This was to be our final full day in Napili together and we had scheduled a relaxing beach day with just a bit of snorkeling and basically doing nothing in Paradise. Unfortunately, the big guy upstairs had different plans…
After a week of predicted bad and nothing but SUN (well the odd shower too) Today really was shaping up to be grotty. Odd as the forecast was actually pretty good today. A band of cloud had rolled down from the West Maui Mountains and was obscuring most of the sky over Napili and the wind had got up considerably. We gave it time to clear up as we had our regular takeout Gazebo breakfast but it wasn’t playing.
One great thing about Maui is the weather is often very different in different parts of the Island. It is hugely influenced by the wind direction and the Cool trade winds were whipping round as far as Napili and bringing the temperature down and the rain with it. We decided to get the hell out of their and check out some other beaches.
The first stop was the Famous Airport Beach Park. Only 5 miles down the road and the change was dramatic. The Sun came bursting out and the wind all but dropped away. The Beach was busy but not overly so. We easily found a location away from anyone else and set up our nest. After getting nicely warmed by the sun we headed of for a snorkel.
Airport Beach is popular as the Reef if very close to the shoreline (it also has great amenities loads of parking and is generally a very nice beach and park). You can literally be swimming above Coral within 5-10m. Most days it is fairly benign, and even if the current is bad it often runs parallel to the shore so the worst case is you need to swim to shore and walk a little way back up the beach.
This is especially good for beginners or inexperienced snorkelers. The Snorkelling is pretty good too regardless. There are large amounts of healthy coral growing on the Rocks and reef structures lining the beach. And there is plenty of fish to be seen. It’s the usual suspect of Hawaiian reef fish and we don’t regularly see anything too exciting on this reef. But it is a very good introduction to Hawaain’s ocean life.
Turtles do frequent here but not as regularly as other locations. Today we were out of luck and didn’t see any. It’s not really the best place to see them but you can get lucky. There is a much better spot for turtle-spotting just down the beach, Black rock is great for turtles as I will discuss shortly.
There are Large underwater mammals here though and this is one of the few snorkeling spots on the island where you can see them … Scuba Divers. Airport beach’s benign conditions coupled with good coral and marine life all close to shore make it an excellent location for beginner divers and a few operations make good use of the beach to teach the basics. It’s a great place for that first dive or two.
After a while of floating around in the water taking in the marine life, we headed back to the beach to warm up. And after an hour or so doing very little I was getting bored so headed off for a more adventurous snorkel. The Black Rock back wall.
Secret Snorkelling Spot – Black Rock Back Wall
We don’t know if this is really secret or if we are just lucky but we rarely find anyone here when we are snorkeling, and considering this is in close proximity to two of the most popular snorkeling location on the island then it seems like it’s not really well known about. Or maybe it is and people are just cautious. As here is the Rub.
It’s a pretty dangerous place to go snorkeling, and it feels like it too. It also breaks a couple of our golden rules of snorkeling. Without sounding like I am bragging, I am an exceptional swimmer. Certainly, when compared to the general population I am right up in the upper echelons. I race Iron-distance Triathlons and for me, a 2.4 Mile swim is mealy a Warm-up (112 miles cycling and then a Marathon follow this up!). I only mention this as the swim round to the Black Rock Back wall is very wild. You are putting yourself at the mercy of the ocean.
I approach it from the Airport beachside, which really is a bad idea. You have to cross a freshwater inlet (Lionels Point) and this is a golden rule break. The murky brackish water is prime Shart hunting territory. While it’s not a big inlet and the chances of sharks are incredibly low. It certainly felt like I shouldn’t be there…
But once out on the back wall…it is some of the best snorkeling on Maui. As you can see from the map above the Backside stretches all the way from Lionel’s point, along the back of the Sheraton, and down to the Block rock outcrops that are accessible from Kaanapali Beach. What you can’t see on the Map is that this is a 400m(1300ft) swim both ways. And there is sure to be a current running one way or the other. It is also an 80-100ft high solid cliff face that plunges into the ocean. There is nowhere to stop or have a rest and the harsh sharp rocks and waves will not allow you to hold on and probably cut you quite badly. So really unless you are very confident the swim is no issue at all. It’s probably best to just avoid this area. And if there is a large swell, high winds, or any less favorable conditions you should definitely avoid it.
