This is no "White Sandy Beach" as the classic Hawaiian song goes. Waianapanapa State Park boasts a beautiful black sand beach created not too long ago (relatively speaking) by lava flows falling into the ocean and cooling. Sometimes also referred to Pa’iloa Bay as well, it’s actually a pretty neat sight to see.
On the eastern side of Maui, this state park is a common stop by travelers and tours on the Road to Hana. And why not, its a pretty big park and has large picnic areas, restrooms, showers, a hiking trail, a few photo-friendly lookout points, and of course the beach of black sand.
Much like everything majestic in Maui, this beach and it’s adjacent caves have a legend behind them. As the story goes, the Hawaiian Princess Popoalaea would come here and hide from her cruel husband, Chief Kakae. When he discovered where she had been hiding from him, he killed her on the spot.
You see pictures of these types of beaches in magazines and travel guides, and they do look pretty interesting. You read up on how they are created and even how some of them eventually wash into the sea. In person, though, it is really, really cool to see. You can walk on it just like any other beach, the waves flow in and out like other beaches. Just seeing the black sand when you look down is sand is black.
Since you can’t really spread out on the beach and soak up the sun, the beach itself isn’t usually that crowded. It’s a freshwater pool, and a few people do jump in for a cool dip or check out the pools hidden in the caves. It’s fun place to take photos to share with friends, but after a ten minutes or so, the lookout points at the park start calling and those have views just as spectacular.
With the Road to Hana being an all day affair, the Waianapanapa State Park is a good place to stop and stretch your legs. If you do take the drive yourself, this makes a great place for a picnic and a quick hike on the trails. If you’re coming as part of a tour, you’re probably stopping here anyway. While it’s not a destination beach that people set out to see exclusively, it’ does add some mystic to the magic of East Maui.