6 of the Best Surf Breaks on Maui – For Beginners to Pros
When Captain Cook first arrived in the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1778, he documented a unique national pastime: standing up on a wooden board and maneuvering it to ride waves. The rest of the world was introduced to modern surfing by Hawaiians like Duke Kahanamoku, who won five Olympic medals in swimming before touring the globe to give swimming and surfing exhibitions.
Surfing is of course alive and well throughout the Hawaiian Islands today! Here are a few of the best places to try it — or enjoy watching it — on Maui.
For Serious Surfers
For true big wave pros, Pe`ahi (also known as Jaws) boasts one of the most reliably huge waves in the world. It earned its nickname in the 1970s from a group of local surfers, who noticed that when its conditions shift and the swell suddenly becomes enormous, the experience is like a shark attack. When this world-famous spot gets giant in the winter months, a few brave souls paddle out (or get towed in by jet skis) to a fast, dangerous wave – and in recent years, the Jaws Big Wave Challenge has become part of the World Surf League Big Wave Tour. If you’re on Maui in the winter and interested in spectating, you can find Pe`ahi between mile markers 13 and 14 on Hana Highway.
2. Honolua Bay
World champion surfer Mark Richards referred to Honolua Bay as “the ultimate wave – the best wave in the world.” This legendary point break north of the Kapalua resort area has a coral reef below that makes it a popular snorkeling spot throughout the summer. But the angle of the coastline at Honolua creates a powerful right-handed break in winter, with several barrel and turn sections lining up for a long ride that has been home to many pro surfing competitions. Conditions can range from a fun 2 to 4 feet to a breathtaking 15 to 20 feet. Above-average days seem especially likely in January, and when the swell comes, the bay gets crowded. Even if you’re not ready to take on the bigger waves yourself, you may enjoy watching the action from the lookout above.
Located on the infamous Road to Hana just north of Paia, Ho`okipa is known as the windsurfing capital of the world. Because it’s open to north swells, it also features a consistently surfable wave – made up of four identifiable breaks – that can reach up to 25 to 30 feet in winter. This is not a wave for the inexperienced, as the entry/exit points are pretty specific and surfers have to be on the lookout for hazards like rip tides and sets that suddenly come in much larger. But it’s a scenic and easily accessed place to witness all sorts of water sports unfolding at a high level. And as a bonus for visitors, the beach at Ho`okipa often has dozens of Hawaiian green sea turtles napping on the beach around sunset.
For Less Experienced Surfers
1. The Cove
At the south end of Kalama Park in Kihei, The Cove provides all the right conditions for beginner surfers: sandy entry spots, shallow water, and a long, slow wave. This is not shortboard territory, of course – longboards are a must here. Local businesses like the Surf Shack and like Maui Wave Riders offer rentals and/or lessons. When you’re finished hanging 10, head across the street to Kalama Village to grab a bite to eat or shop for souvenirs.
Just south of Lahaina Harbor on Maui’s warm and sunny west side, you can also find gentle waves in shallow water with a reef below at Breakwall. In fact, this is possibly the best spot on Maui for learning to surf – and surf schools like Goofy Foot are on hand to provide the lessons! Breakwall consists of a left, fairly lengthy wave, as well as a smaller inside right (where the surf schools tend to congregate). And the break’s convenient location makes it easy to enjoy Front Street’s many dining and shopping options after a morning session in the water.
Last but not least, Launiupoko! This picturesque beach park about a mile south of Lahaina has a sandy entrance that makes it user-friendly. Its three breaks are best during southern swells in summer, but it has a long, steady, non-threatening wave year-round. Easy to access and complete with great facilities (parking, restrooms, showers, picnic tables, etc.), it even has a wading pool that’s a perfect swimming spot for keiki (kids).
Want to Know More?
Of course, surf breaks are just one example of Maui’s endless attractions! If you’d like to know more about life on the Valley Isle, I’d love to hear from you.
Nancy Beebe, REALTOR(S), SRES