Black Sand in South Maui (or…You don’t have to drive to Hana for Black Sand)

Most visitors believe you have to travel to Hana on Maui to see a black sand beach. Not so! Indeed Honokalani Black Sand Beach, located in the Wainapanapa State Park near Hana is spectacular and well worth visiting. But did you know that you can experience the exotic nature of black sand only 20 minutes from Kihei? Part of the Makena State Park, Oneuli Beach is one of the least used beaches in South Maui. It offers great snorkeling, diving, SUP, and kayaking, but isn’t great for casual swimming and boogie boarding because of the shallow reef. It is also a great place to take a unique picture that will make people say “Where is THAT???”

Oneuli Black Sand Beach in South Maui…no, you don’t have to drive all the way to Hana for black sand!

Oneuli is located just north of the Pu’u Ola’i cinder cone (which can be seen from just about anywhere on the South Maui coast).  Go south on Wailea Alanui Dr. from Wailea, which turns into Makena Rd. Turn right at an easy to miss dirt road 3.8 miles south of the Grand Wailea Resort. If you get to Big Beach, you’ve gone too far!

Where to get a great coffee on Maui

If you are like me, coffee is great no matter what the weather: 40 and rainy? It’s coffee time. 85 and sunny? It’s coffee time! Looking for a good place to get a coffee while on Maui? Of course you will find the ubiquitous Starbucks on the island just like every other corner of the world. But here are some ideas to get your coffee with local Maui flair:

Kaanapali area: MauiGrown Coffee Company Store. This is the real deal. They roast their own coffee (they brought in a Portland guy to run the place, that should tell you something.) Look for the big smoke stack in Lahaina, and you’ll find this gem.

Kahului: [updated 12/30/13] Maui Coffee Roasters is far from the resorts and tourists. Inside it looks like a coffee shop in Portland, complete with Godzilla inflatable hanging from the mirror. And the coffee was excellent, as good as we get in coffee-snob Portland!

Kihei area: Lava Java serves up a great cup, and the owner really knows his beans.Java Cafe is also a great place to enjoy locally sourced coffee in Kihei.

Great place to relax in Paia...Paia Bay Coffee

Great place to relax in Paia…Paia Bay Coffee

Pa’ia: Anthony’s Coffee is on the main street amidst all the activity. Along with great coffee, they offer yummy treats, and that great Pa’ia vibe. For an even more laid back experience, go to Paia Bay Coffee. Good java, and a great outdoor seating area that is a great place to cool off after time in the sun.

Wailuku: If you want to get away from the tourist centers, and just relax at a legitimate coffee house, Wailuku Coffee Company is the ticket. Mostly locals hang out here, so leave the Maui Revealed book in your car.

Upcountry: Grandma’s Maui Coffee in Kula is on my “must visit” list for Maui. Not only do they serve up great coffee, but their desserts are simply the best. I highly recommend the pinapple-banana cake (Warning: do NOT share the cake with anybody! A fight will break out.)

How about you? What is your favorite place to enjoy a little coffee on Maui?

Best Maui Beaches: For Families

So are you ready to hit the beach? You don your bathing suit, grab a drink (or two), a towel, your sunglasses, jump in the car, and bam! You are ready to get bronzed and beautiful……If you have a family, especially with little ones, you know that going to the beach isn’t quite so easy! Just packing the car and getting everybody ready is a major accomplishment. So what makes a beach on Maui as “family friendly” as possible?

  1. Easy access: you don’t want to park 1/2 a mile away and drag all your gear and clan along a busy highway just to get to the beach.
  2. Shade: you want trees around so you can set up your keikis where they won’t get burned.
  3. Rocks and other interesting things: kids love to explore when at the beach (not sit on their duffs like us). A playground is an added bonus.
  4. Amenities near by: no matter how carefully you plan, you will forget something. It is nice to be able to jump back in your car, go to the store, and be back in less than 10 minutes.

