Nakalele Blowhole: A Maui Thing Worth Doing Near Lahaina
Three months. That is how long my 20-month-old son would pantomime the Nakalele blowhole for us after he visited for the first time. A 50-foot geyser-like water spout has that effect on people, young and old.
Maui’s Nakalele blowhole is a geological formation in West Maui that erupts every few minutes with over 50-foot geyser-like water spouts. The Nakalele blowhole is located 30-minutes north of Ka’anapali. One can view the blowhole from above or hike a quarter-mile to the blowhole.
My whole family loves to see the blowhole as a weekend activity. It doesn’t get old plus we can parlay the trip with epic beach snorkeling at Honolua Bay or Napili Bay or one of the many bays in northwest Maui.
The experience of seeing the blowhole erupt from the lava bed is well worth the journey to this remote part of Maui.
Check out our northwest Maui itinerary below so you can make a day out of it. Banana bread included.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents
Nakalele Blowhole Safety 101
I’m not going any further without a serious public safety announcement. The Nakalele blowhole and surrounding cliffs are a dangerous Maui attraction. People (plural) have died at and around the blowhole in the past twenty years.
People, locals included, have been swept into the ocean from waves crashing over the cliff or being sucked into the water cave below the hole. This has happened in 2003, 2011, and 2017 per my research but crosses at the location give additional dates. This place is dangerous and should be treated with respect.
There are no barriers or official signage around the blowhole. The full unrestricted access lowers people’s inhibitions faster than a few mai tais. You will find visitors peering into the blowhole, lying down on the rocks around it, and facing their back to the ocean. This has ended badly for some.
How to Stay Safe at the Nakalele Blow Hole
To keep yourself and your family safe at the Nakalele blowhole, I recommend you take the following precautions.
🍍 View the blowhole from above. One has a wonderful view of the blowhole from the ledge above, 100-foot walk from the parking lot
🍍 Wear closed-toe shoes or hiking shoes if you decide to walk closer to the blowhole. Sandles are not recommended for the walk down to the blowhole.
🍍 Stay on dry rocks. Dry rocks are the safest place to view the blowhole but keep your guard up.
🍍 Stay 100-feet or more away from the blowhole opening
🍍 Stay on the south or mountainside (mauka) of the blowhole, not the ocean side
🍍 Don’t turn your back on the ocean, you are not safe on the ocean cliff side of the blowhole as large waves can sweep people into the ocean
Nakalele Blowhole: What You Need to Know
The Nakalele blowhole is a natural geological formation that is worth visiting on Maui. Locals love it, visitors love it, and it is free. The over 50-foot powerful geyser-like water spout makes the young and old gape in awe.
Located at the northern tip of West Maui on Nakalele Point, the blowhole is a 30-minute drive from Ka’anapali (15-miles). Parking is abundant with a large roadside parking lot.
One can walk 100-feet from the parking lot to see Nakalele blowhole from above (recommended) or walk down a steep and rocky quarter-mile path to see the blowhole up close (attempt at your own risk).
Viewing the blowhole is free. Against many people’s best judgments, the blowhole has unrestricted access. This laissez-faire attitude is very Hawaiian when it comes to natural attractions.
Homemade signs and the voice in your head will be the only hindrance to you peering into the mouth of the beast or standing too close to the ocean. Please don’t do either of those things.
A spout of water may not provide the gravitas to get you to drive a windy road to the northern tip of Maui. But I assure you, Nakalele blowhole is one of many activities you can do in the northwest area of Maui for a day or afternoon.
When my folks were on Maui visiting, we did a tour of the northwest coast Maui for a morning. The Nakalele blowhole was an impromptu stop that ended up being the highlight of our day. Henry wouldn’t stop talking about it.
What is the Nakalele Blowhole?
Maui’s most active eruption isn’t from one of its volcanoes. The Nakalele blowhole ejects a forceful explosion of seawater every few minutes.
A blowhole is a hole in the ground that connects to a partially submerged ocean cave. When the ocean rises are waves crash into the opening, a jet of water and air are pushed through the hole.
Maui’s Nakalele blowhole is a one-meter (3-feet) diameter hole in the lava cliff. The powerful waves on the northern shore make for dramatic and regular eruptions.
One can view the water geysers from the parking lot above or partake in an intermediate skill-level hike for a closer look. The hike is intermediate due to the rocky and steep trail.
With my toddler Henry and grandparents along for the show, they were content seeing it from the above. I hiked down the path to get a closer look and some pictures. But I stayed on the dry rocks.
Best Time to Go to the Nakalele Blowhole
We got lucky during our first visit. Maui was experiencing a high-surf advisory. Perfect for surfers and for those who decide to visit the blowhole.
The best time to visit the Nakalele blowhole is during high tide (check Maui’s tide schedule here), big swells, and/or windy days.
Visit the blowhole in the morning. The morning is the best time to see rainbows form in the mist from the water spout.
