La Perouse Bay Trails

La Perouse Bay Trails - A Myriad of Hiking & Other Activities in a Lava-Shaped Landscape
The Bottom Line:

La Perouse Bay trails offer visitors a myriad of experiences and sights. You get lava-shaped formations, soft sandy beaches, and waters perfect for snorkeling -- all of which lie along the easy trails branching off the South Maui trailhead.

- The Local Expert Team

Located in South Maui, La Perouse Bay and the La Perouse Bay trails are a must-stop for anyone interested in learning and seeing more of the island’s natural formations. This picturesque bay offers fantastic oceanfront scenery, swim and surf opportunities, and, of course, exciting hiking trails. 

Experts estimate that the last time the great Haleakala volcano at the heart of Maui last erupted was sometime between 1400 and 1600. However, that wasn’t the last time volcanic activity occurred on the island. Around 200 years ago, lava oozed from a split vent just uphill of what became La Perouse Bay in South Maui. The lava flowed south down the hill until it streamed into the ocean. That lava flow helped to create the jagged coastline and natural bay that we now call La Perouse Bay.

For many of Maui’s best trails, one now has to make reservations for hiking due to trailheads being within state parks, and those state parks now tightening the reins on visitor access. Such efforts are laudable but also annoying for those individuals who enjoy more impromptu adventures. If that’s you and your party, then you’ll appreciate that La Perouse Bay doesn’t have any such limitations and so long as you can get there, you can enjoy the area and the La Perouse Bay trails.

To get these trails, you will go all the way down Makena Alanui Road until it ends at a parking area (Parking lot, 8650 Must Hold Block Boundary, Kihei, HI 96753). There is a small parking lot just after the lava field which serves as overflow parking, but if you continue on you will see a larger lot just in front of the bay. The facilities here are sparse with only two portable toilets, so you will want to bring water for drinking and rinsing off if you plan on swimming. 

There are two ways to undertake the La Perouse Bay trails. You can either keep things short and sweet by just taking the shoreline trail, or you can choose a more robust adventure by circling around some unique ancient Hawaiian ruins. Altogether, these primary trails extend for 4.6 miles across easy terrain with no substantial elevation gain. That said, rocks can make it easy to trip if you aren’t paying attention to the ground in front of you. Also note, because this isn’t a state park trail, dogs are allowed on the trail. 

For the first half-mile of this trail, you will weave around the lave-carved shoreline and see things like lava arches and tide pools that were left behind by the flaming liquid. Then you will come across a small but tantalizing white sandy beach that, if you arrive at the right time, you can stake out for your group to enjoy.

Once your group is done frolicking in the waves here, continue on the trail and soon you will enter a shaded grove of wind-bent trees. This area can be the optimum place for a respite if you happen to come during the hottest of summer days. It also happens to be a popular spot amidst wild goats and pygmy deer. 

After you exit this small interspersed grove, you will once again have two choices. You can continue on the main La Perouse shoreline trail, or you can go upwards to join the Hoapili Trail, also known as the King’s Highway. Locals say that the Hoapili Trail used to be an old cattle trail; today, it serves as a two-mile scenic path to a secluded beach called Keawanaku Beach. Kewanaku Beach is an ideal spot for snorkeling and general underwater explorations.  

Want to see more of the lava fields? You will find plenty of faint La Perouse trails crisscrossing the lava fields. These unnamed trails don’t lead to any noteworthy sites, but they do offer an up-close-and-personal look into the unique topography that is South Maui. 

Insider Tips:
-If you are surefooted and not afraid of the dark, consider a hike along these trails at dusk. At the very end of the day, not only will you get to watch the sunset across the ocean, but you will also get an outstanding stargazing experience with no crowds and little light pollution. Just be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight and take care walking back over the uneven terrain. 
-If you prefer early mornings to late evenings, arrive at dawn for an almost guaranteed chance to spot spinner dolphins just off the shoreline. These resident marine mammals can be spotted any time of the year. However, if you want a real treat, go during the winter and you just might also glimpse sight of leaping Humpback whales. 
-Check the wind forecast before you go as this part of the island can get almost frustratingly breezy. 
-The best time to swim is in the mornings when the wind is calmer. Later afternoon, things can get rough and there are no lifeguards stationed at any of the aforementioned beaches.