You’ve heard about “Jaws” and you’ve seen the epic YouTube videos, the adrenaline pumping surf pros screaming down the face of massive rolling waves. So where is it and what time of year is best to watch such an event?
If you are looking for some north shore excitement there’s no other like visiting the famous north shore of Maui. Head to Paia the center of north shore and about 10 minutes from the airport in Kahului. Paia was an old sugar cane plantation town that has since turned into a “funky meets trendy” gathering place with one little stop light. The atmosphere of Paia has a variety of boutiques, quaint coffee shops, and various restaurants of all kinds in all price ranges, including some of the best on the island. Up the road from Paia is the world-famous Ho’okipa Beach that brings in the best surfers and windsurfers alike from all around the world.
The biggest wave surfed in the world each year has been named Pe’ahi or “Jaws”. Pe’ahi is actually the name of the much larger ahupua’a and, according to Kupuna Leslie Kuloloio, the traditional Hawaiian name for this spot is “Ke Kai ‘o Waitakulu”, which he translates as “The Teary Eye.” Pe’ahi is Maui’s largest surf break where the yearly Billabong XXL Global Big Wave contest has listed Jaws as the winning break more than any place in the world. When Jaws is up this short road and tiny cove gets packed with top name surfers and crowds standing in awe. When the waves reach a certain height pro surfers get what is a called a tow-in. Tow-in surfing is skillfully done by jet ski’s that drop the surfers in the sweet spot to capture the ride down.
The Pe’ahi Lookout
How to get to Jaws: To catch a glimpse of the epic jaw dropping Jaws, check surf reports and ask Maui locals. Jaws can show up anytime between November and March every year. The access is by 4WD and you can find the turn off between mile marker #13 & #14 on Hana Hwy aka Hwy 36. The lookout over the Pe’ahi cliffs is above the surf break and has the best vantage point. Depending on what you’re driving, you could get stuck and need assistance. There are a few places you can park off to the side of the road (be sure not to block access roads), so if walking 3 miles round-trip is not an option, you can drive in as far as you feel comfortable given the current conditions, and opt to walk the rest of the way.
Map of Jaws