Don’t go too early as MamaLei’s Homemade Goodness doesn’t open till after 10:00 am. MamaLei’s is a tent to provide refreshments to blowhole visitors. After hiking back up from the blowhole, grab some banana bread, shortbread cookies, and iced drinks.
Where is the Nakalele Blowhole?
Nakalele blowhole is located on Nakalele Point on the northern tip of West Maui. Click here for Google directions to the blowhole.
The blowhole is an easy drive from the main Maui resort area of Ka’anapali and Lahaina in West Maui.
From the other resort area in Wailea, you are looking at an hour and 15-minute drive (45-miles). I have a hard time saying it is worth the drive but if you are planning a day on the westside, then go for it.
The road, Kahekili Highway, gets a tad windy after Kapalua. There is still a shoulder and a well-paved road with guard rails so it is a safe drive. After the blowhole, things turn south for Kahekili Highway as one-lane sections, cliffside drives, and potted holes will greet you. I don’t recommend a round trip drive around the island.
The best parking lot is an easily accessible lot at mile marker 38.5. It is hard to miss as it is direct parking off the road. It looks official but it isn’t. This parking lot at mile marker 38.5 provides the best view of the blowhole. Plus, MamaLei’s is located here.
Source: Google Earth
Itinerary for Nakalele Blowhole
Make a visit to Nakalele blowhole into a day trip. To fully appreciate Maui, it is worth doing a day around northwest Maui.
Some of the best snorkeling is in northwest Maui (Honolua Bay, Kapalua Bay, Napili Bay, Honokeana Bay (sea turtles galore), etc.). But there are also some good places to eat.
Click the links for directions. Head as far northwest as Nakalele Point and then double back to the other locations during the day.
1. Nakalele Blowhole
Drive-up early in the morning to Nakalele blowhole. Try to get here by 9:00 am but also balance that with the high tide for maximum water-spout enjoyment.
Double back to hit the activities below.
2. Snorkel at Honolua Bay
This is by far Erica and my favorite place to snorkel on Maui. Honolua Bay is a marine preserve and is well protected from waves and the wind. There is no beach as this is all about epic snorkeling. Park off the road and take a 5-minute hike through a tropical jungle to get to the bay. Perhaps not the best for young kids as there is no beach but this is by far the best snorkeling on west Maui.
If you are looking for a beach then option 2b is Slaughterhouse Beach (Mokule’ia Beach). Just south of Honolua Bay (up the hill, the next bay over) you can find parking off the road and a staircase leading down to golden-sand framed by seacliffs.
3. Lunch at Burger Shack
Keep driving south a few miles to Burger Shack for lunch with an ocean view. The laid-back shack serves up burgers, shakes, seafood, beer, and cocktails.
There are facilities here to shower after snorkeling and parking is free and abundant.
4. Hike Northwest Maui
Once again, you have two options. I like options for Maui itineraries. You can walk off the big lunch at the Burger Shack or relax at the beach.
There are two good trails close to Burger Shack or D.T. Fleming Park. You can hike the difficult Mahana Trail or the easy Kapalua Coastal Trail. The choice is yours. One goes up the mountain, the other walks along the shore.
That is a full day on the northwest side of Maui. Head south to get dinner in Lahaina and watch the sunset.
What Happened to Heart-Shaped Rock in Maui?
The sea and surf took Heart Rock from us in late 2019.
The hole in the shape of a rock was a popular spot for pictures and a perfect companion thing to do with viewing the Nakalele blowhole.
The heart in the lava framed the coast and the tropical mountains in the background. It was picture-perfect but is no more.
Things to Do Around Nakalele Blowhole
With Maui’s Heart Shaped Rock no longer an option, there is still plenty of other things around the Nakalele blowhole to see and do. If my itinerary above doesn’t entice you, here are some quick things to do while the car is parked at Nakalele blowhole.
🍍 Nakalele Point Lighthouse (Light Beacon) and Tide Pools: Park at mile marker 38 (not 38.5 as described above) and take a 1.25-mile hike to the blowhole. Along the way, you will end up at Nakalele Point and the lighthouse. It used to be a lighthouse at the turn of the century but is now a light beacon (a light on a pole). The trail is rough so good shoes are recommended. There are a lot of ATV/bike trails so just follow the trails that meander toward the point.
🍍 Acid War Zone Trail: from the light beacon, head downhill into the Acid War Zone. This name full of imagery is from the scarred, barren lava field you will enter. Not only is the lava a sight to behold but you will also get some wonderful coastal views and tidepools below. The trail ends at the blowhole.
🍍 Enjoy the view with banana bread: Head up the hill to the parking lot at mile marker 38.5. Grab some banana bread from MamaLei’s and enjoy the view. You deserve it after surviving the Nakalele blowhole.
I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I have a thing for photographing pineapples and learning to surf.
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