Time: 1-2 HOURS
Distance: 2 MILES (Full Loop)
Elevation Gain: 200 FEET
Foot Traffic: MODERATE (VERY HIGH near Blowhole)
Challenges: Sharp rock and uneven footing, Dangerous surf
Sights: Tidepools, Blowhole, Heart Shaped Rock
What to Bring: Closed toed shoes, Sunscreen, Water
This short, rocky coastal trail will give you a true appreciation of the seemingly random spectacles mother nature can create. The hike starts with a beautiful coastal view, featuring a light beacon and tidepools, as you take in the vast Pacific. Next, you enter the "Acid War Zone" where you walk through a rocky landscape, with unique ridges, shapes, and contours created by the centuries of ocean erosion. Finally, the trail culminates at the Nakalele Blowhole, a massive natural geyser that can shoot ocean spray up to 50 feet in the air. But, before you call it a day and head back to the car, make sure to snag a photo of the "Heart-Shaped Rock", a small puka that perfectly frames the coast. While you won't have to spend a lot of time here, it is definitely a must see if you find yourself on this part of Maui.
**UPDATE** the "heart-shaped rock" no longer exists. Rough surf actually eroded the left half of the rock formation. Heart-breaking, I know, but the Nakalele Blowhole should provide some instagrammable opportunities :).
One final adventure before Indre and I concluded our Maui trip. After having driven the full Road to Hana and and making a few stops in Western Maui, we were almost done exploring the full perimeter of the island. Our last leg was driving along the Northwestern coast of the island before making our way to the airport. Having driven this part of the island once before, I knew our final stop would have to be at the Nakalele Blowhole and it's accompanying landmarks-- the Acid War Zone Trail and the Heart-Shaped Rock, to close out what had already been an epic trip.
The Acid War Zone trailhead is located just off marker 38 on the Kahekili Highway. The trail is simple to follow--just parallel the ocean until you decide you want to head to sea level. The iconic landmarks (Blowhole and Heart-Shaped Rock) are located at the end of the trail. You could simply park at the Nakalele Blowhole lot and head straight to those sights, but I think the complete trail allows you to full experience this natural landscape.
There is a dirt lot that marks the start of the trail, right near mile marker 38. It is pretty easy to find and, like many pull off points around Maui, you are likely to find some sort of refreshment stand (today was Julia's best Banana Bread). All you need to do is follow the trail towards the ocean. Indre decided to hike with me for a few minutes before taking the car to the Nakalele Blow Hole lot.
If you head directly to the ocean, you will quickly realize the trail ends as the cliffs drops off to the ocean. To continue, you can either follow a path along the cliff...
...or you can back track a bit and head through this"forest" to the next landmark. It didn't appear as though there was a "set" trail. As long as you're moving southeast and parallel to the ocean, you will find yourself at the endpoint sooner or later.
After exiting the forest, I saw the top of the light beacon. Let's take a closer look.
And there's that beacon. I couldn't find much information other than that it is owned by the Coast Guard and that it is the "most northwesterly point on Maui."
Regardless of the rather lackluster history lesson, standing on it gives you some stellar views.
After a few photos, I decided to backtrack a bit and follow another trail through the trees.
Which spit me out here. The rest of the West region coastline was beginning to come into view.
It's time to enter the Acid War Zone. To get here, simply follow the path of least resistance down to sea level. Despite the ominous sounding name, this place is fun to explore. It's basically a big rock playground, with a bunch of boulders of all shapes and sizes, crafted by the constant pounding of the ocean waves.
And if you are easily entertained individual, you will probably find multiple little gems that catch your eye. For me, it was this small little puka framing the ocean surf.
And some of those red colored rocks, nestled against that deep ocean blue.
And even this "bonus" blowhole. It's a bonus because most people who visit here are coming to see Nakalele, it's nearby neighbor But if you want your own personal blowhole without all the crowds, this is a good spot.
But this is the actual Nakalele Blowhole. It took me about 30 minutes to reach this spot from where I started. The crowds you see are standard here, this place is popular-- and for good reason. The blowhole, fed from the powerful Maui surf, shoots water like a geyser in the air, sometimes over 50 feet, spraying everything in its vicinity. It's kind of like a natural water park. I liked the way spray coming up looked like a little mushroom.
But this natural beauty is not without danger. People have died here, both from the blowhole, and the forceful waves surrounding the cliffs. So a PSA to be aware of your surroundings and don't be dumb. No matter how cool the insta will be, it's not worth it.
To end my hike, I would make the short, but steep ascent back to the Nakalele Parking lot, where Indre was waiting with the car. As I saw the long line of people descending towards the blowhole, I was quite happy I got my moments of solitude along the trail.
But I had one more stop, the Heart Shaped Rock. It is pretty easy to find, when facing the blowhole, look right, and you will likely see a large crowd of people, lining up to take photos. The hype is a a little hole in the rock, that resembles a heart, perfectly framing the coast line. My few thought when I saw it, was this is it? Doesn't even really look like a heart...
But the longer I stared, the more the heart came into focus. And, coupled with the surroundings, it really is photogenic. Tourist spots are tourist spots for a reason and once I tuned out the chatter behind me, I was able to really appreciate the beauty of this place. A loving way to send me off Maui. But don't be heart-broken, I'll be back soon.
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Also Check Out:
- Maui Guidebook's write up of this area
- This detailed post about hiking the Acid War Zone