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Where to Watch Winter Waves on Maui

Maui’s Top 3 Places to Witness the Immense Energy of the Pacific

An evening experiencing the massive waves from the bluff above “The Point” at Ho’okipa Beach Park

It’s no secret, Hawaii has some of the best waves in the world. Every winter, an array of the most talented and fearless surfers on Earth descend on our shores to score the ride of a lifetime. The epicenter of this action is undoubtedly on Oahu’s North Shore, along a stretch of coastline called the “7 Mile Miracle.” From Haleiwa to Waimea Bay, Pipeline to Sunset Beach, some of the most famous waves on the planet all break in close proximity to each other. Maui’s best winter waves, on the other hand, are spread all over the Valley Isle. From Kapalua, to Haiku, and even out on the road to Hana, this article will highlight some of the top spots that consistently have waves to watch the world’s best. Let’s start with a wave known across the surfing industry as being about as perfect as possible.

Honolua Bay, Kapalua

Honolua Bay is not only the best wave in Maui, it is one of the best in the world. The northwestern coast of Maui is riddled with bays and crags that can produce all variety of great surf during the winter months, when the North Pacific is busy churning out storm after storm. But even a single-degree change in the angle of a coastline can make the difference between a good wave and a perfect wave.

Looking at “The Bay” from the Honolua lookout, you can see each section perfectly.

Honolua Bay has just that magical angle, producing a perfect righthander that can line up flawlessly in a series of barrel and turn sections for the better part of a quarter-mile. Like most high-quality pointbreaks, Honolua Bay is broken down into sections: 

1. Coconuts: The outermost takeoff zone on the point. As to be expected, the waves will be biggest here, but the wind will also be strongest; 

2. The Point: After hitting Coconuts, the wave begins to gather steam and form and will stand up into a hollow wall that offers the first of multiple barrel opportunities; 

Late afternoon surfer doing a beautiful turn at “The Cave”

3. The Cave: The best, most popular and high-performance section of the wave. At the Cave, wave height gives way to wave thickness as swell runs down the point, offering up the opportunity for the barrel of a lifetime. This section is named after the hole in the reef that gobbles surfers and surfboards with reckless abandon during big winter swells; 

4. Keiki Bowl: If you’ve made it through Cave on a proper set wave, you’re probably burning off the steam of a deep barrel, which will get you into the next section, Keiki Bowl. Keiki is smaller, racy, and breaks over shallow, sharp reef — a favorite of groms not quite ready for graduation to the outer takeoff zones.

Ho’okipa Beach Park, Haiku

Known as the windsurfing capital of the world; but windsurfers, kite-boarders, foil enthusiasts and paddle surfers actually play quite well together at Ho’okipa Beach Park, on Maui’s north-central coast. With a mostly unobstructed window to the North Pacific, Ho’okipa can pump out some serious surf in the winter months — usually cleanest conditions in the early-morning and late afternoon hours when the predominant east-northeast trade winds are lightest. Ho’okipa is a large playing field with many different peaks, but for the sake of this article, it consists of 5 different spots: 

A bigger winter swell gracing the reef at Ho’okipa, looking towards Pavilions from Green Trees.

1. Pavilions is the most easterly spot, just below the Ho’okipa Lookout. Pavilions is predominantly a righthander and breaks nearly year round thanks to the wind. That same prevailing wind is also slightly blocked by the cliff above, which makes for cleaner conditions;

2. Heading west from Pavilions is Middles, the main spot for surfers. The wave breaks both right and left, though the lefts handle the wind better; 

3. Green Trees is west of Middles and one of the better sections for attempting aerial maneuvers on the North Shore. Some of Maui’s best surfers in the air cut their teeth on this very peak.

4. H’Poko, or the Point, is located on the west end of Ho’okipa Beach. Point offers up fun righthanders in the morning and evening. On normal strength tradewind days, it becomes the sole domain of the wind/kitesurfers in the afternoon because of its wide open exposure; 

5. Just west of Ho’okipa Beach is Wana Beach, where Lanes is located. You can pick off both rights and lefts at Lanes, but like the Point, Wana usually gets too blustery to surf in the afternoon. However, there are a few local legends that’ll you see surfing even when the trades are howling.

Honomanu Bay, Road to Hana, just before Ke’anae

An overview of Honomanu on a big northeast swell, you can see the fickle right hander breaking across the bay.

About twenty miles east of Ho’okipa on the Road to Hana, is Honomanu Bay, notched into the untouched sea cliffs of northeast Maui. The main wave is on the rocky western shore of the bay, which faces almost directly east — an angle that makes for a long, peeling left, but also a spot exposed to the predominant tradewinds.

A surfer making the best of the fun left hand peak.

There is also a shorter right-hander on the east side of the bay that is more protected from the wind, but its quality is very dependent on swell direction. It needs a high powered north or northeast swell to really turn on, but when it does, it can become one of the better spots on the island. This is a serene location that has one of the more tropical vibes around. You get a real sense of “old Hawaii”, when surfing originated as the sport of Kings. If you’re on the road to Hana, and there’s swell in the water, it shouldn’t be missed!

Honomanu is conducive to high performance surfing and has waves most of the winter. Perfect for practicing those riskier moves.

While Maui might not be Oahu’s North Shore, the center of the surfing world during our winter months of November to March, it’s certainly adjacent (literally and figuratively). These 3 aforementioned locations provide high quality and consistent surf when the conditions align, and should be on your bucket list when on Maui. Who knows, you might even witness a surfer scoring the wave of their life!

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Anthony Sayles R(S)


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