Keālia Wetlands

Keālia Wetlands

The name Keālia means “salt encrusted,” and archaeologists tell us that the Hawaiian people gathered salt in this region for centuries. A seasonal wetland, the pond can sometimes swell to 450 acres, making it one of the largest natural ponds in the Islands. Keālia is located on the south shore of  Maui’s central isthmus. The Keālia Pond lowland wetlands are a sediment basin, shaped like a shallow bowl sitting at the bottom of a 56-square-mile watershed. Keālia and receives her water from both of Maui’s mountain ranges. Water comes from the Waikapū Stream in the West Maui Mountain and Kolaloa Gulch originating from Haleakalā.

Kealia Pond, Maui
Kealia Pond, Maui, Photo D.Dorn

Keālia was once an ancient fishpond: Native Hawaiians may have raised awa (milkfish) and ʻamaʻama (flathead mullet) using a system of ditches and sluice gates to let nearby fish from Māʻalaea Beach into the pond.

Kealia Pond, low water. Photo, S.Dorn

Endangered Species Habitat:

This wetland is home to the endangered Aeʻo (Hawaiian stilt) and ʻalae keʻokeʻo (Hawaiian coot.)

Ae'o-Kealia-Pond. Photo, D.Dorn
Ae’o-Kealia-Pond. Photo, D.Dorn

Other Indigenous migrant shorebirds include,

‘Akekeke (ah-kay-KAY-kay) Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres

Hunakai (hoo-nah-KYE) Sanderling Calidris alba

Kioea (kee-oh-AY-ah) Bristle-thighed Curlew Numenius tahitiensis

Kōlea (KOHH-lay-ah) Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva

‘Ūlili (OOO-lee-lee) Wandering Tattler Heteroscelus incanus

Seabirds include:

‘A‘o (AH-oh) Newell’s Shearwater Puffinus auricularis newelli

Mōlī (MOE-lee) Laysan Albatross Phoebastria immutabilis

‘Ua‘u kani (OO-ah oo KAH-nee) Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus

‘Iwa (EE-vah) Great Frigatebird Fregata minor palmerstoni

‘Ou (OH-oo) Bulwer’s Petrel Bulweria bulwerii

Hawaiian Coot foraging in muddy pig-dug roadside. Kealia Pond, Maui. Photo, Kim and Forest Starr

Native animals:

‘Ōka‘i ‘aiea (OHH-kah ee eye-AY-ah) Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth Manduca blackburni

Honu ‘ea (HO-noo AY-ah) Hawksbill Turtle Eretmochelys imbricata

Honu (HO-noo ) Hawaiian Green Turtle Chelonia mydas

‘Īlio-holo-i-ka-uaua (EEE-lee-oh HO-loh EE kah OO-ah OO-ah) Hawaiian Monk Seal Monachus schauinslandi

Pueo (poo-AY-oh) Hawaiian Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus sandwichensis

Blackburn’s Sphinx Moth (Manduca blackburni) Photo, D.Dorn

Native Plants:

‘Ākulikuli (AAH-koo-lee-KOO-lee) Sea Purslane Sesuvium portulacastrum

‘Āki‘aki (AH-kee AH-kee) Beach Dropseed Sporobolus virginicus

Pōhuehue (POHH-hoo-ay-HOO-ay) Beach Morning Glory Ipomoea pescaprae

‘Ilima (ee-LEE-mah) Yellow Ilima Sida Fallax

‘Ihi (EE-hee) Ihi Portulaca molokiniensis

Hala (HAH-lah) Beach Vitex Pandanus tectorius

‘Ōhelo kai (OHH-heh-loh KYE) Hawai‘i Desert-thorn Lycium sandwicense

Naio (NYE-oh) False Sandalwood Myoporum sandwicense

Naupaka Kahakai (now-PAH-kah kah-HAH-kye) Beach Naupaka Scaevola taccada

Pōhinahina (POHH-hee-nah HEE-nah) Beach Vitex Vitex rotundifolia

‘akulikuli (sesuvium-portulacasium) Kealia Pond. Photo, D.Dorn

The refuge is adjacent to Keālia Beach, which is a nesting ground for the endangered hawksbill turtle.

Boardwalk: There is a long, raised, nature-viewing, boardwalk that provides access to the area. This boardwalk helps protect the environment from negative impacts. The boardwalk also incorporates informational kiosks. There are three kiosks along the boardwalk. The kiosk at the far end has seating.

In the dry season, the pond shrinks to half its winter size, leaving a crust of crystalline salt at its margins.

On the opposite side of the pond, is a visitor’s center, next to a network of trails around smaller ponds that were left over from a 1970s aquaculture project.

Keālia Pond was established as a 700-acre National Wildlife Refuge in 1992.


For more info about the refuge:ālia_pond/

For more info about the Birdlife: