Kings Highway

King’s Highway Detour to the Hanamanioa Light: Remote South Maui Lava-rock Coast
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Take part of the historic King’s Highway into some of the youngest lava flows on Maui to the remote light beacon and coral shores of Cape Hanamanioa. The “lighthouse” isn’t a draw in and of itself, but the striking lava rocks and long views definitely are.

- The Local Expert Team

The Hoapili Trail proper—part of the State of Hawaii’s Na Ala Hele trail network—leads east from the end of Makana Alanui Road out to Kanaino Beach and an unnamed coral beach beyond. One or the other of those serves as the typical turnaround point for hikers. (The King’s Highway, however, continues eastward—albeit rough and faint—all the way to Highway 31.)

The hike to Cape Hanamanioa’s light beacon and coral beaches follows the very first leg of the main King’s Highway from that Makana Road trailhead. You begin your walk near the northern shores of La Pérouse Bay, which separates Cape Kinau to the north from Cape Hanamanioa to the south.

You’ll enjoy the only real shade of this hike early on: stands of tough kiawe. This is a non-native tree—it hails from South America—which prospers in coastal sites on Maui. Past these trees, you’ll enter a raw lava field. Like those you saw on the drive in, this basalt represents the youngest emissions on Maui: lava flows off the southwestern slopes of Haleakala. They partly mark the East Maui volcano’s southwestern rift zone. You’ll enjoy some nice views looking northward up the broad and gentle flanks of Haleakala, patterned by these geologically recent lava streams.

Here you come to a well-signed fork. The official Hoapi Trail strikes off eastward across the inland lava-lands. Hang a right to continue following the immediate bayshore, heading south onto Cape Hanamanioa.

Spur trails breaking off from the rough path lead to coastal viewpoints that double as good places for shore-casting. You’ll see some tidepools as you approach the southwestern corner of the cape, where the Hanamanioa Light stands.

Now, this 20-foot-tall structure is a light beacon, not really a lighthouse—and not really a looker of any kind. But its setting is dramatic out there on the bleak edge of the scabland cape.

Cooler than the Hanamanioa Light itself is what awaits along the path beyond, leading eastward along the tip of the cape. You’ll pass some ethereal pools among the rocks. These are anchialine (“near the sea”) pools: inland ponds linked below-ground with the ocean and filled with a brackish mix of fresh groundwater and seawater. Admire their spare beauty, but don’t go in for a soak: These are unique and delicate ecosystems.

Past the pools, you reach a coral beachfront with its own stark loveliness. This is the extent of the King’s Highway Cape Hanamanioa side trip, so enjoy the ambiance before turning around for the trailhead.

Be sure to bring plenty of water for your Cape Hanamanioa adventure, and wear sun protection. The earlier you can start this hike, the better: The lack of shade and all that dark rock make for hot going as the day progresses. But the remote ambiance, lava terrain, and ocean vistas make the trek well worth it!

How To Get There:
Kings Highway can be found through GPS: here. If you want to park, feel free to park in the La Perouse Bay parking lot and venture from there.

Insider Tips:
-If you want to do a longer King’s Highway hike with the detour to Cape Hanamanioa, look for a faint route leading northward from the vicinity of the anchialine pools. This rejoins the main Hoapili Trail, where you can hang a right and hike toward Kanaio Beach.
-Among the kiawe woodlands on the early section of this hike, you’ve got a good chance of seeing feral goats. Scan the waters of La Pérouse Bay for dolphins, meanwhile.