South Shore (Kihei to Lahaina), Maui, Hawaii
Open ocean, deep water Pacific Ocean island spot.
Is there anything that needs to be said about Maui that hasn’t already been highlighted? The home of the infamous big wave spot Jaws (Pe’ahi), THE centre of excellence for windsurfing at the hallowed shores of Ho’okipa, THE number one downwind SUP, prone and foil spot in the world along Maui’s north shore and so on… But what about less extreme stuff and the ‘other side’?
Maui’s south shore has a great deal going for it and the travelling stand up paddler will be well served. For most accomplished SUPers the abundant (doable) waves, from Kihei to Lahaina (mixed in with the odd world class set up) is more than enough to keep entertainment levels high. A stretch of Hawaiian coastline all too often in the shadow of north shore counterparts of late the southern side of Maui has come into its own with the rise of foiling (SUP, surf and wing). But stuck to water stand up paddlers will find a lot of SUP real estate to make use of without question.
Maui’s southern flank is littered with doable waves. Many still break on coral reef, however, so as much as they’re accessible (and rarely attain giant size) there’s still an element of mindfulness needed. If you bail in shallow water you could end up getting reef scratch. And with Maui’s tropical climate this could end up a wound that becomes infected.
It’s also a busy place. Early mornings of summer season (May-Sept) can yield less crowds. Which is great as jetlag will ensure you’re up and about early doors. The Trade Winds are also less fierce at this time although it isn’t long before they ramp up. And the breeze gets strong! Very strong in summer…
Maui has a large watersports fraternity who all ride various ocean going craft. There’s always someone to watch out for and depending on their choice of vehicle will dictate just how much you need to stay out of the way. A surging, 6 man OC canoe on a wave for instance isn’t worth getting in the way of!
Ocean wildlife is also abundant. Whilst men in grey suit attacks are rare they do inhabit waters around the Hawaiian Islands. Turtles are also worth keeping clear of. Some are the size of dustbin lids and move silently, often poking their heads above water just as you’re about to drop back down the face of a wave. They’re hard shells hit hard and will ding boards should you collide.
Prices and cost are necessarily a hazard to health but with 40% increases on mainland US costs a visit to Maui – unless you’re paying close attention – will damage you wallet considerably. You can do Maui on a shoestring but if you’ve travelled to the other side of the world a little bit of luxury isn’t a daft thing to expect. Just keep on your spend and hopefully it shouldn’t be a new mortgage.
Maui’s transport system is tip top – especially for vehicles. Roads are mostly great. If you should take a trip to Hana and head upcountry the smooth tarmacked surfaces do give way to narrow, cliffside access ways that are prone to flash floods in places. Back along the south shore’s Piilani Highway around Kihei and the Honoapiilani Highway that takes you to Lahaina the roads are in great condition and allow for simple travelling to and from the north to south shores or along the south itself.
Plenty! All types of Americanised eatery exist (think Taco Bell) brushing shoulders with fine dining establishments (Mamma’s Fish House) and more traditional Polynesian outlets. Budget options are available if you know where to look with plenty of supermarkets and such around the main towns.
Accommodation is extensive albeit with premium holiday lets, hotels and similar taking the lion’s share of what’s available.
If you’re on Maui to stand up paddle or do any other watersport then you’ll need gear and transport. Fortunately Maui is very set up for this with an abundance of gear rental business that can sort you out with packages to cover multiple disciplines. And likewise transport. Vehicles design for carrying kit exist all over Maui and it’s pretty much par for the course that you’ll be putting boards on and in cars/vans and so on. That all said it’s still worth taking out insurance so you don’t get stung for any damage when you drop your ride off at the end of your stay.
Maui’s south shore is littered with all kinds of SUP surfing set up. From the mellow waves of Kihei to the more punchy breaks of Lahaina. Whatever you’re after you’ll find it here. True flat water paddling spots are so easy to come by. There are a couple but Maui’s more about waves and bumps. If you’re not surfing you’re downwinding. And if you’re not doing either of these you’re foiling.
The Cove, part of Charley Young Beach, is also stacked with SUPers vying for the many waves that roll in from deep. South swells are the most consistent in Maui as the other island block their path. But you still get waist high (consistently) through the summer months on an almost daily basis. The Cove is a spot that picks up this swell and serves up fun rides (lefts and rights). The seabed is mostly sand but there’s also reef so watch out for this if you’re putting feet down. And watch out for other paddlers. Many SUP schools use The Cove for teaching so it’s always rammed come 9am and after. There are quieter peaks left and right so maybe do some investigating. When all done head to one of the many coffee/breakfast stop along the Kihei strip for pick me ups.
Head back towards Lahaina and first you need to drive around Maalaea Bay. Just outside Maalaea Harbour is where you’ll find one of the world’s fastest waves when it’s breaking. Maalaea is one of the few super hardcore spots in the south and when it’s on we’d suggest leaving it to the pros. A super shallow, sucky waves reels along the shore that doesn’t take prisoners. And the local crew’s always frothing to be on it. Better is to head along the Honoapiilani Highway and choose a put in there.
And many there are… From 1000 Peaks to Laniupoko (where pro waterman Zane Schweitzer lives) an abundance of waves exist that form and recede with the ever changing swells and tides. Some areas are busier than others, especially as you get close to Lahaina town. All, however, are SUP friendly waves.
One scenario, if you’re visiting Maui in summer, is to SUP surf the south shore early; enjoy an hour or two here before heading back to the Northshore for some wind driven activities. By around 10am the Trades have kicked in proper and 30+ knots will great you. Downwind SUP, windsurf, kitesurf, wing foil and so on… It’s all there for the taking.
For those into cycling, as well as stand up paddle boarding, Maui offers some great routes and terrain for road and mountain biking. If you’ve got the legs, and incentive e to wake early, then cycling to the top of Maui’s highest point: Mount Haleakala is worth doing to take in the sun rising as first rays poke above the clouds. A more efficient activity (perhaps) is utilising one of the many bike rental companies who will take you and your stead to the top of the shield volcano so you can see the sunrise before hurtling back downhill for breakfast.
Maui really is a special place and if you’re into any kind of watersports then even more so. So many pros live on the island that you may end up coming face to face with your idols. The level of skill on display at any given moment in the ocean is inspiring and all this coupled with a very Hawaiian ohana vibe – family is everything! Some amazing eating and drinking can be had here which is just the cherry on the top of a very delectable cake. Every stand up paddle boarder should visit Maui at least once in his/her lifetime with the island being the birthplace of our sport. And us believe when we say: you won’t forget (or regret) it!
Check out McConks’ other bitesize international SUP travel guide via the link below –