusion of lava rock found off the Road to Hana, so it has a rugged shoreline fit for exploring but not for swimming. And it is windy there, so keep that in mind. I like to walk the beach in early morning before it gets busy (it doesn’t get that busy) but moreso to scoop up any fresh coconuts that wash up between the rocks on the shore and have survived the waves crashing on the surf.
To get here, turn off the highway at the 16.6 mile marker. The peninsula itself is a patchwork of irrigated green taro fields, growing in soil that was purportedly imported one basket at a time by a chief who demanded the villagers turn the volcanic peninsula into arable land.
Most people come here and take photos of the taro fields, and watch the powerful surf crash onto the rugged, volcanic shoreline. Like I said, there aren’t any beaches on the Ke’anae Peninsula, although you’ll often encounter locals fishing.
The main sight is Lanakila ‘Ihi’ihi O Lehowa o Na Kaua Congregational Church, constructed
in 1860. The church sits right next to a softball field against the dramatic backdrop of the Ke’anae Valley. It was the only building on the peninsula to survive the devastating tsunami of 1946, which claimed the lives of several people.
While you’re down here, a popular stop is Aunty Sandy’s for some banana bread. You can’t miss it.
• Mile Marker 17: Ke’anae Overlook
• Mile Marker 17.3: Halfway to Hana store and ATM
• Mile Marker 18: Turnoff for Wailua village and Uncle Harry’s food stand
Before you get to Hana, consider taking a break at the Ke’anae and stretch your legs at the Ke’anae Arboretum. It is beautiful, free, and not busy!
If you want to feel the wind in your hair and feel your hair in your face, drive a little more down the road to the turn off into the Keanae Peninsula. This local destination offers amazing views not just of the sea side but also of the east side of Maui’s Haleakala National Park and its massive mountainside.
Visitors can find plenty to do here if they like taking photos and admiring nature’s beauty. There are a few great vantage points from which to check out the black lava beach for great photo opportunities.
- Another plus after driving the Road to Hana: there are public washrooms here and plenty of parking.
- Easy access to the viewing areas of the beach for people who have mobility issues. No swimming, though.
Wailua: Bonus View of Waikani Falls
While Ke’anae has more tourist draws, the adjacent peninsula of Wailua at mile marker 18 rarely sees any visitors, so if you feel drawn to experiencing the real Hawaiian lifestyle, stop by for a visit.
This is one of the few spots on the island where native Hawaiians continue to live like their ancestors: the real Hawaii. A benefit of venturing down this road is that you are greeted with a view of Lower Waikani Falls that is not seen from anywhere on the main road. To see the view and take a photo that most others won’t have, just follow the main, paved road all the way to the end. You will spot the falls tumbling down the distant hillside.
The view of the falls is only a five-minute diversion. I recommend a drive down into Wailua to see for yourself an authentic Hawaiian fishing village.
Wailua Valley State Wayside Park: Finding a Secret View Overlooking Ke’anae
But wait, there’s more!
For a true lookout view of the Ke’anae peninsula from above, visit the Wailua Valley State Wayside Park just up the road.
Travel less than a mile (0.7 miles) from the Wailua turnoff and you will find a small parking area for Wailua Valley State Wayside Park. This unassuming dirt hunting road extends down into the valley and it also leads to a “secret” overlook offering panoramic coastal views of the valley and the Ke’anae peninsula.
I recommend going here because many visitors drive right past it — the overlook is not visible from the road; you need to stop in the designated parking area and look to your right for a hidden set of stairs. Follow the stairs to the top, and you’ll be rewarded with a quiet panoramic view from the real Ke’anae Overlook.
This is a good spot to stretch your legs and get a photo that not too many others will have… which is what it’s all about, amirite?