The Best of Maui’s Beaches
All of Maui’s beaches have their own distinct and wonderful qualities to offer, but sometimes you’re looking for something in particular, like the best snorkelling beach or the best surfing beach! This list is here to help you find the right beach for what you’re feeling by rating each beach we went to on a list of factors. These factors include the 5 S’s: Swim vs. Surf, Snorkelling, Sand, Seclusion and their uniqueness factor!
Black Sand Beach or One’uli Beach
Location: Waianapanapa Beach Park, Hana Hwy 96713
Surf: ♦◊◊◊◊ Too many people
Sand: ♦♦♦◊◊ This is the whole appeal of the beach. The lava rocks which have eroded over thousands of years to become tiny little pebbles. And when I say pebbles, I mean pebbles. The rocks have not eroded so far as to become nice soft sand. It is pretty rough on your feet so not the best beach for lounging on your belly in the sand. There are also large rocks that you can easily stub your toe when swimming, hence the low score on “swimmability.”
Seclusion: ♦◊◊◊◊ Since it is the only black sand beach on the island and along the popular Hana Hwy it draws quite the crowd. Still totally worth seeing though if you’ve never seen a black sand beach which we hadn’t! In order to avoid the crowds go on a weekday and before noon!
Uniqueness factor/ Instaworthiness: ♦♦♦♦◊ Like I said, if you’ve never seen a Black Sand Beach you definitely do not wanna miss it! There are even lava tubes right on the beach left over from the collision of the sea with the lava formations and its slow erosion over time. They create great silhouette shots in the tubes.
Location: 51 Puunoa Pl, Lahaina, HI 96761
During our time in Maui, Lahaina was our home base so we frequented Baby Beach a lot. The calm, clear and warm waters are amazing for floating and swimming around in.
Because the shore is protected by the break about 100m from the sand you won’t find many waves here.
Great place for beginner snorkelers and families with youngsters, or if you’re not the most confident swimmer. You will see a decent amount of small fish and even the occasional sea turtle. There are also these neat coral formations that make a maze like structure you must manoeuvre around as you swim. But don’t get too close! It can still give a mean scratch.
The beach backs onto people’s properties and is often buzzing with families, but it is such a long stretch of beach that it is never hard to find a spot on your own if that is what you’re seeking. If not, there are always tons of cool characters lounging in their hammocks on the beach (I know because that was us!)
Uniqueness factor/ Instaworthiness: ♦♦♦◊◊
This beach is great because you can have a view of all three neighboring islands. If you are facing the water you can see Kaho’olawe to the left, Lanai to the front and Molokai to right. The crystal clear calm waters make for nice pictures.
Makena State Park
Location: 6600 Makena Rd, Kihei, HI 96753 Swim: ♦♦♦◊◊
Depends on the day! We went in the Winter months (Jan-March) and it was extremely wavy, there is a guard that watches the water and advises against swimming when it is too choppy which did happen to us once when we visited.
Surf: ♦◊◊◊◊ Big Beach can be good for body surfing if the waves are not crashing to close to shore, not so much for stand up surfing.
We never had luck snorkelling here because the waves were always to big, but like I said we were there in the winter. The waters are likely more calm and better for snorkelling in the summer months.
But!… on the flipside, winter is also mating season for the Humpback whales who come to Maui to mate and have their babies in the warm waters. So while we didn’t see much below the water, there is lots to watch above the surface when the whales breach, jump and wave.
Not the place to go if peace and quiet is what you are looking for, especially on the weekends (Sunday in particular). Great place to socialize, volleyball games and lots of hostels go and meet up on Sundays before the Sunset party on Little Beach.
Uniqueness/ Instaworthiness: ♦♦♦◊◊ Long stretch of white sand and clear blue waters, manageable white caps perfect for romantic walk on the beach photos or if you’re like me, BFFL photos!
Location: Walking distance from Big Beach. warning: low accessibility
Usually a little more calm then Big Beach, but you can still get rocked by a large wave and it can be difficult to get out of the water because the undertoe is so strong pulling you back into the water
Often too busy for surfing, and so much else going on!
