Sunday, January 12, 2014

Po'olenalena Beach, South Maui

Poolenalena Beach from the north looking south

After living in Maui for a year, we finally got around to snorkeling Poolenalena Beach. All I can say is, I wish we’d done it sooner. This is a primo spot: Easy entry, a large field of good coral, lots of turtles usually, and uncrowded in the middle of the (southern end of the) beach. The beach is long and sandy, but divided into two parts by a rocky point that is on your right when you walk in from the public parking area. It is also here that many locals park themselves under the trees on the left for a full day of fishing, BBQ’ing, and talk story, so it can be crowded right off the parking lot on the weekends. The most southern end of the beach can be a little crowded too, with people from the condos there, but this is a very minor complaint. As I said, few people set up in the middle of the beach, so there is definitely room if you like some space between yourself and other people. 

The snorkeling itself was great the last two times we went, but make note that the southern end is best, the middle so-so, and the north end (which is the south end of Palauea Beach) is better than average. Entry is easy as again, the beach is sandy with the sand extending at least 50 feet into the water, with the exception of some obviously rocky areas that are easy to avoid. 

Again, the southern end was the best, with numerous turtles since this area is a turtle cleaning station. (With a turtle cleaning station so close to shore, I don’t know why people pay for boat tours that stop here. Lack of research, I guess.) At one point, I’d noted 8 different turtles in less than 15 minutes, to say nothing of the big black fish and eels. And that’s not even going out more than 100 feet from the shoreline! I will say that the visibility the last two times was so-so, but when the sun is out it’s not really a problem. Lots of kayak tours stop and drop off snorklers at the south end of the beach, so it does get crowded for an hour here and there. It doesn’t seem to bother the turtles, though. If you go past the south end to the next beach over, that’s the much hyped Chang’s Beach and frankly, I don’t know what the hype is all about since the coral off Chang’s is really beat up and the fish count is lower, at least when I go that way. Best off staying to the right if snorkeling off Chang’s.

Poolenalena is a criminally under-rated beach, but then, I’ve seen what happens to lesser known beaches when they become popular. Oh, well. Enjoy.

Poolenalena Beach from the South looking north

Directions – South of Wailea Alunui Drive past the Shops at Wailea on Makena Alanui Drive between Wailea Golf Club Dr. & Makena Surf. You will notice a large dirt parking lot on your right (assuming you are driving south). If you can see the water from the road, you’re in the right place. This lot has a sign that says it’s Po’olenalena Park. That helps, too.

GPS Coordinates: 20.663646,-156.441042
Facilities: Port-a-potty, shower, no lifeguards.