Maui has more than 80 accessible beaches of every conceivable description, from rocky black-sand beaches to powdery golden ones; there's even a rare red-sand beach. What follows is a personal selection of the finest of Maui's beaches, carefully chosen to suit a variety of needs and interests.
Hawaii's beaches belong to the people. All beaches, even those in front of exclusive resorts, are public property, and you are welcome to visit. Hawaii state law requires all resorts and hotels to offer public right-of-way access to the beach, along with public parking. So just because a beach fronts a hotel doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the water. Generally, hotels welcome nonguests to their facilities. They frown on nonguests using the beach chairs reserved for guests, but if a nonguest has money and wants to rent gear, buy a drink, or eat a sandwich, well, money is money, and they will gladly accept it from anyone.
Kaanapali Beach ★★
Four-mile-long Kaanapali is one of Maui’s most famous beaches. Recent storm events have shrunk its sugary golden expanse, though you’ll still find somewhere to plunk down a towel. A paved walkway links hotels, open-air restaurants, and the Whalers Village shopping center. Summertime swimming is excellent. The best snorkeling is around Black Rock, in front of the Sheraton, where the water is clear, calm, and populated with clouds of tropical fish. Facilities include outdoor showers; you can also use the restrooms at the hotel pools. Various watersports outfitters and beach vendors line up in front of the hotels. Turn off Honoapiilani Highway into the Kaanapali Resort. Parking can be a problem—the free public access lots are small and hard to find. Look for the blue shoreline access signs at the Hyatt’s southernmost lot, between Whalers Village and the Westin, and just before the Sheraton. Otherwise, park (for top dollar) at the mall or any resort.
Kahekili Beach Park ★★★
Off Puukolii Road in Kaanapali and often referred to as “North Kaanapali” or “Airport Beach,” this park gets top marks for everything: grassy lawn with a pavilion and palm trees, plenty of soft sand, and a vibrant coral reef a few fin-kicks from shore. Herbivorous fish (surgeonfish and rainbow-colored parrotfish) are off-limits to fishermen here, so the snorkeling is truly excellent. Facilities include picnic tables, barbecues, showers, restrooms, and parking. On a stretch of coast where parking is often a problem, this park with its big shady lot is a gem.
Kapalua Beach ★★
This beach cove is the stuff of dreams: a golden crescent bordered by two palm-studded points. The sandy bottom slopes gently to deep water at the bay mouth; the water’s so clear that you can see it turn to green and then deep blue. Protected from strong winds and currents by the lava-rock promontories, Kapalua’s calm waters are ideal for swimmers of all abilities. The bay is big enough to paddle a kayak around in without getting into the more challenging channel that separates Maui from Molokai. Fish hang out by the rocks, making it decent for snorkeling. The sandy strip isn’t so wide that you burn your feet getting in or out of the water, and it’s edged by a shady path and cool lawns. Access the beach via a small tunnel beside Merriman’s restaurant. Parking is limited to about 30 spaces in a small lot off Lower Honoapiilani Road by Napili Kai Beach Resort, so arrive early. Facilities include showers, restrooms, lifeguards, a rental shack, and plenty of shade.
Wailea’s beaches may seem off limits, hidden from plain view as they are by an intimidating wall of luxury resorts, but all are open to the public. Look for the shoreline access signs along Wailea Alanui Drive, the resort’s main boulevard.
Kamaole III Beach Park ★
Three beach parks—Kamaole I, II, and III—stand like golden jewels in the front yard of suburban Kihei. This trio is popular with local residents and visitors alike because each is easily accessible and all three have shady lawns. On weekends, they’re jam-packed with picnickers, swimmers, and snorkelers. The most popular is Kamaole III, or “Kam-3.” It’s the biggest of the three beaches, with wide pockets of gold sand, a huge grassy lawn, and a children’s playground. Swimming is safe here, but scattered lava rocks are toe-stubbers at the water line. Both the North and South Shores are rocky fingers with a surge big enough to attract fish and snorkelers; the winter waves appeal to bodysurfers. Kam-3 is also a wonderful place to watch the sunset. Facilities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, barbecue grills, and lifeguards. There’s plenty of parking on South Kihei Road across from the Maui Parkshore condos.
Keawakapu Beach Park ★★
You can’t see this mile-long beauty from the road, so keep an eye out for the blue shoreline-access signs as you head toward Wailea on South Kihei Road. The long expanse of soft, white-gold sand has more than enough room for the scores of people who come here to stroll and swim. Clear, aquamarine waves tumble to shore—just the right size for gentle riding, with or without a board. During winter, mama whales come in close to give birth and teach their calves the finer points of whale acrobatics. Dip your head underwater to eavesdrop on the humpbacks’ songs. At any time of year, gorge yourself on phenomenal sunsets. The beach has three separate entrances: The first is an unpaved lot just past the Mana Kai Maui hotel, the second is a shady paved lot at the corner of South Kihei Road and Kilohana Drive (cross the street to the beach), and the third is a large lot at the terminus of South Kihei Road. Facilities include restrooms (at the third entrance only), showers, and parking.
Ulua Beach ★★
Ulua’s golden stretch of sand is popular with sunbathers, snorkelers, and scuba divers alike. Some of Wailea’s best snorkeling is found on the adjoining reef. The ocean bottom is shallow and gently slopes down to deeper waters, making swimming generally safe. In high season (Christmas–Mar and June–Aug), it’s carpeted with beach towels and packed with sunbathers like sardines in cocoa butter. Facilities include showers and restrooms. Beach equipment can be rented at the nearby Wailea Ocean Activity Center. Look for the blue shoreline access sign on Wailea Alanui Drive near the Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa.