Again too much other stuff going on for snorkelling, but you can often see local fishermen casting nets and catching some fish in the shallow pools off to the right. We had even better luck seeing the humpbacks from Little Beach. One Sunday as the sun starts to set a family of humpbacks decides to put on a show for the crowds. It was a surreal collective experience with everyone ooing and awing in unison with every breach, as the sun slid lower into the horizon.
Seclusion: ♦♦♦◊◊ Cam and I only ever went to Little Beach on Sunday which draws all the hippies and free spirits for the weekly drum circle. Not the place to go for seclusion, though we have heard it is a lot better on weekdays if you want a similar, but more relaxed vibe than Sunday drum circles.
Unique/ Instaworthiness: ♦♦♦♦♦
Like I said, Little Beach is Maui’s only recognized nude beach (as far as we know) so it is an extremely unique experience. As you climb the sandy rock path to Little Beach you can feel the beat of the drum growing in your chest, building up to the great crescendo as you cross the threshold and the scene of half (or fully) naked people moving to the beat and dancing in that perfect light of the golden hour unfolds before your eyes. Once the sun dips beneath the horizon the part heats up with fire dancers to accompany the drummers. Even if you aren’t feeling going nude yourself do not be discouraged! Every one is welcome here. Its an amazing place to experience and needs to be on your Maui bucket list. Little Beach is perfect if you are looking for those scandalous photos, whale jumping videos or if you want to catch some long exposure photography of fire dancers.
Ka’anapali and Black Rock Beaches
Location: the beach in front of 2525 Kaanapali Pkwy, Lahaina, HI 96761 Swim: ♦♦♦♦◊
Having a resort built right next to this beach is a good indication it is perfect for swimming and water activities, though do not be fooled, the waves can get quite large and have been known to remove loose fitting bathing suit bottoms.
Great spot for snorkelling if you’re willing to share the space with others. You will see loads of fish and the occasional sea turtle if the pods of snorkellers don’t chase them off.
Again, because it is a resort beach with lots of swimmers, surfing would cause major collisions.
Sand: ♦♦♦♦◊ Soft and fine sand, but when the undertow is strong (like in the winter) a lot of the sand gets dragged off the shore and into the water. So the width of the beach gets really tiny and finding a spot where your stuff won’t get swept away by the water.
Don’t count on it!
Uniqueness/ Instaworthiness: ♦♦♦♦◊
This beach is home to the Black Rock cliff, famous for amateur cliff jumping. There are signs that say not to jump, but everyone does. Just be advised not to do it when the waves are really big or obviously if there are too many swimmers and there is a risk of jumping on one. The cliff is the perfect height for a healthy amount of fear and risk for the conservative thrill seeker.
Location: 5900 Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Lahaina 96761 Swim: ♦♦◊◊◊
We had a rather wavy experience.
Good for body surfing or skim-boarding.
Like Ka’anapali the undertoe dragged a lot of the sand out into the water so very narrow strip of beach to establish yourself Snorkel: ♦♦♦◊◊ Word on the beach is that Napili Bay is usually bomb for snorkelling, but apparently we had poor timing because it was way too choppy when we went. Summer is probably a better time for snorkelling.
Quite busy at most times.
Uniqueness and Instaworthiness: ♦♦♦♦◊ Nice waterside path great for pictures, good water action shots.
Location: North of Kapalua, West Maui, 96761 Swim: ♦♦♦♦◊
Nice calm water for swimming.
Further out in the bay is known for the good surf, though we personally did not give it a try.
Very cool spot to snorkel, we did not see any turtles when we went but lots of colourful fish and coral.
There is actually no sand in this bay, it has a rocky shore to make your way down to the water. Not the best if you’re looking for a sandy lounge spot.
Not overly secluded, but it is easy enough to find your own little area, and for snorkelling the bay is huge so there is more than enough space for everyone.
