Waianapanapa State Park

#8 in Best Things To Do in Maui
Waianapanapa State Park picture
7Michael/Getty Images

Key Info

Mile Marker 32 Hana Hwy

Price & Hours

Free

Details

Beaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Free Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
4.1scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

In Hawaiian, "Waianapanapa" means "glistening waters." But it's not the ocean that draws travelers to Waianapanapa State Park  it's the jet-black sands. The shoreline here is composed of volcanic sediment, which acts as a stark contrast to the bright blue waves and verdant jungle.

Most visitors make a quick stop at Waianapanapa to snap a photo before continuing along the Road to Hana, but there's more to see here than just the beach. Those who hike along the park's primary trail (which traces the coast past the black sand beach) will discover Waianapanapa's freshwater caves. According to Hawaiian lore, these caves were the site of the grisly murder of princess Popo'alaea who, along with her attendant, was murdered by her cruel husband, Chief Ka'akea; today, visitors can enter the caves and even swim in the pools. Those who prefer to stay dry can visit the wealth of ancient sites that line the coastal hiking trail, including pictographs and burial grounds.

Recent visitors recommend arriving in the morning (preferably at sunrise) before the tour buses start to invade the area in the afternoon. Another thing to keep in mind: The beach is not composed of soft sand, but rather pebbles and rocks. Many travelers suggested bringing water shoes for exploring the beach and a pair of hiking shoes for traversing the rest of the park. Waianapanapa State Park sits more than 3 miles north of Hana in East Maui. The park is open to visitors every day, and there is no admission fee. Facilities are fairly limited, though camping and lodging options are available. For more information, visit the Hawaii State Parks website.

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Road to Hana
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#1 Road to Hana

To find excellent views of Maui's beautiful coastline, all you need to do is drive. The Road to Hana is a scenic highway (Highway 360) that twists through the lush rainforest and past the cascading waterfalls that line the island's eastern shore. Most people start their trip in Kahului (home to Maui's main airport) with the intention of motoring 55 miles to Hana. The trip isn't always easy: The route often surprises unfamiliar drivers with hairpin turns. But those who decide to step on the gas aren't sorry they did. Despite all the hype and mental preparation, travelers are regularly surprised by the drive's beauty.

The Road to Hana might seem short, but traveling it will most likely take all day given the number of scenic lookouts and other places to stop. Those who have driven the Road to Hana highly recommend taking your time and stopping as often as possible. Reviewers also recommend starting your drive early in the morning, as the road grows congested as the day progresses. If you'd rather let someone else do the driving, there are several tour companies that offer tours in luxury vans, including Valley Isle Excursions and Temptation Tours. Though pricier than driving yourself, taking a tour allows you to focus on the incredible scenery while someone else focuses on navigating the winding curves.

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