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Maui's southwest coast: 10 miles of mostly hidden beaches.

Maui's southwest coast: 10 miles of mostly hidden beaches

Sandy beaches and sun-drenched days arethe primary elements of Hawaii's appeal. One of the best places to enjoy both is along Maui's fast-growing southwest coast, where accommodations range from luxurious resorts to less expensive rentals. There's little trace of the sun-worshipping mobs that crowd the island's northwestern resort areas--though here, as on much of the island, increasing tourism tests the narrow roads, and you may find traffic jams even in Kihei.

Maui's coastline from Kihei south to Makenais not only exceptionally sunny and dry (getting less than 10 inches of rainfall most years); it is also strung with a series of accessible, crescent-shaped beaches with clear water and gentle surf.

Fifteen years ago, a sleepy Kihei offeredlittle in the way of tourist facilities, and development at Wailea and Makena was virtually nonexistent. Today, Kihei bustles with tourists, and dozens of mostly low-rise condominiums line its main road. New sidewalks and improved streets make it easy to get to the beaches.

Even more growth is occurring farthersouth, though a quieter resort atmosphere still reigns. Wailea currently has two golf courses, two major hotels, and several condominium complexes. The Maui Prince, arguably the island's most luxurious hotel, opened last year at Makena.

Ten beaches in 10 miles, from lifeguarded parks to hidden coves

But this coastline's real cachet is itsbeaches, beginning with wide Maalaea Beach north of Kihei. With no facilities and only roadside parking, it attracts few visitors--making it ideal for a quiet walk.

More popular are Kihei's three lifeguardedKamaole Beach Parks. Proximity to rental units and to the main road makes them popular with visitors, but locals come, too. Park along the street or in the park's own lot; use the showers outside the rest rooms to rinse off after a dip. The gentle surf gives bodysurfers an occasional ride but is kind to swimmers and leisurely snorkelers as well.

More intriguing are the five beaches edgingWailea's hotels and condominiums. Though resort buildings dominate the shoreline, developers were required to maintain public access easements to the beaches themselves.

The result is a series of relatively hiddenstretches of sand defined by rocky outcroppings at each end. They're not visible from the main road, but small signs clearly point the way. Each has a roomy parking lot; most have rest rooms and open-air showers. It's not unusual to find yourself sharing the beach with no more than a handful of tourists staying nearby. There are no lifeguards.

Pavement ends just beyond the MauiPrince, but the beach just gets better--if you're willing to forgo amenities and walk a bit or drive on a gravel road (note: most Hawaiian car rental agencies prohibit driving off pavement). The beach at Makena is destined to become a major state park, though today it's undeveloped.

From pavement's end, walk or drive 1/2mile until the road widens slightly. Big Beach is a short walk west through the trees. The waters off this wide expanse of bright sand are popular with snorkelers.

Afternoon trade winds on the southwestcoast are sometimes strong enough to discourage beachgoers, especially in winter. (The West Maui Mountains tend to shelter Lahaina and Kaanapali from prevailing north winds.) If you visit during a windy period, do your sunbathing before noon. During winter's high surf, watch for strong undertows.

Sunset's newest travel guide: Maui

For lodging and restaurant suggestions,see Sunset's new Maui Travel Guide (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, Calif. 94025, 1987; $6.95). With color photographs throughout, this 64-page guide contains detailed maps and descriptions of Maui's varied facets as well as comprehensive listings of accommodations and recreational opportunities--including tennis, golf, cycling, sailing, horseback riding, whale watching, hiking, and volcano viewing. A special section covers neighboring Molokai and Lanai.

Photo: Sunshine and gentle waves bathebeachgoers at Kihei's Kalama Beach Park, about 1/2 hour south of Maui's Kahului Airport. Sunset's new Maui Travel Guide provides insider tips on the sunny southwest coast

Photo: Small signs along the main roadmark beach access points tucked among Wailea's resorts
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jun 1, 1987
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