Hike through Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Area Preserve, Maui - November 2011

I'd spent the morning snorkeling at Molokini crater with an old friend and her soon-to-be husband. After lunch and a quick nap we drove from southern Kihei farther south to the Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Area Preserve for a 3 mile hike around La Pérouse Bay to Keawanaku Beach. My friend K read Keawanaku is the name for the area. This beach is so new (due to a lava flow within the past 450 years) that the early Hawaiians didn't name it!

Here's where we were (notice I'm using the satellite map because it's just so cool to see the volcano - just zoom out!):

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It had seemed a bit chilly earlier in the day but when we got out of the car to start the hike it was toasty! We slathered on sunscreen, grabbed our snacks and water and headed out.

According to the brochure, "Āhihi-Kīna‘u is on Haleakalā’s south west rift zone, and is the location of one of the last eruptions of Haleakalā volcano. Geologists estimate the date of this eruption at +/- 450 years ago, although some anecdotal evidence indicates that part of the flow field may be younger."

Also "There are many invaluable archaeological sites in the area dating back thousands of years. Archeologists estimate that this part of the coast was inhabited for at least 600 years by native Hawaiians."

I was shocked at how far the lava field extended and how almost barren it made the land seem. So dark against the bright blue sky. The beginning of the walk was right along the water and we encountered other hikers as well as some goats.

We even stumbled upon a gift that someone left for us in the form of an almost entirely intact crab exoskeleton.

Convex Crab (Carpilius convexus)

There was almost as much coral in this area as there was lava rock and although some of it was pink like this piece . . .

Much more of it was bleached a bright white which looked even brighter next to the blackness of the lava rock.

After a time we came to some pools of water, some of which were thickly covered with algae and mosses. Later I would find out that these pools are called anchialine pools which are surface brackish-water pools, fed underground from both marine and fresh water sources. Hawaii is the only U.S. state to contain these naturally and the diversity of shrimp in these pools is the greatest known in the Indo-Pacific. Pretty beautiful to look at too!

At that point, I noticed some pools over by the water and thought I'd take a look to see what kind of tide pool creatures I'd find. By this point in the hike, we were no longer at sea level and the cliffs were shear so I made sure not to get close to the edge. Almost immediately I encountered these little guys which I would later find out are a type of sea urchin. I thought all sea urchins had pointy spines, but I guess not!

Helmet or Shingle Urchins (Colobocentrotus atratus)
Though beautiful, this was a rough hike and it was about to get rougher. The road-like path had been easy to follow but we soon got to a point where we might as well have been randomly scrambling over lava rocks towards some as yet unseen "secret beach" that the tour book described if it hadn't been for the strategically placed white coral highlighting the "path". We hadn't seen any other hikers for at least 45 minutes and it was getting to the point where we'd need to turn back soon so as not to get stuck in a lava field in the pitch blackness!

And then we encountered this . . .

Luckily, my friend K pushed ahead courageously and we soon saw this as well!!

Our secret beach (AKA Keawanaku Beach)!! Having the payoff in sight, we quickened our pace. I don't think I'd ever earned a swim as much as I did that day. And we had the beach all to ourselves. I've never been in a place that felt as remote as this beach and it was glorious.

Of course, the walk back to the car continued to be beautiful and felt much faster because the anticipation wasn't there. We'd already discovered our gem. It was probably the roughest hike I've been on but also the most rewarding - hands down - and I really appreciate K and R arranging it.

What a full FIRST day on Maui! Snorkeling with the sea turtles and then this. . . and still more adventures to come. :)

Here's a link to my Maui set on Flickr.