All The Wonders Of Maui

A Shelling Adventure To The Valley Isle
By Martin E. Tremor Jr.
     In the middle of an ancient sea, in a tropical latitude cooled by trade winds and gentle rains, one great family of islands rose from the sea. These magnificent islands, born of fire and molten lava, were destined to become the most coveted on earth and took the name Hawaii. One of these mighty islands, emerging from the ocean in two powerful volcanic eruptions, became the home of the heroic Polynesian God, Maui (The Great One), and the island took his name forever.

     In the time of Hawaiian myth, there were many legends of the feats of this revered warrior. Probably the most popular was the legend of how Maui waged a mighty battle with the sun. It seems that the sun, La, was always so quick to pass over the sky that Maui’s mother had no time to dry the bark to make her tappa cloth. So Maui made sixteen ropes from his sisters hair. He climbed to the top of Haleakala and waited in the shadow of the wiliwili tree for the sun to appear. He tied fast the ropes to the tree and when the sun began to race across the sky, Maui lassoed it. A fierce battle ensued between Maui and the sun, but in the end the sun begged Maui for his life. Maui then granted the sun his life in exchange for the sun’s promise that he would forever cross the sky more slowly so that all of Maui’s people would have more time to accomplish their chores. To this day it seems that the sun does indeed cross the sky more slowly on Maui.

     Our first day on Maui dawned with a spectacular sunrise at 5:50 am. Just steps from our condo Honokeana Cove glistened in the early morning. What an incredible sight - a beautifully carved cove with lava rock promontories jutting out from both the left and the right-hand sides of the cove. Just a short walk on a trail over the right hand promontory led to lovely Napili Bay. This beautiful bay has a long and wide white sand beach that curves between two rocky points.

     Beyond Napili, across another lava promontory about a mile away, was Kapalua Bay. Oh My! This just must be one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world. The crescent white sand beach is bordered on both ends by long lava rock points while a large stand of stately coconut trees line the back shore. Beyond Hokuanui, the south point, a coral reef arcs into the bay, acting as a barrier against the strong off shore currents, as does Ka’ekaha, the long north point. Kapalua means "Arms embracing the Sea" - a name most befitting the long lava rock points that embraces this lovely tropical beach. Between Ka’ekaha Point and Hawea Point lies Namalu Bay, a very rocky-shored bay that looked just perfect for snorkeling. All of this in just the first hour. Although we would be shelling many different beaches around Maui, at least part of each day would be spent in this Honokeana and Kapalua area right at our back door.

- Honokeana Cove -

     After a quick breakfast at a lovely little waterfront restaurant overlooking Napili Bay, it was time to address the sea. But which bay to choose first? Since Honokeana Cove was the first of the lovely bays we gazed upon on that first morning, it seemed only fitting that this should be our introduction to the waters of Maui.

     Tropical fish of every description abound in this cove. There was the Moorish Idol, a beautiful little fish with black, yellow and white stripes and a long thin dorsal fin that arched past the tail. There were also several species of triggerfish including the state fish of Hawaii, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. Tangs of every sort darted around the rocks and coral. There were yellow tangs, black tangs with a large bright red diamond at the base of their tail, blue tangs with a very elongated bright orange oval patch at the tail, brilliant green tangs with yellow markings and unicorn tangs with a very long horn protruding from their foreheads. Butterfly fish of every description and color flitted around the coral and pretty little (about two feet long) moray eels stuck their heads out of the rock crevices. Some were white spotted with black, some were black with white and some were rather multicolored. Three Hawaiian green sea turtles made the center of the cove their home and could be found daily, especially early morning and evening.

Drupa ricina     Along the rocky shore line we found that little black nerites [Nerita picea (Récluz, 1841)] were common as were littorinas [Littorina picta (Philippi, 1846)] and limpets [Cellana sandwicensis (Pease, 1861)]. We found a few Conus lividus Hwass in Bruguière, 1792 and Conus flavidus Lamarck, 1810 on top of submerged rocks in about 5 feet depth. A little deeper there were numerous assorted rock shells with Drupa morum Röding, 1798 and Purpura aperta (Blainville, 1832) being quite common. There were also Drupa ricina (Linnaeus, 1758), Morula granulata (Duclos, 1832) and Mancinella armigera Link, 1807. Turbo sandwicensis Pease, 1861 were also numerous. Without Allison Kay’s Hawaiian Marine Shells I would never have been able to identify these shells. Even with the book, there is a bit of small stuff that I can’t identify.

