When we are young, a lot of enjoyment comes from running about; going this way and that way and enjoying all the big thrills that come our way. But as we grow, we start to appreciate the calmer things in life; we enjoy sitting and soaking in the surrounding beauty. For those in this place in their life, Keanae Peninsula is quite the destination.
Keanae Peninsula is a little strip of land that juts out from the Road to Hana and is home to a small Hawaiian village. This finger peninsula is located just off of Hana Highway, so much so that you can choose to peek out for a quick view from your car as you amble along your drive towards Hana. But why not stop, linger, and enjoy the beauty if you have a moment?
This peninsula is not very large. It stretches out just a half-mile from that main throughway. There is only one road that cuts off of Hana Highway and goes around the entire outside edge of Keanae Peninsula. That road is called Keanae Road and you will find it around mile marker number 16, or just after the signs for Keanae Arboretum if you are traveling west to east.
It is said that this peninsula is newly formed, the result of intense lava flow not too far back in the island’s history. However, the soil here is very rich and most of the inland area is used to grow taro. The story behind such fertile soil is that ancient Hawaiians trucked down the dirt basket-by-basket until they had a nice flat area atop which to plant their fields. Such a story isn’t hard to believe once you see the bounty that comes out every harvest here!
But naturally, most people don’t come here to stare at the fields. Shortly after turning onto Keanae Road, you will find yourself passing a small rocky beach. Go around the turn for a little parking area for this lookout spot and beach. This is a tiny stretch of land known locally as Waialohe Park, although park amenities are few.
Continue along the road and you will find yourself passing the beloved Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread and then two other lookout points, a parking area, and a public restroom. This is where we really recommend pausing and getting out of the vehicle. These lookout areas make up the furthest points of Keanae Penninsula and offer spectacular shoreline vistas complete with waves crashing upon the rocks and the nice blend of verdant grassy greens, grays, and blacks of hardened lava rocks, and the meshing of ocean blues and foamy white waves.
With such beauty also comes tragedy. The low shoreline of the Kaenae Peninsula has historically made it very susceptible to bad weather. The worst of such natural disasters to happen here did so in 1946 when a devastating, unpredicted tsunami crashed over the island. Tragically, the villages’ school bore the brunt of the impact, and twenty children and four teachers lost their lives to the thirty-five-foot waves. The only structure to fully remain from that tsunami was a stone church building that you can still see today as you drive down Kaenae Road. This church was built in 1856 and has withstood quite the test of time and weather.
Note, this part of Maui’s shoreline is also exceptionally dangerous for swimming. The sharp rocks underneath combined with chaotic waves and quick undertows simply make swimming here both unenjoyable and unsafe. There are no lifeguards posted here or even near this area. Even the most experienced swimmers should not wade in.
Do not skip a stop at Aunty Sandy’s Banana Bread. For many locals, a fresh loaf or slice of bread from this roadside stand is the primary reason for coming out as far as Keanae Peninsula. In addition to their titular banana bread, they also typically have shaved ice, chili dogs, pork sandwiches, and in-season produce for sale.