Ahihi Kinau

NOTE: Many inland portions of the Ahihi Kinau Natural Preserve between the two bays and its hiking trails are closed (from August of 2008 to August 0f 2010) to public access. This part of the preserve is home to plant, animal, and insect species found nowhere else and is an extremely fragile ecosystem. However, the most popular snorkeling areas and beaches remain accessible. There is good pole fishing along this stretch of coast, but fishing within the marine component of Ahihi Kinau is forbidden.

Ahihi Kinau in Maui is a rigorously protected reserve on the undeveloped and rugged southern coast of the island. The shoreline in this region is rocky, with many lava outcroppings, lava tubes, and plenty of coral and coral reefs. Thus, snorkeling in Ahihi Kinau will provide you with just about the best taste of the sport you can experience anywhere in Hawaii. Lava outcroppings provide such excellent snorkeling because of the many fissures. The abrupt turns in the ocean floor and varying water depth make excellent hiding places for the colorful reef fish. The beaches here begin shallow and deepen gradually, meaning they are good snorkeling spots for all skill levels. This is the only reserve system on the island with a coastal marine element, and it protects the reefs along the secluded beaches in this region. When in the water anywhere on the island, be careful of the coral. Coral is a living organism that can easily be damaged. Avoid walking on it, and do not remove any pieces.

The Ahihi Kinau Natural Preserve totals 2,000 acres and is located between Ahihi Bay and La Perouse Bay. The marine portion of Ahihi Kinau is accessible from the Makena Alanui Road just before the turnoff to Uluupalukua Ranch and the famed Tedeschi Winery. There are two road access points, the first about three miles south of Wailea Beach, with the second located another two miles farther. La Perouse Bay is important to the history of Maui, as this was the landing spot of the island's first European visitor.

Many hiking trails skirt the Ahihi Kinau Natural Preserve, and some follow the rugged coastline all the way to Hana Town. Most of the trails that actually lie within Ahihi Kinau in Maui are unofficial trails forged by visitors who do not obey the restrictions put in place to protect the balance of nature in this ecologically rich area. The restrictions that are peridocially placed on entering some of the areas in this part of the preserve are to allow the ecosystem to recover and regenerate. One of the hiking trails that skirts the preserve takes you into the Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area with its unusual wildlife and sweeping views of the southern coast. Several trails meander around the slopes of Haleakala, and some reach the breathtaking summit of Haleakala Crater. All along these trails, you will find remains of ancient Hawaiian villages. Be respectful; pack everything out with you, and remove nothing from this culturally important area.

There are virtually no hotels along this Ahihi Kinau undeveloped section of the island, formed by millennia of Haleakala eruptions and lava flows. But there are numerous camping sites, and you can reach the Hana hotels during a single day of hiking. These hiking routes are incredibly scenic. During the humpback whale migration season from November through April, the trails provide excellent whale watching outlooks. If your Ahihi Kinau in Maui plans include driving past La Perouse Bay, you should ensure that your car rental has four-wheel drive.

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