The Hawaiian islands are famous among surfers for creating truly gigantic waves which translates to some truly spectacular surfing conditions. You can find the large waves that gloss surfing magazine stands on just about every corner of Hawaii, but the most well-known is certainly Peahi, often also referred to as the Jaws Surf Break.
Peahi is the biggest surfing break in Maui. How big? In 2000, the Big Wave Awards was launched to recognize surfers riding the largest waves in the world. The waves can be surfed anywhere in the world as to enter the contest, you simply submit a photograph of the surfer in question riding the wave and a panel of expert photographers and veteran surfers peruse and make the call. In the over 20 years this contest has continued on, no other location has produced more Big Wave Awards winners than Peahi. The waves here can meet and even exceed a whopping 60 feet high during the winter. That’s akin to a five-story building rising up and crashing down.
The quickest way to reach Peahi is to start on Hana Highway. Peahi is just about directly north of the village of Makawao, as the crow flies at least. From Hana Highway, however, you will take the small road of Hahana Road all the way north to the shore. This road is one block east of Valley Isle Memorial Park.
Note that this road, Hahana Road, is not an ideal road for all vehicles. It is a dirt road that is not graded well, so if you are driving something like a Prius or a similarly-low carriage car, you might not make it through here. This is especially true during rainy seasons when the soft dirt changes to mud, leaving more than a few tourists stuck and requiring an expensive tow. This route also leads you to a high lookout point from which surfers will have to clamor down rocks to reach the beach. The alternative route to get here, if you are looking to surf the gigantic waves, is to get towed in by a professional surfing guide or charter outfit.
Of course, as one surfing expert stated, 99.8 percent majority of the world’s surfing population should not be surfing jaws. Not only are the waves massive, but getting to the good spot requires navigating a rock jump and then timing out between sneaker waves that can readily sweep you away or dash you upon the rocks. This area is very dangerous. For the vast majority of the surfing population as well as the general population, enjoying the sight of the intense waves should be the priority here — and that sight can be best seen from the aforementioned Peahi lookout point at the end of Hahana Road
Looking out over the Jaws Surf Break is quite a beautiful experience any day of the week. This Peahi lookout point offers fantastic ocean vistas of massive waves breaking upon Maui’s northern shoreline. That said, the really, really big waves that Peahi is known for are not there most days of the year. The 60 feet and upwards waves require specific conditions to form. Generally, there will need to be a winter storm further north in the Pacific Ocean. An intense winter storm pushes hurricane-force winds southward and as those winds travel, they build and build upswells. The wind hastens those massive swells across the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean. Then, they make the abrupt passage atop the shallower waters of Hawaii’s coast. This quick change is what causes the massive jump in wave height and energy.
If you are looking to surf the waves, we recommend not going solo. Check-in with a local surfing outfit to learn more about the best way to reach the surf break. Most outfits will use a jet ski tow-in method as this both makes it easier to get right into a safe position and offers a quick backup rescue if necessary.