Olowalu is a great little town in West Maui with a rich history that’s perfect to spend the day exploring. Marked by an iconic tunnel of monkeypod trees that cover the road, you’ll drive through Olowalu on your way to popular destinations such as Lahaina or Ka'anapali.
Originally a farming community, Olowalu eventually became the site of a large sugar cane plantation in the 1800s when Europeans first arrived. It is also where a terrible massacre took place in 1790 known as the Olowalu Massacre.
The waters in Olowalu are home to one of Hawaii’s largest and healthiest coral reefs with coral heads that are estimated to be hundreds of years old. For that reason, it is considered one of the best places to snorkel in all of Maui.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything there is to do in Olowalu should you choose to venture out that way and spend the day there. Let’s dig in!
Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop
Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop is a charming little cafe in Olowalu with friendly service that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is well known for its sweet and savory pies. The food is delicious and is made with farm-fresh ingredients from local vendors.
The menu includes sandwiches, burgers, and salads but for many, the pies are the star of the show. I’ve seen reviews that mentioned the pies as “something that legends are made from” and “the best pie I have ever had” and honestly, I can’t disagree.
Some of the pies they make are chicken pot pie, pineapple macadamia, coconut cream, key lime, and banana cream. Our favorite sandwich is the seared ahi but the Ruben is a close second!
You don’t have to spend the day in Olowalu to enjoy a meal at Leoda’s as you’ll pass it on your way into town when staying in West Maui. They offer dine-in and take-out, so you can easily grab something to go if you’re short on time or just want to pick up a few pies.
If you’re really looking forward to the pie, it’s best to go earlier in the day as the flavors can sell out. The line can also be long at times but we’ve found that it moves quickly and is worth the wait.
Maui Butterfly Farm Tour
The Maui Butterfly Farm is the only butterfly conservation facility in Hawaii and the only place where you can take a butterfly farm tour. The 45-minute tour will teach you about the importance of butterfly conservation and how they’re trying to save the butterfly population in Hawaii.
You will also get a hands-on experience that kids will love. You will be able to hold a caterpillar and feed nectar to a butterfly resting on your finger. The tour includes a walk-in butterfly flight house and covers the entire lifecycle from egg to caterpillar and from chrysalis to butterfly.
Their main goal is to teach the importance of butterfly conservation but they also double as a breeding site for butterflies in Maui. They release about 10,000 butterflies a year to help with pollination on the island.
Snorkel Olowalu’s Coral Gardens
Snorkeling is probably the number one reason most people visit Olowalu. The reef here is known as Coral Gardens and is 100 acres of the healthiest and oldest coral you can find in all of Hawaii.
You might also see it referred to as Turtle Reef because of the large green sea turtle population here. Additionally, Olowalu is home to a large population of manta rays and is also where black tip reef sharks come to give birth (they’re not considered dangerous). It’s safe to say there’s a lot of marine life to see here including many of the reef fish common to Hawaii.
The water in Olowalu’s Coral Gardens is typically calm. It’s protected from the trade winds making it a great place for beginners to snorkel even when other parts of Maui are windy. However, given its location, the best way to snorkel here is by booking a tour.
You have a few options if you’re interested in booking a snorkel tour of Olowalu’s Coral Gardens. They come down to two types of tours and these are the ones we recommend…
No matter how you decide to snorkel in Olowalu, keep in mind that the coral and environment are fragile. Always do your best to stay off the reef and keep from touching any of the marine life.
Olowalu Farmers Market
Just down the road from Leoda’s is the Olowalu Farmers Market. It’s a family-owned outdoor market that offers fresh produce and a variety of products from local farmers and vendors. You’ll see the big tent that houses the market from the road as you drive into West Maui.
The market is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily and is a great way to stock up on organic healthy food before heading to your condo. Some of the items available include pineapples, coconuts, mangos, local honey, jellies, jams, hot sauce, nuts, flowers, and seeds.
Olowalu General Store
Next door to Leoda’s is the Olowalu General Store, a popular pit stop in and out of Lahaina that has been in business since 1932. It’s one of the oldest stores operating in Maui and has been owned by the Fujii family since its inception. It’s currently operated by locals born and raised in Maui.
Back when it opened, it was the center of Olowalu and served the village of sugarcane plantation workers that lived in the area. Eventually, the plantation closed and the village slowly disappeared but the Olowalu General Store is still there to this day.
