Olowalu Surfing

Jun 15, 2019 | General Information

Olowalu Beach is located close to the 14 mile marker on the Honoapiilani Highway which is the ocean road that takes you from the central valley to Lahaina and the West Side. Olowalu Beach is located just off the side of the road and can be easily seen by anyone driving by. Olowalu is noted for a number of things primary among them being its excellent snorkeling and it is known as an excellent surfing location when the ocean swells are right. It is also known as the historical location of one of the most violent slaughters having taken place between the Hawaiians and the Americans traveling to Hawaii in 1790 aboard two large sailing ships.

History of Olowalu

Olowalu is the site of what has been come to be known as the “Olowalu Massacre”. In 1790 two American ships pulled into the area off the Lahaina coastline, the “Fair American” and the “Elinor”. These ships were captained by Captain Simon Metcalf and his son Thomas Metcalf. One evening several Hawaiians came out to where the boats were anchored and stole one of the small shore boats tied to its keel and took it back to shore where it was torn apart to salvage the bounty of metal parts and nails which were a valued commodity for Hawaiians at the time. Angered by the theft Captain Metcalf ordered some cannon fire to be directed at a village on the shoreline and killed a couple Hawaiian natives. Seeking further vengeance however Metcalf set sail for the nearby location of Olowalu which he believed to be the place where those who were responsible for the theft had lived. He moored his boat off shore and beckoned the Hawaiians to come out and trade for goods he had on board. Once they were gathered alongside the vessel he ordered his men to fire with cannons and muskets and shortly thereafter over eighty of the Hawaiians had been massacred with many more having been injured.

Olowalu Surfing

Olowalu, when it is breaking, is one of the most treasured surf spots on Maui. Access to the break is immediately off the side of the road making it easy to get to and the wave formations here are often perfect for a short burst of speed surfing on Olowalu’s left or right breaks. Many an intermediate skilled surfer has honed his skills at Olowalu over time and this spot can be raging when the larger “south” swells of summer arrive on the island. It’s tons of fun when the waves are overhead but it also provides a great ride when the waves are just moderate in height. Be aware however that the large coral heads just lurk beneath the surface so caution is encouraged.

Surfing in Maui

Here’s a list of Maui surf lessons and similar activities you may be interested in.

Olowalu is a good place to snorkel

The snorkeling off Olowalu is excellent but you will have to be somewhat diligent to get to the best spots. Along the shoreline the water is quite shallow and somewhat difficult to navigate over because of the low-lying coral heads and reefs. There are a few somewhat sandy channels that can lead you out through the reef to the beautiful snorkeling areas on the outside but you’ll have to scout the areas out to find them. It does not help that the shoreline near the water’s edge is often murky but with a certain amount of tenacity you will in all likelihood be able to swim beyond the reef to the clear waters and excellent snorkeling beyond. Once out beyond the shallow reefs you will marvel at the beautiful colors of the outer reef areas and the variety of fish to be found in this area will rival the very best spots on the island.

Amenities at Honolua Bay Olowalu Beach

If you decide to come to enjoy the many curiosities of Olowalu Beach be aware that there are no amenities provided for you at all. No bathroom, no showers, no benches, no barbecue, no nothing. Parking is along side of the road so it has easy access but little else is provided in the way of creature comforts. The Kiawe trees which line the beach will provide ample shade from the hot Lahaina sun but they will also provide you with a thicket of thorns to navigate as you walk along the shoreline.

Ocean Caution

Please be advised that all beaches and ocean locations in Hawaii can be potentially dangerous including this location. Be completely aware of the ocean conditions prior to entering the water and of course, never turn your back on the ocean when you are on the shoreline. It should also be noted that all shorelines and beaches in Hawaii, including this one, can be frequented by sharks, jellyfish and other sea creatures which can provide potential harm to people entering the water.