     The coral near the center of the cove was just beautiful. Of special interest was a lovely blue coral which made a fantastic contrast to the black and algae covered lava rocks and cream and tan colored coral. Red pencil urchins were common, as were the extremely long spined black and white sea urchins. You do not want to touch these as the spines break of easily when jabbed into the flesh and can be quite painful. The constant contrast of color in this lovely bay was incredible.

- Kapalua Bay -

     The beach at Kapalua Bay is a beautiful white sand crescent that has a gentle slope to deeper water with a maximum depth of 15 feet. From the left point, a reef arches toward the long right point creating a very sheltered bay, probably the nicest and safest beach on Maui. Shade is provided by numerous palm trees lining the backshore area. Above the beach are the lovely grounds of the Kapalua Bay Resort. Off-street parking is provided for about 40 cars with easy access to the beach. I might add, at this point, that all of Hawaii’s beaches belong to the people. The public can swim and enjoy any beach no matter what fancy or exclusive resort that it fronts. The trick is to get to the beach as street parking is often limited and naturally the resorts do not want you parking in their parking lots. Fortunately the government has thought of this and off street parking is provided at or near most beaches.

     The coral in this bay was not quite as beautiful as in Honokeana Cove, however there was certainly no shortage of fish and eels. There was a lot more sand in this bay so this is where we found Terebra crenulata (Linnaeus, 1758) and on the benches and in the rubble near the points Strombus maculatus G. B. Sowerby II, 1842.

     There were many sea cucumbers under the rocks and I had read that one could find Balcis aciculata (Pease, 1861) attached to these animals. However, they were not as easy to find as I had expected, and I found only two. There were also more Conus lividus and Conus flavidus and more of the rock shells already mentioned.

- Molokini Islet -

     Fifty miles to the south of Kapalua, lying just 3½ miles offshore of the resort area of Makena, is the crescent shaped islet of Molokini. Actually this was once the rim of an ancient volcano. Over time, the north western half has eroded away allowing the center to fill with water. Within this crescent, the shallow water is remarkably clear and a myriad of species of tropical fish call this perfect location home. Today, Molokini is a marine preserve so the collecting of live animals is prohibited. Accessible only by water, Molokini is visited daily by dozens of dive and snorkel boats. One bright morning we took the three-hour snorkel trip and we too were amazed at the huge populations of beautiful fishes and eels, of which there were many.

     Ancient legend has is own origin of Molokini. It seems that Pele, the Goddess of Fire, fell in love with a warrior named Lohi-au. But Lohi-au was not in love with Pele. He fell in love with and married a mo’o or giant lizard. This, of course, incurred Pele’s terrible wrath. The volatile fire goddess Pele attacked the giant Mo’o and swiftly cut her in half. She flung the tail out to sea and left the head to rot on the beach. The head became the cinder cone called Puu Olai, which today separates Makena Beach from Olai Beach, and the tail became the Islet of Molokini. Whichever origin you care to believe, Molokini is an experience well worth the trip even though collecting is prohibited.

- Olawalu Beach and Papalaua Beach -

     These two beaches between Lahaina and Maalaea Harbor are extremely popular beaches for snorkeling. Parking is right along the road so you car is in sight at all times, and shade is provided by numerous kiawe trees along the shore. At Olawalu Beach the area is full of dead coral rocks and hiding deep in the crevices of these rocks we found the only cowries of the entire trip. Cypraea caputserpentis Linnaeus, 1758 were numerous, but it was quite a trick to dislodge them and even more difficult to keep them from being swept away by the constant surge over the reef. Cypraea helvola Linnaeus, 1758 were few and far between. These were the first cowries we found (and the only ones I might add), so they were worth the trouble it took to collect them.

     At Papalaua Beach there was along rocky point at the south end. We decided to work our way around this point to a smaller bay on the other side. This was more difficult snorkeling, however we were rewarded by different cones then we had found in the bays of West Maui. There were Conus ebraeus Linnaeus, 1758; Conus chaldeus (Röding 1798); Conus distans Hwass in Bruguiere, 1792 and Conus abbreviatus Reeve, 1843 on the reef platforms of the bay. More assorted rock shells were also present but since we had enough of these for our wants they were left for another year.

