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The Top Beaches in Maui

Your guide to the top beaches in Maui starts here.  Find that perfect cove with calm water for the kids.  Learn the best places to snorkel, swim and paddle board.  Discover that perfect sunset beach.

The great thing about Maui is that the beaches vary so much.  From big waves and wind to calm protected coves that are perfect for families, Maui has the perfect beach for everyone.

Enjoying the calm, warm water in KaanapaliBeautiful calm day in Kaanapali

Water temperatures are always warm varying from the mid to low 70s in the winter to the low 80s in the summer. The warmest, calmest and clearest water can usually be found in September and October.

Maui has some of the best clear water beaches in the world, providing great visibility for snorkeling and diving during all times of the year, with the exception of during storms or high surf when visibility is reduced due to runoff and beach erosion.

For us, the top beaches in Maui are those with the smallest waves, least amount of wind and abundant sunshine.  These are located on the southwestern side of the island between the cities of Lahaina and Kapalua.

The windiest areas with the largest waves are located on the north side of the island between Kahalui and Hana.  This area is generally more susceptible to more wind, rain and clouds.  If you are a big wave surfer or kite surfer, this is the side of the island for you.  If you like smaller, long board waves then the best beaches in Maui for this type of surfing is near Lahaina.

I have ranked my 4 top beaches in Maui based on the nicest weather, least amount of current, family friendliness, accessibility, sand quality and activities.  This doesn't mean that the remaining beaches aren't great, but they just don't meet all of the above criteria.  However, one should not overlook these niche beaches as they are truly special.

Napili Bay
#1 of the Top Beaches in Maui

Located only a few miles north of Kaanapali and south of Kapalua is Napili bay, probably one of the top beaches in Maui for the entire family. Napili bay also has public restrooms and showers located on the southern end of the cove.

The entrance to the bay has rocky points on both sides and a coral reef that runs diagonally down the middle. This protects the bay from waves and currents but also provides calm water for snorkeling, paddle boarding and shallow water swimming. Maui trade winds often blow offshore so Napili bay usually remains calm all day long.  When there are the occasional big waves,  they break over the offshore reef and also right on shore so extra care should be taken during these conditions as they can easily sneak up on you.

Beautiful calm water at Maui's Napili bayNapili Bay

The best snorkeling is towards both points and in the middle along the reef. The beach has a shallow, gentle slope and is great for kids. Turtles often come close in towards the beach, especially along the rocky sides. This is a great cove to learn how to snorkel and paddle board.

If you need to rent snorkeling gear, paddle boards or any other beach equipment, Snorkel Bob's has a Napili location within easy walking distance from the beach's entrance. Hint ! - Don't rent your equipment from a resort. Snorkel Bob's offers week long equipment rental at a fraction of what the resorts charge.

Kapalua Bay
#2 of the Top Beaches in Maui

Located just north of Napili, Kapalua Bay is always voted as one of the top beaches in Maui.  This tiny sliver of sand offers the calm waters perfect for children, paddle boarding and snorkeling or just lounging in the sun.  The reefs to the left and right of the cove have abundant and colorful fish and coral.  The wind usually blows from shore to ocean providing a cooling breeze but little or no wind chop near the shore. 

Hint - This is also one of the top Maui beaches to view and take photos of stunning Maui sunsets.

Spend an entire day at one of the most relaxing and peaceful Maui beaches and soak up the sun.

View from the grassy park, looking north towards Kapalua BayKapalua Bay

Kahekili Beach
#3 of the Top Beaches in Maui

One of my favorite Maui beaches, and Editor's choice for one of the top  beaches in Maui to snorkel, is Kahekili beach. Located north of Black Rock and south of Kapalua, this beautiful 2-3 mile stretch is great for paddle boarding and snorkeling. The current is gentle and the waves are small making it a great activity beach for all ages. Kahekili beach has one of the best coral reefs in Maui, starting adjacent to the Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas and running north for about a mile. While the beach is generally calm, the entrance to the water drops off from inches to 2 or 4 feet very fast. The coral reef starts immediately making this beach better for snorkeling than swimming. It is a great place for kids to play in the sand and run around in the first foot or two of water with the understanding that it drops off fast. The southern portion of Kahekili beach between the Westin and Black Rock has very little coral reef and more of a sandy bottom making it better for swimming and paddle boarding.

Serene Kahekili Beach looking south towards Black RockKahekili Beach

This is one of the top beaches in Maui for snorkeling with easy and immediate access to the reef.  The coral reef starts near the public park, just south of the Westin Kaanapali Resort Villas South, and runs north.  South of the park, towards Black Rock, has very little coral and is generally just sandy.  The reef has some nice 15-20 foot holes in the coral very close to shore and an abundant population of colorful sea life plus an occasional turtle and manta ray. It is also a very popular scuba diving spot, especially for beginners.

