Missed opportunities are among the saddest of travelers’ stories. Too often, visitors to Maui typically only go down the Road to Hana to the Oheo Gulch and pools before turning back. They completely miss the rest of the island, sometimes called the “Back Road to Hana.” Don’t make this mistake. If you do, you’ll miss seeing the Pokowai Sea Arch and other amazing sights along the tail end of this highway. Instead, keep going along the highway until it turns the edge of the Maui coast to take in the sights of the south side of the island, including Pokowai Sea Arch.
The southern side of Maui is on the back of Mount Haleakala, where lava flowed along the side of the mountain to the sea, scouring the land of forests, leaving behind arid grasslands. If you took the Road to Hana around the north and east sides of Maui to view waterfalls, the contrast once the road turns from Highway 360 to Highway 31 seems even more striking. Despite the lack of towering trees, this side of the island boasts many stunning sights, including the dramatic Pokowai Sea Arch and numerous gulches carved deep into the lava rock.
Most sea arches form from erosion by the waves. Waves hit at either side of an existing coastal cliff jutting out into the water. These waves gouge out caves in the rock. Eventually, these merge to form a hole in the rock, creating a sea arch.
The Pokowai Sea Arch did not go about this typical formation from a preexisting portion of the coast becoming a cliff over eons. Instead, the part that has the arch formed relatively quickly from lava, making it a unique geological formation to photograph. This arch happened when extremely hot lava flows from nearby Haleakala struck the cold seawater, solidifying the rock. As soon as the rock formed, wave action began to cut into it, producing the large hole that would become the arch.
Since this arch is not part of a park or other official setting, you will not see signs along the highway indicating turnoffs to park your car. Instead, where the highway gets closest to the coast. Going west, you should see the Pokowai Sea Arch from this vantage point. Find one of the informal spots along the highway to park your car, so you can take photographs at your leisure.
While taking pictures of the Pokowai Sea Arch, don’t miss the chance to get photos of Mount Haleakala and the surrounding countryside. The pounding waves, lava rock-strewn beaches, and deep gulches in the area create a dramatic landscape that you’ll want to capture on film. While photographing the Pokowai Sea Arch, don’t forget the intense forces that went into its creation. In fact, you’ll find few other places on Earth where you can see the work of lava and waves creating sea arches like this one.
Taking the trip to the Pokowai Sea Arch along the lesser-seen southern coast of Maui will reward you with stunning views of a very different landscape than you might have seen elsewhere on this lush island. If you have the chance to drive to the Pokowai Sea Arch, don’t miss it for the opportunity to view such a unique work of natural art.
-Fill up your gas tank and have food and water in the car. There are no gas stations and few places to stop for food on the eastern and southern portions of the highway on Maui where you will find the Pokowai Sea Arch.
-Skip the trip to Pokowai Sea Arch during heavy rains, which can make the arch inaccessible by washing out parts of the road.
-If you walk down to the coast from your car to get a better view of the sea arch, wear close-toed shoes to protect your feet from the lava rocks covering the ground.
-Check your rental car agreement. Some companies do not provide assistance on the remote east side of Maui or void your rental agreement if you take your vehicle out here.