- A Journey into Iao Valley -

     On this particular afternoon we drove deep into the West Maui Mountains in search of the Nerite (Neritina granosa G. B. Sowerby I, 1825) that spends its adult life in fresh water streams. Although we found no nerites, the valley we visited was beautiful. Carved by centuries of wind and rain, this magnificent valley has been a sacred place to the Hawaiian people and a place of pilgrimage since ancient times. Long before Westerners arrived to these islands, the people of Maui, who came here to pay homage to their eternal creator, named this lush valley Iao - meaning supreme light. The focal point of this velvety sacred valley is a pillar of stone rising 1,200 feet from the valley floor. In ancient times this giant pillar served as a natural altar. Though now peaceful, this valley marks the spot where 200 years ago the warriors of Maui’s last chief, Kahikili, fell to the invasion of the invincible Kamehameha. Using the white man’s cannon, the invading Kamehmeha created such destruction as to dam up the waters with the bodies of the dead, and the river ran red with their blood. A near by park, called Kepaniwai, is dedicated to this great battle, and to all of Hawaii’s people. Kepaniwai means "damming of the waters." Today, this park serves as a monument to man’s higher nature: harmony and beauty.

- Kamaole Beach II -

     Before going to Maui, Jim Miller in Tallahassee told me about his experience finding dozens and dozens of the Giant Marlinspike, Terebra maculata (Linnaeus, 1758), in the waters off Kamaole Beach Park. This is a shell I especially wanted to find, so we followed Jim’s directions as closely as possible. Oh but alas, the beautiful terebras were not to be found. We searched from the shore to a depth of about twenty-five feet looking for the tell tale trails in the sand. I was heart broken. There were two other beaches that made up the Kamaole Beach Park group, so we tried the second one but still no T. maculata. I did manage to find a couple more Terebra crenulata, however. The third beach also yielded not a single one. It seemed that we were destined not to find the giant marlinspike. Just as we were heading for shore, low and behold, half buried in the sand in about 10 feet of water, was the object of my quest. A quick dive and again disappointment as it was dead. However, it was in good shape. You know what they say –"Beggars can’t be choosers." I came home very happy with my single and dead little treasure. Little else was found at this beach and nothing new, so we moved on.

     At the far southern end of the leeward side of the island the road ends abruptly at the place were the lava flow from the last eruption of Haleakala in 1790 entered the sea. This is garish landscape. Nothing but lava rock for miles. The fingers of lava jutting into the sea created several excellent snorkeling areas. This is another Marine Preserve called Ahihi Bay. Unfortunately, this fabled spot is mentioned in all the guide books and tourist pamphlets as the place to go, and they did, those pesky tourists, by the gazillions. There were wall to wall people, all doing what most tourists do (get in the water, shiver a couple of minutes, plunge in and snorkel for 15 minutes, then leave). And then there is always someone else to replace the ones leaving. This was no place for us, so we went home to Honokeana cove.

- The Island Of Lanai - Holopo’e Bay And Manele Bay -

     Just eight miles offshore of the Leeward side of Maui lies the Island of Lanai. There is a passenger ferry that makes the trip from Lahaina to Manele Bay several times a day. Although a bit pricey at $50 round trip, it was an opportunity to visit another of the Hawaiian Islands. About half way across the Au Au Channel, which separated Maui from Lanai, we could see five of the seven islands which make up the popular leeward Hawaiian Island Chain: Maui behind us, Lanai ahead of us, the uninhabited island of Koho’olawe to the left, Molokai to the right, and between Molokai and Lanai, the island of Oahu could be seen in the distance. Just another fantastic experience to be remembered always. It was quite impressive.

We had heard of the marvelous snorkeling in Holop’e Bay, which was just a short walk from the ferry dock. This bay was also known to be the home of a pod of spinner dolphin, and we were told that if we were very lucky and the dolphins were in residence at the time of our visit, we could swim amidst these magnificent creatures. This bay, along with Manele Bay, is another Marine Preserve. Once again our shelling finds would have to be left in the bay. Actually, we didn’t even look for shells on this day.

     The beach was beautiful - quite a bit like Kapalua Bay but larger. We spent about an hour and a half snorkeling and watching the vast variety of fish. Most of the fish in this bay were considerably larger then the fish we had seen on Maui. There were large tangs and Spotted Papio, a member of the jack family, and other fish that I have no idea what they were. My guess is that these larger fish must come into the entrance of the bay from the deep waters just off shore. No dolphins, however. One of the volunteer lifeguards from the Manele Bay Hotel told us they would probably come into the bay in the late afternoon, but we could not stay and wait for them. The Manele Bay Hotel is an ultra luxurious hotel on the grounds just above the bay and commands a magnificent view. We enjoyed a terrific lunch of grilled striped marlin and then boarded the ferry again for the 45-minute trip back to Maui.

