Keawanaku

Keawanaku Beach: Remote South Maui Beach Reachable by Lava-field Trail
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Remote Keawanaku Beach in South Maui offers wonderful quiet and solitude for those willing to make a bit of an effort to get there. Surrounded to the landward by barren lava flows from Haleakala’s most recent eruption, the beach is a true oasis at the far southwestern tip of the Valley Isle. It’s only reachable by foot via a semi-arduous, sun-exposed trek on the Hoapili Trail, the ancient King’s Highway.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

There aren’t many beaches in Maui so tucked-away as Keawanaku. Situated in South Maui to the east of La Perouse Bay, Keawanaku Beach is a beautiful dark-sand strand reachable by a foot trek through Maui’s freshest lava flows. 

The beach—which lacks facilities and lifeguards—is situated on the southwestern coast of East Maui. This landscape is dominated by rough, raw aa lava from eruptive flows down Haleakala’s southwestern rift zone only a few centuries old. Driving the Makena Alanui Road to its terminus along La Perouse Bay, you’ll see plenty of examples of these black-rock badlands. Getting to Keawanaku Beach, however, brings you right out into the lava fields on a fairly short but strenuous hike.

No official trail leads directly to Keawanaku Beach, but most of the hike is on an established—if rough—footpath: the Hoapili Trail. This is part of the ancient King’s Highway, a track established some 400 years ago or so by the Maui ruler Kiha-a-Piilani which ran the perimeter of the Valley Isle.

In the 1800s, Hoapili, the Royal Governor of Maui, broadened and improved this part of the King’s Highway, hence the formal, modern name for the trail. It’s part of the Na Ala Hele State of Hawaii Trail & Access System. (You’ll find a full description of the Hoapili Trail elsewhere on this site.)

A bit more than a mile into the trail, you’ll see some prominent vegetation to the right (south) in the near distance. Composed of a palm and some kiawe trees, it stands out given the prevailing bare lava-rock surrounding you. That patch of coastal greenery is your visual marker for Keawanaku Beach.

Once you see that marker, look for an obvious side trail breaking off the King’s highway heading in the direction of the patch of trees. Take this: the access route for Keawanaku Beach. Other user trails cut away from this spur, but sticking to the most well-defined route should see you through. It’s less than 1,000 feet to the beachfront.

Keawanaku Beach is a small but beautiful cove of grayish sand and dark rock set on the western side of a small, lobed headland. The beach fronts a little bay separated from the larger La Perouse Bay to the west by Cape Hanamanioa. 

You’re unlikely to see more than one or two other parties here at Keawanaku Beach, and in fact there’s a good chance you’ll be the only visitor. With the bleakly beautiful basalt to one side and the ocean to the other, and the sparse trees providing some green, it’s an amazing place. 

Often enough the surf is too rough here for safe swimming, even though the beach itself is often buffered from this coastline’s generally stiff winds. Be aware there can be dangerous rip currents operating when the waves are churning. You’re far away from civilization here and help may be long in coming (if you can hail it in the first place). So only get in the water if you’re here with others, and only if the bay is very calm.

In such calm conditions, you can also enjoy some nice snorkeling here, with a coral-festooned rock wall and caves in the vicinity. But again, use caution and your best judgment when considering ocean entry at Keawanaku.

Isolated and lovely, Keawanaku Beach is a bit of an adventurer’s destination in South Maui. It’s a nice reward for tasting the barren lava country of the Hoapili Trail firsthand!

Insider Tips:
-Get an early start on the Hoapili Trail to enjoy Keawanaku Beach before the full heat and sun of the day makes a King’s Highway lava-field trek really arduous. (And make sure you’ve got sturdy footwear and plenty of water for this hike.)
-If you have time (and water) to spare, you can continue east on the Hoapili Trail from the Keawanaku Beach spur to reach Kanaio Beach. Another kiawe-shaded gem of a remote beach, Kanaio lies on the opposite (eastern) side of the small headland from Keawanaku. It’s the turnaround point for many King’s Highway day hikers.