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10 of The Best Beaches on the Island of Maui

Patricia Pfaeltzer

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There are many reasons why Hawaii‘s island of Maui (The Valley Isle) is often mentioned as “Maui No Ka Oi.” True to it’s meaning, “Maui is the best!” The best diverse landscape you can imagine – from humid jungle rain forests to arid and barren old lava flows on the south and west sides. Sometimes in the winter, one can play in the snow on Mt. Haleakala in the morning and then warm up on the beach with a picnic afterward. Speaking of beaches, Maui has some of the most gorgeous and interesting beaches on the islands of course! Here are 10 of our personal favorites. Before you check out any of these beaches in Maui, some important and helpful tips:

  • Take along a couple of gallons of tap water to rinse your feet off before you get back in the car. Some of these beaches listed don’t have showers.
  • Don’t leave valuables in your parked car. Rentals are often broken into. Common sense on this one!
  • PLEASE be mindful of sea life. Don’t get too close too sea turtles sunning on the sand. Look for “reef safe” non-toxic skin products. This one is common sense as well. If it can kill a reef, don’t put it on your skin either. Bring beach umbrellas! Some of these parks aren’t shady.
  • Brings lots of cold water and snacks. Seasonal tropical fruit’s a great choice.
  • Try to go before noon. The winds can get gnarly in the afternoon. Sand-blasted body? Ouch! No fun.
  • Leave the beach as you found it. Enjoy!

1.  Ma’alaea Mud Flats

On the Southside, in Ma’alaea, lies a marshy bog affectionately known by locals as “da mudflats.” This is actually a 691-acre wetland preserve that just happens to include a really cool beach!  The numerous ponds in this marsh are some of the last wetlands still intact in all of Hawaiʻi.

The beach is not just awesome for tanning, swimming, and snorkeling, but for turtle and bird watching too. In the wintertime, breaching humpback whales are quite a sight to see in the warm waters here. Just pull off the highway into the small parking area next to the boardwalk. The 2200 ft boardwalk, which meanders through the marsh and is a fun stroll, is great for birdwatchers and many wildlife photo ops abound. Folks who love long walks can walk the 3-mile beach all the way to Sugar Beach, which marks the beginning of Kihei.

2. Kamaʻole Beach Park I, II, & III

kamaole beach maui hawaii
http://mauiguidebook.com/

Also on the Southside, in Kihei, “the Kama’oles,”  three parks that are lined up next to each other, are among the most popular on the island. Great for families, and folks who don’t feel like a long hike to the beach, they have bathrooms, showers, lifeguard towers, and some awesome new interpretive signage. The county of Maui has put a lot of work recently into building boardwalks through the dunes to the beach, so you don’t have to worry so much about “hot feet” as you make your way to the shoreline.

3. Ulua/Mokapu Beach Park

mokapu beach wailea hawaii

This is one of the best beaches in Maui for diving and snorkeling due to the reef and rock outcroppings at both ends, where snorkelers can spot turtles, all manner of colorful fish, crustaceans, and a moray eel or two. Skim boarders and body surfers also love this beach for it’s fun rolling dunes and shoreline breaks. The waves can sometimes get a little wild here, so be careful. Bring a beach umbrella to this one, as there are not many shady areas. The parking is ok but located a short walk from the beach. You can also street park but pay attention to signs!

4. Polo Beach

Polo Beach Wailea Hawaii

On the south side, in Wailea, lies Polo Beach. A local and visitor favorite alike, Polo beach is fronted by one of Maui’s oldest resorts, the Polo Beach Club. With lots of parking and amenities like bathrooms and showers, it’s a great choice for families.  With rolling waves and fine sand, swimming, body surfing,  and sand-castle building are a delight here. Beach activities include outrigger canoe paddling in front of the Kea Lani Resort on the north end and Polo Beach Resort on the south. There’s also a cute and well-maintained park and a scenic walking path that goes past the resorts.

5. Big Beach And Little Beach

big beach little beach maui hawaii

Another south side favorite, in Makena, Big Beach is huge. It’s one of the largest beaches in Maui in width and has three entrances.  The first one puts you closest to the north end of the beach with a large red cinder cone (Pu’u Ola’i) at the ocean’s edge that can be seen from across the bay!