Ample parking is available, at a little used public park, just south of the Westin Ocean Resort Villas.

Kaanapali Beach
#4 of the Top Beaches in Maui

For both swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and paddle boarding, it does not get any better than Kaanapali Beach. This is another one of my favorites that is consistently ranked as one of the top beaches in Maui.  Kaanapali beach starts from the famous Black Rock adjacent to the Sheraton Resort and runs south.

The northern section of the beach is protected from wind and waves most of the time and has a gentle sandy bottom slope making it great for families. Block Rock point breaks up the strong current that runs offshore and provides swimmers and snorkelers with a calm protected area.  However, once you get out past the point, the current is strong and can move you down the shoreline at a surprisingly fast rate, especially if you are watching the scenery below and not paying attention.  It caught us one day and trying to swim back at a normal rate for a few minutes and got us nowhere, we were exactly where we started.  We had to pick up the pace and swim much harder just to get back around the point.  Everyday is different, so always be on guard for changing conditions.

The calm waters of Kaanapali beach looking north towards Black RockKaanapali Beach

Black Rock is one of the top beaches in Maui for snorkeling and diving.   It has quick deep water access and shallow rocky points.

Honolua  Bay

Honolua bay is famous for great snorkeling and, during certain times of the year, fantastic surfing off of the northernmost point adjacent to the entrance of the bay.  If you plan on snorkeling then you should arrive early as there is limited parking alongside the road and a short hike necessary through the trees to get to the back end of the bay.  The beach at Honolua bay is rocky and does not have sand and therefore this is not the type of beach for sunbathing or laying on the sand.  Snorkelers usually start along the rocky beach and swim along the cliffs towards the two points.  This area has some of the best snorkeling on Maui.  The deeper water should be avoided during heavy rains because runoff will cloud up the water.  The deeper water also holds a decent population of sharks, which you want to avoid in murky water.

View from the road above Honolua BayHonolua Bay

Big Beach

Maui's Big Beach (local name is Oneloa) is a must visit place during your beach vacation.  Located at the very end of the road in Makena, the golden sand of Big Beach stretches for about 2/3 of a mile and is one of the widest beaches on the island.  By Maui standards, this beach can be more crowded than others on the weekend but you will not have any problems in staking out your favorite spot with lots of space around you.

Big Beach will usually have larger waves than Kaanapali beach, Kaheliki beach and Napili Bay because it is more open to the unprotected southern side of the island and does not have other islands directly around it.  However, there are plenty of nice calm days for swimming and snorkeling.  When there are big waves, they usually come of the form of a really big and fast shore break, so be careful.  Hint ! - This is generally not a beach for small children.  Adults should be experienced swimmers and always use caution, especially during periods of large waves.

This is one of the most beautiful of the Maui beaches.  There are restrooms, lifeguards and an off street parking lot along with food vendors that setup in the lot.  This is one of the best Maui beaches for relaxing in the sand, watching the boogie boarders or walking in the golden sand along the water's edge.

Ho'okipa Beach

Located on Maui's north shore, known for big surf and wind, Ho'okipa Beach is located at the beginning of the road to Hana and very close to Mama's Fish House.

Ho'okipa Beach is a world renowned windsurfing and surfing beach that always has nice waves, with the largest being during the winter months, especially if there is a Pacific storm to the north.

There are some rules regarding the co-mingling of windsurfers and surfers.  Windsurfing cannot start until 11am and if there are too many surfers in the area, windsurfing is prohibited and most move to adjacent beaches to the west.

Often times, with strong winds and especially on weekends, there are dozens of wind surfers, zig zagging in and out, gliding along the coastline making for a spectacular view.

View of Hookipa Beach with big waves and lots of windHookipa Beach

The beach is long and narrow with plenty room to find a place in the sand.  There is a lookout point to the east with a separate parking lot.  This is a great place to watch the surfers.

Ho'okipa beach is not primarily a swimming beach.  Large waves create strong rip currents.  Even to surf and wind surf you need to be very experienced and should consult a lifeguard before heading out to understand how to avoid the strong currents.  However, depending on the tides, small tide pools will form that are protected from the surf.  The sun heats up this water making it a perfect spot for small children to play and adults to sit in the water.

One of the many Ho'okipa Beach protected tide poolsHo'okipa Beach Tide Pools

There is also a large reef that attracts large numbers of sea turtles.  The lookout point provides the best view and you will usually see several cruising next to the rocky point between the beach and the wave break.

This is a great spot to visit early in the day before the crowds arrive and a good first stop on the way to the Road to Hana.

Ho'opkipa beach is one the top beaches in Maui for site-seeing.  Bring a chair, sit back and watch as surfers tackle the big waves.

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