Naked Surfing Maui Style....
C'mon, admit it. If you reflect on some of your most exhilarating moments in the wild, you'll almost certainly come up with at least one bracing skinny-dip or triumphant strip on a summit - moments that left you feeling more alive for facing nature the way you came into the world. The places where you bared it all are also precious, hidden gems you share carefully. Even if most people never adopt the lifestyle of a true naturist (keep your Bikini or Speedo on if you like), thinking like one can lead you to some of the few Edenic places left. In what follows, I brazenly put this theory to the test.
Full Monty Maui
Squinting in the low light of the jungle to recheck my coordinates, I was having doubts. The writing on the back of the envelope was clear, but the directions were sketchy. "Follow main highway past town. Look for black mailbox. Climb through the big gate across the street. Watch out for cows. Follow trail to the Portuguese oven. Go right. It's dead ahead." Assuming that the pile of concrete and ashes I had walked past a few minutes before was the oven, I was on the right track. But the dense brush made it hard to tell if I was lost or on the edge of the promised Eden: the mystical "Venus Pool."
While I hadn't come to Maui with the express aim of taking my clothes off, it didn't take long to realize that nudists seem to have cornered the market on what was left of the island's unspoiled places. Since hanging out au naturel remains just outlaw enough to require some privacy, these folks have established a small circuit of remote and sparsely attended spots like the Venus Pool - one of my last finds, on Maui's eastern shore. Directions were available only through the "coconut wireless" - a word-of-mouth network, but plugging into it was easy enough. All it took was a stop at Mana Natural Foods in Paia, the north shore's best health-food store, where a surf dude was more than happy to connect me.
Until recently, I'd never been one to equate discretion with nude sunbathing, but nudity is technically illegal in Hawaii - another reason that nude spots are off Maui's beaten path. It's covered by a state statute outlawing "lewd behaviour," designed to protect the sensibilities of native Hawaiians who find public nudity shameful. Such delicacy hasn't always been the case; the ancient Hawaiians were not nudists in the modern sense, but they were certainly not offended by the human body, and most wore only small garments made of kapa-bark cloth that they removed before swimming, surfing, or fishing.
Then the first Calvinist missionaries from New England arrived in the early 1800s and brought with them a host of Puritanical attitudes. These days nudity might not be equated with damnation, but complaints to the police are treated as a priority, and arrests - with convictions entailing as much as 30 days of jail time and fines of up to $1,000 - still occur. No worries, though. Starting with the quick tip from the surfer at Paia, I managed to turn a series of casual suggestions into an amazing weeklong tour of secret swimming holes, remote beaches, and hidden waterfalls, several on or near the private property of out-of-the-way resorts, where it's perfectly legal to skinny-dip.
I began the week by visiting a place that was more like a carnival than a secluded paradise: the legendary Little Beach at Makena State Park. Nestled along one of the last stretches of undeveloped coastline on Maui's south shore, Little Beach was a hippie hangout in the sixties and seventies that gradually evolved into the island's best-known public spot for basking au naturel. While the great bodysurfing and beauty of the main strand, known as Big Beach, draws plenty of visitors from the nearby resorts at Waliea, the real attraction - 100-yard-long Little Beach - is tucked behind the lava-rock wall at its western flank. (Authorities turn the other cheek to nudity here so long as you stay off Big Beach).
Even so, the beauty and casual vibe of the place inspired me to ask around about other nudie spots, and a woman I met in the parking lot suggested that we check out the Hale Akua Shangri-La, just past Haiku on Maui's north shore. Set at the end of a dirt road lined by a neat row of swaying wiliwili trees, Shangri-La's tidy compound of five wooden buildings is so well hidden that I had to ask the gardener to show me to the front door.
What's more, the Shangri-La's clothing-optional policy accommodates varying degrees of modesty.
"It's perfect for couples where one person may be more comfortable with nudity than the other, but it seems that most people wind up naked after a few days," says Madhava D'Addario, the Shangri-La's manager and resident yogi. Shangri-La boasts a naturally ozonised, black-bottomed swimming pool, and a pair of hot tubs that offer dramatic views of both the ocean and the Haleakala volcano. It also has a rock pool with a small waterfall carved right into the cliff below the compound. Still, D'Addario had plenty of other suggestions. "We always give our guests directions to private beaches where they can snorkel among the sea turtles," he said. "My favourite is the hidden bamboo forest up the road." It didn't disappoint. I found the promised waterfalls and a natural clay cave where I spread mud all over myself. I also ran into a ponytailed massage therapist who set me on the path to the town of Hana, and by day four I was heading east on the twisty two-lane road to the Maui Sun Club.
The next day Dryer personally escorted me to a favourite spot in her beater pickup. Coasting to a stop at a muddy opening in the trees, I climbed out of the cab, squishing fallen mangoes beneath my feet.
Leading the way, Dryer picked a path down through the jungle and then along a rugged beach.
Several hundred yards later she turned and whispered, "Blue Pool" to announce our arrival at a stunning freshwater hole crowned by a waterfall and a luminescent cascade of pink and purple impatiens. Pulling off her top, she pointed out at the horizon and smiled. "I love to come here for the sunrise." She added, "Floating in the pool, listening to the waterfall as I watch the waves, I feel blessed with a simple abundance and completely connected to nature. That's what my lifestyle is all about."
30 Foot Cliff Jump At The Venus Pool...
Getting Naked In Maui...