- Sacred Waterfalls and Forbidden Jungles -

Strombus maculatus     Ancient Hawaiian legends abound on Maui, and I never tired of hearing them. Early Hawaiians, lacking a written language, told of these legends and passed them down from generation to generation in the form of chants and stories. Laka, the Goddess of the Forest, is said to have given the hula to man as another form with which he could pass these legends down. The ancient hula, or kahiko, is a most sacred and serious art even today, with strict training by a "kuma hula" or teacher of the ancient dance.

     On this day we were to take a break from shelling and journey to the windward side of the island in search of fabled secret waterfalls and emerald jungles that, in the days of ancient Hawaii, only the alii, those of Hawaiian Royalty, were permitted to enter. You see, in those days of ancient times, the people were coastal dwellers deriving their substance of life from the sea and from coastal farming. The inland jungles were sacred and could only be entered by commoners so that they could hunt birds whose feathers were then used to adorn the clothing of the Hawaiian Royalty or to cut the koa trees to make the canoes.

     Our journey would take us along the winding and twisting coastal road to Hana. This fifty mile road follows a serpentine path winding along sea cliffs, descending to black sand coves, climbing again to rain forests and flowing past pristine jungle waterfalls. The jungles were alive with tropical flowers: several types of Heliconia, those lobster claw type flowers of brilliant reds, oranges and yellows; there were gingers of every type, red ginger, blue ginger, yellow ginger, white ginger, pink ginger, extremely showy torch ginger. Guava trees were everywhere, some in bloom and some in fruit. Mountain apples, breadfruit, the list is endless. Hanging from the cliffs were the pandanas, that palm tree-like plant whose leaves are used to make mats and other Hawaiian crafts. Their dark green feathery leaves create a sharp contrast to the deep blue of the sea over which they hung.

     Waterfalls were commonplace along this road. Some could be seen from the road, others required a short hike along a stream into the jungle. And no mosquitoes, although I am told they are sometimes present. They are the only biting insects that I know of. There are no poisonous snakes, spiders or other poisonous insects in Hawaii. This whole road was an adventure in itself. It took five hours to drive the fifty miles of 617 serpentine curves and 56 one-lane bridges that make up the Hana Highway.

     Not far beyond Hana, in a quite church graveyard perched high above the Pacific, is the grave of the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. He choose to spend his final days living in Hana, and was buried on this secluded wind swept promontory. I was most humbled to be standing at this awe-inspiring place. The doors of the immaculate little Palapala Hoomau church were open, and visitors were welcome. No one was around. The solitude was broken only by the sound of birds in the surrounding trees. The small and well kept cemetery between the whitewashed chapel and the cliffs; the sound of the waves far below and the immense feeling of solitude all combined to burn a lasting memory of this lovely and secluded spot.

     To return home, one has the option of turning around in Hana and driving back the way you had come, or continue on around the island driving through very stark, arid and lonesome country. This is the dry side of the dormant volcano Haleakala. The road in some parts is not even paved - just graded. Naturally, car rental companies do not want you driving there and many forbid you to do so. Probably 90% of the people turn around, but being of the adventurous spirit, we checked with local people and the police in Hana and were told they did not expect any flash floods and that the road had been recently graded. Wash outs were few, and all were crossable as of the previous day. We decided to go for it. Another young couple in a rented convertible was also going to try it so we didn’t feel all alone. The trip was slow but unforgettable. Vast vistas to the sea spread out before us. At one point we dropped to almost sea level and traveled a very narrow one-lane road cut into the cliff. Small pulloffs spaced at intervals allowed just enough room for two cars to pass. The road ascended again to cross barren old lava flows. Miles and miles of nothing but graded earth for a road. Rain and wind had carved deep dry gulches and valleys into this desolate and apparently lifeless landscape. The only things we saw alive were a few scrub bushes and an occasional mongoose. This was an awesome experience I would not want to have missed.

- Haleakala – The House of the Sun -

     Haleakala was truly an experience of the soul. This, the world’s largest dormant volcano, is composed of amazingly dense volcanic rock and rises 10,023 feet to dominate all of east Maui. This impressive giant of a volcano is awesome. It is easy to see why the old Hawaiians considered it to be sacred. They considered its massive caldera to be the center of the earth’s spiritual power, and they would make pilgrimages to worship their gods on its summit. Haleakala is spellbinding, and like seeing the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls for the first time, it makes no difference how many people have come before you; it is still an undiminished, powerful and personal experience.

