Maui's Kapalua Bay is one of the many breathtaking beaches on the island. Follow this Where guide for other must-visit strands for sunbathing, surfing and more. (©idreamphoto/Shutterstock)
Maui has more miles of swimmable beaches than any other island in Hawaii. From the jet-black sands of Wai‘anapanapa to the sugary sands of Ka‘anapali, a day at the beach is an integral part of the classic Maui experience. Differentiating between Maui beaches, however, can be a bit of challenge; with so many different, varied options, where is the best place to go?
Proximity, of course, is an important factor, as are the current conditions. Traditionally summer months mean calm conditions on the northern shores of the island, whereas south facing shores are the calmest in winter. If beaches in Kapalua, Napili, or Pai‘a have large, crashing shorebreak, it likely means that Kihei beaches are almost completely flat. Also, most afternoons have strong tradewinds—particularly in the summer—so morning hours are always best for paddling, snorkeling or kayaking.
To help differentiate between Maui beaches, we’ve compiled the following guide to the 10 best beaches in Maui. Grab a snorkel, your favorite chair—and a big tube of waterproof sunscreen—and work on planning the perfect day with this guide to the top beaches of Maui.
Mokulei‘a Bay Beach (“Slaughterhouse”)
Popular Activities: Snorkeling, bodysurfing
Access: 2.5 miles north of Kapalua, the beach at Mokulei‘a Bay isn’t immediately visible when driving along Hwy. 30. Instead, a dozen parking stalls on the left side of the road lead to a steep set of stairs, and a two-minute walk down the stairs and trail places visitors on this sandy beach.
Conditions: Mokulei‘a is exposed to the wind, so early mornings are calmest. Summer is the best for snorkeling and scuba diving since conditions are calm and flat, although winter swells bring large surf and daredevil surfers and bodysurfers.
Tip: Arrive early for a parking spot—ideally before 8 am. The best snorkeling is in the rocky cove on the far right hand side of the beach.
Honokahua Bay Beach (“D.T. Fleming Beach Park”)
Popular Activities: Bodysurfing, boogie boarding, swimming, surfing, hiking
Access: There are two different ways of accessing Fleming Beach: For the beach park, drive half a mile north of the Kapalua entrance and turn left into the beach park access road. There are two parking lots, showers and restrooms, as well as lifeguard stand and picnic tables. To access the beach from within Kapalua Resort, park in the lot at the bottom of Office Road just below the Ritz Carlton. From here, follow the concrete walkway down through the Ritz Carlton to the beach.
Conditions: Tradewinds are common by late-afternoon, and winter months have the largest waves for surfing, boogie boarding, and bodysurfing.
Tip: Bring some shoes and take a hike on the lush Mahana Ridge Trail—accessible via a hidden trailhead along the entrance road of the beach park. Or, on the south end of the beach in front of the Ritz Carlton, follow the path towards “Dragon’s Teeth” for jagged, volcanic rock formations. The path skirts a Hawaiian cultural site, so be sure to stick to the trail.
Kapalua Bay Beach
Popular Activities: Snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming, boogie boarding
Access: There is a small public parking area just past the Napili Kai Beach Resort that will allow you to reach the beach at Kapalua Bay. Spaces fill up early, however, and overflow parking is along the side of Lower Honoapi‘ilani Rd. Access to the beach is down a short stairway and paved pathway to the sand, where you will also find showers, restrooms and a drinking fountain available for public use.
Conditions: Calm conditions during most times of year and somewhat sheltered from the wind. Winter swells can bring large surf, and there is a surf break popular with boogie boarders that’s known as “Scorpion Bowls.” Summer mornings are usually the calmest, and the popular beach can get overcrowded during the busiest times of the year.
Tip: During calm conditions, strong snorkelers can swim around the point into neighboring Namalu Bay. Or, to stretch your legs on an early morning hike, the beach is the start of the Kapalua Coastal Trail that runs 1.75 miles along the coast.
Napili Bay Beach
Popular Activities: Snorkeling, swimming
Access: Only steps from neighboring Kapalua, Bay, Napili Bay and its beach are hidden from view by rows of beachfront condos. Public access is on Hui Drive, where there is a single shower and a sandy pathway that leads down to the beach.
Conditions: Calm in summer, rougher in winter and mostly shielded from the northeast tradewinds that blow farther offshore.
Tip: On calm days you can snorkel around to Honokeana Cove, a rocky bay just south of the beach that is home to Hawaiian green sea turtles. On the north end of the beach, the Sea House Restaurant has 50 percent off appetizers starting at 5 pm.
Kahekili Beach Park
Popular Activities: Snorkeling, scuba diving
Access: Unlike neighboring Ka‘anapali Beach where parking can tough to come by, there is a public parking lot and grassy beach park at the end of Kai Ala Drive. If this lot is full, there is another parking lot at the north end of the beach off of Lower Honoapi‘ilani Road. Kahekili Beach Park has showers and restrooms, and is a popular place to BBQ.
Conditions: Mornings are calm for snorkeling and paddleboarding; afternoons are often windy.
Tip: Since the beach faces directly west, bring a chair just before sunset and settle in for the show.
