The Hoapili Trail begins at the very end of Makena Road, where the road ends. This nice walk takes a path used in the past when asphalt roads did not exist. The trail connects the pretty bay of La Persouse to Kanaio Beach, a small and rather unusual remote beach located 3.2 km from the parking lot. This easy-going hike follows the ocean, first passing by small creeks of white sand, then crossing ancient lava flows.
A shorter and more interesting alternative is to reach the small lighthouse of Hanamanioa, located just before Kanaio Beach. It is this option that we have chosen to do and that we will detail in this article. The section between the Hanamanioa lighthouse and Kanaio Beach is not worth the effort, in our opinion, as the trail and the beach itself are not very interesting.
1The Hoapili Trail to Hanamanioa Lighthouse
The walk begins on the edge of the bay of La Perouse, which is named after the famous French navigator who mapped the place in 1786. The trail begins by crossing a first lava flow close to the ocean and approaches an ancient Heiau (Hawaiian temple) of which some ruins remain. To reach the ruins, you will have to take the alternative path that goes slightly away from the sea after walking for about 150m.
The trail then moves closer to the sea and now offers a magnificent contrast between the black lava and the small creeks of white sand, coming from the remains of the coral that populated the bay. Here the waves are numerous and come to crash on the sharp lava rocks. It is not uncommon to be occasionally sprayed by a few drops of sea spray.
At low tide, the small creeks make a very pleasant place to rest at the water's edge, but beware, there is no shade at all here.
The trail continues along the ocean and then branches off under the trees when reaching a slightly larger but not very pretty beach. The walk under the trees is very pleasant. You may see some wild goats and beautiful yellow butterflies that like to refresh themselves here.
At the exit of the forest, the path joins another beach in an arc of a circle, mainly composed of remnants of dead corals and pebbles, before taking the direction of a huge lava field.
Here, a fork in track will suggest that you continue straight ahead, or take an old pedestrian road, the King's Highway, which was the main route used in the past. Alas, this famous road is straight through the lava and is not really interesting.
So let's go straight ahead. The path now diverges from the sea and goes into the lava field, offering a nice view of the Haleakalā and its small cones in good weather. But beware of the heat which will be overwhelming here.
For nearly 1 km the trail will continue across the lava field. This part is not interesting and will seem quite monotonous. But fortunately, it is not very long. Watching the right side of the path, you should spot small alternative paths that seem to approach the sea. Don't hesitate to take them, they will offer you some nice surprises, especially just before you reach the lighthouse.
If you miss the seaside path on the outward journey, you can more easily pick it up on the return journey from the lighthouse.
If you managed to find the small secondary path that runs along the ocean, you will discover beautiful arches and basalt columns lining the small lava cliffs. The place is really very interesting! But beware of the wind, which is often strong here, and may blow your hair out!
Soon you won't be able to miss the Hanamanioa lighthouse, which looks more like ... an old rusty light beacon. One wonders why this thing has a name! But don't stop here. Continue for another 150m on one of the small paths that lead from the lighthouse.
They lead to a small wave-beaten point where strange little ponds have been formed by spray and waves when the sea is rough. These small ponds take on quite unusual colors!
Finally, don't turn back either before reaching the small wild beach, certainly not very beautiful, but which could perhaps shelter one or more specimens of monk seals that come here to rest in peace. If like us you have the chance to observe them, please do not disturb them and observe a minimum distance of 50 feet, or 15m with them (see 150 feet or 45 meters if it is a mother with her pup).
You will now be able to go back to the parking lot either by taking the "expressway" from the lighthouse or return via the alternative path that runs along the ocean and starts at the lighthouse.
2How to get to the Hoapili Trail
Access is at the end of Makena Road. Once you reach the Ahihi-Kinau reserve, the asphalt road turns into a gravel road that can be driven on with any vehicle. Continue on and you will soon reach a gravel parking lot where you can park. There you will find chemical toilets.
3Tips before taking the Hoapili Trail
To enjoy the Hoapili Trail we recommend that you start it at the end of the day, leaving enough time to make the round trip before sunset. Be aware that the sun sets quickly in Hawaii.
The end of the day will offer you beautiful colors and a more pleasant temperature to do this little trail. However, if the heat is too strong, then you should prefer the first light of day. On the other hand, we strongly advise you not to take the second part in the lava field (at the end of the forest) in the middle of the day. The heat could be overwhelming.
In any case, we still advise you to bring at least 1L of water per person. Also avoid coming here on a windy day or on a rough sea day, as the path sometimes passes close to the water.