This relatively small pocket of beach is quintessentially Hawai’i—white sand beaches, towering cliffs, lush foliage, and an abundance of wildlife. Bookended by corals on either side of the beach, these grow in the winter months, as does the surf, and all but erase the beach. But in the summertime, a calmer swell makes for good surfing for beginners and swimmers and an excellent place to pass a leisurely afternoon.
This beach’s less-than-alluring name comes from the Honolua Ranch slaughterhouse, tanning, and storage shed that was once perched atop the surrounding cliffs. Though the building was razed over 60 years ago, the grisly name stuck.
Like its dreamy neighbor to the north, Honolua Bay, Mokule’ia Bay is a part of the Honolua-Mokule’ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District. Here, wildlife abounds and is strictly protected—fishing is prohibited and you could suffer a hefty fine if spotted harassing any of the sea life in the area. While Honolua is renowned as the best snorkeling in the area (and for good reason), Mokule’ia can be good too if there’s not too much clouding from the nearby stream to the southwest. But on a clear day once you get past the surf, prepare to see abundant schools of butterfly fish of many varieties, Potter’s angelfish, yellow-tail wrasse, and the rainbow-colored ornate wrasse among others. The chances of catching a glimpse of sea turtles are high here as well.
Situated an easy drive north of Lahaina, Mokule’ia Bay is a lovely day trip on a calm summer’s morning. Arrive early to ensure yourself parking—there are only 10 spaces along the highway. This will necessitate that you get a bit crafty in finding yourself a sunny spot. The beach is pretty shady in the morning and evening. There’s a trash receptacle in the parking lot and no other amenities of which to speak. Finally, be prepared to descend exactly 87 stairs from the parking lot to the beach. Though they aren’t remarkably steep or difficult to navigate, this should be taken into consideration when planning a family outing with young children or elderly folks.