Nudity, Tumors, and Blasphemy in Maui

By Foot, By Water, Roving, , , , , ,

Are Secret Beaches Automatically Nude Beaches?

So far, we’ve found a remarkable amount of solitude on Maui’s east side.

We got an early start and drove in on the quicker southern “backside” road, a route skipped by most tourists due to a brief unpaved stretch with one-lane blind turns carved into the cliffside.  We sail along, tooting our Nissan Versa’s little horn to warn nonexistent oncoming traffic, and make it to the coastal section of Haleakala National Park without incident.

Maui Backside Road

There, we duck into the bamboo forest along the Pipiwai trail to Waimoku Falls.  The stalks rattle in the wind.  It sounds like a storm of those little Kodama forest spirits with the clattering heads in Princess Mononoke, and I imagine them leaping from pole to pole and spying on us with mismatched eyes.  After the hike, we slide into a cool and empty pool in O’heo Gulch and splash around under a little waterfall.

Maui Bamboo Forest
Pipiwai TrailWaimoku Falls
O'heo Gulch Waterfall Swimming

For breakfast, we purchase some sticky-sweet pineapple banana bread out of the back of a truck in the Wailua Falls pullout just as the vendor is setting out his wares.  It is the BEST banana bread I’ve ever tasted, and I don’t say this just because my last meal was one of those weird snack boxes on the plane the day before.

Further down the road (location undisclosed), we pull off again and set off through a cow pasture.  The cows line up to stare at us with wild-eyed curiosity, shying and snorting when Nash beckons them closer.  We walk to a cliff edge and look down on an isolated black sand beach.
Cow Whisperer

Secret Black Sand Beach

This beach doesn’t even have a name to my knowledge, but here of all places we find we’re no longer alone.  I’m surprised to see a slim, tan local girl emerge from the ocean and walk toward her (also gorgeous and female) friend.  At this distance, it takes a couple seconds for me to realize the obvious: “Oh, they’re naked.”

Now we’re in an uncomfortable position, because I want to head down to that crescent of black sand, naked girls or no, but my boyfriend is standing there with a DSLR camera around his neck.  While we’re debating what to do, the strangers put on their swimsuits and climb the rope back topside.  We exchange awkward greetings.  I feel guilty over scaring them off, but it doesn’t stop me from grabbing the rope as soon as they’re out of sight and lowering myself down to the now-empty beach for a good frolic.

Maui Black Sand Beach

Within minutes, I too feel the itch to abandon my swimsuit.  I think it’s something about being in a secluded cove surrounded by 100 foot cliffs, lured by the shush of ocean over black pebbles.

That, and the fact that my bikini is old, saggy, and frickin uncomfortable.  Later, waves will snatch it off at the crowded and definitely-not-nude Ka’anapali Beach, but here I take it off with intention.

My swimsuit is on the sand and I am in the ocean.  This is what freedom feels like.

Swimsuits in the Sand

Interrupting Tumor Turtle

The next day, we meet up with my cousin, who lives on the island. We spend all morning reveling in the majesty of nature. Humpback whales surface with whooshing explosions of breath next to our kayaks. (Oooo!) Sea turtles wing their way alongside us underwater, bathed in whale song. (Awww!)

Aloha Kayaks Whale Watching

Now we stand on a little spit of rock where two turtles sun side-by-side. The female scoots a little closer to the male, as though to check he’s ok, and we melt in their sweetness.  “They’re so beautiful,” we whisper, sparkles dancing in our eyes.

Maui Turtles

That’s when tumor turtle shows up.

We see his shell first, cresting a wave, and grow excited.  “Their friend is coming!”

Then the turtle rears his head out of the water.


Growing out of his right eye is a pebbly-white tumor, as large as a second head.  He bumps it against a rock and it wobbles around a little bit.  Its effect on us is instant and depressing, a cloud passing over the sun.

“Can we poke it off with a stick?” my cousin’s friend asks.  After some debate, we decide impromptu turtle surgery is ill-advised.

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon sight in the Hawaiian islands.  Fibropapillomatosis is a virus running rampant among Hawaii’s green sea turtles, causing internal and external tumor growth.  It’s been linked to nitrogen runoff from farming, which builds up in the turtle’s algae food source.

The turtle bobs around blindly for a few minutes before heading back out to sea.

“I hope some shark has a good meal,” Nate says in farewell.

Blasphemous Pizza

“Pineapple? With white sauce?”  I wrinkle my nose with uncertainty – I’m usually the first one to suggest pineapple as a pizza topping, but this seems an unusual  combination. Still, what better place to put pineapple on everything than Hawaii?

During the speakerphone order, when Nash gets to the part about adding pineapple, the pizza guy’s aghast tone is a perfect mirror of my own: “On a white pizza?!”  I burst out laughing.

As we enter tiny Giannotto’s Pizzaria in the quiet town of Wailuku, the owner Dave greets us with, “So you’re the ones with the weird pizza!”  

We start to argue over the validity of the combination when he shushes us with a single sentence: “Let’s consult the Bible.”

Nash and I exchange a quizzical look as Dave leaves the counter and heads out to his car.  On his return, he thumps a book on a table.  FLAVOR BIBLE, it proclaims with authority.

We sit down at the table, serious as lawyers prepping for a case.  Flipping through the book to Pineapple, we run a finger down its list of compatible flavors, seeking Garlic or Alfredo.  They’re not there.  We even cross-reference, searching for Pineapple under Garlic, to no avail.  The Bible has spoken.

We carry our order down the middle of darkened neighborhood streets and trespass through the jungle, honing in on the roar of the waves for the trip’s first (but not last) picnic on the beach.  (Fun fact: all of Hawaii’s shorelines below high tide line are public access.)

Perched on a narrow stretch of damp sand with a cliff to our backs and the stars overhead, we eat our blasphemous pizza.  It’s gone cold by now, which makes the morsels of pineapple all the sweeter against the blander backdrop of garlic and ricotta cheese.  It’s strange, but not bad.

The tiramisu, however, tastes heavenly – it probably followed all the biblical decrees.


Road to Hana Highlights

(counterclockwise, the way we drove it)

Other Attractions

  • “Mountain Ocean views” Airbnb
    Sally’s house is a slice of paradise in a quiet residential area. Just check out the view from the lana’i, above.
  • Aloha Kayaks Maui
    Our laid-back guide brought us to whales and a great snorkeling site.
  • Maka By Mana
    Our favorite restaurant on the island, in Paia. We’re not vegan, but you don’t have to be to enjoy their food.
  • Four Sisters Bakery
    Try the butter rolls.

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