La Pérouse and King’s Highway

After a relaxing week in Kahana we drove back down to Kihei to go to La Pérouse bay, past Makena.  This was after our one and only “rowdy” night – when our bosses took us for drinks.  The road between Wailea and La Pérouse goes through the Ahini-Kinau Natural Area Reserve and is windy with a lot of ups and downs.  The guide book said not to attempt in anything butfour wheel drive, but our small Mazda sedan made it.  And I managed to hold it together until I got out of the car.  I really need to learn when I’ve had enough.

We were told about La Pérouse by Gill’s parents, who have swum with the pod of spinner dolphins that rest there in the morning.  If you snorkel out at dawn – right after 7 am – you can usually find them in the middle of the bay somewhere.  It’s their resting habitat so they swim
Sunrise, La Perouse

slowly in circles, after a night of hunting.

There are signs on the beach that warn against swimming with the dolphins, so we wanted to hold off until the morning photographers left.  We watched from the beach for an hour and only saw one large animal in the middle of the bay.  We figured it was a small humpback because it was at least twice the size of a dolphin, with a humpback-like dorsal.  The humpbacks were up again that morning, maybe a 1/2km from the beach.  Later on I saw dolphins too, out way further than they usually are, most likely because they had a whale in their bay.

La Pérouse is known for having some of the most fish species you can find anywhere.  The visibility improves the further out you get out, therefore it’s best to access by walking out to a further point.  However, to get around to the coves on the right side, you have to cut through private property and somehow get through the netting and fences. Off the beach the visibility was five feet at most.  Scary.  I was too freaked out to take photos and I couldn’t make it all the way out because the visibility never improved to the point where I was comfortable.


The Kings Highway, also called the Hoapili Trail is a lava rock path that was developed in the 1820s to help cattle cross the rough fields under direction of King Hoapili.  It is located in an ancient cultural site, with rock formations used in war that date back hundreds of years.  They say the ancient Hawaiians used to run across the sharp lava rocks barefoot.  Even on the trail, wit h sturdy shoes, it was really tough going.   The baseball sized rocks shift under your feet and you need to watch every step.

The trail starts a mile from the bay, off a shoreline trail that runs a mile out from the end of the road.  The first section leading to the trail is shaded with kiawe trees, but once you turn towards the lava fields there’s nothing but unrelenting sun.  Strong trade winds, or sometimes Kona winds from the south, blow gusts up to fifty mph in the area.  Even with the constant wind, and despite it being ten am, it was still scorching.  There was the odd oasis below the trail, where some palms and other vegetation grew.  One of them surrounded a tiny cove where people had camped on the beach.  Besides those, it was nothing but rock and sky.  Several carcasses lay along the side of the trail, most likely the tough little goats we saw running along the rocks.  The trails end at Kanaio Beach, where we stopped to collect some coral.

On the way back, we stopped for  a quick skinny dip at the cove.  I’ve never had a more refreshing swim!


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