Wailea Beach ★
Brigades of resort umbrellas and beach chairs make it challenging to appreciate this beach’s pristine beauty. It’s the front yard of the Four Seasons and the Grand Wailea, and hotel staff makes plenty use of the deep sand. Still, the view out to sea is magnificent, framed by neighboring Kahoolawe, Lanai, and the tiny crescent of Molokini. From shore, you can see Pacific humpback whales in season (Dec–Mar) and unreal sunsets nightly. Facilities include restrooms, outdoor showers, and limited free parking at the blue shoreline access sign, just south of the Grand Wailea on Wailea Alanui Drive.
Maluaka Beach ★★★
For a less crowded beach experience, head south. Development falls off dramatically as you travel toward Makena and its wild, dry countryside of thorny kiawe trees. Maluaka Beach is notable for its serene beauty and its views of Molokini Crater, the offshore islet, and Kahoolawe, the so-called “target” island (it was used as a bombing target from 1945 until the early 1990s). This sandy, sun-kissed crescent is bound on one end by a grassy knoll and has little shade, so bring your own umbrella. Swimming is idyllic here, where the water is calm and sea turtles paddle by. Facilities include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and parking. Along Makena Alanui, turn right on Makena Road, and head down to the shore.
Makena State Beach Park (Big Beach) ★★★
One of the most popular beaches on Maui, Makena is so vast it never feels crowded. Locals call it “Big Beach”—it’s more than 100 feet wide and stretches out 3,300 feet from Puu Olai, the 360-foot cinder cone on its north end to its southern rocky point. The golden sand is luxuriant, deep, and soft, but the shorebreak is steep and powerful. Many a visitor has broken an arm in the surf here. If you’re an inexperienced swimmer, better to watch the pros shred waves on skimboards. Facilities are limited to portable toilets, but there’s plenty of parking and lifeguards at the first two entrances. Dolphins often frequent these waters, and nearly every afternoon a heavy cloud rolls in, providing welcome relief from the sun.
If you clamber up Puu Olai, you’ll find Little Beach on the other side, a small crescent of sand where assorted nudists work on their all-over tans in defiance of the law. The shoreline doesn’t drop off quite so steeply here, and bodysurfing is terrific—no pun intended.
Upcountry & East Maui
Hookipa Beach Park ★★★
Hookipa means “hospitality,” and this sandy beach on Maui’s north shore certainly rolls out the red carpet out for waveriders. Two miles past Paia on the Hana Highway, it’s among the world’s top spots for windsurfing and kiting—thanks to tradewinds that kick up whitecaps offshore. Hookipa offers no less than five surf breaks, and daring watermen and -women paddle out to carve waves up to 25 feet tall. Voyeurs are welcome as well; the cliff-top parking lot has a bird’s-eye view. On flat days, snorkelers explore the reef’s treasure trove of marine life: Gentle garden eels wave below the surface. Sea turtles hunt for jellyfish and haul out by the dozens to nap on the sand. More than once, a rare Hawaiian monk seal has popped ashore during a surf contest. Facilities include restrooms, showers, pavilions, picnic tables, barbecue grills, and parking.
H. P. Baldwin Beach Park ★★
This beach park draws lots of locals: dog walkers, yoga enthusiasts, boogie boarders, fishermen, and young families. The far ends of the beach are safest for swimming: “the cove” in the lee of the rocks at the north end, and “baby beach” at the south end, where an exposed reef creates a natural sandy swimming pool—often with a current that’s fun to swim against. Facilities include a pavilion with picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms, showers, a semipaved parking area, a soccer field, and lifeguards. The park is busy on weekends and late afternoons; mornings and weekdays are much quieter. Heading east on Hana Highway, turn left at the soccer field just before reaching Paia.
Waianapanapa State Park ★★★
Jet-black sand, a cave pool, sea arches, blowholes, and historic hala groves: This dramatic 120-acre beach park offers many jewels. Listen to the lava boulders wash up in the foamy surf. Swim with caution; the sea here is churned by strong waves and rip currents. Watch the seabirds circle the offshore islet. Follow moss-covered stone steps through the tunnel of hau branches and dare yourself to plunge into the chilly freshwater cave. These are experiences that will make a deep impression on your psyche. Waianapanapa offers wonderful shoreline hikes and picnicking spots. You can follow the coastal trail for a long distance in both directions from the parking lot. Facilities include picnic tables, barbecue grills, restrooms, showers, tent sites, and 12 cabins.
Hamoa Beach ★★
James Michener called Hamoa “a beach so perfectly formed that I wonder at its comparative obscurity.” Viewed from above, this half-moon-shaped, gray-sand beach is vision of paradise. The wide stretch of sand (a mix of coral and lava) is three football fields long and sits below 30-foot black-lava sea cliffs. Swells on this unprotected beach break offshore and roll in, making it a popular surfing and bodysurfing area. Hamoa is often swept by powerful rip currents, so take care. The calm left side is best for snorkeling in summer. Travaasa Hana resort has numerous facilities for guests, plus outdoor showers and restrooms for nonguests. Parking is limited. Look for the Hamoa Beach turnoff from Hana Highway.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.