Kai—sea, seawater, seaside —the sea is many things to an islander. The waters surrounding these islands are often a source of food as well as employment. For most people on Maui, the sea is also their primary source of enjoyment in sports and recreation.
Hawaiians have been plying the sea for food, transport and pleasure for centuries. In fact, they arrived at this archipelago aboard double-hulled sailing canoes perhaps a millennium before Europeans were navigating the world’s seas in clipper ships.
Outrigger canoes still negotiate na kai ‘ewalu, the eight sea channels dividing these islands. However, they cut through the water for sport now rather than as the principal means of transportation.
Today’s canoe paddlers take their sport seriously, though. Championing Hawaii’s racing season is a considerable source of pride for island canoe clubs and many high schools offer outrigger canoe paddling as an interscholastic team sport.
Hawaiians of old also plied the ocean waves via papa he‘e nalu (surfboards), but it was usually the chiefs and those in their entourage who went surfing. Over the centuries, Hawaiian islanders have always surfed for sport and recreation. Their feats on the waves have been made famous in song and dance.
Fishing, both shore and deep sea, has long been a means of subsistence in Hawai‘i. In ancient times, specially designed fishing canoes were built for a man to go out to sea to catch fish for his village. Many Hawaiian men can still be seen fishing with a large net along the shore today. As visitors came to Hawai‘i for vacation, fishing boats were set up as charters for sportfishing.
There are many other pleasure possibilities for the sea surrounding Maui. Water sports include windsurfing, or sailboarding. In fact, Ho‘okipa Beach on the north shore is recognized as one of the best spots in the world to windsurf. You’ll also see tow-in surfing when the big waves come up in winter at Peahi or “Jaws” along the north shore. Kitesurfing has recently made waves along the windward beaches at Kanaha in Central Maui, Kamaole in South Maui and Kahana in West Maui. Boogie boarding and bodysurfing remain popular water activities, especially at Big Beach in Makena and D.T. Fleming Beach in Kapalua.
With over 32 miles of perfect Maui beaches to sun on, play at and snorkel along, your problem may be deciding which to visit first.