The “Deep Dive” series takes longer looks at some of our favorite places on Maui.
Our first Deep Dive piece is on the beautiful, yet dangerous Olivine Pools, truly one of the most scenic places on the island. During whale season, you’re bound to see the humpbacks frolicking just offshore. You will also witness the majestic power of the waves as they crash into the walls surrounding the pools. Of course, the pools themselves have their own beauty.
The Olivine Pools are located on the Kahekili Highway, accessible from both the Lahaina side of the island and Kahului. If you’re in Kihei/Wailea, you can really go either direction, though the drive from the west side (Lahaina) is less crazy. By crazy we mean, if you’re coming from Kahului, much of the highway is one lane with hairpin turns. The road starts to feel claustrophobic… even with the expanse of the ocean right below your wheels. The advantage of going “counter-clockwise” (from Kahului) to the Pools is you’ll drive past the Julia’s Best Banana Bread stand. It truly is the best banana bread on Maui. OK, we actually rated it a tie with Aunt Sandy’s, but it’s definitely worth the stop.
When you arrive at the Olivine Pools, you’ll find ample parking on the street. You’ll also come across this sign and memorial:
As stated in the intro to this piece, the Olivine Pools are dangerous. In 2017, a Utah man was swept away and his body was not recovered. SFGate.com named the Olivine Pools one of Hawaii’s most dangerous places. The Pools sit on a rocky point where the waves generally crash into the walls. However, larger waves will jump the walls and flood the pools. When the water goes back out, it sweeps everything and everyone out to the ocean.
You can actually take nice photos prior to the descent down to the tide pools. If you’re with small children or people who may not be in the best of shape, you should stop here. Here’s what the view looks like from the top:
If you decide to risk it and head down, you should wear shoes. Hiking-type sandals with heavy soles would work well, too, and if you’re heading into the pools, they’re the best thing to wear. While it’s not a difficult hike, the rocks are sharp and can get slippery. If you slip, you’ll most likely end up with cuts. Here’s what the hike looks like (the photo makes it look more difficult than it is):
After the first descent, there’s a fantastic viewing ledge. If the water is unpredictable, this is where we stop. From this ledge you can see the entirety of the Olivine Pools, as well the surrounding cliff walls. It’s relatively (but not totally) safe here and unless you want to go into the pools themselves, you’ll see everything you need to see. We recommend you venture no further than here. Even from up here, you’re not totally safe from the waves, so pay attention to the ocean. Here’s the view from the ledge:
The hike down to the pools is also filled with sharp, wet rocks. Again, it’s not difficult, but you may find yourself occasionally slipping. Once you reach the pools, you REALLY need to pay attention to your surroundings. Even on what may seem like the calmest of days, one rogue wave is all it will take to sweep you out to sea.
If you’ve come down this far, the pools are quite lovely and worthy of a plunge. They are safe in that the water isn’t poisonous or anything like that, but know that you are in the direct line of a potentially life-altering wave. Take a dip, then get back up to higher ground.
We’re sorry if we sound like worry warts, but deaths and near death experiences at the Olivine Pools are preventable. Common sense dictates you stay above the shoreline, but human nature will probably lead you down to the pools. Look, we’ve gone down there a few times so it would be hypocritical to say you shouldn’t go. But if you go, please be smart. Be safe.