Maui day 11: Maui Nui Botanical Gardens—La Perouse Bay

This morning we checked out the northern section of Poʻolenalena Beach, away from the Makena Surf Resort. While there were people on the beach, it certainly didn’t feel crowded. Another slice of paradise!


Poʻolenalena Beach


Poʻolenalena Beach

After our beach outing, we drove to Kahului, Maui’s main town, to do some last-minute souvenir shopping at Costco. (Yes, Kahului has a Costco, and it’s the cheapest place on the entire island for just about everything, including gas.)


Driving in Kahului—I love the streets lined with coconut palms

I opted out of the Costco trip and asked to be dropped off at the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens. Located next to the University of Hawaii Maui College (UHMC), Maui Nui Botanical Gardens showcases plants either native to Maui or brought here by early Polynesian settlers. This approach is different from the three private botanical gardens I’ve visited on this trip (Garden of Eden on the Hāna Highway, Tropical Gardens of Maui in Wailuku and Kula Botanical Garden in Kula); they focus on exotic plants from all over the world that thrive in Maui’s climate.


Maui Nui Botanical Gardens

I’ll have a separate post about the Maui Nui Botanical Gardens after I get back to the mainland. Here are just a few highlights I saw today:


Breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis), easily one of the most beautiful trees I’ve ever seen


Variegated banana (Musa x paradisiaca ‘Variegata’), rare and sought after; I wish I could have seen the leaves before they were torn to shreds by the wind


Noni (Morinda citrifolia)


Taro (Colocasia esculenta), sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) and ti (Cordyline fruticosa)


Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum) with dark burgundy culms


'Ihi (Portulaca molokiniensis), a succulent endemic to Molokini and neighboring Kaho'olawe

To end the day, my wife and I drove to La Perouse Bay at the southern tip of Maui. It literally is at the end of the only road in this area; figuratively, it might as well be on a different planet.


As you leave the Wailea resorts behind, the road narrows and becomes a residential neighborhood of multi-million dollar estates nestled among lush landscaping coaxed from the fertile volcanic soil with plenty of piped-in water. No, this is not what you would find here naturally, but it’s still a slice of paradise, no matter how artificial it might be.


The shoreline here is pure rock, but not just any ordinary rock—lava rock.


As you get closer to La Perouse Bay at the end of the road, you drive through barren expanses that look like freshly tilled fields. Except that what you’re seeing aren’t clumps of newly turned soil, but chunks of lava rock. These are the visible remnants of Maui’s last volcanic eruption from 1789.




The road ends right at La Perouse Bay, which from the looks of it might as well be in Iceland—or on Mars if Mars had oceans.


La Perouse Bay parking lot; as you can see from the cars, most people who come here are locals


Maui’s most scenic dumpster


Heart of coral on black lava rock


La Perouse Bay panorama


La Perouse Bay panorama

As we arrived, it started to sprinkle, which added an even more mysterious ambience to this otherworldly landscape.




From the parking lot there’s a primitive lava rock trail that follows the shoreline and affords fantastic views of the waves crashing against the black rocks. The scenery is unlike anything else I’ve seen on Maui—or anywhere else.



Near where we had parked our car I noticed a bunch of agave flower spikes. They belonged to sisal agaves (Agave sisilana). Agave sisilana was introduced to Maui in the 1800s as a source of fiber for rope. For reasons lost in history, Agave sisilana never took off, but there are isolated pockets of it all over the island.



I also spotted rock walls covered with Hylocereus cactus (see this post). The flower buds are just a few days away from opening up. Unfortunately, we won’t be here to see them in all their glory.



Here are a few more photos from our drive back. We have seen so many different things on this trip, but La Perouse Bay was my favorite spot in terms of raw scenic beauty.


Lava field and evening clouds


Scenic cove


The small island towards the left is Molokini where went snorkeling a few days ago



  1. Absolutely stunning! Interesting to see that the variegated banana has very little burn on it too (although it is shredded).

    1. The climate here is very consistent. Daytime temps are in the mid to high 80s, and nighttime lows in the mid to high 60s. Maybe this--coupled with a humidity of 60%--keeps the variegated bananas from burning?

  2. I really like the look of that sugarcane!

    I love finding secluded spots like that, and this one seems like it was certainly worth the trip! Those islands are so varied and magical -- so much more than what you think Hawaii will be before you visit.

    1. Maui far exceeded my expectations in terms of scenic diversity!

      As for La Perouse Bay, it's less than 10 miles from the Wailea resorts, yet very few tourists go there. I've noticed that in other parts of Maui as well and I'm sure it's no different on the other islands: Get off the beaten path, and chance are you'll have left 90% of the tourists behind.

      Sugarcane: I loved this particular variety. Very showy!

  3. First thing in the morning, I look forward to reading your blog. Ah! it makes me feel like I have gone on vacation with you guys. Thanks again for taking us with your on your awesome vacation. Can't wait to see your botanical posts when you get back home.

  4. Thanks to you I've fallen for Maui! Splendid sights and excellent travel log!
    Great job - aloha!

    1. I have, too. I just wish everything were a little cheaper, then we could visit more often.

  5. That variegated banana with the shredded leaves is still so very beautiful. Your photos are just magical. Too bad you won't see the Hylocereus open, so many buds on it! I keep ogling your scenery photos, each one as beautiful or more beautiful than the next. What an amazing trip.

  6. I had no idea you were there for so many days. How wonderful!

  7. That dewy, pearly light and what you and the camera make of it --ooh la la! Interesting to see the P. molok. succulent. Mine looks like that, and I thought it needed to be more leaves, less stem, so good to know I'm on the right track!


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