Look at a map of West Maui, and the skinny mini-peninsula of Makaluapuna Point stands out as a small but obvious feature on the northwestern coast. Its dramatic rock formations, long ocean views, and enigmatic labyrinth make a nice destination for an easy sampler walk on the Kapalua Coastal Trail.
The Kapalua Coastal Trail is part of the quite extensive trail system maintained by the Kapalua Resort. It runs between D.T. Fleming Beach Park in the north—the starting point for this short hike—and Kapalua Beach in the south. Makaluapuna Point is attainable as a detour off the Coastal Trail via a 1.4-mile round-trip walk from the D.T. Fleming Beach trailhead.
Makaluapuna (“Spring Hole”) Point is a rugged neck that separates Oneloa Bay to the west from Honokahua Bay to the east. It’s built from West Maui Volcano lava flows issued from a vent some miles inland that geologists classify among the Honolua Volcanics. Those hardened flows include some of the most intriguing rock formations on the Valley Isle, which serve as the centerpiece of Makaluapuna Point’s scenic appeal.
The first part of this hike is, all things considered, pretty uninteresting. It plays out away from the immediate coast on the grounds of the local Ritz-Carlton hotel.
You’ll soon reach the vicinity of the dogleg turn where Office and Lower Honoapiilani roads join. Here, a path proceeds north from a parking area. This is the route to Makaluapuna Point. (Many visitors to the point simply drive directly to this Office/Lower Honoapiilani junction, skipping that D.T. Fleming Beach start to the Kapalua Coastal Trail.)
It’s critical to be aware of the surrounding properties. A large grassy expanse to the east, demarcated by a hedge, is an ancient Hawaiian burial ground that may contain 2,000 or more graves. This is the roughly 14-acre Honokahua Preservation (or Burial) Site, set on old sand dunes. The area had begun to be excavated in 1987 as the planned site of the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua. Pushback from Native Hawaiians helped eventually protect this resting place of kupuna (ancestors) and the hotel was relocated inland. This controversy led to the passage of a state law in 1990 more clearly protecting such burials.
The Honokahua Preservation Site is off-limits to the public. Respect the sacredness of this place by staying on the path. To the west lies a golf course, which the walkway edges until reaching the rocky expanses of Makaluapuna Point.
Here your eye will be drawn to the remarkable rock fangs arrayed along the rugged shore. These bleached formations are the Dragon’s Teeth and show where surging waves and winds swept back the light, fine-grained, easy-flowing Honolua flows hitting the ocean.
The Dragon’s Teeth are the main attraction at Makaluapuna Point, along with the general views out over the Pacific and the flanking bays. A bit north past the toothy palisades, meanwhile, you’ll find the Kapalua Labyrinth. This is a “prayer labyrinth” arranged with stones, and another unique Makaluapuna Point landmark.
Watch for sea turtles lazing about in the nearshore waters from the peninsula. In winter, this is a great place from which to scout for humpback whales. The sandy beaches of Honokahua and Oneloa bays stand out. Both sunrises and sunsets are beautiful at Makaluapuna Point, especially at the Dragon’s Teeth.
After you’ve soaked up the beauty, return to the trailhead at D.T. Fleming Beach Park—or consider walking the Kapalua Coastal Trail farther west, maybe even tackling the whole out-and-back length. Additional lovely coastline—including sandy beaches—awaits.
At the Dragon’s Teeth, look for rubble embedded in the lava rock and “windows” where erosion has opened holes clean through the outcrops.