On the southeastern coast of Maui, the stunning coastline of Waianapanapa State Park offers visitors a place to relax on the Waianapanapa Black Sand beach and hike along the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail. This state park is one of the highlights along the Road to Hana and you need to make an advanced reservation to visit the park.
In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to visit this park and enjoy the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail and Black Sand Beach. In our opinion, you should plan about 2 hours at the park. If the conditions are right, enjoy a swim at the beach and take some time to enjoy the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail. You can find information on the best time to visit, how to make the most of your time and general information about reservations.
You might also like some of the other hikes and highlights on Maui and along the Road to Hana:
- A Complete Guide to Hiking Haleakala National Park
- Pipiwai Trail Hike & the Bamboo Forest Maui: How to Hike this Incredible Trail
- 15 Amazing and Adventurous Things to do in West Maui
Getting to Waianapanapa State Park
Waianapanapa State park is located near the end of the road to Hana and while it is relatively straightforward to drive to the park, it is down a long and windy road. The famous Road to Hana is full of twists and turns and many many bridges. If you are driving your own car to the Road to Hana and Waianapanapa Black Sand State Park plan to take your time and give yourself extra driving time.
Once you arrive at the park, there are designated parking facilities for visitors although you will need a reservation to enter and park inside the park. You can see more details below on what to expect in the park and how to make a reservation or visit the park’s official website.
What to do at Waianapanapa State Park
Below you can find more information about how to visit the park, but before we to that it’s important to decide whether it’s worth visiting the state park. If you are driving the road to Hana, you should definitely plan to stop and walk the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail and visit the Black Sand Beach. In our opinion it is one of the top attractions on the Road to Hana.
When you arrive in the park, there are 2 main activities, visit the Black Sand Beach or walk the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail.
Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach
Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach is a stunning beach along the dramatic coastline of southeastern Maui. The beach’s black sand, created by volcanic activity, creates a striking contrast against the vibrant blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The dark sand is actually made from the fine grains of basalt, giving the beach a dramatic appearance.
Depending on the waves and conditions, it is sometimes possible to swim and snorkel at Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach. Strong currents and large waves are common in the small inlet so use caution and follow all posted signs. If you’re not an experienced swimmer, it’s advisable to stay closer to the shore where the waves are calmer. Also note that the lava rocks surrounding the beach are exceptionally sharp.
Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach is a great place to snap some photos. Some of the best places to capture photos in the park are the lava tube caves found along the beach. These unique formations were created by volcanic activity and provide a fascinating glimpse into Hawaii’s geological history. The beach offers breathtaking panoramic views of the coastline or you can walk along the cliffs for stunning photos.
Hiking the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail
Distance: 2 miles Elevation Gain: 150 feet Difficulty: Moderate
Meandering along the cliffs of the park, the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail is a gorgeous trail that offers the best views of this stretch of the coastline. The trail is generally easy and can be walked in several ways and directions. We really enjoyed stretching our legs on this trail after spend a few hours driving the Road to Hana. The distance above is listed as 2 miles, but you can also walk in the opposite direction from the beach and add on another mile.
The trail is well maintained and you will find a combination of walking paths, sand, and rocky footing. I strongly recommend wearing hiking boot or shoes on this hike as the rocks are sharp. You should plan on 60-90 minutes to explore the trail, but you can also walk just the first section for view back towards the beach. I also recommend walking out to the right from the beach towards the sea arch. The color of the foliage against the rocks and the ocean is truly stunning.
Things to Know about Waianapanapa State Park
Below are some of the most important things to know about Waianapanapa State Park.
How to Make a Reservation
You need a reservation to visit the state park. You can reserve your spot online in advance. In general I would book 1-2 months out if there is a specific date and time. The reservation system requires you to sign up for time slot of 2.5-3 hours. You should enter AND leave during this time slot. This works well as you should plan to spend about 2 hours at the park.
To make a reservation visit Hawaii Division of State Parks.
Facilities at Waianapanapa State Park
This is a small state park but there are basic facilities including bathrooms, a drink machine, trash cans, picnic tables, and a small campground with spots for tents and cabin rentals.
Safety Precautions and Guidelines
The state park, the black sand beach, and the Waianapanapa coastal trail are all located in a remote stretch of coastline. Changing weather conditions can make the area unsafe. Use caution near cliffs, on sharp rocks, and when entering the water.
Camping and Accommodation Options
While most people who visit Waianapanapa State Park are coming for the day during their drive on the Road to Hana, one of the best ways to visit is by planning an overnight. The closest place to spend the night at one of the tent sites of cabins on the park grounds.
Learn more and make a reservation in advance.
There are also several places to stay in Hana that are only a short drive from the park. Some of the recommended places include:
Best Time to Visit Waianapanapa
You can visit Waianapanapa State Park at any time of the year as the temperature on Maui is consistent. Consider checking the weather forecast beforehand, as Maui can experience occasional rain showers throughout the year. Early mornings and late afternoons are ideal for exploring the beach and hiking the trail, as you can witness breathtaking sunrises or sunsets while avoiding the midday heat. If you can, consider visiting during the weekdays or during the off-peak months of January to March and September to November, when the visitor numbers tend to be lower. This allows you to enjoy the beauty of Waianapanapa with fewer crowds and a greater sense of serenity.
Other Interesting Hikes and Nearby Stops
The Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach and Waianapanapa Coastal Trail are some of the best sites on the Road to Hana, but there are many other excellent hikes and views along the entire stretch of the road. We loved spending time at Haleakala National Park and stopping as some of the fruit stands and waterfalls along the drive. Looking for more? Check out some of the sites below:
Summary of Visiting Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach and the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail
If you are considering adding Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach and the Waianapanapa Coastal Trail to your itinerary for the road to Hana, we strongly encourage you to make a reservation. This is one of the highlights and the colors and views here are some of the best views on the island of Maui.