Does such a place exist on Maui? Glad you asked. My recommendation, based on the above criteria, for the best beach on Maui for families and kids is Kamaole III in Kihei. In addition to the above, you’ll find actual bathrooms (important at times!), picnic tables to make eating easier, and a large grassy area if you have had enough of the sand. Enjoy this awesome beach on Maui with your family! For more ideas on how to enjoy time on Maui with kids, see Maui Jon’s “Maui Kids & Family Fun” Page.

What do you think? Any other Maui beaches you’d recommend to families with kids?

Best beach on Maui for families? KAM III (Photo courtesy of

Best Maui Beaches: Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

If you are new to Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP), Maui is the perfect place to try it out. If you’ve been envious of the guys and gals surfing the big waves, but are chicken (like me) or just don’t want to work that hard, you have to try SUP. I’ve seen locals doing awesome waves and moves on them, but also plenty of people just enjoying the water from an SUP. Beginners will need protected waters with just a little bit of wave action. I think the best beach on Maui to learn SUP is Kalama Beach Park in Kihei. No, you won’t find lots of sand like on other Maui beaches, and maybe it isn’t as picturesque as the postcard beaches that are strewn throughout Maui, but this is the place to go for SUP beginners. There are several places to rent SUPs right across the road, and a 2 minute walk later you are in the water ready to try your SUP. The wave action seems to be just right for beginning SUP, and you will be sure to see many other folks there trying their hand at this great sport. Like many activities on Maui, mornings are the best for SUP because you are more likely to get calm waters and minimal wind. Good luck, and hang loose!

Kalama Beach Park, Maui (photo courtesy of

Best Maui Beaches: Snorkeling

What is the best beach on Maui that is also a great snorkeling location? This is different than asking what is the best place on Maui to snorkel, since most of the best spots don’t really have any beach to speak of. Having a beach at your snorkel spot may appeal to you if you have family members who don’t snorkel but still want to accompany you and do more than sit on uncomfortable rocks waiting for you to come back.

My first choice for best beach on Maui to snorkel is in West Maui at Black Rock, on the north side of famous Ka’anapali Beach. If you are staying in Ka’anapali, access is easy because you don’t have to contend with parking. There is a public parking garage at the north side of Ka’anapali Beach, but it does fill up frequently by mid-morning. The snorkeling around Black Rock is usually good, and fairly unique because of the sheer lava wall that you can swim along. This is one of the few snorkeling spots where early morning may not necessarily provide the best visibility because the lava wall will still be in shadows until the sun gets high enough in the sky.

If you are staying in Kihei or another South Maui location, I recommend Ul’ua Beach as a great snorkeling location that also has a great beach.

Early morning snorkel at Ulua Beach

Ul’ua Beach is in the Wailea/Makena area of South Maui. See my post on Early Morning Snorkeling at Ul’ua Beach for more details.

This is second in my series of posts on “Best Maui Beaches.” Check out my first “Best Maui Beaches” post: Best Maui Beaches: Boogie Boarding.

Maui Grinds in Portland

Those of us in Portland know how lucky we are to have such a vibrant food cart scene. 808 Grinds is one of my favorites because of the authentic Hawaiian-style plate lunches they serve up. I’ve come to know the owners over the past year or so, and was even privileged to play a little slack key guitar in front of their cart last year.  I caught up with one of the owners, Kevin, to get the inside scoop on this popular Portland food cart.

Serving up authentic Maui Grinds

Both Kevin and his business partner Jensen grew up in upcountry Maui in the Pukalani/Makawao area. This explains why 808 Grinds is da real thing! They both learned to cook from their families…their food is truly home-style and reflects what they grew up eating on Maui.  Their most popular dish? Something they call 808 Fried Chicken, their version of a popular dish on Maui called Mochiko Chicken. Most days between 11am and 2pm on the corner of SW 9th and Alder you’ll find a gang of hungry downtown workers waiting to get their share of this and other delicious Hawaiian dishes.

