Maui is renowned for the chance to spot the sea turtle in its natural habitat, and there are few places better than at turtle beach. Crowds of the adorable sea turtle make their way onto the soft sands, where visitors can watch them from above.
This guide covers all you need to know about spotting the Hawaiian sea turtle, otherwise known as the Honu, from Turtle Beach at Ho’okipa.
Where Is Turtle Beach, Maui?
Ho’okipa on the North Shore is the home of Maui windsurfing. It’s also one of the best places for an up close encounter with a sea turtle!
Turtle Beach can be found at the far end of Ho’okipa, on your right as you face the ocean.
There’s a lookout spot overhead, where visitors stop to watch the windsurfing.
Turtle Beach is slightly along the Hana Highway from the popular North Shore surfers town of Paia.
What Facilities Are At Turtle Beach?
At the far end of Ho’okipa beach, visitors to Turtle Beach have access to a good range of facilities. There are bathrooms, showers, and port-a-potties within walking distance. Lifeguards are also on Ho’okipa beach.
Set further back from the shore, and slightly elevated, is the Pavilion area. There are several picnic benches in this spot, although they tend to be popular with locals. Nearby tide pools are good bathing spots for keiki — young kids.
Nearby Paia is home to several fantastic restaurants, if you want a bite to eat after your day at the beach.
Getting To Turtle Beach
Travelers along the Hana Highway will find themselves driving past Turtle Beach at Mile #9. The one-way system around the area can make access in and out a little tricky, but decent parking makes Turtle Beach worth the stop.
There are two main parking lots for Ho’okipa beach. The first you come to is for the lookout. Park here to watch the waves and the windsurfers, and then follow the coastal path to the beach itself.
Or, drive further down and park at the beach lot.
Ho’okipa is a popular destination, so there can be a wait for a parking spot at times. But as many visitors are making a brief stop on their way to somewhere else, lots can free up quickly.
Are There Always Turtles At Turtle Beach?
There are turtles at Turtle Beach a lot of the time. However, there’s no guarantee that you will see the Honu. They’re still wild creatures, and they like to come and go as they please.
If you can’t spot any turtles, then you may need to look a little closer.
The Honu are exceptionally good at camouflaging themselves among the smaller boulders on the shore. When there are only one or two turtles about, they can be tough to differentiate from the rocks.
When Can You See Turtles At Turtle Beach?
Throughout the day, you have a fairly good chance of spotting a sea turtle at Turtle Beach, but the best time is at dusk. As the evening sets in, more of the Honu make their way onto the shore.
This is when the crowds start to gather as well. If you spot groups of people at one end of Ho’okipa Beach, then expect a good sea turtle sighting.
You can spot the turtles directly from the beach, but there’s an overlook above that offers the best viewing opportunity. Head to the Pavilions, and take a look over the wall. Directly below you is the best place to see turtles!
Sea turtles aren’t the only thing you have a chance to see at Ho’okipa. Very lucky visitors might get an opportunity to spy a Hawaiian monk seal. These are normally found sunbathing at the far end of Ho’okipa, across from Turtle Beach.
Respecting The Turtles
The sea turtles at Turtle Beach are wild animals, and must be treated with the utmost respect. Touching the turtles is not allowed, and can result in a fairly hefty fine.
The Hawaiian sea turtle is a protected species.
Locals and volunteers are serious about keeping the turtles safe. Sometimes a rope or rock barrier is set up to keep visitors from getting too close to the Honu. Visitors are also asked to give the sea turtles space, and preferably a distance of at least 10 feet.
Feeding the sea turtles is also prohibited. If you want to snap a photo of the Honu, please turn the flash off.
Can You Surf At Turtle Beach?
Ho’okipa Beach is one of the premier surf destinations on Maui, and the place to go for windsurfers. Professionals flock to Ho’okipa on a windy day, and inexperienced surfers are advised to be cautious.
Windsurfing takes place down the beach from the turtles, for the safety of both the turtles and the people.
Swimming is acceptable at Ho’okipa, but swimmers tend to stick to the shallows. Head too far out, and you can find yourself caught up in the currents. Again, swimming takes place away from the rocky area the turtles call home.
Where To Stay To Visit Turtle Beach
Paia town on the North Shore is known for attracting the windsurfers and surfers who flock to Ho’okipa beach. For easy access to Turtle Beach, a stay in Paia is ideal.
But visiting Turtle Beach is easy from many places on Maui. If you plan on driving the Road to Hana, factor in a stop at Turtle Beach on the way back, or when you head out in the morning.
Because the turtles are best viewed at dusk, Turtle Beach is a nice add-on for a busy day on Maui. After a climb up Haleakala or a walk around Iao Valley State Park, Turtle Beach is a relaxing evening trip.
A quick stop at Turtle Beach will take up little of your time, but is sure to make you smile.
Come along in the evening for the best chance to see the Maui Honu, or visit in the day to see the incredible windsurfers.