Winterwonderland Hawaii: Waianapanapa Caves, Hana Lava Tube, Koki Beach, and Kaihalulu Beach

December 17th

Like every morning, the sunrise woke us up early and after over 12 hours of relaxing sleep we were ready to start the day. Our breakfast of champions once again consisted of croissants and Nutella in our tent. After breakfast, we met up with Stewart and decided to hike to the Waianapanapa Fresh water caves and take a dip in it. These caves gave the state park we stayed at its name and are quite famous. However, as it was before 8 am, we were the only people round. It is daily easy to find the caves and it is not too hard to climb down to them. There are two natural pools. The one we got to first had very clear water, the other was overgrown by all kinds of plants and the water appeared very muddy. Obviously, we chose the one with the clear water for a dip. The water is not only very clear, it is also very cold. And I mean really, really, really cold. But also very refreshing. As the name says it is not salty ocean water but fresh water. Starting in the main pool, you can swim into two different caves. These have no access to sunlight so it is very dark. Luckily, Stewart had brought a flashlight with a headband, so we could see the patterns on the ceiling of the caves. The caves are very beautiful, so bringing a waterproof flashlight is definitely recommended. The water level starts out rater shallow but quickly becomes deep. In the caves, however, there are many spots where you can stand. In mid december there were some fish swimming in the water but several times a year, red shrimp come to the cave and the water appears red. This has led to a tale that has been told for decades: Princess Popoalaea fled to the cave to escape her husband, but he eventually found and murdered her in the cave. To remember what he did, the water would turn red over and over again.
I did not bring my camera on that hike and I do not want to recklessly copy and paste pictures from google, but here are some links to amazing pictures I found, so you get an idea what it looks like.
The Pool
Inside one of the Caves

A little later, we drove to the Hana Lava Tube, also known as Ka’ Eleku Cavern. This tube came into being about 900 years ago, when the lava from the volcano moved towards the ocean. Over time the upper layers of lava cooled down while hot magma moved on lower layers. This process helped the development of a sold ceiling. Eventually, the lava flow decreased and a hollow tube was left behind. Today you find these lava tubes in many locations but this one is one of the longest in Maui (I think).
We arrived right at the time when they opened so the three of us and another couple were the only people in the tube. Therefore, it really felt as if we had the place to ourselves. When you pay admission (again no student discount… boooo) you also get a flashlight. And that it all the light you have. No other artificial light and in most places no daylight. This makes it a really cool experience, because you get to choose what to look at and what you wish to highlight.


The cave is a registered fall out shelter. I am not quite sure how much protection it really offers in case of a nuclear attack.


In few spots, the sunlight comes through. Some of the holes cakes through erosion and time, others were made on purpose.


It looks like copper and gold  – and excited Christina and me a lot – but it is just some kind of algae that makes the stone look precious.


The larger areas of the cave were hard to photograph because flash and flashlight only get you so far when it is pitch black. But just imagining, that 900 years ago there was hot lava streaming where you are standing right now is quite impressive.


No matter how old and mature you are… playing with shadows is always fun.


This particular kind of lava is called chocolate lava.



After the visit in the cave our beach tour started. And by beach tour I do not mean that we lay at the beach for hours and sipped cocktails but we visited a number of different beaches.


First stop: Koki Beach

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The view from the beach is amazing, you can see a natural arch and an island that aren’t too far away.

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The beach isn’t your typical touristy, flashy beach but rather green, almost hidden. You needed to know that the beach exists to find it.

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The water left incredible patterns in the sand… and made two college students very happy.

After this beach, we drove back to the heart of Hana. Because right there you can find one of the beaches I was most excited about. The Kaihalulu Beach, or Red Sand Beach. To get to this beach you need to be a little brave and wear proper shoes, because the trail is a little steep and sometimes very narrow. Further, the shedding trees made it a little slippery. But once you turn around the last corner and see the dark red lagoon and the very blue water, you know it was worth is.

Just like the black sand at the Waianapanapa Beach, the red sand gets its color through some volcanic process I do not quite remember. We stayed at the beach for a couple of hours, ate papayas and bananas for lunch, and just when we were about to leave it started to rain. We sought shelter in a tiny cave and sat next to an elderly local man who smoked pipe. I am not quite sure what his pipe was stuffed with, but it suspiciously smelled like the cave suddenly was relocated to Amsterdam.

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Once we arrived back on street level, we returned to the general store. Not to buy food, but to buy Benadryl. Those of you who have ever seen any bite on my body, mosquito, bee, or wasp, know that my body tends to react to it. As we were sleeping in the rainforrest, there are a lot of mosquitos and bugs. This morning I counted 32 bites on my legs along and the swelling of some was insane. Half of the time we were at the beaches and I was not taking pictures, I was trying not to scratch, but the itching was excruciating.  So in the general store, we bought some Benadryl to relief me and returned to the camping ground.

As it was our last evening and Stewart had some thing to celebrate, he invited us to a restaurant for dinner.


The view was great and the food was divine. We started with calamaris (and for once I ate them. They were so fresh and soft), then I had chicken parmesan, with grilled vegetables and brown rice. We also had a macadamia nut cake for desert. I do not remember the last time I was that stuffed and once we fell into our tent, we were fast asleep.


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