The western end of Kanaha Beach is known (unto kiteboarders) as “Kite Beach”, the locals actually call this area NASKA. The proper name for this beach is Kanaha Beach. Kiters must be aware that they share the water and beaches here with many other users, and kiters never have the exclusive use of any area (despite the name).

LOCATION: Located just a few minutes from Kahului Airport, Kanaha beach offers a variety of conditions to suit different levels of riders and many different types of watercraft. At Kanaha’s western end there are several curved sandy beaches to launch kites from.

ABOUT MAUI: Maui is the windiest of the Hawaiian islands and has more kitable wind days than many other kiteboarding destinations around the world. The valley in central Maui creates a wind tunnel effect that funnels the wind into Kanaha beach, improving its direction and strength.

In summer, the side-onshore winds tend to push loose gear and riders back towards shore. The area closest to the beach lies inside a shallow reef, keeping the water relatively flat in the inshore area. A little farther out from shore the waves start to break on the reef and create better conditions for intermediate and advanced riders. In winter, the largest waves breaking on the outside reef are strictly for expert riders only. The wind at Kanaha beach can blow all year round. The steadiest and strongest winds blow through the summer months.

In winter the winds can be more diverse, and larger kites are often used. Occasionally Kona winds will blow from the south, creating an offshore wind at Kanaha. In Winter there can be long stretches without wind that can last for several days to a week. But there are plenty of other things to enjoy on the island if the wind doesn’t blow.

NO AMENITIES: Kanaha Beach is pretty raw, and there are not many facilities for Kiters at the western end of the beach, a few porta-potties, and no showers, or water. So bring your own water, bring your own lunch, always lock your car and watch your gear. And if possible take your car keys with you when you ride.

This is the western end of Kanaha beach. The beach adjacent to the dirt parking lot is used by several local kite schools. Aerial photo to courtesy of www.bluehawaiian.com

DESIGNATED USAGE ZONES: Kanaha Beach is about two miles long, the majority lies within the Maui County’s Kanaha Beach Park. There are several beach areas in the park that have different designated uses. It is important to respect other beach users, and other water users. Try to learn the different uses of each of the areas and you will avoid any problems with other users. This beach is shared by different groups within the community. All of which have the rights to use these areas. However, some restrictions do apply to specific activities as defined by County and State and Federal law. The general layout of the water areas is illustrated by the diagram below. Please note that there is no windsurfing or kiteboarding allowed before 11am. Also, there is a specifically designated area for beginner windsurfing from 9am to 11am.

This is an aerial view of the Kanaha beach showing the special use areas.

The Kiting beach area is roughly divided into two halves, the upwind end to the east is known as “old hale beach”, “Old Mans Beach”. It is the area closest to the old Girl Scout pavilion structure. This area is west of the lifeguard tower, and launching and landing is done below the campground area. At the downwind end of this stretch of sand, is at “Naish” beach, and is accessed via the “Keyhole” parking area. The most western end of the zone there is a series of 5 rock groins around Ka’a Point.

Old Hale Pavilion
The Beach East of Ka’a Point. The area in the foreground between these rock jettys is a swim zone.

Ka’a point:
The Western (downwind) end of Kanaha is the area below Ka’a point”.  On the western side of the Point is a sandy beach known as “Ka’a Point” ” which it is possible to launch in more northerly winds. The area is also used by fishermen and families, so always give them plenty of room, or move to another location if it is crowded. When it is uncrowded, there is only room to launch one kite at a time on the narrow sandy isthmus. Kiters should take care to avoid the rock pile (island) after launching. The cove has a big wind shadow created by the tall trees on the point, which makes launching and landing difficult. many kites have bee caught in the trees, and on the rocks here. So it is best to avoid this spot if possible.

Kook’s Cove: The small bay (not the enclosed pond used by swimmers and fishermen) is were many kiters try to show off and often crash due to the fluky winds, so this area is sometimes nicknamed the “Kooks Kove”, avoid riding here close to shore when there are fishermen, or fishing poles visible as the fishing lines can extend far out into the water. Most kiters will launch farther downwind, and/or get farther out offshore to enjoy the waves breaking on the reef.

Many user groups share this Area: All kinds of watercraft use this area, including kayaks, and canoes launching from this spot. anyone riding in this area should be aware of the other water users and give them enough room to maneuver. There are normal sailing rules that prohibit riding dangerously, or at speed close to shore. So kiters should take care and learn the rules before getting themselves into trouble.

The Rock Pond east of the island is a popular swim area: The Pond area enclosed by rocks is a popular swim area for children and families, and Kiters must always stay clear of swimmers (including kiters who are swimming). Just offshore from the Pond is also a large mandated Swim Zone, where kites and other watercraft are prohibited at all times. Kiters should never transit through this zone. Always give way to swimmers, and fishermen, and never fly a kite over the head of swimmers and non-kiters.

