Kamehameha Iki Park isn’t one of Maui’s great beachgoing destinations, to say the least. But, by Lahaina standards, it’s a decent patch of sand. It’s more interesting from a surfing perspective—there are a couple of breaks here spanning difficulty levels—and for the hallowed ground of Hawaiian history it occupies.
Situated right along Front Street, Kamehameha Iki Park is easy to get to (though little enough to go unnoticed by many Lahaina visitors). There’s a dedicated parking lot, but street parking is also an option. There are port-a-potties on site, but no lifeguards.
“Kamehameha” in the name references, of course, the great House of Kamehameha ruling dynasty. (“Iki” means “small,” and the park is indeed that: just 1.8 acres.) In 1802, Kamehameha I established residency in Lahaina during the wars associated with his ultimately successful unification of the Hawaiian Islands. Some 800 of his war canoes lined the reef which lies offshore the park. Lahaina served as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii until 1845, when Honolulu assumed that honor.
The royal history of Lahaina—the ancient name of which was Lele, which roughly meant “to leap out of a canoe”—stretches further back. This was also the home base for the great 16th-century Maui ruler Piilani and his royal family.
This illustrious local heritage is nodded to in the modest spread of Kamehameha Iki Park (once called “Armory Park” on account of a bygone U.S. National Guard building here). Along with a traditional bust statue, you’ll see an impressive thatch-roofed hale structure—Hale Halawai, the meeting-house—in the park. Signs here tell a bit of the area’s backstory.
The park also helps preserve living cultural heritage. Maui’s Hui O Waa Kaulua, the “Assembly of the Double-Hull Canoes,” uses the site to restore historical-style outrigger canoes and to teach traditional Hawaiian seamanship and navigation.
The offshore reef supports a couple of surf breaks, one (“Shark Pit”) for experienced surfers only and the other more beginner-friendly. These come well enjoyed by locals.
From the small beach, enjoy views of Lanai as well as good sunset spectacles. There’s a distinctive, squat banyan in the park—though nothing approaching the size or stature of that in Lahaina’s famous Banyan Tree Park not far to the north.
While not approaching Maui’s high standard for superlative beachfronts, Kamehameha Iki Park is a decent place for a little surf-side break while shopping, sightseeing, or dining around Lahaina. The central access is a plus, no question. And anyone looking for a deeper sense of Hawaiian culture and history will likely enjoy the spot.
While the water’s often calm enough for snorkeling here, conditions are commonly murky and the reef has a fair amount of dead coral. There are much better places to snorkel in West Maui than this.