Popular Activities: Snorkeling, scuba diving, cliff jumping, stand-up paddling, boogie boarding, surfing, sunbathing, cocktail drinking
Access: Unless you’re staying in a Ka‘anapali resort, parking around this beach is tough. There are public lots around the Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel and between the Westin and Whaler’s Village, as well as a lot just before the Marriott and across the street from the Hyatt. The beachfront boardwalk is almost two miles long and has numerous public access points.
Conditions: Waves are highest in front of the Ka‘anapali Marriott, and the best snorkeling is on the north end of the beach right in front of the Sheraton. On windy days, there is a small cove to the south of the Hyatt that is usually protected from the wind.
Tip: Park in the Whalers Village parking garage and get your ticket validated by spending at least $10 in one of the restaurants or shops.
Kama‘ole I, II and III Beaches
Popular Activities: Swimming, snorkeling, boogie boarding, volleyball
Access: Kama‘ole III is the southernmost beach and has a large public parking lot. Kama‘ole II has parking on the road, and Kama‘ole I has a parking lot.
Conditions: Calm in the morning, and windy by afternoon. If there are waves for boogie boarding it usually means the snorkeling by the points will be poor.
Tip: Kama‘ole I has a volleyball court, and the north end has a sandy cove that is shielded from road noise and traffic.
Popular Activities: Snorkeling, stand-up paddling, swimming, sunset watching
Access: Keawakapu Beach has three different access points. The north end has a large dirt parking lot next to the Day’s Inn hotel, and the south end has a small parking lot at the end of South Kihei Road. In the middle of the beach, there is a large parking lot on the inland side of South Kihei Road, and a narrow public access walkway that’s hidden between private homes.
Conditions: Winter mornings have the calmest conditions, and summer days are always windy by about 11am.
Tip: On the north end of the beach, get half-priced sushi at the Five Palms restaurant after 3 pm, and then walk the length of the beach at sunset to get away from the crowds.
Popular Activities: Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving
Access: This beach is at the northern end of the coastal Wailea beach walk, and there is a large parking lot on Ulua Beach Road just south of the Andaz. Showers and restrooms are both available at the small, grassy park, and Ulua Beach is to the south of the park—Mokapu just to the north.
Conditions: Mornings are calmest throughout the year, and Ulua Beach gets the least wind of all of Wailea’s beaches.
Tip: The snorkeling around the point that separates the two beaches is some of the best on Maui.
Popular Activities: Swimming, snorkeling, stand-up paddling
Access: Wailea Beach fronts the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons, and the air of luxury extends to the beach, which is often covered in cabanas. This popular beach is still open to the public, however, and there is a public parking lot between the two resorts as well as showers, a park, and restrooms.
Conditions: Summer afternoons can be very windy, and snorkeling around the southern point is best on winter mornings.
Tip: Buying a drink at one of the resort bars allows you to hang out by the pools.
Popular Activities: Stand-up paddling, snorkeling, swimming, kayaking
Access: The beach itself fronts the Makena Beach & Golf Resort, but there are public parking lots on both ends of the beach. The south end of the beach has showers, restrooms, and a greater amount of parking.
Conditions: During summer months, it takes the wind an hour longer to pick up here than Wailea, but there is also a cloud in the afternoon that consistently forms over the beach. Winter mornings consistently offer the calmest conditions for snorkeling.
Tip: From the north end of the beach, take a short walk to Keawala‘i Church—one of the island’s last churches that still offers sermons in Hawaiian.
Makena State Park (“Big Beach” and “Little Beach”)
Popular Activities: Bodysurfing, skimboarding, surfing, swimming
Access: The easiest access is at the large parking lots known as “first and second entrance.” The parking lot gates close after sunset, and if you want to make sure that you don’t get locked in, there is parking along the road at “third entrance” at the southern tip of the beach. The only restrooms are porta-potties, and the closest shower is at Maluaka Beach.
Conditions: Big Beach has the strongest shorebreak on Maui and is often biggest in the summer. If the surf is up, only experienced bodysurfers and swimmers should think about entering the water.
Tip: At the north end of Big Beach, a short trail leads to neighboring Little Beach—famous for nudists and hippies.
Popular Activities: Bodysurfing, swimming, jogging
Access: The easiest access to Baldwin Beach is at the public beach park just before the town of Pai‘a. There are showers, restrooms and a large grassy field, and since the beach is nearly a mile long it’s the perfect spot for jogging.
Conditions: Afternoons are always windy, and most days have fun-sized shorebreak for splashing in the surf. To escape the wind, there is a small cove on the east end of the beach that is mostly shielded by the rocks. On the west end of the beach, there is a natural, protected saltwater lagoon that is perfect for wading with young children.
Tip: Don’t leave any valuables in your car. This is also the perfect beach to stretch your legs before driving the road to Hana.
Popular Activities: Swimming, bodysurfing, surfing, snorkeling
Access: Two miles past downtown Hana, make a left on Haneo‘o Road and continue along the coastline. After a mile, you’ll see a small parking lot and a set of stairs that lead down to the beach.
Conditions: Mornings offer the calmest conditions, and most days have waves for bodysurfing along the scenic, sandy shore.
Tip: The shower hasn’t worked for years, so bring a jug of fresh water for rinsing your feet by the car.