November 16, 2011 | 09:30 AMOh Maui.
Our glorious island. How lucky are we? The often-perfect weather, the beautiful people, surrounded on all sides by a sparkling, inviting ocean. Maui's towns are scattered around the island like beads from a broken necklace, and it's usually inconvenient to drive home for a shower in between surf, beach, work and playtime.
And while showing up for work or party time with surf-blown hair and sandy feet isn't always a bad thing, a quick rinse in a beach shower can bring you polish and comfort. While I do love the look of salt encrusted into arm hair, sand in the pants is never comfortable.
Which is why the beach showers are amongst the loveliest of public services. From rinsing down our pit bulls and keiki to keeping the sand from getting too deep in our cars, most thoughtlessly take advantage of the many beach showers dotting our shorelines.
I love a good powerful clean shower almost as much as a good ocean session, and throughout the years I've catalogued the good, the passable, and the ugly. There are elements that make for a beautiful experience (adequate pressure, appropriate temperature, cleanliness, ideal positioning between sand and car) and those that sour the experience (tricky hardware, slime, and spying weirdos). Here's a look at some of the more prominent beach showers around the island—a celebration and a lament, of sorts.
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(Nearby) MAKENA: B+
Makena is such a beautiful beach. Though Big Beach is so widely frequented by so very many kinds of people, it still manages to retain somewhat of an unpopulated feel. With its wide appeal, it's annoying in the moment yet actually okay that there are no showers at the actual beach. We don't want those lovely waters sullied by tourist sunscreen slime, skimboarder sweat, and runoff from the Little Beach patchouli juice crew.
So after we pack up the boards, coolers, and towels, this little shower gem is a necessary pit stop before heading into the heart of Kihei. This not-so-secret but not-super-well-known locals-mostly pull-off spot boasts very nearly perfect beach showers.
A solid setup: multiple heads and a circular, tilted surface make for a pleasant gathering spot. The showers are cold and pounding, and there is so much pressure that you can't hear anyone around you if you stand very still under the pumping waterfall. It's not directly on the beach, so it lacks the secondhand sand element and you come away perfectly clean from your ears to your squeaking slippers.
The lava-rock church across the street is gorgeous and special, if a bit melancholy. There is a unique serenity to the place, and a certain eerie, quiet beauty in the cemetery by the sea. The energy you've gotten from charging Makena all day cools off into a solid peace, and you're fresh and ready for whatever comes next.
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KEAWAKAPU : D
The misters at Keawakapu do little but frustrate and tease you as the fine spray trickles down your back. The powdered sugar Kihei sand sticks to your body as you rotate in hopeless circles. Your towel, full of silty, fine shell dust, is equally hopeless in the face of all those tiny particles. Mocking and deliberately useless, it's a lose-lose situation.
* * *
KAM III: C+
Eh. Like the beach itself, the showers are okay, but a bit of a letdown compared to the world-class spots so nearby. The park is also frequented by a population of creepy older men, so privacy standards are poor. In general, it's a little strange to talk to strangers while you shower, but most Maui people can pull it off in a way that's not uncomfortable at all—sharing stoke about the waves, wishing someone a good day, smiling at funny little kids as they use the foot shower to wash their heads—all okay.
However, overly interested older men in man-panties cannot, ever, talk to you in a shower and make it a comfortable experience. A lot of them seem to use the showers here as a place to strike up awkward conversations.
(Note about the Southside, and sand on Maui in general: the sand in Kihei is so different from the Northshore that what you really need to clear the minuscule particles from your hair and person is a fireman hose. If you look closely, North shore sand is really very tiny bits of shells. North shore sand contains a little universe of fish boneyards and tiny cast-off sea creature outfits. These are easier to wash off. Kihei sand is of a different variety—soft and silty, the kind that took eons to break down, and is the most dreadful to get on your sheets, the kind that you find in your ears many days after that hilariously failed attempt at skimboarding.)
* * *
PAIA BAY: C-
Ancient, crusty, slimy hardware and bum urine. As a bonus, sometimes there's a stash of slimy Ivory soap wedged sloppily into the metal (Who does that? Are they trying to be nice, so others can use it? Or just store it for later use? Either way, weird). There's a slab of cement buried deep within the slop, but it only sees the sun when the kind souls at the Youth Center shovel it out.
Points for a decent pressure, but there's always the off chance that the Hepatitis soup at your feet could contain something really scary, so overall poor marks.
* * *
Ho'okipa is an example of what every beach shower could easily be. They're not super stylish, like many of the surfers who use them, but they're efficient and they do the job, and the three shower head deal makes for a quick getaway. They're super close to the beach, too, so it's no big thing to shower in between a surf or a swim and your beach time. Ho'okipa; a world-class surf break and favorite hangout spot, with the advantages of cute tidepools for the beach babies and a bread-and-butter shower setup.
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FLEMING BEACH: D
Super-west Westside. Not a lot of shower options in this neck of the woods—or rather, on this part of the neck of the island. So after Windmills or the bay or any of the really amazing salty places you can find over there, this is your likely shower rendezvous point before your next grand adventure. It's a beautiful and appealing beach with fun waves, but the showers get a solid D. It's almost an affliction—they might as well not be there.
Maybe I'm too harsh. The metal gleams cleanly; it's cement and not sand you're standing on; the people using it are beautiful. But it stupidly displays the worst of shower inventions ever, the push-button spray. You have to stand there and incessantly push the stupid little push button, where one push gets you approximately five frustrating seconds of mist. You end up working it madly and turning in little circles, trying to hold it down in a futile attempt to get just some out of your suit. You're contorting in what you hope is a discrete crouch, trying not the flash the goods but really trying to get the goods clean, before eventually giving it up as a bad job.