Uniqueness/ Instaworthy: ♦♦♦♦♦ There are no bad angles! There is an amazing lookout from above the bay amazing for a panoramic photo. Making your way down to the bay you walk through a lush jungle pathway filled with chickens and roosters of beautiful colours. Be warned they ARE loud and they want your food so keep it close and sealed.
Slaughterhouse or Mokuleia
Location: Just before Honolua Bay on the Honoapilani Hwy 30
Decent sized, but manageable waves perfect for splashing around in.
More of a swimming beach, but Honolua is just right around the bay!
Hands down the best spot we found in Maui for snorkelling. We only went twice, but we were one of only a handful of people snorkelling and we encountered numerous sea turtles both times we went. The second time it was literally only Cam and I and we got to have our own private play date with 2 baby sea turtles. This was one of, if not my favourite experiences of the entire three months in Maui.
Very chill and relaxed vibe. Lots of space to spread out and lie down without being too close to other visitors.
It was neither busy, nor empty whenever we to Slaughterhouse, but there is tons of space that you feel secluded enough. Not a very accessible beach for those that have accessibility challenges because there is a large decently steep set of stairs you must descend to get down to the beach.
All the YES! Who doesn’t love turtles right? Better bring your underwater cameras and action cams.
The name “Slaughterhouse” comes from when the Honolua Ranch slaughterhouse and tanning/ storage used to be located on the cliff’s edge above the beach and bay.
Red Sand Beach or Kaihalulu Beach
Location: Park along Uakea Road in Hana by the Community Center. Must cross the back lawn of the community centre and find a path behind there.
We actually did not get to swim here since we were on a tight schedule trying to do the entire Hana Hwy with all the cool stops, which I regret as this was probably our favourite beach! There is reef off shore that creates a little enclosed bay protecting the shore from the wind and waves so it would have made a nice calm swimming spot. For this reason it is definitely not a surf beach.
Snorkel: ?? We did not get a chance to snorkel here because of the time crunch, but I would have loved to!
One of very few red sand beaches in the world! Which already makes it dope.
When we went there was only about 4 or 5 other people there, which is likely due to the precarious path to get to the beach. This beach is even less accessible than Slaughterhouse because of the narrow path along the rock face with crumbling rocks. I believe the path was closed temporarily shortly after we visited because of erosion and shifting rocks that wiped out the path.
Uniqueness/ Instaworthy: ♦♦♦♦♦
The contrast of the deep red sand with the teal blue water is just astounding. As a result of the low accessibility the spot is apparently popular for nudists, though we did not come across any during our visit.
Ho’okipa Beach Park
Location: Hana Hwy, Paia, HI 96779
Surf: ♦♦♦♦♦ For experienced surfers! But perfect if you want to spectate from above. There are even fresh fruit and juice stands to quench your thirst. I recommend the sugar cane juice with lime and ginger! I was stoked to see tons of female surfers and lots of kite surfers which I had never seen before. With all their different colourful sails moving in time with the wind and the waves it almost looked like a choreographed dance. I know I would not have the necessary coordination or reflexes for a feat like that.
Unless you want to be the unsuspecting victim of a rogue wave, or worse yet a rogue surfer.
The sand itself is nice, but there is only a short expanse of beach before the water where you can sit and watch the surfers or the turtles. Thats right, you heard correctly, more turtles!
Not secluded because there are many surfers, and spectators of surfers and turtles, and spectators of turtles. The turtles come here and climb up onto the sand to nap in the nice warm sun. But there are signs when they are present warning observers not to get too close. Respect their space!
Uniqueness/ Instaworthy: ♦♦♦♦♦
There is so much going on at this Beach Park what with the surfers, kite surfers, turtles and juice stande and its all worth snapping some shots of. Great spot for colourful action shots and also the lack of action of those gentle sea giants.
Now we know we did not cover all of Maui’s beaches, but these are the ones we found most noteworthy. But we are open to suggestions! Did we miss your favourite beach? Or did you have a different opinion of one on our list? Drop us a line and let us know!