People have been cliff jumping at Black Rock in Ka’anapali for a long time. Known by locals as Pu’u Keka’a, this large outcrop is made up of lava rock and is a place of cultural significance. Ancient Hawaiians believed the souls of those who died would leap into the spirit world at this sacred spot. Additionally, it’s believed that Black Rock was one of King Kahekili’s (1737-1794) favorite places to jump, Maui’s last ruling chief and a prolific cliff jumper in his time.
These days, locals and tourists alike can be found jumping off Black Rock and snorkeling in the water around the base. You can usually spot the locals as they are likely the ones scaling the face of the rock and doing backflips into the water. I’d only recommend following their lead if you’re confident you won’t hurt yourself.
When you find yourself relaxing on Ka’anapali Beach, watching others take the plunge off Black Rock, and get the sudden urge to swim out and jump yourself, don’t hesitate, just do it! Even if you’re not in the greatest shape, it’s an easy swim, a moderate climb, and not so high (approximately 20 feet) that even people that don’t like heights (like myself) can do it.
Swimming out to Black Rock
The swim out to Black Rock is a relatively quick 300 feet (91 meters) from the shoreline. It’ll take you a few minutes to get out there depending on your swimming ability once you’ve entered the water but that’s about it. Get in the water, swim to the rock, and get ready to climb up.
I do want to mention that while it might be tempting to avoid the swim and instead climb the rocks starting at the shoreline, don’t do it. The rocks there aren’t stable and there’s even a sign telling you to keep out. Unless you want to chance an injury, stick to the swim.
Climbing up Black Rock
Once you’ve made it out to Black Rock, swim just past where people are jumping. The rocks are lower there making it easier to climb up. If you’re facing the rock, that would be to your left. If you’re unsure, hang out for a few minutes and you should see someone else making the climb to give you an idea of the path.
Getting from the water to the rocks can be tricky depending on the wave action. Try to firmly secure spots for your hands and feet before attempting to pull yourself up. Once you’ve done that, find the path you’re most comfortable with and make your way to the top.
The rocks can be tough on your feet. I’ve done it without water shoes before, so it’s possible, but I’d recommend wearing a pair if you have them. Either way, take your time. One misstep could mean getting scraped by rocks.
Where to Jump off Black Rock
There are two spots that you can jump off at Black Rock. One is about halfway up and the other is at the very top. In my opinion, the lower jump isn’t that much lower. If you make it out there, I’d go all the way and jump from the very top. It’s doable and worth the experience.
When you’re at the top you should see a tiki torch (shown above). Just to the right of that tiki torch is where you can jump off. Again, if you’re unsure, hang out for a few minutes and you should see someone else take the plunge.
When you’re ready to jump, be sure the area below you is free from other people. Black Rock is a busy place and can get crowded. Once you’re free and clear, don’t think about it, just jump!
How High is Black Rock?
The height of Black Rock at any given time is largely dependent on the tide. The range I’ve seen people mention is anywhere from 12 to 30 feet. I did some measuring based on photos I took relative to the people in them and came to 20 feet myself.
Cliff Diving Ceremony at Black Rock
Since 1963 the Sheraton Maui has put on a cliff diving ceremony at Black Rock to honor this ancient Hawaiian tradition enjoyed by King Kahekili. The ceremony starts just before sunset and begins with the lighting of the tiki torches, a native Hawaiian chant, and the blowing of the conch shell. After that, a professional cliff diver offers a flower lie to the ocean before taking the plunge.
If you’re looking for a place to sit and watch the show, the Cliff Dive Grill at the Sheraton Maui is a great place to enjoy dinner, the sunset, and the ceremony.
Getting to Black Rock
Black Rock is located in Ka’anapali and is easily accessible from most parts of the island. We wrote about getting to Black Rock and the best places to park in our Black Rock snorkeling guide.
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