There’s supposed to be a beach here. A secret beach. But right now, you’re not so sure. You park along the side of the road, cross private property, and head into the jungle. The path is narrow and slippery; some parts are practically washed out from a recent landslide. You follow the ridge high above the ocean and hear waves pounding against the shore below. You continue over crumbling cinder and ironwood needles. An ancient Japanese cemetery is off to the side. Maybe you should give up. But just as you’re about to turn around, the trail opens up. For the first time, you see Kaihalulu Bay.
Kaihalulu Bay is better known as Red Sand Beach, one of the few red-sand beaches in the world. It’s located south of Hana, on the east coast of Maui. Ka’uiki Head sits to the north. Red cinder and green ironwood trees are on one side; cobalt water, volcanic boulders, a reef, and the rough sea are on the other. The dark red-black sand gets its color from the iron-rich hills. The beach is dramatic, isolated, and jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
Hawaiians selected a spot-on name for this beach. Kaihalulu means “roaring sea,” which becomes immediately evident when you get close to the water. The area was once the site of a temple and a fortress, which protected the islanders from invaders from the island of Hawaiʻi. Queen Ka’ahumanu, King Kamehameha’s wife, was also born here. It’s now a popular destination for beach lovers, hikers, and nudists.
The morning is the best time to visit this beach. The water is calmer, and the crowd is nonexistent. You wade through the rock pools, find opae’ula (red shrimp), and jump when water spurts from a basalt blowhole. You watch long-tailed Koae Keas fly overhead and the waves crashed against the dark reef, a natural sea wall just offshore. You collect sand—just a little bit—to bring home with you. Then you take dozens of photos to prove you really found the secret, red-sand beach.