Maui Waianapanapa State Park - Your In-Depth Guide

Planning to stop by the black sand beach at Waianapanapa State Park? Stay a little longer to experience more sites and activities!

Waianapanapa State Park, which means “glistening waters” in Hawaiian, is one of Hawaii’s most popular state parks. The Park is arguably the most popular Hana highway attraction because millions of visitors are searching for the famous black sand beach.

However, not many know there is more to the beautiful Waianapanapa State Park than meets the eye. The black sand beach is the beginning of an exciting adventure if you explore all the hidden gems of Waianapapa State Park.

So, if you have an extra day in Maui, we highly recommend delving into the unmatched natural attractions at Waianapanapa State Park.

Where is Waianapanapa State Park?

Waianapanapa State Park is a 122-acre state park in east Maui. It is located off the famed Hana Highway and is a favorite stop for visitors exploring this side of Maui.

If you are doing a Road to Hana tour, chances are your local guide will also take you to the black sand beach Waianapanapa State Park. However, there are more places in Waianapanapa Park to explore on your own or with your local guide.

photo credit: TRAvelling via Facebook

What to See in Waianapanapa State Park

Paiola Black Sand Beach

Visiting the Waianapanapa State Park black sand beach is one of the most popular Waianapanapa State Park things to do. The small yet stunning stretch of black sand is framed by lush green foliage and the turquoise water of Paiola Bay.

For the best eagle’s view of the black sand beach, climb up the Waianapanapa black sand beach overlook. The photos are amazing from this angle!

Anchialine Pool Caves and Freshwater Caves

The anchialine pool caves at Waianapanapa State Park are shallow and unsuitable for swimming. However, visitors are still attracted to them because the water is crystal clear, clean, and spring-fed. It makes for a magical photo opportunity and a chance to explore hidden freshwater caves.

Of all the ocean caves at the Park, the Waianapanapa Cave is said to be the most mysterious. The water inside the cave turns red at certain times throughout the year, which is said to be a reminder of the death of Popoʻalaea, a slain Hawaiian princess who hid in the caves after fleeing her cruel husband.

However, the alternative scientific explanation is that the change in hue occurs due to tiny shrimp that enter the water from the cracks in the rock. Regardless of which story you believe, the Waianapanapa Cave is worth

blue freshwater in a cave with green forrest at opening
Photo Credit: Len Pestana via Facebook

Lava Tube

If you are heading to the black sand beach, it’s also an opportunity to see the Waianapanapa State Park’s lava tubes! However, a small cave (some would say it looks like a small tunnel) is somewhat hidden in plain sight.

You can walk through this natural lava tube when the tide is low, which opens up to the ocean and makes for stunning photography, especially at daybreak.

Burial Site and Ancient Hawaiian Ruins

There are multiple hiking trails at Waianapanapa State Park. One is a coastal trail that leads to a burial site and various ancient Hawaiian ruins, including cave shelters, a pictograph, shelter walls, house platforms, and enclosures. 

Don’t forget to grab a Waianapanapa State Park map before embarking on a hiking trip so you can see all the beautiful views and attractions. You will also see a seabird colony and a Hala forest, which offer welcome shade on warmer days.

rock formation in water at Maui Hana Cave Quest Day Tour with Temptation Tours in Maui, Hawaii, USA
photo credit: Temptation Tours via Facebook

Blowhole and Sea Arch

Are you familiar with a blow hole? It is a hole in the ground where ocean water shoots into the air, creating an impressive jet of water, especially when the surf and tide are right. One such blowhole in Waianapanapa State Park often draws crowds who want to take photos or simply witness the stunning water sprays.

A natural sea arch and sea cliff are visible in the clear waters of Paiola Bay. The views look extra magical during sunset when gold light hits mother nature’s handiwork at all the right angles. 

Know Before You Go

Operating Hours

Waianapanapa State Park Maui is open daily from 7 AM to 6 PM. The Park is usually open even during regular holidays, although part of it may be closed off occasionally due to storm damage.

Entrance Fee and Parking Fee

There is a minimal entry fee ($5 per person as of October 2022) for non-resident park visitors. In addition, Hawaii residents who can present proof of residence, like a Driver’s License or ID, can go in for free. Children 3 years and under are also entitled to free admission.

Free parking spaces are always reserved for Hawaii residents. Non-residents may bring in non-commercial vehicles with a parking fee ($10 per vehicle as of October 2022).

Black sand beach with rocks and waves coming in under a cloudy grey sky with orange sunset in the distance at Waianapanapa state park mauiParking and Entry Reservations

Visitors who are not part of a Road to Hana Tour or Waianapanapa State Park tour will need to make Waianapanapa State Park reservations to enter the Park. Reservations are required to limit the number of visitors per day to reduce the impact on the adjacent rural community while improving the visitors’ experiences. 

Reservations are available at Waianapanapa State Park photos are also available on the Park’s official website.


Camping is a popular activity at Waianapanapa State Park. The park is home to one of the best campgrounds on Maui and offers excellent swimming spots, scenic hiking trails, and amazing sunrise views.

Tent camping is possible only with a permit and camping fee per night per campsite. Waianapanapa State Park cabins are also available with a minimum two-night stay.


An Unforgettable Road to Hana Tour

Maui Waianapanapa State Park is one of the most beautiful places you’ll explore in Maui. The Heavenly Hana Tour and the Road to Hana Adventure are just two of the top-rated Road to Hana tours that will take you to remote East Maui.

First, take searing photos of the black sand beach. Then explore the mesmerizing Anchialine pools and caves! Next, embark on one of the most breathtaking hiking trips on the island of Maui. You’ll finish your day with a full appreciation of this marvelous nature reserve. 

Have You Been?

What was your favorite adventure? Share with us below!

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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...

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