Push buttons are actually a little insulting. Do you not trust us to turn off the water when we're done? I feel like a depraved child at a wicked boarding school, allowed a scanty, timed shower and left confused and unsatisfied. Fleming's perfect beach barrels mean you come out with sand in a lot of places you really don't want sand, so this shower really bites it.
Last time I surfed there, I got too excited on my last wave and pulled into a closeout barrel breaking right on the sand. I crashed, bopped my head on my own board, and washed up ingloriously on the crowded beach. An old beach boy yelled "Charge um, sistah!" and though it was actually pretty fun, I felt pretty dumb.
The only thing that outweighed my shame was the amount of sand in my swimsuit. My pride was hurt further when I gave up on the ridiculous teasing spray of the shower. I would have had better luck trying to climb into the sink in the girls' bathroom.
(Note about shower hardware: The pull handles make the most sense—up is off, down is on. With those twisty ones, I'm stuck whispering "Righty tighty…" to myself as I spin them helplessly around in circles, only half expecting some kind of result (beach showers seem to break more often than waves in some places on this island). And push buttons—you know how I feel about them. Let's not go there again.)
* * *
The showers at this landmark beach have always been an issue, because that moody beach marches to the beat of its own drum. And it's not a djembe, people. Every year, the cove-bay right side gets sick of all the hula hoops and hippie parties, and rears its ugly skeleton roots like an animal baring its teeth. It recently rebuilt itself once again, grudgingly I think, but Baldwin is a temperamental big mama of a beach and will grow, shrink, kick up seaweed and weird stumpy driftwood, and blow up violent windstorms as it sees fit. I find its impertinence extremely endearing.
Baldwin also has an indifferent attitude toward keeping a good shower on its sands. In years past, the waves would bury the shower stems in sand until they became Menehune-sized debacles. The skinny little necks stuck out of the sand rather sadly, like children buried in holes and left to sulk. It was pretty funny to watch people crouch down trying to get a good spray on the face. Someone eventually dug them out, but it seemed also strange to stand in a hole and shower.
At one point the showers were attached to the building and had classy little wooden crates to stand on. Then they were closer to the water, and then most recently they were by the trees, where they boasted a nifty little-person sized shower. So yes, Baldwin's showers have evolved through the years, and they've recently gone extinct. It's really too bad, because the cove-dwellers of the recently rebuilt beach could use a good hosing-off. I'm feeling a new sticker: Welcome to Baldwin: Do not Wash the Hippies.
* * *
Decent, if you lack a partner. There's sometimes sticky white rice residue from campers using it as a sink, but the smart tilt of the raised cement keeps it decently clean. If you get it alone, the Lahaina facing spout had a pretty decent flow. Any shower buddies tend to steal your juice, but anytime you're showering at Ma'alaea means you just scored some lovely waves at Rusty Pipes or some thrillers at Freight Trains.
Everyone's stoked, and you can't begrudge a stoked and smiling shower buddy. There's also a pretty good shower between the condos in front of Mud Flats, and then you wind up on the grass, so that's even better. Just depends on what kind of parking you scored. You always want to stash your slippers in the bushes here, too, because I've had someone walk away with my beat-up pair (although he or she might've thought they were actually their rubber Locals).
* * *
SHARK PIT / BREAKWALL: B+
At Shark Pit, you can always sneak into someone's Front Street yard and use a hose. Oh, the glorious hose. Every beach should have one. There used to be a garden hose in the bushes at Mama's Fish House, before there was valet there. Even as a young beach pup, I loved a good post-beach freshwater dousing.
Anyway, hoses are awesome for getting the sand off. The hose discretely reaches all the places you have a really hard time getting to from a sky-falling waterpiece, and as a bonus you can spray your friends. Boat ramps are good for this, although you have to bring your own hose. And no, I'm not crazy. I don't carry a hose with me. It's not that I haven't considered it, I just know that fishermen, as a rule, have huge aloha and they will always let you use theirs while they wash their boats.
* * *
Hamoa. Even the name is pleasing, strong and soft. The lava rock-tinted sand, the lovely water pure and clear as a baby's soul, the beautiful Hawaiian boys serenading long-haired girls in the shade.
You're out all day, surfing Koki and Waikaloa (no showers), Red Sands (no shower, naked butts) cooling off in the cave at Wainapanapa, hiking up to the cross, eating chili and side of the road papayas, and generally blissing out on life.
Hours in the crystal shorebreak barrels of Hamoa are always well rewarded in the showers. The raised concrete sports a pleasing moss-green tinge, but it's clean pretty color, and not slippery or slimy. You don't have to drag your slippers back through any sand, like most beaches, where your perfectly showered self must walk back through sand on the way out.
Chilly, powerful and wonderful, the shower at Hamoa beach wins the big prize. Pound on your sand-filled hair, washing away all traces of carsickness, shave-ice belly ache, camping grime, sunburn stings, and very likely all the sins of your past.
I feel like a Hawaiian princess in the showers of Hamoa. There's just something special about it. People sitting on the wall checking out waves give you a knowing smile. They know you've just experienced something really special. There's only one shower head, which is usually adequate, but I have seen a small lineup for the shower, which I don't actually mind. It's a very hard shower to get out of. They're enjoying it just as much as I'm about to, and I just can't blame a fellow beach and shower-lover for that.
And you're in Hana, one of the most beautiful places this entire earth has to offer. Beached and showered, clean and happy, I climb the plumeria-strewn stairs feeling as clean, fresh and pure as Hana itself.
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