Waianapanapa State Park, located just off the Hana Highway on the outskirts of Hana, is very unique indeed. Comprised of 120 tropical acres, it has many a sight to see. A seabird colony, natural stone arches, sea stacks; ancient lava caves, hidden blowholes, anchialine pools and panoramic vistas. The proper Hawaiian spelling is Wai’anapanapa which literally means “glistening water”. When you see those illuminated waters on a sunny day, you’re sure to notice how striking they are in contrast to the pitch black basalt rocks —and of course the black sand beach. You will be in complete awe.
Waianapanapa & A Black Sand Beach
Waianapanapa State Park boasts a black sand beach that’s simply unparalleled on the island of Maui, or anywhere else for that matter. It’s nestled in a private cove… the pitch black granules glisten, dark and mysterious — there is something about it that draws people here. Created long, long ago by the rough surf pounding on a fresh, bubbling lava flow, courtesy of Haleakela. It took a millennia or more to be ground down into a beach. Today, it’s a perfect spot for tanning, dipping your feet in to cool off (black sand is considerably hotter than white sand is) and taking a few photos!
Really though, it’s not just a black sand beach, it’s also a historically significant area for the Hawaiians. Their heartbroken Queen once took refuge in a sea cave here and legends were born. One might say it’s a sacred place. Perhaps that’s because there are numerous impressive, naturally-formed structures that simply overwhelm the senses. A striking coastline, mysterious caves, unpredictable blowholes and picturesque sea arches are the backdrop. If you stay a little while, surely your mind will wander (which is exactly what it’s supposed to do on vacation) as our guides “talk story” about Hawaiian lore and legends. Let us transport you back to “kahiko” (ancient) times. Stories of love, duty, family, war, peace, joy and their daily struggles for survival in Hawaiian culture. It was a time of living simpler and more “aware” than we do today. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime experience that is not to be missed!
stories about Hawaiian culture and history made the trip fun
Wanda and Jennifer
We stopped at many places we were sure we wouldn’t have found ourselves!
Bob & Pat S.
knowledge of every turn in the road, bridge, mountain, waterfall, plants, trees, animals and everything one would need to know about Maui
These peaceful, respectful tributes to those who lived before us are scattered across Maui and the Hawaiian islands. Many are japanese-style burial grounds and are viewed as a testimony to the long history of Japanese cultural influence in the islands. Minimalist in nature, simple stones mark the graves and islanders cherish these sacred places. You will notice that they are kept immaculate, out of respect. Should you visit one, please, do not touch anything. Simply take in the beauty and feel the reverence conveyed throughout the grounds.
The volcanic characteristics of the island make up the raw materials for Mother Nature to create many of the unforgettable features you’re sure to discover along the rugged coast of Waianapanapa State Park. The ocean’s pounding surf, over timeless aeons, has worn away the softer rock along the shore naturally to create many stunning structures. Get the camera ready for once-in-a-lifetime pics of enormous sea stacks, (giant pillars of rock that have risen up from the ocean floor). Notably, many of those stacks which dot the coastline are covered with numerous vibrant species of green plants that have created a convenient, beautiful resting spot for several of the seabirds. They also have been known to function as a shelter for the local sea turtles from the rough waters found on this side of the island.
A famous group of impressive blowholes is located nearby. They come to life when the waves crash into them, forcing seawater up and out through the holes, sometimes several feet, (splashing everything in the general vicinity). It’s especially eventful when the tide is high and the waters are rough. (NOTE TO SELF: the most active blowholes have no vegetation around them, so they are pretty easy to spot.) Keeping the perimeters of the “splash zone” in mind while exploring is advisable, unless of course you like saltwater showers!
Natural Stone Arches
All you need is a clear day and you’ll be able to see and photograph completely through it, as if peering through the eye of a giant needle. And if you time it right and the waves are big enough, you might just luck out and one of the big waves will crash behind it and force water through it, creating a memorable photo op. To locate it, stand near the blowhole, look towards the west and you will see a natural stone arch at the tip of the bay.
These are unusual inland pools of fresh and saltwater that remain relatively un-mixed. The little known fact that these pools have a series of underground tunnels that connects to the ocean makes them very special indeed. Simple and natural in design, the aforementioned tunnels allow the seawater to flowinto the pools, all while keeping the saltwater beneath the fresh water. When the tides change, so do the levels of fresh and saltwater in the pools, but remember, the fresh water will always stay on top because it is less dense than salt water.
Small Red Shrimp
There is an unique inhabitant of these pools. It’s a small, red shrimp called “opae’ula“. The opae’ula didn’t just adapt to live in these brackish water conditions, they thrive here. Only five of the eight major Hawaiian islands have anchialine pools. Of course Maui has them and the locals take care of them because it’s part of their sacred Hawaiian culture. The pools are formed from the erosion of the volcanic rock over long periods of time. There are several pools located in Waianapanapa State Park. Just another reason to love Maui!
Next Stop – Hana Picnic
By now, it’s time for our Hana Classic Picnic lunch. We have many different locations where we serve lunch. You will appreciate the food and not being stuck waiting in a restaurant, for the Road to Hana Tour lends itself to being outdoors and in touch with the natural beauty mother nature has provided us.