These days, the Olowalu General Store offers a variety of foods and locally made souvenirs. It’s a great place to stop for a quick bite or pick up something unique to bring home with you. They’re known by locals for their Hawaiian hot dogs but also serve spam musubi, plate lunches, bento boxes, boiled peanuts, shave ice, and ice-cold drinks and beer.
Sugar Mill Ruins at Olowalu Landing
Sugar cane plantations played a major part in Maui’s recent history. Thousands of acres of sugar cane have been cultivated and processed on the island since the mid-1800s until not that long ago making it a big part of the local economy of the time.
Olowalu Landing is the site of one of the first sugar mills on the island. It was dismantled in the 1930s but much of the foundation remains. In addition to the ruins, you can also find the remnants of a boat loading ramp, pier, and wharf in the area.
The plantation manager’s house still stands not far away and is now a popular place for weddings and special events. You can catch a glimpse of it if you walk out onto the old pier. We’d recommend walking out there as the views of the neighboring islands are fantastic at that location.
The Olowalu Petroglyphs, known by native Hawaiians as Pu’u Kilea, are rock carvings in the area by early Hawaiians thought to be around 200-300 years old. They include images of humans, animals, and boats chiseled into the basalt cliffs of Olowalu.
Visiting the petroglyphs is one of the lesser-known things to do in Maui, so you likely won’t see many other people out there. It’s a great way to experience a culturally significant location in Maui while spending the day in Olowalu.
You can access the Olowalu Petroglyphs by either hiking from the general store or by driving directly to the petroglyph site. It’s not that clear where they are, so we wrote a guide with everything you need to know about how to get there and where to find them.
If you’re looking to spend some time at the beach, Olowalu Beach is one to check out. It’s a narrow beach right off the road at mile marker 14. Parking is also right off the road, but don’t go too far as your car could get stuck in the sand if you don’t have 4WD.
This is a popular spot to try snorkeling at Olowalu’s coral reef since it starts right off the shore. However, it’s very shallow and difficult to navigate at low tide. Visibility isn’t great close to shore either making a snorkel tour a better option if you don’t want to swim further out.
There aren’t any facilities at this beach but it is usually less crowded than other beaches with plenty of shade from the kiawe trees. Just watch out for their thorns in the sand as they can be very painful if you step on them!
Camping at Camp Olowalu
Camping in Maui is probably not something most travelers considered but it’s available if you’re up for an adventure. Camp Olowalu is a beachfront campground with four different ways to camp including 35 campsites, 21 tentalows, car camping, and cabins.
The cabins are right on the beach but the other campsites are a little further back. Aside from the cabins, their prices are a lot cheaper than what you’ll pay for a hotel and make for a great way to experience Maui on a budget.
Even though it’s a campsite, they offer modern-day amenities including bathrooms, hot showers, a dishwashing station, a wifi hotspot, a charging station, a fire pit, and BBQs. They also offer daily activities such as kayaking and snorkeling adventures.
Volunteer at Kipuka Olowalu
Volunteering at Kipuka Olowalu is a great way to give back to the islands and connect with the environment. Their mission is to preserve the Native Hawaiian cultural site known as Olowalu Valley. That also includes the biodiversity and beauty of Olowalu Reef.
Work towards this goal includes land restoration projects such as native plantings, invasive species removal, and re-establishing proper cultural protocols for all who enter. They also work to educate about the environment and culture of Native Hawaiian land and practices.
You can choose to volunteer on your own or as a group for a day or more on their website.
More About Olowalu
Getting to Olowalu
Olowalu is located on the Honoapiilani Highway (Highway 30) in West Maui and is central to most hotels and resorts. It’s about 10-20 minutes from most West Maui locations (Lahaina, Ka'anapali) and 25-35 minutes from most South Maui locations (Kihei, Wailea).
I’d start by entering directions to the Olowalu General Store as that’s right off the main road and a good location to get a lay of the land. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the iconic tunnel of monkeypod trees covering the road as pictured above.
Is Olowalu Worth Visiting?
Olowalu is worth visiting but it depends on what you’re looking for. It’s not going to be as exciting as the Road to Hana or Haleakala but it’s a lot more laid back. There’s still plenty to do and it’s all centrally located (unlike Hana) and close to where you’re staying (unlike Haleakala).
If you’re not looking for a super busy day, a trip to Olowalu might be for you. You can easily see most of Olowalu in a half-day whereas some of the other locations in Maui will be much more of a time commitment to get there and explore.
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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