Bone Yard: just offshore from Ka’a point is the Boneyard. The Boneyard is an area of very shallow reef that actually gets exposed at low tide. This area can be crossed at high tide, but kiters should take extreme caution when jumping or crashing near this area. Also, any beginners should not even body drag through this area.

Hazards to watch for: Take particular care when kiting near any of the rocky areas. Many unwary kiteboarders and inexperienced persons have been stuck on these rocks. Never attempt to jump the rocks, and it is not recommended to attempt to ride into the rock-pool or between the island and the shore.

Action Beach (beginner beach):
Just downwind of the storm-water canal is the launching area known as action beach. There is a large red dirt parking area separated from the beach by a row of shade trees. Always lock your car when parking here. The wide beach has limited room to set up kites, and this beach is used by most of the kite schools. This beach is more of a great beginner area. This section of beach is mostly sandy, rocky, and has trees and sticks, so take care here. the beach is just long enough for beginners to get in a good long run. Because the beach curves around, and the wind usually brings everything back to shore. There are a few submerged hazards and shallow areas to watch out for, so ask a local kiter for the known hazards before launching here. The Action Beach Launch: There is an invisible vortex in the wind created by the trees at Ka’a point. This dirty wind makes launching at the upwind end of Action launch challenging. Watch how the locals launch here, and ask them for some advice if you have not launched here before. It is never recommended to walk upwind with your kite in the air. At kite beach, there are trees close to shore (and turbulent wind). So it is never recommended to walk upwind whilst flying your kite. The trees next to the shoreline have claimed many kites and kiters over the years.

This is a view (looking East towards Ka’a point) of the Action Beach launch area at Kanaha. Photo: D.Dorn
This is a view (looking West) of the Kiteboarder launch area at Kanaha (2002). Photo: D.Dorn
This is a view (looking West) of the Kiteboarder launch area at Kanaha (2013). Photo: S.Dorn

Water Treatment Plant: The rocks at the water treatment plant mark the downwind end of this beach. Kiters should attempt to come ashore well upwind of the rock wall. A safety buffer of two kite line lengths is recommended between any object. If there is no-one to catch the kite at the last beach. Kiters must do a self-exit before getting to the beach. The wind at the downwind end of this beach is more onshore that at the launch, so the distance between the kite and the beach closes very quickly. If you cannot land safely at this beach, there is a last chance beach beyond the rocks, that is used in case of an emergency landing or equipment failure. if you get stuck on the last chance beach, you should deflate your kite, and hike back along the path on the top of the rock wall. Take care not to rip your kite on the fence.

Rules and Guidelines:
With the increasing popularity of kiteboarding, kiteboarders on Maui see the need to step up self-regulating efforts to keep the sport growing in a positive direction. In addition, all kiteboarders are under specific FAA waiver stipulations and normal Boating regulations also apply.

Maui Kiteboarding Map

The 11 O’clock rule:
Maui County requires that windsurfers and kiteboarders observe the 11 o’clock rule, which was adopted by windsurfers, fishermen, spear fishermen and swimmers in 1988, now a State law. That rule allows for swimmers and fishermen to have exclusive access to the ocean on the north shore prior to 11 am. After 11 am, when the winds pick up to near-full strength, windsurfers and kiteboarders have shared access with fishermen and divers, etc, All sailing craft & watercraft must watch out for and avoid any fishermen/divers who are allowed to practice their sport at any time.

SAFE RIDING GUIDELINES: If you’re planning a kiteboarding trip to Maui in the near future, please stop by any of the windsurfing/kiteboarding shops when you arrive and pick up a copy of the safe riding guidelines brochure.

FAA Rules:
As you can see from the aerial photos above, Kanaha beach lies close to the Kahului airport. The Federal Aviation Administration FAA, has rules regarding the airspace surrounding the airport, and some of these rules specifically relate to kites. Below is a list of rules that kitesurfers must observe when kiteboarding at Kitebeach Kanaha.

The FAA waiver stipulations that all kiteboarders must comply with:

  1. No maneuvers shall be performed over persons or property not involved with kiteboarding activities;
  2. No kiteboarding in the 2-mile long by one-mile wide corridor at the end of the runway in Spreckelsville (see map);
  3. The waiver is applicable and only valid between the hours of official sunrise and sunset;
  4. All kiteboarders operating within the area from Ho`okipa to Waihee Point shall be responsible for seeing and avoiding non-participants; and
  5. The kite will not be operated 125 feet above sea level.

For a full set of rules and guidelines, go to the www.mauikiteboardingassociation.com website.