Whether you are visiting the Beach park as part of your Road to Hana Trip, or are here specifically for the turtles or are just check-in out Maui’s great beaches and surf spots, Ho’okipa has a lot going for it. Its main claim to fame is the incredible Honu or Green Sea Turtle Haul-out. Every day hundreds of huge Sea turtles haul themselves out of the ocean and lounge about on the beach sunning themselves.
While the Turtles are the main draw the beach is also a Surfing hotspot and being in the windward coast the Beach is often subject to perfect surfing conditions. There are several breaks and most days surfers flock here to ride the waves. It’s a poor choice for the beginner with large powerful waves and shallow exposed reefs. But we love to just sit on the lookout watching the experts!
We love Ho’okipa beach Park and highly recommend a visit to everyone, however with the beach being narrow, exposed, and busy and the water entry tricky with the seafloor covered in sharp painful rocks. Its appeal is not immediately obvious so let’s take a deeper look at the Beach Park.
Ho’okipa Beach Park
- About – Scenic Beach Park, packed with sunbathing Turtles!
- Mile Marker – 8.5 on Highway 36
- Location – First Stop On the Road to Hana, Before the Highway 360 Begins
- Facilities – Restrooms, Picnic Tables, Showers, Water, Lifeguards (8 am – 4:30 pm) Food Trucks at the look-out car park.
- Hana Highway Rating – Must Stop
- Cost – Free
- Highlights – Incredible surf, and home to hundreds of Honu (Green Sea Turtles)
How To Find the Ho’okipa Beach Park
Ho’okipa is well signposted along Highway 36 just after Paia. There are two entrances the first right on the 8.5 Mile Marker, the second less than half a mile further on. There are a small number of parking spaces along the shorefront and if those are full there are more spaces up on the headland. When it’s bust and the Surf is up even these can be full. we don’t recommend parking along the Main Highway so just circle until a space opens up. A lot of people are only here for the turtles and only stay a while.
To find the Turtles head down to the beach and turn right, head as far as you can until you hit a barricade and the turtles will be right there. More on them later.
How to Say Ho’okipa
It can seem a fearsome word from the outset but broken down it is pretty easy to pronounce. Start with “Ho’o” The ‘ is a stop, so we say Ho (as in Santa Claus) then O. So “Ho – o”. Like Ho-ho (Again think Santa) but without the second H.
“Kipa” is pronounced Key – Pa. Why we don’t know it just is. so put together we have:
Ho – O – Key – Pa
Ho’okipa means “hospitality” and we are not sure why that is applicable to this park. While there are nice amenities, they are all unmanned and nature is quite raw here and not very hospitable to the unwary, maybe it refers to the hospitality the beach offers the Honu?
The Beach Park is well catered for. There are large clean(ish) Toilets along with beach showers and covered picnic tables along with BBQ areas. Drinking water is available in the form of drinking fountains and there are even payphones in the unlikely event these are still relevant to you!
Life Guards are present most days between the hours of 8 am and 4:30 pm. The beach is flagged so take note despite the fact you will see surfers roundly ignoring the advice.
In the Lookout car park you will often find a selection of food trucks or food stands. These are highly variable but you can often get a selection of fast food trucks or Tropical fruit stands. Frozen Coconuts go down very well watching the Surfers play!
What to See and Do at Ho’okipa
Watersports are the main draw here and they attract a lot of locals. When the surf is up the Beach Park is packed. Huge waves crash against the rocky shoreline and there are several breaks where large pipelines can form. You will also see locals windsurfing, kiteboarding, and even spearfishing. However, the ocean here is often treacherous and the waters are best left to those who know what they are doing.
Windsurfing is huge here and the park is often the host to world championships. But again the fact the Pros are here should be enough to dissuade most people. There are far better (read safer) beginner beaches further down the coast towards Kahului.
Snorkeling and Swimming are usually poor due to the ocean conditions, but if it is calm it’s a great place to Snorkel due to the rock bottom providing shelter for fish and helping keep the water nice and clear. Entry is tricky but there are sand “pathways” into the water between the rocks, try and find a reference point going in so you can find a way out again. However, 9 times out of 10 the water will be far too choppy (or worse) for safe Snorkelling or swimming.
The Headland has a short trail that leads to the Ho’okipa lookout. Here you get stunning views of the coastline, both down towards Kahului and also the rugged shoreline heading out towards the early Hana Coastline.
When the Surf is up this is a fantastic place to watch the surfers do their thing among the swells. Large waves form around several surf breaks off Ho’okipa and most days there will be surfers hitting the water. Surfing here is not for the beginner so it’s best enjoyed from the safety of the headland letting those who know what they are doing have all the fun. Regardless it is an awesome spectacle; Man playing chicken with the ocean!
Honu – Green Sea Turtles – Haul-Out
The big draw here for the tourists is the huge population of Green Sea Turtles. The waters of the bay are filled with turtles and on the rare occasion the waters are calm enough snorkeling here will result in untold numbers of Sea Turtle sightings. The seafloor is very rocky and this leads to often very clear water. The problem is the conditions here are very rarely conducive to good snorkeling.
The main reason to head to Ho’okipa is the tendency of the resident turtles to haul out. And they do so in incredible numbers. As you approach the right-hand side of the beach (facing the ocean) you will see hundreds of rocks littering the beach. As you get closer you realize these are not rocks at all, but hundreds of huge Sea Turtles. It is a staggering sight.
Growing up the Sea Turtle was the poster child for the losing battle of conservation. Turtles were held up as all but extinct. Ravaged by the actions of man. And in many places in the world, this is still the case. All around the Caribbean, Europe, Along the western seaboard of the Americas, and in and around the south pacific, once numerous sea Turtle populations are rare and threatened. However, in Hawaii, the once critically endangered species is BOOMING!
Hookipa Beach is a fantastic place to see what serious conservation can do for a species. All around Maui, Turtles are numerous, but here on Hookipa, the numbers are staggering. No one really knows why they haul out so prolifically here, whereas on the rest of the island, they mostly stay in the water. What is clear is that they do, and they bask for hours under the sun in massive numbers.
During peak hours protection officers set up a perimeter to stop us from getting too close and upsetting the turtles. And having been present at times when the officers are not there, it is sad to say they are needed as people act quite unbelievably, getting super close, touching, and cutting off the retreat to the ocean, we have even seen kids “riding” the turtles! So it’s reassuring the cordon is in place most of the time and we thank the conservation efforts from what are mostly volunteer workers!
Whether you are here specifically for the turtles or part of your Road To Hana Experience the Ho’okipa Haul-out is a must-see spectacle. Nowhere else in Hawaii do the Honu haul-out in these numbers and only a few very select locations worldwide (and only at specific breeding periods) can rival Ho’okipa for turtle numbers. Do not miss it!
Have Your Say
Have you visited the Turtles at Ho’okipa? How many were there when you did? Let us know in the comments below as we love to keep up to date with the turtle numbers. If you have any questions at all about Hookipa just fire away. Finally, if you witness any poor interactions between visitors and the turtles feel free to vent below, or better still report it to the authorities if severe enough!