Waianapanapa State Park Travel Guide, Updated 2021
Waianapanapa State Park, Maui. Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tommy Lundberg
Waianapanapa State Park is home to more than just Maui's famous black sand beach (also called Honokalani). While you're there, you'll find a hike and unique geologic formations like a blowhole, sea arch and a lava cave. Here we'll share more about what you need to know to plan a visit to this historic spot.
About Waianapanapa State Park
Waianapanapa State Park is home to Maui's only black sand beach. The sand is formed when hot lava is cooled by the sea. The result is basalt, a dark, fine volcanic rock that shatters to create the sand. The volcano that created this one-of-a-kind beach is nearby Haleakala.
The word Waianapanapa means "glistening waters" and that's what you'll find on a visit to the beach. The clear turquoise shores contrast against the black sand making it a sight to behold!
Getting to Maui’s Black Sand Beach
To find the park, head east out of Kahului. After about two hours along the Road to Hana (Hana Highway), you’ll turn left onto Honokalani Road. Then, turn left onto Waianapanapa Road and follow it until you arrive at the Honokalani parking lot. From Hana, head north and turn right onto Honokalani road.
Waianapanapa State Park is a featured stop on all three Shaka Guide Road to Hana tours. The tour will guide you there with turn-by-turn directions and stories along the way! For anyone taking Shaka Guide's Classic and Loop Road to Hana tours, Waianapanapa will be your 24th stop. For the Reverse Road to Hana tour, it’s the 13th stop.
How to Visit Waianapanapa State Park, Maui's Black Sand Beach
As of March 1st, 2021, advanced reservations are required to visit the park, including the black sand beach. To book a reservation, visit this www.gowaianapanapa.com. Please note that NO same-day reservations are allowed. However, you can book up to two weeks in advance.
Entrance to the park costs $10 per vehicle (includes entry) or $5 per person for walk-in entry. Hawaii residents can visit the park for free.
If you're driving there are four time slots available for your visit, these are: 7:00AM - 10:00AM, 10:00AM - 12:30PM, 12:30PM - 3:00PM, 3:00PM - 6:00PM.
Planning your day around the different time slots can get tricky. Here are our recommendations:
If you have a morning time slot...
- If you're doing the Road to Hana starting in Paia, it takes about 2 hours to get to Waianapanapa. We suggest you skip all the stops and head straight there then make the stops you missed on the way back.
- If you're staying in West Maui (Kaanapali, Kapalua, Lahaina), remember it takes about 45 minutes to get to Paia (the start of the Road to Hana). Plan to spend three hours getting to Waianapanapa from West Maui. Again, we suggest skipping all the stops on the way to Waianapanapa and making them on the return trip back to Paia.
- If you're taking Shaka Guide's Classic tour, again, skip all the stops on the way to Waianapanapa -- the app will still guide you with stories and directions -- then, visit the few remaining stops past Waianapanapa (Hana Town, Koki Beach, Hamoa Beach, Pipiwai Trail and Seven Sacred Pools). From there, download the Reverse tour for the return trip. It will guide you back making the stops you missed on the way there! *RECOMMENDED*
- If you're taking Shaka Guide's Reverse tour, it's about a two-hour drive to Waianapanapa without stops, so you'll still have to leave early to get to your reservation on time. You'll want to head straight there, skipping all the stops along the way and then, backtrack to see the stops you missed.
If you have an afternoon time slot...
- If you have the early afternoon time slot, be sure to leave Paia by 8 a.m. at the latest.
- Be mindful of the time as you're exploring. If you have the earlier afternoon time slot you might have to move quickly through some stops to make it there, but you should be able to make all the stops along the route up until Waianapanapa.
- You can take Shaka Guide's Classic, Loop or Reverse tours and and follow the tours as designed for afternoon time slots.
- If you've booked the late afternoon time slot, we recommend getting there on the earlier portion of you allotted time, especially if you want to avoid the return trip in the dark. You'll also want to leave yourself enough room to get to Seven Sacred Pools (7 stops past Waianapanapa on the Classic and Loop tours) before it closes at 5 p.m.
- If you're taking Shaka Guide's Reverse tour, you'll have time to visit the stops in route to Waianapanapa at your leisure, again, we recommend getting to the park at the earlier end of your allotted time (for late afternoon reservations), to avoid driving the remainder of the trip in the dark and to make some stops along the rest of Hana Highway.
Things to Do in Waianapanapa State Park
So you've made a reservation and you're on your way! Here are some things to do in the park:
1. Check out a lava tube:
Once you're on the beach, you can check out a natural lava tube. You can even walk through this cave from the shore to the ocean when the tide is low.
2. Go swimming (but be careful):
Take a dip in Honokalani's pristine water when the swimming conditions are safe. Waves can get rough and there are no lifeguards on duty. During the winter months, we recommend you skip swimming and do one of the many other activities this site has to offer.
3. Check out a blowhole:
Watch as ocean water shoots from volcanic rock in the ground into the air.
4. Look at the sea arch:
Check out more of mother nature's handy work! Can you spot the sea arch in the water? This was formed from years of erosion.
After you've look at all the geologic wonders this beach has to offer, try hiking the three-mile (round trip) Ke Ala Loa o Maui/ Piilani Trail. Also known as Waianapanapa Coast Trail North. You'll walk along barren lava fields with views of Maui's Hana Coast and Mount Haleakala. You'll also pass an ancient Hawaiian heiau or temple.
6. Camp (closed due to Covid-19):
If you’re looking to camp, there’s a campground for tents and cabins you can rent. You can book a site for $18 or a cabin for $90 per night here. If you’re camping with more than 6 people it will be an additional $2 for each person, not including children. There are bathrooms, outdoor showers, and drinking water stations available.
Be sure to bring your own tent and camping equipment as well. If you didn’t bring equipment to the Islands, not to worry. You can rent equipment from this outlet that delivers to your location.
Legends and Folklore of Waianapanapa State Park
Waianapanapa State Park is also home to freshwater caves (unfortunately the trail to the caves is closed off) and these caves house an ancient Hawaiian legend, and a sad one at that.
At certain times throughout the year the fresh water at one of the caves mysteriously turns red. Legend has it that Princess Popo’ala’ea and her maid hid inside the cave to escape her enraged husband, Chief Kaakea. He believed the princess had been unfaithful to him, and when he discovered Princess Popo’ala’ea and her maid hiding in the cave he had them both killed. This turned the water red with blood and the water still turns red to this day. Spooky right? Well, there's also a different, and more scientific explanation for the color. Scientists say the change of hue occurs because of tiny shrimp that enter the water from the cracks in the rock.
We'll let you decide which story to believe.
Waianapanapa is a spot of cultural significance to the Hawaiian people. Please be respectful during your visit while you marvel at the beauty this unique spot has to offer.
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