Olowalu and 1000 Peaks

May 15, 2022 | General Information

Table of Contents
Unknown but to just a very few today are the events that occurred in what was once the thriving Hawaiian community of Olowalu in the year 1790. We will explain that important occurrence further down in the article. Today this area along the coastline about 3 miles south of the town of Lahaina is primarily known for its amazing surf break and its phenomenal snorkeling reef. This is an area that is sought out by charter boats from Lahaina and Kaanapali to bring their clients to view this amazing underwater world. It is also a very popular area where kayak companies bring visitors to paddle the shoreline and see the rich forms of sea life.

The reef here is immense, extending approximately a half mile along the coast. There is much in the way of beautiful coral formations and lots of marine life. You should easily be able to see two varieties of the Hawaiian Green turtle, an occasional black tip reef shark and remarkably, a large population of Manta Rays. If you are really lucky you may see a monk seal here as well and this is one of the few Maui snorkel spots that you might.

The Big Secret about snorkeling in Olowalu
One of the big secrets regarding Olowalu is that, the further you swim out to the outer reef the better water clarity you will find. This may be partially due to the amazing surf break that happen here almost right on the sand. Surfers can get fabulous rides in wonderful hollow curls but they are fairly short lived as they come crashing at waters edge and effect the water clarity. To really get to the juicy parts of the reef you will need to swim out about 300 to 400 yards and this is where you will find the very best that Olowalu has to offer. Although there are some sandy passage routes through the reefs, traveling that far off shore is not something most people feel comfortable with. It is for this reason that we recommend touring boats, and particularly kayaks tours to provide you with the very best access to appreciate this amazing area.

1000 Peaks
Similarly choosing one of the kayak tours is also your best option at the area of reefs referred to a ‘1000 Peaks’ about another mile up the coast in the direction away from Lahaina. Once again the reef is very lengthy and it extends well into the ocean and is very shallow. Its name is derived from the series of crests and waves that at any given moment will be breaking along a large area at various distances from the shoreline. This is due to the waves breaking all along the shallow reefs here and you can easily paddle out 100 yards or more and still be in very shallow water with sharp reef located underneath. It is for this reason that the we recommend one of our kayak tours to take you to the best snorkeling spots. With this place in particular, it is best to make certain that you take one of the early morning tours because the trade winds funneled through the Ukumehame Valley behind it can be unforgiving in the late mornings and afternoons.

The Olowalu Massacre
As mentioned in the earlier portion of this article, it may be of some interest, in an anecdotal way, to provide you with an important event in Hawaiian history that occurred here over 200 years ago that you may find of interest.

In contradistinction to the pleasures of snorkeling enjoyed today along the reefs of Olowalu, a series of much less joyful events occurred at this very location in 1790 when an American ship which had visited the island for the purpose of trade with the Hawaiians, massacred over 100 Olowalu natives as they crowded around the aft section of their boat in their Hawaiian canoes. It was believed that some of the Hawaiians had stolen a skiff from the boat days earlier. Cannons firing a combination of musket balls, nails and various forms of shrapnel were discharged repeatedly until the party of Hawaiians on their canoes were decimated in a bloody massacre that left the waters crimson with the color of blood and this became known later as the Olowalu Massacre. This event turned out to be a pivotal event in Hawaiian history because, even though the boat sailed away safely, later that year another similar boat which was actually captained by the son of the captain of the boat in Olowalu, Capt. Metcalf, was attacked by Kamehameha the Great on the Big Island and everyone aboard was killed, save just two Americans that knew how to use cannons. These two were spared and they were solicited to join forces with Kamehameha and they proved integral in defeating the Hawaiians from Maui in the battle of the Iao Valley in large part because of the use of these new weapons. This consolidated Kamehameha’s hold on the island chain and laid the groundwork for him to move his armies to Oahu to conquer that island as well. Although Kamehameha was never successful in defeating the island of Kauai, for all intents and purposes he now became the single ruler of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Although these events of over 200 years ago were certainly gruesome, the facts of this massacre are barely uttered when people come to Olowalu to enjoy its vibrant reef life. Many people in the local Maui community are not even familiar with the events of that day. And it seems that the area of Olowalu itself has forgotten these events too as the island has long since cleansed the blood and destruction from its shoreline and has returned it to its beautiful state of pristine nature. This is a spectacular place to come to snorkel on one of the many boats or kayak companies that bring visitors to the area.