Surfing & Boarding

1) Big Beach

Big Beach is like the Las Vegas of Maui. You know that by going there, you will be

Big BeachBig Beach
Big Beach
entertained. There is always something going on at Big Beach.

On the weekends, you can watch locals surf, flip, jump and occasionally wipe out on the large shore break waves. This along with the wide variety of lifestyles provides very entertaining “people watching.”

The surf at Big Beach can vary drastically from day-to-day. On most winter days, the surf is relatively small, but can provide some fun waves for beginning body boarders. On summer days, the surf can be huge. Wave on many parts of the beach will quickly grow to 5+ feet before a quick and very powerful crash onto the sand. Beginner body boarders should not participate on large surf days at Big Beach as many will risk serious injury. On days when the surf is very large, you can hear and feel the crash of the waves from the parking lot.

For experienced body boarders, we suggest proceeding past both public parking lots and parking at the very south end (the end furthest from Kihei) of Big Beach on the side of the road. At the south end of the beach you can see where the volcanic rocks stick out of the water. The line where these rocks start is a great wave break that will often times yield a ride that is over 50 yards.

And if none of the items above catch your attention, the beauty of the blue water at Big Beach is mesmerizing. Simply sit back and enjoy.

Note: Big Beach is our favorite body boarding beach. Although there are sometimes surfers there, it is primarily a body boarding and skim boarding destination.

Map to Big Beach

2) The Cove

Home of the two foot “tourist wave.” For most, including yours truly, this is the

Surfing at the CoveSurfing at the Cove
Surfing at the Cove
perfect place to learn to surf. Even on very calm days, the Cove almost always has waves you can surf. The long rollers break just outside the small rock island and proceed all the way to the breakwall at Kihei road.

We suggest parking in the lot on the south end of the bay, just behind Charley Young beach (shown in the picture to the right). This parking lot gives better access to the water and makes it easier to load and unload boards. We also prefer to surf this side of the Cove. The other side (closer to Kalama Park) has a wave break that is inferior and is often quite crowded with “surf schools.”

Finally, if you are a beginning surfer, we would suggest wearing reef walkers while surfing at the Cove. The submerged reef is very sharp and will tear you up if you are walking on it in bare feet.

Note: The Cove is our favorite surfing spot. It is almost exclusively used by surf boarders and SUP’s. This break is almost never used by body boarders.

Map to the Cove

3) Ho’okipa

Ho’okipa is Maui’s answer to Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline. Located on Maui’s north shore, most big swells are observed in the winter. Unlike south Maui where the waves can

be blocked by the barrier islands (Kaho’olawe, Lana’i & Moloka’i), north Maui is exposed to the open ocean. And while Ho’okipa is probably Maui’s best surf spot, it is better known as the best windsurfing spot in the world.

Ho’okipa actual consists of 4 breaks that start at Mama’s Fish house and proceed toward the beach park, ending at the lookout cliff. The two breaks closest to the lookout cliff are exclusively used by surfers whereas the two breaks closest to Mama’s are used by windsurfers.

Surfing at Ho’okipa should only be attempted by experienced surfers. If you are going there to surf, we suggest parking at the beach park and letting the rip tide carry you out to the break. If you are just going to watch, then park on the lookout cliff. From the cliff you get an awesome view of the surfers. Additionally, you will probably see a lot of green turtles which congregate between the break and the beach.

Note: Ho’okipa is used by windsurfers, surfers and body boarders.

Map to Ho’okipa

4) Pe’ahi (Jaws)

Pe’ahi (aka Jaws) is one of the worlds premier “big wave” surfing destinations. With waves that have reportedly exceeded 100 feet, it goes without saying that

Pe'ahi (Jaws) big wave surfingPe'ahi (Jaws) big wave surfing
Pe'ahi (Jaws) big wave surfing
surfing here is for experts only.

The waves are not always big at Pe’ahi. However, a few times each winter the conditions are right and the waves are huge. Surfers will fly in from all over the world, just to surf Jaws. Spectators view the surfers from a cliff high above the ocean.

Note: 4X4’s only if it is raining. The road into Jaws is mostly red Maui clay which is as slick as ice when wet.

Pe’ahi is somewhat difficult to find. There are no signs or grand stands or anything. Proceed past Paia a few miles. Between mile marker 13 and 14, you are going to turn toward the ocean. (Please see detail maps in links below). Once you turn off the highway, you still have about a mile to a mile and a half drive to the ocean. This drive is on red clay dirt thru an old cane field. There are abandoned cars and in some places it looks like a scene out of road warrior. We are telling you this because when Jaws has big waves, a lot of people will flock there. Some will try to walk all the way from the highway. Ugh.

Watching the surfers at Pe'ahiWatching the surfers at Pe'ahi
Watching the surfers at Pe'ahi
Once you get to the bottom, you will probably wonder if “this is it?” Because it is just a small cleared dirt area where you can see the ocean. No sign. No grand stand. No building. Just a cleared area in the middle of a cane field.

Getting a good view can be a problem. Last time we were there during a big swell, people were crowding around and standing in front of us. Additionally, the cane was very tall and hard to see over. Eventually, we positioned our pickup truck so the rear faced the ocean. Then we could stand in the back of the truck and watch the surfers. The extra 5 feet of lift provided by the pickup let us really see what was going on. If at all possible, we would suggest using this method.

For Maui Guidebook write up on Jaws, click here.

Map to Pe’ahi

6) Others worth mentioning…

Slaughterhouse, Paia Beach, Kaewakapu, Mokapu, Honolua & Lahaina Breakwall can all provide excellent waves from time to time. Slaughterhouse & Paia Beach are primarily used by body boarders. Honolua and the Breakwall are primarily used by surfers. And finally, Kaewakapu & Makapu are used equally by both surfers and boarders. Personally, we like Slaughterhouse, Kaewakapu & Makapu. We don’t like Paia Beach because it is like being inside a wash machine with no consistent break point. Additionally, we shy away from the Breakwall because of a bad experience there while learning how to surf (things just stick with you).

More than anything, we would suggest that you BE CAREFUL. Maui can provide conditions that would challenge even the best surfers in the world. If you are unsure or afraid, ask a lifeguard or a local. Most folks are happy to chat about surfing. Just be honest and ask if they have any advice. For example, all the locals that surf Ho’okipa know there is a riptide that runs from the beach to the break. If you were swimming, this current may pull you out to sea as you attempt to swim to shore. But once you know where to find it, it looks just like a river. Local use the current to carry them out to the break with minimal effort on their part.

Surfing and boarding should be FUN. You don’t want to be scared or intimidated. Therefore, make sure you take some extra time to know the area and the conditions to insure your safety.