How to Find Rare Red Sand “Kaihalulu Beach”
Hana is home to many beautiful and amazing colorful beaches including a true black sand beach, a red sand, and a variety of other colored sands. It also draws visitors with one of the most colorful and healthy reefs in the area.
We are located at Hamoa Beach, one of the top 5 beaches in all of the United States and the Caribbean. This idyllic isolated cove offers a beautiful combination of golden and black sand. There is also a black sand beach located at Waianapanapa State park and it is one of the few true black sand beaches on the island of Maui.
Just two miles away from us is Kaihalulu Beach, a rare and amazing red sand beach located at 20°45′8″N155°58′54″W. This remote and isolated beach is well worth the adventure and offers a unique experience. The sands color is from high iron content in the rock and sand. When mixed with the salt air and sea mist it creates a rusty red color. The sand itself is very coarse, so water shoes are a good idea to protect the feet.
Kaihalulu beach is a hidden gem on the south side of Ka’uiki Head. This hill name comes from ka ʻuiki which means “the glimmer”. It was the site of a fortress and temple (heiau) where several battles were fought against invaders from Hawai’i islands. It was also the birthplace of powerful civil leader Queen Ka’ahumanu. Kaihalulu beach beach is one of the few clothing-optional beaches on Maui (nudity is against the law on Hawaiian beaches), so be fore warned.
Hundreds of years ago this was a cinder cone that erupted and left a steep wall on one side. There is a jagged lava rock barrier which forms a partial sea wall jutting up from the ocean to provide a water inlet.
This area is known as one of the best places to snorkel in Hana as many fish come into these protected waters. The ocean outside the cove rages relentlessly against the dramatic and rugged coastline. There are extremely strong currents on the other side of this wall and although the water is inviting for swimming, these strong currents can pull swimmers out of the cove opening, so please take caution.
Although it is not easy to find, it is well worth the jaw-dropping experience. As you round the last corner of the trail, you will be taken aback by it’s raw, unmatched beauty. Earthy red cliffs tower above the deep maroon-sand beach, and swimmers bobbing about in a turquoise blue lagoon formed by these volcanic boulders just offshore; the experience is simply breath-taking.
Getting to Kaihalulu is an adventure in and of itself. It is extremely isolated and requires a fairly short, yet dangerous walk to reach (see directions below). The steep and narrow path is very slippery due to the loose and crumbling cinder, so please use caution. The trail to this beach crosses over private property and may require a detour down to a beach and then continuing back up onto the trail. On the trail, keep an eye out for the ancient Japanese cemetery, and the head stones on the beach below, caused by the erosion.
How To Find Red Sand Beach:
To get to this beach can be a bit of a challenge. These instructions are from Google Map notes:
Off the Hana Highway turn towards the ocean on Hauoli St which is located between the Travaasa Hotel and the Congregational church. This road will dead in and you will make a right to park.
- Park on the side of the road just outside of the Travaasa Hotel parking lot. You will walk across the Hana Community Center field looking for a trail on your right hand side. Recently the trail has been well-cleared (by far the most I’ve seen in well over a decade) and is now very easy to find. (The jungle grows quickly, so this could change!)
- If you end up at the Japanese Cemetery, you need to back-track to one of the paths that go downhill. (I would definitely not take the suggestion of other guidebooks and use that trail right next to the cemetery any longer.)
- The original ridge trail has been partially erased by a landslide. You will need to follow one of the other trails down to the shoreline, follow the shore and then climb back up to the trail beyond the slide.
- The trail is made of loose cinders and covered with ironwood pine needles. It is slippery, and there are several points where a slip could result in catastrophe. That said, the trail is short, so opportunities to tempt fate are short in duration; fairly experienced hikers may find these risky points somewhat trivial. Inexperienced/unlucky could be severely injured or killed.