Visiting the Olowalu Petroglyphs is one of the lesser-known things to do while in Maui. The petroglyphs in this area are thought to be around 200-300 years old. They include images of humans, animals, and boats chiseled into the basalt cliffs of Olowalu by early Hawaiians.
Known by native Hawaiians as Pu’u Kilea, the Olowalu Petroglyphs are considered one of the easiest petroglyph sites to visit in Hawaii. However, they aren’t well marked making them a challenge to find if you don’t know where to look.
In this guide, we’ll cover getting to the petroglyphs, where to find them, if it’s worth seeing them, and other things to do in the area. Let’s dig in!
Top Things to Do in Olowalu
If you’re looking for more to do after the petroglyphs, check out our guide on the top things to do in Olowalu. It’s a great little town that’s worth spending some time exploring while you’re in the area.
- Getting to the Olowalu Petroglyphs
- Where to Find the Petroglyphs
- More About the Olowalu Petroglyphs
- Other Things to See While There
Getting to the Olowalu Petroglyphs
Olowalu is located in West Maui and is the first town you’ll see after rounding the bend on the Honoapiilani Highway coming from the airport in Central Maui. If you’ve been to Maui before, you’re probably familiar with the tunnel of monkeypod trees that marks this area (pictured above).
The petroglyphs in Olowalu can be accessed by either driving directly to the site or by a short hike that starts from behind the Olowalu General Store. It’s not well marked, so I’ve included pictures above to help you get familiar with what the area looks like before venturing out there.
Driving to the Olowalu Petroglyphs
Your first option is to drive directly to the petroglyphs. I’ve included directions above from the Olowalu General Store but you can get there from anywhere. The main thing to know is that you’ll turn on Luawai Street from the Honoapiilani Highway.
Once you’re on Luawai Street, that’s where it gets a little tricky as there aren’t any signs for the petroglyphs there. You’ll want to drive until you see a dirt road on the left before Luawai Street bends to the right (Google will take you past the dirt road).
Turn down that dirt road and you should see a small maintenance building where you can park. You’ll need to walk the rest of the way from here but it’s a short walk. Pictures are included above of both the dirt road and maintenance building for reference.
Hiking to the Olowalu Petroglyphs
Your second option is to take the Olowalu Petroglyphs hike that starts from behind the Olowalu General Store. Facing the store, go left and then take your first right. Once that road ends, go left until you see a small water tower. That’s where the hike starts.
It’s more of a dirt road than a hike making it an easy adventure to go on with children. However, it does get hot out there, so go early if you plan on hiking. The entire hike is about a mile round trip and shouldn’t take more than an hour including time spent viewing the petroglyphs.
You’ll know you’ve reached the petroglyph site when you reach the maintenance building where people park pictured above. If you don’t see that, or you reach a bridge crossing a stream, you’ve gone too far and need to turn around.
Where to Find the Petroglyphs
Once you’ve reached the maintenance building where people park, you’ll want to continue walking along the dirt road until you see the sign pictured above. The petroglyphs are on the face of the basalt cliffs about 50 feet up from that sign.
There used to be a staircase that lead to a viewing platform built in the 1960s that allowed you to get close to the petroglyphs. Unfortunately, it was later removed due to vandalism. You can see the remnants of that platform on the hillside to this day.
It’s still possible to view the petroglyphs with the naked eye from the road. However, I’d recommend bringing a pair of binoculars or a camera with decent zoom to see them with greater detail. There are about 70 petroglyphs here and not all of them are easy to see.
More About the Olowalu Petroglyphs
History of the Olowalu Petroglyphs
Not much is known about the history of Olowalu’s ki’i pohaku (images carved in stone) as there is no written record about them from that time. The roughly 70 images of men, women, children, animals, and boats are thought to be around 200-300 years old.
They provide a glimpse into the community of pre-contact and historic Olowalu. The images are thought to represent the occupations, journeys, legends, or stories of the early Hawaiians. However, we can only guess if they have meaning and may just be purely art and nothing more.
Are the Olowalu Petroglyphs Worth Seeing?
The petroglyph site in Olowalu isn’t highly trafficked which makes for a peaceful adventure to a culturally significant location in Maui. It’s likely you won’t see anyone else while out there. I’d definitely recommend checking them out if you’re in the area.
However, if it’s your first time in Maui or you’re short on time, I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to only see the petroglyphs. They might be a little underwhelming on their own. The hike isn’t really a hike and seeing the petroglyphs will be over quickly compared to the drive.
If you have the time, I’d make a half-day out of visiting Olowalu and include the petroglyphs as part of that. Once you’re done checking out the petroglyphs, head back down to the Olowalue General Store or Olowalu Farmers Market and then grab a bite to eat at Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. The food there is great and you won’t be disappointed!
When Is the Best Time to Visit the Petroglyphs?
The best time to visit the Olowalu Petroglyphs is first thing in the morning. It can get hot out there, especially if you plan on doing the walking trail. You’ll be in the full sun most of the time. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen and bring plenty of water.
Other Things to See While There
There’s not much else to see at the petroglyph site in Olowalu. We spent some time wandering around and found some of the views that you see above. The first thing you’ll see is a small bridge crossing a stream a little ways past the petroglyphs.
Across from that is a small trail you can take to the top of the cliffs. That’ll give you a great view of the ocean as well as the West Maui mountains in the opposite direction. It’s a short hike to the top and worth doing if you’re already out there.
Meet the Authors
Aloha! We’re Justin and Katie, the owners of Maui Hideaway. We’ve been visiting Hawaii together with our family for 20 years and would love to share the experience of the islands with you. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay or just some vacation advice, we’re here to help!
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