Where was I? Ah, yes. Exploring the history of Kapalua and Honolua.
To get there, we took Honoapi'ilani Highway, which translates as "the bays of Pi'ilani," claimed by the great 16th-century Maui chief. I've known this for a long time, but suddenly I got curious. Just what are they?
"Na Hono a Pi'ilani" consists of six bays that lie on the northwest quadrant of the island: Honokowai, Honokeana, Honokahua, Honolua, Honokohau and Hononana. Some I knew of, some I didn't. West Maui has many lovely bays. Why six? Why these?
One sunny day, armed with a copy of "The Beaches of Maui County" by my old Punahou friend John C. Clark, we set out to discover them.
The first stop was Honokowai in the ahupua'a of Kahana, a homegrown place of old trees, useful shops and modest condos populated by folks who serve the glitzy resorts nearby.
We selected drinks from the daunting supply offered at The Farmer's Market, the health food store owned by Wayne Nishiki's daughter, Saichi Friedman (Kombucha Wonder Drink? Brain Tonic? Mangosteen with goji?), then headed across the street to Honokowai Beach Park.
This is a popular place, with a narrow strip of white sand, lots of shade, and a shelf of beach rock making a perfect keiki pool. The beach is delineated by Honokowai Point on one end and Lae o Kama on the other, and, according to Clark, is said to have been a canoe landing. But it's a stretch of imagination to consider it a bay. Why this? The name means "bay for drawing water," and freshwater springs were found at water's edge. Maybe Pi'ilani liked it for that.
We headed north to a second stop even more puzzling. Pi'ilani passed up two nice bays in the ahupua'a of 'Alaeloa and selected tiny Honokeana, "cave bay," just before Napili, the entire back shore of which, Clark informed us, is occupied by the Honokeana Cove Apartments.
Sure enough, there was an abandoned complex wrapped around a cobblestone beach, and beyond a pristine gem of a cove in which snorkelers happily paddled. "Good turtles here," one on the road told us. Why this?
Pi'ilani passed up lovely Napili Bay and the equally delightful Kapalua Bay for the broad swath of Honokahua Bay, "sites bay," the third in his collection. It is framed on the south end by treacherous Makaluapuna Point, where annually someone studying its "dragon's teeth" rock formations gets swept away by the surf.
In the heat of midafternoon, we strolled the clipped grounds of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua hotel, past the 136-acre Hawaiian burial site the late Colin Cameron of Maui Pine magnanimously set aside, and headed down to the resort's section of Honokahua Bay's generous sandy beach.
Live Hawaiian music emanated from The Beach Bar, where visitors lounged in beach chairs shaded by ironwoods or beachside tables in a coconut grove. I enjoyed the menu offering a $19 plate lunch.
The fourth bay of Pi'ilani is the fabled Honolua, that jewel of the island, home of one of the best surfing spots in the world on a good day, and, as a marine conservation district, some of the best snorkeling on Maui. An old boat ramp attests to the time when akule were netted and steamers called to pick up cattle hides and coffee produced by Honolua Ranch.
It was here on May 1, 1976, after a traditional Hawaiian ceremony, that Hawaii's voyaging canoe took off for its monumental first crossing to Tahiti, borne on Honolua's perfect winds. Hundreds lined the proud cliffs surrounding the bay to wish Hokule'a well. From an overlook, a simple sign made of hollow pipe caught the wind like a native flute and played a haunting tune.
We swung up toward Lipoa Point and looked out at the majesty of the bay and the panorama of wild coast that lay beyond. The clamors of commerce lay behind us and we were alone with a piece of Maui's soul, unthinkable to lose. May higher angels intervene.
Honokohau, "bay drawing dew," the fifth, lay beyond. It lies at the mouth of the mystical valley once rich with taro lo'i, but the vibes at the cobblestone beach, with its lone house, satellite dish and kapu signs, were anything but welcoming.
The road wound north, then pivoted east to the great solitude of Nakalele Point, where deep blue waves crashed on the rocks and the sun set, an apricot memory, behind the hills. Darkness fell and we hurried to a lookout, where beyond the sea tossed in the broad stretch of Hononana, Pi'ilani's sixth bay.
* Laurel Murphy is a former staff writer for The Maui News whose "Keiki o ka 'Aina" column appears each Tuesday. She can be reached at email@example.com.