Maui is an island with hundreds of beaches including beaches of black sand, golden sand, red sand and white sand. There are excellent beaches for swimming and snorkeling and great beaches for surfing and windsurfing. There are great beaches for people watching and others where you can be almost totally alone. Here are our picks for some of the best beaches on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Ali'i Kahekili Nui Ahumanu Beach Park
Known by many names such as just Kehekili Beach, Airport Beach and North Ka'anapali Beach, this beach stretches north from Black Rock to the new Westin Ka'anapali Resort Villas.
There is a very nice beach park located at the end of Kai Ala Drive which serves as the main entrance to the Westin resort. The parking lot is large. There are bathroom and shower facilities. There is also a covered pavilion and barbecue grills. It's a popular spot for family gatherings.
The beach itself is lovely, although it does drop off quickly once you enter the water. The ocean is generally calm. From the southern part of the beach - a hike from the beach park - you can swim out to Black Rock where the snorkeling is excellent.
Big Beach and Little Beach at Makena
The true Hawaiian name for Big Beach is Oneloa and it is also referred to as Makena Beach. It's one of the longest, at about .75 mile, and widest beaches in the islands. It's also one of the most popular, especially with locals for family gatherings and picnics. The large parking lot fills quickly on the weekends.
The swimming is fair and conditions can get rough. There's a steep drop-off into the ocean. Body surfing and boogie boarding are popular here. Be sure to obey all signage and lifeguard instructions regarding any dangerous ocean conditions.
At the northern end of Big Beach there is a rocky outcropping to reach Little Beach which is more properly called Pu'u Ola'i Beach, after the huge cinder cone behind it. This is one of Maui's unofficial nude beaches.
D.T. Fleming Beach Park
In being chosen as Best Beach in America 2006 by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman aka "Dr. Beach," Dr. Leatherman wrote:
"The western shore of Maui is known for its idyllic, year-round beach weather, and Fleming's mile-long crescent, white sand beach offers a range of activities and stunning views of nearby Molokai Island.
"A favorite area for sunbathers, swimmers, and surfers alike, the beach is backed by a virtual forest of trees on the low sea cliff, providing welcome shade. Amenities include showers, restrooms, grills, bar/snack-bar and picnic facilities overlooking the beach plus tablecloth dining on the south end of the park, which is the unofficial beach of the nearby Ritz Carlton."
Not many visitors to Maui ever make it to Hamoa Beach and that's a shame. It's one of the island's loveliest. It is, however, somewhat remote - which makes it even more attractive for many. It is located past Hana just off the Hana Highway.
Hamoa Beach is the official beach for the Travaasa Hana Resort but is located a couple of miles past town towards 'Ohe'o Gulch on Haneo'o Road. The hotel has taken responsibility for landscaping the area around the beach and it is lovely.
Parking can be difficult since it is only available along the road. The 1000 foot long and 100-foot wide beach is located down a 30-foot sea cliff and is accessed by either of two sets of steps.
Facilities at the beach are only available for guests of the hotel who are shuttled down to the beach.
Honokowai Beach and Park, West Maui
Honokowai Beach and Honokowai Beach Park are personal favorites. It's located right next to the Paki Maui Condo Resort, the Papakea Resort and across from the Lahuiokalani Chapel.
The park has a recently upgraded playground and bathroom/shower facility. There are barbecue grills, picnic tables and a large grassy area with lots of shade. There are usually parking spots available.
The park is a very popular gathering spot for locals after work and on weekends.
The beach itself is extremely narrow and rocky near shore. If you wade down to the Paki Maui Resort, there's an opening through the coral to an area where you can swim between the two reefs. It's well protected, generally calm and the snorkeling is excellent.
Ho'okipa Beach, North Maui
Ho'okipa is not a beach for great swimming - although during periods of calm seas you can swim at both ends of the beach.
It is, however, the best place in the world to watch windsurfers at what is known as the "windsurfing capital of the world." You'll also see some great board surfing here towards the east end of the beach.
The waves can be high almost any time of the year as the north shore picks up both the winter and summer swells.
The best views are from the roadside parking area or along the hill at the west end of the beach. Be sure to bring your still and video camera.
Ka'anapali Beach, West Maui
Located in West Maui just north of Lahaina, Ka'anapali Beach is one of Hawaii's most famous and popular beaches.
Ka'anapali Beach is bordered by numerous elegant resort hotels and the Whalers Village Shopping Mall.
This lifeguard-protected beach is almost three miles long. Ka'anapali is the beach for activities. You can snorkel in the crystal clear water, windsurf, jet-ski, parasail, or kayak. Numerous catamaran sails leave right from the beach.
The best snorkeling is at the northern end of the beach near Pu'u Keka'a or Black Rock.
If you're not staying at one of the resorts, you can park in the Whaler's Village Parking Garage for a fee. Be sure not to leave valuables on the beach while you swim and obey all lifeguard warnings regarding swimming conditions.
Kama'ole Beach III, South Maui
The most southern of the three Kama'ole Beaches, Kama'ole III is my personal favorite.
The swimming is fair, not spectacular. There is a lifeguard. For the best swimming, I suggest Kama'ole I. There are some snorkeling opportunities around the rocks at the beach's south end. You'll see quite a few boogie boarders and bodysurfers at Kama'ole III.
The real attraction, though, is the beach park itself. It features an exceptionally wide, grassy area. It's one of the most popular places on Maui for family gatherings and picnics.
There is plenty of off street parking, barbecue grills, restrooms, showers and water fountains. There is a nice playground area for children.
Kapalua Bay Beach
Kapalua Bay Beach is a beautiful beach with excellent swimming and good snorkeling. A reef protects much of the area from high waves and strong currents. The sand gently slopes into the water making entry easy on the feet.
There's a public parking lot and paved walkway at the southern end of the beach.
I much preferred this beach before recent development both behind the beach and at its northern end where the lovely Kapalua Bay Hotel once sat. There used to be a nice coconut palm tree grove behind the beach which gave it a real tropical island feel. Today the area is occupied by the Kapalua Coconut Grove Villas.
Napili Bay Beach
Visually this is one of my favorite beaches in Hawaii.
Napili Bay Beach is used primarily by guests of the Napili Kai Beach Resort and the smaller hotels to the south.
It is relatively wide beach and offers a great place from which to view the evening sunset. Swimming, especially around the coral formations offshore at the north end of the beach, can be excellent when the surf is calm. Beware of high winter waves.
The slope of the beach as it enters the ocean is rather steep and drops away quickly. This is great for those who want to swim or snorkel, but families with children need to watch them carefully.
Parking for non-guests can be difficult and is mostly along the street.
Wailea Beach, South Maui
Wailea Beach offers good swimming, snorkeling in calm waters, and body surfing on a shore break that is not as punishing as Wailea's other beaches. The sandy bottom remains shallow inshore, and drops off slowly to deeper water.
Activity companies for the nearby resorts rent ocean equipment.
Parking here is very difficult. There are only about 40 spaces available for the public.
Wainapanapa Black Sand Beach, Hana Maui
Located within the 120-acre Wainapanapa State Park, Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach is not a good beach for swimming. The waves can be high and the shorebreak and rip currents strong.
Wainapanapa State Park is, however, a great area to explore. If you've never seen a black sand beach, this may be your best best on Maui, since it's right along the Road to Hana - about four miles before the town.
Be sure to take time to walk along the ocean bluff above the beach and cliffside right near the parking area. The views back towards the beach from the top of the cliff are impressive with interesting rock formations and sea caves.
Because of the strength of the waves, the area seldom looks the same the next time you visit.