It’s possible to walk 3 3/4 miles across unshaded lava flows on a trail made up of fist sized chunks of lava rock to wind up, essentially, nowhere. Pass rocky, uninteresting coves with poor snorkeling along the way to what we’ve been told is a community fishing shack. We recommend walking only the first mile to a protected snorkeling cove.
From parking at end-of-road LaPeruse Bay, take any of the paths wandering south across the lava. If hiking up to around mid-morning, keep a lookout for dolphins in the bay. One of the best tip-offs that there’s something out there is a Zodiac tour boat stopped with people on board pointing.
After less than a half-mile the paths come together and follow a jeep trail beneath the trees. The trail winds along in the shade with the ocean to your right for, again, a little less than a half-mile before the trees end.
Here the trail splits. You could go left. This is the main trail, the Kings Highway, an ancient path that circled around Maui to Hana and beyond. It’s better to continue straight. After about five minutes walk there’s another path to your left connecting to the Kings Highway. Instead look for a path to your right through the last patch of trees along the shore. It will take you to a usually deserted cove with excellent snorkeling along the rocks to the left.
Cape Hanamanioa – the lava point with a lighthouse that defines the end of LaPerouse Bay – protects this cove from stiff southern winds that usually chop up the water at the more conventional snorkeling spots closer to the end-of-road parking.
We wouldn’t recommend going any further.
However, should you want to give the Kings Highway a try, double back and take a connecting path to the main trail. Kings Highway is a fairly straight six-foot wide path surfaced with fist-sized chunks of lava just waiting to roll beneath your foot should you step on one the wrong way. For the next mile there’s no shade and little of interest to see. Your only consolation is that generally by mid-day, clouds forming on the flanks of Haleakala protect you from direct sunlight. After a mile, the path dips down into a secluded cove with a few trees and a log swing where you can relax and decide whether to go further or turn back.
We’d recommend turning back.
Still, if you want more of the Kings Highway experience you can rejoin the main path as it continues more or less straight across desolate terrain. It becomes overgrown and fades away in spots, but picks up again soon. As an alternative, you can follow the 4 wheel drive track that winds in and out around the coves. Neither route is particularly inspiring.
Eventually, about 1 ¾ miles beyond the cove with the log swing, you’ll see a small cottage with a flagpole at the waters edge. This is supposedly a community fishing shack maintained by locals. It’s important to note that the locals wouldn’t have hauled themselves and their gear over the same trail you just took. Instead, they’d have simply driven down from the Piilani Highway.
You, however, now get to retrace your steps back to the car.
Don't say you weren't warned.