Those who are confident they can swim 800m+ in strong current will be rewarded though. The Cliff’s face plunges down into deep clear water that is swarming with fish and Turtles. The Drop off is deep and you are in 30-40 ft of water with the Big Blue off the side. These are the sort of spots where you can encounter Palegics and bigger animals as they have escape routes off into the ocean. I counted over 15 on my short 40 minutes snorkel today but saw no larger Pelagics but it always felt possible. I treated the snorkel as a drift dive and inched my way along the cliff using relatively little energy taking in the schools of fish and looking out for turtles. Eventually, I came out at the small bay at the end of Black Rock where I was joined by the more adventurous Snorkellers who had swum round from the Beachside, Still, this was as far as anyone else had ventured. This bay is teaming with life and there were 2 turtles feeding.
As I headed back it became clear that the current was running against me and It took a great deal of effort and hard swimming to make progress against the current. Anyone with a lower swim speed than me could easily have found themselves not able to make this return journey.
On the Return leg, an Inquisitive turtle actually approached me. I take care never to get too close to turtles and always try and allow them enough space to behave naturally and get on with whatever they are doing. Not only is this just good practice it’s also federal law. But on this occasion, the Turtle definitely approached me. We simply hung in the water together really close looking at each other. I felt as if he was curious about why I was here on the backside, where few people venture. He was definitely interested in my presence, Maybe he was just telling me to f-off? Anyway, after a minute or two just watching each over, I wasn’t blocking his escape as we were in open water, I decided to break the deadlock and head off. It was a lovely encounter. And had me very upset I didn’t have my camera with me!
Should you attempt the swim and find you have bitten off more than you can chew. The first thing to do is relax and accept this. If you do that you should be OK. Second work out which way the current is flowing and go with it. Even if it’s away from your starting position. You DON’T have to get out where you got in. Keep going with the current, parallel to the wall and sooner or later you will exit at the end. You can then just swim to shore. You may have a little “walk of shame” back round to the beach where you started but that isn’t the end of the world.
It is worth saying that turtles are frequently sighted on both sides of the black rock without having to leave the safety of the beach. You don’t need to head round to the back wall to spot turtles.
We left Airport beach and headed off for some lunch. We ended up in McDonald’s in Kahana to our shame! We just wanted cheap and quick and we can’t get double quarter pounders in the UK. After lunch, the Cloud had begun seeping down from Napili and even Airport beach was now overcast. We headed further down and past black rock the sun came back out so we headed to Kaanapali Beach.
The Parking Situation is a bit hit and miss at Kaanapali. The seafront is heavily lined with large hotels and resorts that all have large parking areas for guests. Non-guests are free to use them but at a heavy cost. $40-60 a day! However, in Hawaii, there is always somewhere free to park. But in Kaanapali, it’s very limited. Each Ocean Access point has its own Parking lot but it can be as small as 10-12 cars. These are invariably full. But we just cruise around looking for a lot and hoping someone is leaving. After 5-10 mins, we got lucky and bagged a spot. albeit a bit further down from Black Rock than planned.
The Beach was pretty quiet and we easily found a spot. The cloud was threatening to cover even here which would leave us pretty much out of options but for now, we persevered and settled down on the crest of the sand watching the waves break.
The normally placid beach was actually producing quite a swell and the breakers were fairly large. Fortunately, I had brought the Boogie board along so headed off to have some fun in the waves. Being quite out of practice It took a few attempts to catch any good waves but once on one it took you right up the beach at quite a lick of pace filling my shorts with sand! It’s great fun. Just up the beach surf schools were out teaching people proper surfing, but from the looks of it, the only people up on the boards were the instructors!
After a few great rides and few near misses with big waves and submerged coral/rocks, I called it a day before I did myself an injury. And we spent the rest of the afternoon just relaxing on the beach. Until the cloud rolled in around 4:00 pm and we headed back to the Condo and a relaxing evening of BBQ and Mai Tai’s on the Lanai.
Tomorrow is our last full day in Napili before relocating to Wailea and we were praying for some good weather to see the trip off. We adore our Honeymoon Condo and were dreading saying goodbye again.