The sand dunes here can be steep which can make for some pretty gnarly and often treacherous shore-break. Some of the wildest waves on the island are at Big Beach in fact. Be careful! Skimboarding is the main activity on this beach and it’s fun to watch the locals who come here to shred.  It’s mostly sand bottom offshore, and with raging waves, snorkeling is not recommended here. Adults who are feeling adventurous can head to the far north end and hike over the rocks to Little Beach, our “clothing optional” hideaway. (Careful! It’s a short but steep hike) It’s a nice protected (and can be calm) beach for body surfing or boogie boarding. Hippies, adventurous tourists, and folks who enjoy drum circles converge here often.

6. Black Sand Beach at Wai’ānapanapa State Park

On the Eastside, in Hana, lies one of the most iconic and photographed beaches in Maui. Just off the Hana Highway, and part of  Wai’ānapanapa State Park, this black sand beach is a must-visit, as well as the park itself. The park’s mysterious caves, rugged coastline, and sea arches give it an enchanting vibe all it’s own. The beach has tons of glistening deep dark sand granules, formed by millions of years of surf pounding fresh lava flow into tiny grains. Catch the sun and a swim here. Be careful, black sand gets a lot hotter than white sand when the sun’s out. Don’t forget those flip flops!

7. Hamoa Beach

hamoa beach maui hawaii

Stunning crescent-shaped Hamoa Beach, also on the Eastside in Hana, has been an island favorite for generations. Consistently voted one of the best beaches in the country, the short hike it takes to get there is definitely worth it! It’s a small beach with steep banks and cliffs on both ends. It’s quite protected, but without an outlying reef, sometimes weather (especially in the winter months) can bring in some large swells, so be mindful of that when swimming. A tree-lined shady park, public restrooms and showers, and lovely pavilion make it an ideal spot for families to relax, picnic and play in the surf.

8. Papalaua Beach Park (Thousand Peaks)

On the Westside, in Lahaina, is a tree-lined Papalaua beach. Locals know it as Thousand Peaks, for its rolling surf that experts like to shred and beginners can learn on.  Located right off  Honoapiilani highway, it’s among many “pull off the road” beaches in Maui on the west side, which makes it easy for folks with mobility issues and families with small children who just want to stop for a cooling swim or picnic. It’s a narrow but pretty beach with shady trees, and clear water that’s great for snorkeling and soft sand for those sand-castle builders. There are no showers here and just port-o-potties.

9. Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach Maui Hawaii
https://kaanapaliresort.com

This large meandering beach has been the hub for activity on Maui’s west side for generations. You can hang out here all day and not get bored for a second. This gorgeous wide beach fronts resorts, condos, restaurants and a fairly large shopping mall at Whalers Village.  There is a concrete sidewalk that runs the entire length of this beach which makes it a great place to grab a bite to eat or a cooling beverage just a few feet from the sand. With lots of activities and amenities, this is an awesome beach for families and honeymooners alike. Choose from paddle boarding, boat excursions right from shore, or rent a kayak or some snorkel gear. Getting hungry and didn’t pack any food? No problem. Hula Grill and Leilani’s are the most popular restaurants here.  The waves here can get pretty wild in some areas, so take heed! Definitely stay for the stunning sunset, which includes a cliff diving ceremony off Black Rock next to The Sheraton.

10. D.T. Fleming Beach Park

fleming beach park maui hawaii
http://mauiguidebook.com

As the farthest and last beach park on the west side, D.T. Fleming is worth visiting. Located in Kapalua, on Honokahua Bay, this is another Maui beach that gets a “Best Beach” title every few years and is certainly one of the most beautiful and pristine. The waves here are varied, with big rolling surf on the outside, (farther offshore) and the shore break is perfect for boogie boarding and body surfing. As always, take heed when swimming Hawaiian waters. Keep an eye on the swells. With lots of parking and easy access, a lifeguard, showers, bathrooms and shady areas, this beach is relaxing and a lovely destination for everyone. Stay for the stunning sunset and do some turtle watching too.

 

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