Located on the island of Maui, ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve comprises of cultural and geological sites, an entire lava flow preserved from source to sea, marine habitats, native flora and fauna, and anchialine pools. Ahihi-Kinau was the first such reserve in the State of Hawai'i and it is the only reserve to comprise of both land and sea components.

Why Ahihi-Kinau Is Special

This area of South Maui is unique. It contains the youngest reef system in Maui as well as the island’s most recent lava flow. The Kalua O Lapa eruption site, located within the Reserve, is estimated to be around 600 years old and it is the only source-to-sea lava flow protected by the State of Hawaii. The Native Hawaiians settled along this area around 1000 A.D.  They planted sweet potatoes, fished, and traded with their upcountry neighbors. Many of their structures such as heiau (religious sites), hale (homes), burials, caves, and other shelters still exist to some extent today. The anchialine pools found within the Reserve are the largest grouping of such pools in the state. Furthermore, anchialine pools do not exist anywhere else in the U.S. Lastly, the Reserve is home to a number of endemic plants and species, many of which are endangered.

What You Need to Know

A majority of Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve is closed to the public. However, there are three main areas that are accessible. Waiala Cove (aka The Cove), Kanahena Bay (aka The Beach), and Moanakala (aka Dumps) are open to visitors.  The Cove and Beach are popular with snorkelers while Dumps is a popular surf spot named for the dump site that used to exist there. See Closure Map.

Please help keep Ahihi-Kinau pristine and flourishing by abiding by the following rules. These are enforced by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and violations are punishable by fines and possible jail time. Note that these rules have been paraphrased for readability and the complete and official rules may be viewed on the DLNR website.

  • No fishing or fishing equipment of any kind. To even possess fishing gear within the Reserve is a violation.
  • No collecting, picking, or taking marine life including but not limited to fish, shellfish (including opihi or limpets), and wana (urchins).
  • No collecting or taking of shells, coral, and lava rock.
  • No hiking on the lava.
  • No camping, no hunting, and no fires.
  • Stay on official, designated trails and roadways and do not disturb archaeological sites.
  • Do not bring plants or animals into the Reserve, including dogs.
  • Stay out of and don’t put anything in the anchialine pools.
  • Leave the lava alone. Don’t take it or move it around.
  • No motorized boats or other vessels within the marine boundary of ½ mile offshore.

Where to Snorkel

The best time to snorkel is in the morning before the tradewinds pick up. This is when visibility is at its best and entry is easier since there are less waves.  Both snorkel locations are not recommended for beginners because entry can be tricky and there is very little space to stand without harming the coral. Because there are no lifeguards, it is also recommended that children and inexperienced swimmers snorkel elsewhere.

At the Cove (Waiala)

Enter and exit the water at the north end of the small beach next to the private home. There is a concrete slab you can walk on as you enter the water. Do not climb on the lava rock at the other end of the bay. This is a fragile marine habitat and the Reserve is trying to protect what little coral is left after frequent human contact. Remember, stepping on coral kills it and what looks like “just a rock” can actually be coral. See photo below for entry point.

Where to enter and exit the water at The Cove 

At the Beach (Kanahena)

Enter and exit the water on the far, south end of the beach next to the large lava formation. Entry at the Beach can be harder than the Cove. Do not step on the lava shelf close to the entrance of the beach as this is a fragile marine habitat and the Reserve is trying to protect what little coral is left after frequent human contact.  See photo below for entry point.

Where to enter and exit the water at The Beach 

How You Can Help

  • Don’t feed the fish. This interrupts the natural balance of the habitat and makes the fish aggressive towards visitors.

  • Don’t stand on or touch the coral. An easy way to remember this is, “If there’s sand, you can stand.” Coral can also look like rock so don’t stand on any rocks either.

  • Enter and exit the water at the designated areas mentioned above. The coral has been heavily damaged by visitors getting in and out along the lava ledges and the Reserve is trying to protect what is left.

  • Apply your sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to getting into the water. This will allow enough time for your skin to absorb it and help keep the water clean and clear for both human and marine life. Better yet, purchase reef friendly sunscreen from one of the local dive shops nearby.

  • If you see anyone fishing, taking shells, lava rock or coral, picking opihi (limpets) or wana (urchins), or hiking along the lava fields, report it. This is illegal activity within the Reserve. You can report it to DOCARE (Department of Conservation and Resource Enforcement) by calling 808-873-3990 or let a volunteer or staff member know instead. Photographs, descriptions, and license plate numbers are helpful.

  • Become a Volunteer. ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve is always looking for more volunteers. If you reside on Maui and can commit to a set 2 hours a week, visit the Reserve’s website to learn more about how you can malama ‘aina.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get to Fishbowl and/or Aquarium?
Land access to Mokuha (aka Fishbowl) and Kalaeloa (aka Aquarium) has been closed since 2008. Hiking along the lava fields to these sites and others is prohibited. The landscape and its anchialine pools were heavily impacted by human use and the State has restricted access in hopes of rehabilitating damaged areas and species. The closure remains in effect until July 31, 2014 with a possibility of extension.

