The best surf spots on Lana‘i cater to more experienced surfers for the most part, but that doesn’t mean beginners are out of luck. With one exception, getting to these locations is going to take more than simply parking at the beach, and the trade-off there is that you won’t have the same crowds at the more accessible beach.
Hulopo‘e Beach Park
Given that Hulopo‘e Beach is the island’s most popular beach, it should come as little surprise that it’s also the island’s most popular surf spot. Since Hulopo‘e faces south, it’s exposed to southerly swells, which means that the months of April-October are going to be the best for finding surf. This left point break can be challenging, however, and it’s not a spot for beginners.
The wave breaks over a shallow coral reef and the takeoff can be steep, although when Hulopo‘e is firing it can be one of the best summer waves in Maui County. The long lefthander will hold its size 2-12 feet, and you have to be careful of the inside section, which can carry you straight into the shorebreak. If the angle of the swell isn’t quite right, you can occasionally find a better wave by walking the nature path for 200 yards to the next bay over. A short scramble down the rocks will bring you to a hidden, sandy cove, although the wave here is more of a beach break, which pales in comparison to the quality of Hulopo‘e. To reach Hulopo‘e Beach Park drive a quarter mile past the small boat harbor on Manele Road until the pavement ends in a parking lot.
Lopa is the island’s preeminent beginner wave. But just because it’s user-friendly doesn’t mean that it can’t be a great wave. A beach break with multiple peaks, the waves at Lopa aren’t usually as steep and are better suited for longboards and noseriding. This is where the island’s lone surf school takes its students, although on most days—due to the difficult, four-wheel-drive access—you will have Lopa all to yourself other than a handful of fishers or campers. To reach Lopa take Keomuku Highway over to the back of the island to the end of the paved road, then take a right and proceed for nine miles.
Bring your hiking boots for this spot, because the only way to surf Stone Shacks is to walk a half-mile-long, kiawe riddled trail to a remote and rocky beach. The name refers to two rudimentary stone structures constructed on the shoreline as a place where campers can stay out of the wind. The walk is worth it, however, as Stone Shacks offers one of the best right- and left-hand waves anywhere on the island. The surf can be bigger here than at nearby Lopa, and it can pick up more of a southerly angle, while Hulopo‘e faces southwest. To reach Stone Shacks take Keomuku Highway over the back side of the island to the end of the paved road, then take a right and proceed for 11 miles until the dirt road ends at Naha. Then park the car and start walking. Hazards include locals, sharks, and making your way out through the rocky entry.
Having grown up on Lana‘i but perfected his surfing skills on the North Shore of O‘ahu, owner Nick Palumbo now runs Lana‘i Surf Safari (808/565-9283), your one-stop outfit for all things surf-related on Lana‘i. Rentals are arranged off Hulopo‘e Beach and include longboards ($58 for 24 hours), shortboards ($58 for 24 hours), bodyboards ($30 for 24 hours), and stand-up paddleboards ($150 full day/$75 half day).
While renting a board and surfing the wave at Hulopo‘e are great for the intermediate surfer, for those who are looking to take actual surf lessons and explore the back of the island there’s no better option than booking a half-day surf safari (9am-2pm, $200) to pristine and isolated Lopa Beach. Tours include pickup and drop-off from the harbor or your hotel as well as all gear, instruction, drinking water, and transport to Lana‘i’s rugged back side. Unlike the surf schools of Waikiki or Lahaina, where you can find yourself fighting to catch a wave amid 50 other students, guests here on Lana‘i are treated to a private session on a beach, which is almost guaranteed to have nobody else on it. Even if you aren’t staying on the island, day trips from Maui can be arranged.