     The caldera at the summit is nothing less then massive. This "house of the sun" is 3,028 feet deep, 7½ miles long, 2½ miles wide and 21 miles in circumference with a total area of 33 square miles. This is big enough to hold the entire island of Manhattan, including the Statue of Liberty. It looks like the surface of the moon, with a seemingly lifeless crater floor dotted with high majestic cinder cones that were formed by smaller volcanic eruptions over the centuries. For the hardy, there are numerous hiking trails into the crater. This forbidden landscape is home to a variety of strange things like the Hawaiian Snow, a lichen that grows on a’a lava; the rare Silversword, a member of the sun flower family that grows for 20 years, blooms once and then dies; and, on the slopes of the volcano, the rare Nene or Hawaiian Goose, the state bird of Hawaii. The Silversword and the Nene are endemic Hawaiian species found only on Haleakala and in Volcanoes Natural Park on the big Island of Hawaii. Administered by the National Parks Service, all rare endemic plants, birds and creatures are protected to the fullest.

     The drive from sea level to the summit of Haleakala, a distance of 37 miles, is described as the highest elevation gain in the shortest distance in the world. After passing the 1,000-foot level, you are in what is called "Upcountry Maui." This is the other Maui. Far from the maddening crowds of the plush resorts and tourists areas, this is the Maui to be savored. Upcountry is a state of mind as well as a region. Here, the air is cool with clouds of mist mixing with sunshine. This is home to Maui’s oldest and largest ranches were paniolo, as Hawaiian cowboys are called, still ride the Maui range. Further up the slopes, flower farms, which produce tropical blooms for the florists trade, and vegetable farms flourish. Up here it is hard to believe you are in the middle of the tropical Pacific. We had a lovely lunch of seared Ahi, the yellow fin tuna, at the Kula Lodge high on the slopes of Haleakala with an unobstructed spectacular panorama of the central valley, the West Maui Mountains and the ocean on both sides of Maui. Another of those vivid Maui memories not to be soon forgotten.

- Our Last Day on Maui - A Journey to the Maui of Yesterday -

     For most visitors to Maui, civilization ends at Kapalua. Beyond the resorts of Kapalua and Napili the road narrows and progressively worsens as it snakes its way along a meandering coastline with spectacular windswept panoramas of mountains and sea. A series of valleys along this very scenic north shore create spine-backed ridges extending from the summit of Pu’u Kukui to the sea. These undisturbed valleys are resplendent by their very nature. We opted to drive this wild side of Maui in search of several streams shown on the maps - streams that again we hoped would harbor the fresh water nerite Neritina granosa G. B. Sowerby I, 1825.

     Along this road we found the Maui of yesterday - the small fishing village of Kahakuloa. Above the village of a dozen or so weatherworn houses, there sat a small white church that kept a watchful eye on the homes and villagers below. It was Sunday morning, and the tiny little church was packed with worshipers. The doors and windows were open and we were enchanted by the robust voices of the congregation singing hymns in their native Hawaiian. We would look at the church and then down at the village slopping to the shores of the windswept bay - another magical moment that burnt a vivid memory to be recalled time and time again as our thoughts would drift back to that morning in paradise.

     We found two of the streams that we were searching for, however, the little nerite was not to be found. On my next time to Maui I plan to search out more of the local people and talk to them - something that time did not permit on this trip. At one place where we could get down to the wave splashed rocks and tide pools, we did find a new littorina which I believe to be Littorina pintado (Wood, 1828), on the rocks high above the splash zone. I had also hoped to find the larger and quite showy nerite Nerita polita Linnaeus, 1758 which I had read were often found on these surf splashed shores. There again, however, those finds were not to be. We would have to be content with what we had already found and hope for better luck on our next trip to Maui.

     That evening, as we sat on the shores of our enchanting Honokeana Cove, we watched the last of the magnificent sunsets over the Island of Molokai - sunsets that had become a nightly symphony of color every night of our stay. We reflected on all the wonders that we had experienced on Maui. We relived the vivid memories and safely packed them away for instant recall when we returned home. We had come in search of ALL THE WONDERS OF MAUI, and we had found them. Probably Mark Twain’s expressive words said it best when he wrote of his stay in the Hawaiian Islands over a century ago:

No alien land in all the world has any deep, strong

charm for me but that one; no other land could so

longingly and so beseechingly haunt me, sleeping

and waking, through half a lifetime, as that one has

done. Other things leave me, but it abides; other things

change, but it remains the same. For me its balmy airs

are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun;

the pulsing of its surfbeat is in my ears; I can see its garlanded

crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by

the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above

the cloud rack; I can feel the spirit of its woodland

solitudes; I can hear the splash of its brooks; in my nostrils

still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.

Mark Twain, 1889