Sunday, May 20, 2012

Baldwin Beach: spend the day, end the day

When on Maui, find a way to pull in at Baldwin Beach Park, a few miles south of the windsurfing town on Paia on the windward (east) coast. Locals do. A grove of swaying palms presides over a loooooong curve of soft sand that was in the early days the backyard of Henry P. Badwin, one of Maui's "Big Five" sugar kings descended from missionary families. Though most of the mills have shut down, descendents of the cane workers still gather at the picnic pavilion to talk story (the Hawaiin way to chew the fat and reminisce). They are joined by others in the sundown crowd who enjoy a favorite libation as body-boarding surfers try an on-shore break. Clouds often hang over West Maui, which appears as another island. But kicking back is only one option.

Beachcombers can head about a mile along undeveloped coast to Lower Paia Beach Park, passing wild Montana (a.k.a. State of Mind) Beach along the way, frequented only by fishermen on a rocky bulwark and the occasional European-style sundbather tucked away on the sand. Going the other way on the sand is a shorter stroll to Baby Baldwin Beach, which can be reached directly via another access point. A near-shore curving reef there creates a long, shallow swimming oval that is perfectly safe, 24/7. Mommies with kids and everyone elese looking to swim with the fishes can drop their towels on the uplsope of sand. Ironwood trees provide an option in the shade. Trekkers can continue all the way from Baby Beach to Kahaha Beach Park, which is a haven for windsurfers and kite-boarders. Maui Trailblazer (a new fourth edition came out in May) has more details on this sweet spot.