Bright blue sky and dazzling green plants contrast against black lava rock at Waianapanapa State Park. This is the startling backdrop for other great park features that shouldn’t be missed. Unfortunately, the tour buses don’t miss it either, but don’t let that stop you!
The parking area looks down to Pailoa Bay, complete with high black lava cliffs, a scenic sea arch in the bay, and a fine black sand beach. I have never had a trouble swimming there, but there can be big waves and strong currents. On the north side of the beach starts a one-mile section of the King’s Highway Coast Trail. This is a nice short hike on top of a sea cliff – beautiful!
Back up at the parking area, a paved trail heads southeast past the picnic/camping area first, then on to greater things. After ¼ mile, a prominent point features view back to the bay and a small blowhole. Another ¼ on is my favorite area, the tidepools. While there isn’t anything terribly interesting living in these tidepools, it is a fun place to hang out and watch the waves crash up and splash directly at you. There is a small heiau (sacred spot) about another ½ on the trail – please do not disturb the heiau. This trail goes on, eventually all the way to Hana. This is the longer section of the King’s Highway Coastal Trail (see my separate entry in my Heavenly Hana journal).
Finally, back at the parking lot again, there is a short loop trail to the north that leads to a small lava tube and pool with a rich history:
Rita Ariyoshi writes in her book Maui on My Mind:
"At Waianapanapa, there is a pool that seasonally turns blood red. Scientists claim the phenomenon is caused by the appearance of thousands of tiny red shrimp. The Hawaiians offer another love story. Kaakea, one of Hana’s many notoriously cruel chiefs, was jealous of the affection he thought existed between his wife and her brother. Afraid of her husband, the wife ran away and hid in a cave. When Kaakea found her hiding place by sighting her reflection in a pool at the cave’s entrance, he brutally murdered her. The pool turned bright red with her blood, as it does once a year to this day."
I have heard from others that it is possible to take an underwater flashlight and swim under a ledge at the cave pool to come up in other cave rooms. I would definitely not try this unless you are with someone who has done it before and knows the way to the rooms.
Waianapanapa State Park is located just north of Hana town near mile marker 32 (turn left about ½ mile after sign for Hana Airport). Camping at Waianapanapa is free, and there are nice-looking cabins for $50 per night (book well in advance). For more information, contact:
Division of State Parks
54 S. High Street
Wailuku, HI 96793