Snorkeling at Pu'u Keka'a, Maui - November 2011

According to traditional Hawaiian beliefs, Pu'u Keka'a (aka Black Rock), the westernmost point on Maui, is a place where the spirits of the dead leap into the unknown to be carried to their ancestral homeland. It's also a pretty good snorkeling spot that's easy to get to and great for novices like myself.

It was a short (and very pleasant) walk from our hotel so we found ourselves there on a Friday at late morning.

View Larger Map

I had rented snorkel gear for the day from the beach activities center at our hotel for $15. You can find it much cheaper at various Boss Frog's and Snorkel Bob's locations around the island (they were advertising $9 for the week!), but since I didn't rent a car and the Maui buses only run once per hour it would have been difficult for me to rent and then return it.

The wind that day was wicked and I went straight to the water to get away from the whipping, stinging sand. By the base of the rock there are some small tide pools so I explored those a bit. Not much to see except these lovelies . . .

Shingle (or Helmet) Urchins (Colobocentrotus atratus)
Thin-shelled Rock Crab (Grapsus tenuicrustatus)

Then I got on my gear and started snorkeling! When people say "You can just walk to the beach and get in" they're not exaggerating. You could see reef fish and coral just a few feet out into the water. I found snorkeling easier this time - maybe because I had a better mask and snorkel or maybe because it wasn't my first time.

Again, the fish and coral were beautiful to look at and so interesting. The coral was closer this time (5-10 feet and sometimes so close I was nervous I'd bump into it!) and within each crevice I could see urchins and more coral. The waves were intense that day and I was a bit afraid of the current so I didn't make it out to the horseshoe-shaped cove at the tip of the rock where the coral is said to be less damaged. Not all people that come to Maui and snorkel respect the reef creatures and some areas have been a bit trampled on. Sad.

I didn't have a proper underwater camera that day so I was using my digital camera sealed in a waterproof bag. The bag is definitely waterproof, but with the camera in the bag it's a bit difficult to change any settings and I couldn't get quite the right ones. Still, here are a couple of shots to give you an idea.

Red Pencil Urchin (Heterocentrotus mammillatus)

Sergeant Major on top (Abudefduf vaigiensis)

Cauliflower Coral of some type
There were large rocks covered in coral
After leaving Black Rock we walked to the Hyatt for lunch. This stretch of beach is beautiful and that day the waves were huge and relentless. I'd never seen them coming in so quickly!

Check out more of my photos from my Maui trip in my Flickr set.