You can kayak or swim to these locations BUT it is not recommended. It requires a lengthy swim/paddle and ever changing surf and wind conditions. Commercial kayaking (paid tours) is prohibited and groups of 10 or more require a permit. It is illegal to drop anchor or tie up on shore. You cannot touch the land.

Can you snorkel La Perouse Bay?
La Perouse Bay, also known as Keoneʻoʻio, is south of ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve and while you must drive through the Reserve to reach it, it is not an actual part of the Reserve. Yes, you can snorkel there but it is not recommended. Conditions are often windy and unsafe with limited visibility.

Is it safe to snorkel within the Reserve?
ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve is not a park. It is a reserve intended to protect and preserve the natural resources found here. There are no lifeguards on duty. You snorkel/swim at your own risk.

Are there sharks?
The ocean makes up the marine portion of the Reserve and sharks can be found within the ocean. When you snorkel/swim the Reserve, you are present in the sharks’ territory. You may or may not see a shark. Some of the precautions you can take are to not enter the water if it is murky or it has rained, if you are bleeding and/or have open wounds, if it is dawn, dusk or night when sharks may move near shore for feeding. Additional shark precautions can be found here.

What is being protected?
A number of endangered species, native plants, geological areas, and cultural sites are being protected within the Reserve.

  • Anchialine Pools - Aquatic species assemblage, native herb and shrub lands, endangered Hawaiian Stilt nesting.
  • Coastal Marine Areas – Sheltered bays, tidepools, Hawaiian fish ponds , rocky intertidal areas.
  • Coral Reef Ecosystem – Clear blue water, benthic species assemblage, reef fish, highly mobile fish, Hawaiian Monk Seal, Hawksbill and Green Sea Turtles, Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin.
  • Cultural Landscape – Traditional place names, oral histories, ecological knowledge, archeological sites, cultural and historical sites and features.
  • Lava Flow – Lava flows and formations, new lava Aeolian community, coastal cave community, endangered seabird nesting
  • Native Shrubland – Native plant assemblage, endangered Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth
  • Wilderness Qualities – Scenic views of geologic formations, silence and isolation, air quality, clear airspace, dark night skies

What will you see while snorkeling?

You will see one of the last, healthy near shore coral reefs left on the island. Tangs, parrotfish, puffers, wrasses, triggerfish, Moorish idols, unicornfish, eels, urchins, and octopus all call this reef home. If you are lucky enough, you will see a little bit of everything. Turtles and dolphins are also known to frequent the Reserve.

Where do you park?
There are three parking spots available across from the Cove but they are usually full. It’s best to park in the designated parking lot just past the Cove on the right hand side. You will see the Staff Headquarters and the trailhead to the Beach. Please respect the No Parking signs located along the road throughout the Reserve.

Did you know?

  • Coral is a living thing. Stepping on it kills it. Most hard coral is very slow growing, often resulting in less than an inch of growth a year. Coral reefs exist in only 2% of the world’s oceans and 70% of the world’s coral reefs are threatened or destroyed.  20% of those are damaged beyond repair.  Ahihi-Kinau is the only location in Maui to have increased coral growth.
  • A majority of the lava seen within the Reserve is known as a’a, which is a sharp and rough type of lava. It has a broken appearance. Lava absorbs solar radiation, making Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve one of the warmest spots in the state. Because conditions are intense, it is recommended that you bring water and sunscreen with you during your visit.
  • Hawaii is home to the world’s highest concentration of anchialine pools, many of which have been negatively impacted by humans. Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve contains the largest grouping of pools in the state. Anchialine pools are landlocked yet connected to the ocean below. They contain brackish water that fluctuates according to the tide level. In addition to sensitive plant life, hundreds of endemic species can be found in anchialine pools, including the ōpaeʻula or Hawaiian red shrimp.
  • During World War II, Cape Kinau was used for bombing practice. The anchialine pools amongst the vast lava fields provided precise targets. Unexploded ordinances are still present on the Reserve, yet another reason why the lava fields are closed to the public.
  • Although the Reserve is sometimes referred to as “Ahihi Bay”, this term is actually inaccurate. Ahihi Bay is just one of the many bays found within the Reserve. The Reserve was named for the lava flow Cape Kīnaʻu, which provides the Reserve’s shoreline and is situated at the southern end of ‘Āhihi Bay.
  • Hawaii’s Natural Area Reserves (NARs) represent the highest concentration of protected habitat for native plants and animals in the country. All but two of the 19 NARs are ceded land, held in trust for the people of Hawai`i. Most of the NARs are essential watersheds that support the people, culture, and economy. Lack of funding and staffing prevents us from passing on these lands intact to our children.

Learn more

Mahalo for your kokua (help)! It will take residents and visitors alike to ensure that this unique and incredible area is sustained and protected. Please enjoy your time at ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve and do so in a way that future generations can too. Additional information can be found at: