Top 10 Maui Beaches

It’s true, Maui is home to the many best beaches in the world.  With so many choose from, it’s a daunting task to figure out which ones to go to.   Look no further, I made a list of top 10 Maui beaches you shouldn’t miss out on and here’s why!

Top 10 Maui Beaches

#1 Kapalua Bay Beach

When you first see the Kapalua Bay Beach, it paints the picture of a perfect Maui beach.  Shady Palm trees, crystal clear blue water, golden soft powder sand and the sun beating down on your forehead makes you just want to dive in the water right there and then! Kapalua Bay Beach is a protected bay making the waters very calm which is great for kids or just wading in the water.  The bottom is a bit rocky, so be careful walking in the water.  If you snorkel 150 ft out towards the middle, you’ll see large corral reefs with Sea Turtles napping.  Snorkeling is pretty good here with lots of colorful reef fishes to discover.

#2 Napili Bay Beach

If you want to see Sea Turtles without getting in the water, this is the beach.  Go towards the left of the beach where the lava rock formation is and you can watch Turtles swimming near the rocks.  The shore break here is steep but gentle.  Snorkeling is pretty decent here with plenty of fish to see, just go in the mornings or early afternoons.  This small beach is accessed by many of the condo guests in the surrounding area so it can get populated but not too crowded. There’s still plenty of room of spread your towel and sunbathe. Like Kapalua, Napili is great for families with small children.

#3 The Black Rock / Kaanapali Beach

I’m combining The Black Rock and Kaanapali Beach together because they’re literally neighbors.  To access The Black Rock, you have to enter from Kaanapali Beach.  The Black Rock is a large lava rock that separate the 2 halves of Kaanapali Beach.  As you snorkel around the coral encrusted lava rock you’ll see many colorful fishes and coral.  The Sea Turtles tend to stay near the rocks.  But I’ve seen turtles hanging out just 3ft from shore.  Or you can stand on the lava rocks and view them from above. If you’re lucky enough, you might see a family of rays!  The Black Rock is popular place for local teenagers and thriller seekers to cliff jump, so stay away from their landing paths.  Just before sunset, there’s a daily torch ceremony at the Black Rock.  The Black Rock is a very popular snorkel and dive spot because of the variety of marine life, sandy bottoms and clear waters. So you might be swimming in human soup.

Kaanapali Beach is one of Maui’s finest beaches because of its golden powder sand and clear waters that stretch for 3 miles long.  With plenty of room to find your perfect sunbathing spot, you can either mingle with the crowd or find your own mini private spot.  This beach is also home to many high end resorts, the famous Whaler’s Village Shops and other restaurants.  There’s a concrete pathway parallel to the beach which gives you easy access to explore the beach and surrounding resorts and shops.   The north end of Kaanapali Beach between the Sherton and the Kaanapali Ali’i Resort is best for swimming, boogie boarding and general wading.  If you want to see fish and snorkel, swim towards the Black Rock. The bottom is sandy and the water is super clear.  The south end of Kaanapali Beach between the Marriott and Hyatt has a rocky bottom but great party waves for first time surfers.  Because of the daily torch ceremony at the Black Rock before sunset, Kaanapali Beach is the place to be to view the sunset in West Maui.

#4 Kahakili Beach Park

On the other side of the Black Rock is Kahakili Beach park which is much quieter and less crowded.  Snorkeling is best near the rocks on the left and the bottom is sandy.  The shore break here is steep but gentle on calm days.  I’ve seen a school of baby fish just 3ft from shore.  The marine life is less abundant here but it offers tranquility that you won’t find on the south end of Black Rock.  If you’re lucky enough you can see a pod of dolphins swimming north between late mornings and early afternoon.  This beach is one of my favorite places to sunbathe because I feel like I have the beach to myself.

#5 Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach has been voted as of the best beaches in America!  Insanely clear blue water, soft fine grained sand and gentle waves perfect for swimming and for the kids to play in.  This beach stretches for over 1/3 mile long.  The center of the beach is best for swimming and snorkeling is best at each end.  Many of the guests from the surrounding resorts use this beach so it can get crowded.  The small public parking lot can fill up quickly, so come early.

#6 Big Beach / Little Beach

Big Beach has several nicknames, Oneloa Beach, Makena Beach, Big Makena Beach or Maluaka Beach  (I like to call it Big Beach).  This beach has over 2/3 mile stretch of soft golden sand to dig your toes into and the water is very clear on calm days.  The center of the beach is best for swimming with sandy bottoms.  This is my favorite South Maui beach to sunbathe at because despite it’s popularity there’s plenty of room to feel like you’re on your own private beach.  Lots of locals come here for boogie boarding.  Swim towards the right side of the beach to see fish but not much.  Also from the right side of the beach (head towards the Lava wall), hike up the short rocky trail.  Once you reach the top, you’ll have an excellent view of Big Beach, great for photo ops.

From the top, continue to follow the trail towards the left and you’ll find another beach called Little Beach.  It’s much smaller than Big Beach. But this small secluded beach offers great swimming, boogie boarding, body surfing and “scenery”.  Snorkeling is not so great here tho, only at the ends.  I found the waves much rougher here than Big Beach, so be careful.  Because Little Beach is so secluded, it’s also known as a local nudist beach.   It’s optional to be nude, just don’t take pictures of the nudists without their permission and be mindful of the sea snakes in the water. 🙂  Everytime I go to Maui, I visit Little Beach and not once was I hassled for having clothes on.  But people do stare at me, I think they’re waiting for me to get into my birthday suit.  🙂

#7 Pa’ako Beach / Secret Cove

I wish this was a Secret Beach I discovered on my own and I am announcing it to the world.  This little piece of heaven is a popular place to get married or great place for photos with a view of Molokini as the background.  The beach itself is very small so swimming and snorkeling aren’t great here.  But the views are simply charming, making the atmosphere romantic. It’s a must see for photographers.  Or perhaps the perfect place for Prince Charming to propose to his princess. 🙂  The small tide pools are also awesome to explore and Sea turtles can be found on the right near the lava rocks.  They probably call this beach Secret Cove because it is literally found in a hole in the wall.  On Makena Road (1 mile south of Big Beach), look for a stone wall and find a opening with a blue sign for Public Beach access.  Come in the mornings to avoid the wedding crowds.

#8 Red Sand Beach (aka Kaihalulu)

Red Sand Beach is made from the red and black cinder crumblings of the surrounding hill.  The strip of jagged lava rock sticking out of the water partially protects the beach from the rough waves.  The swimming and snorkeling varies.  Fortunately the times I’ve been to this beach the water was calm enough to snorkel and saw a wide variety of fishes but no sea turtles.  I do not recommend going past the jagged lava rocks.  Getting in and out of the water is very painful because the cinders are sharp. It feels like walking on glass so I recommend water shoes.  To make matters worse, to get to this beach requires hiking (10 to 15 mins) on a narrow trail on the side of a hill with loose gravel and some parts of the trail is along the shoreline (do not attempt to hike to this beach if waves are rough along the shoreline).  So why would I recommend you this beach?

  • The Hike is part of the adventure of discovering Maui
  • The beautiful layered cinder walls on the Hill
  • The Iron Wood Trees
  • It’s a secluded and hard to reach beach, so nudists enthusiasts are welcomed or if you want to sunbathe topless in private
  • The view of the red sand against the electric blue water is magnificent
  • Great photos ops from the top of the trail of the beach
  • A unique beach with Red-Black Sand from the crumbling cinder cone hill that surrounds the bay

Because of the quiet and peaceful environment this beach provides, Red Sand Beach is my favorite Hana beach to sunbathe at.

#9 Black Sand Beach

Black Sand Beach is located at the Wai’anapanapa Park.  Black Sand Beach was created from waves crashing against volcanic rock over and over for decades. The sights you see are simply amazing.  The black sand against the clear blue water brings out a unique shine to this beach.  The waves and currents are very strong at this beach, so swimming is not recommended.   There isn’t much to see for snorkeling as well.  But the beach itself is unique enough for a visit.  To the right of the beach, there’s a cool cave you can explore. Take a walk above the beach and cliff side right near the parking area.  The views of the beach are spectacular with interesting rock rock formations and sea caves.

#10 Fresh Water Caves at Wai’anapanapa Park

I know … I know … this isn’t exactly a beach but swimming is involved, does that count?  The fresh water caves are one of my favorite things to see in Hana.  It’s on the the left side of the park.  The water in the cave is insanely cold but once you jump into the water it feels incredibly refreshing.  Be careful when jumping in, the water is very shallow so feet first!  Once in the water, there are two small chambers you can explore in the back.  I recommend bringing a glow stick or a water proof flashlight to navigate the chambers.  There’s a hidden underwater tunnel with a air pocket in these caves that you can swim through.  Locals don’t like tourists knowing about it.  But if you are seriously interested in seeing it, contact me directly.  The ironic thing is, a local told me about it. 🙂

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