Kevin’s advice to those planning a trip to Maui was “don’t plan so much”. Indeed it is a typical mistake to over plan a visit to Maui and cram pack it with too much activity. I asked Kevin what he missed most about Maui and he replied instantly “family and friends”. He also misses poke, a Hawaiian-style sushi, and the abundance of fresh fish everywhere.

Kevin’s local’s advice on where to eat on Maui? His first recommendation is Tasaka Guri Guri at Maui Mall where they’ve been serving up a local concoction that is a hybrid between ice cream and ice milk for nearly 90 years. Also on his list is Sam Sato’s in Wailuku for Maui-style noodles, Da Kitchen, and the must visit Komoda Store and Bakery in Makawao. There! How’s that for a local’s take on where to eat on Maui?

I hope you find yourself in Maui sometime in the near future so you can sample some of the local fare…but if you are lucky enough to live in Portland, Oregon check out 808 Grinds for the next best thing to being on the island!

Best Maui Beaches: Boogie Boarding

As I mentioned in my previous post on Best Beaches, you really can’t answer the question “What is the best beach on Maui?” Each beach is unique, and depending on what you are looking for, the answer will be different. So here is the first of several posts to help you find the perfect beach on Maui…customized for what YOU are looking to do. Today’s Best Maui Beach post will focus on the insanely fun activity of Boogie Boarding.

My nomination for the Best Boogie Boarding beach on Maui is….D.T. Fleming Park north of Kaanapali in West Maui. This beach always seems to have great wave action for boogie boards. I also like it because of the lifeguard tower (you never know…), outdoor showers, restrooms, and easy access.

Beautiful D.T Fleming Beach in West Maui. Photo courtesy of

Honorable mention: if you really don’t want to drive up north, Big Beach (Makena Beach State Park) is another fun boogie boarding beach. But be careful, sometimes the waves at Big Beach are a little too aggressive in their shore break and it can get dangerous. No restrooms, but there are lifeguards.

Enjoy that Boogie Boarding action!

Don’t forget Molokai!

From West Maui you can see a mysterious island in the distance with its mountains often shrouded in clouds. This is the island of Molokai, home to the world’s tallest sea cliffs. You can get to Molokai via a 90 minute ferry from Lahaina, and if you have the time, it is definitely well worth it. You can spend the night, or make it a day trip. A visit to the Kalaupapa peninsula, site of the infamous leper colony, is simultaneously inspiring and sobering. The east end boasts the beautiful Halawa Bay. When I visited several years ago I contacted a local boat captain who took me around the bay to the beautiful north side where you can experience the sea cliffs for yourself. Check out my Pinterest board “Churches and Cliffs of Molokai” for a taste of the island.

Best Beaches on Maui (and rest of America?)

Dr. Beach has come out with his annual top 10 beaches in America list, and Maui’s very own Hamoa Beach is #5. Coronado Beach in San Diego received top honors this year, with Kahanamoku Beach (Oahu), Main Beach East Hampton (New York), and St. George Island State Park (Florida) rounding out the top 5. I don’t know how a beach in New York can even compare to a beach on Maui, but I will defer to the expert!

I don’t think you can really do a comparison of beaches unless you identify what you are looking for in a beach. Seclusion? Big Waves? People watching? Boogie boarding? Picture taking? Kid friendly? Combining everything into one magical score, no matter how many factors you take into account, is like comparing all the different car models in the world on the same list. Watch this space for my own list of “Maui’s Best Beaches”!

Maui on a Budget (Infographic)

Maui on a Budget Infographic

How can you visit Maui on a budget and still enjoy the wonders of the island?

For more information on how to do Maui on a budget, see my Maui on a Budget page.

Feel free to share this Maui on a Budget  Infographic by using the code snippet below in it’s entirety. Thank you!

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