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12 Top-Rated Beaches in Maui

Written by Freddy Sherman
Jun 8, 2020

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When it comes to beaches, Maui has some of the best in the country, if not the world. The Hawaiian island is surrounded by 130 miles of coastline, 30 miles of which is beach.

In Hawaii, most beaches are wide, with a section of scrub brush and palm trees at their edge. When selecting a beach, your choices usually involve location and accessibility, lack or abundance of services, and whether it's suitable for swimming. Some beaches have strong currents and surf and are best for surfing or water sports (or watching them).

Most beaches are within an hour or two of at least one of the island's main resort areas: Wailea, Lahaina, and Kihei.

Figure out where you want to go with our list of the best beaches in Maui.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Napili Bay

Napili Bay
Napili Bay

The postcard-like setting of Napili Bay, near Lahaina on the west side of the Maui, is the quintessential tropical beach. There's a wide, curving beach around a bay with turquoise and deep blue water.

The beach here is slanted towards the water but gets flatter as you get farther from the ocean. There's a line of palm trees and the lush mountains beyond. Along the soft sand beachfront are a few luxury resorts and condo buildings.

The Napili Kai Beach Resort takes up a large portion of the vast beach and does well at providing a fully self-contained vacation without a need to leave the property. The condo units are in a resort setting with several dining options on-site.

2. Hana Bay Beach Park

Hana Bay Beach Park
Hana Bay Beach Park

This natural, unguarded (no lifeguards) beach offers plenty of scenic beauty and usually a good taste of Hawaiian culture. The ocean area off the beach is where many local groups practice their outrigger canoe skills, and several times a year there are big canoe regattas.

The beach at Hana Bay Beach Park is wide at spots, with some good shade from the trees. The sand is very dark and fine-grained, with an area considered one of Hawaii's black-sand beaches. Picnic facilities with BBQ grills, showers, restrooms, and a tiny snack bar are also here.

If you're looking for a great place to stay in Hana, the Travaasa Hana, Maui offers a holistic vacation experience with upscale bungalow-type accommodations set on 69 acres. The estate has grassland and palm groves and is on Kaihalulu Bay. This experiential destination offers a range of activities and therapies for mind, body, palate, and soul.

Any visit to the area should include a drive along the twisting 50 miles of the Hana Highway, aka the Road to Hana, which offers some great views. Avoid it during busy weekends and holidays, as it's only two lanes, and traffic can be bad.

3. Makena Beach

Makena Beach
Makena Beach

Also called Big Beach, this is one of Maui's biggest, best, and most popular places to enjoy the sun and sea. The surf and currents are strong and only recommended for good swimmers, but anyone can enjoy the beach and wade in the surf.

The beach at Makena is soft sand and is fairly wide in parts. It's almost two miles long, with a gentle curve. The water is bright aqua green with dark patches marking the reef and rock areas.

Makena Beach is south of Wailea (about an hour from Lahaina), and there are good facilities available, including restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. Food trucks are also on hand to satisfy your appetite.

If you stay in Wailea, the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui is a luxurious beachfront all-suite and villa resort with excellent facilities for families. It's the only all-suite and all-villa luxury resort in Hawaii. The Fairmont's Willow Stream Spa is considered one of the best on the island.

4. Charley Young Beach

Charley Young Beach at sunset
Charley Young Beach at sunset

Located at the north end of Kamaole I Beach in Kihei, Charley Young Beach is a raw section of beach dotted with some striking rock and vertical lava structures at its edges. This is a beach popular with photographers, both for its natural subjects and for portraits using the rocks as a background.

The beach is wide, gently sloping into the sea with dark golden, soft sand. If you visit during low tide, there are a lot of tide pools to explore, which is a great activity to do with kids. The beach is long, about 600 yards (549 meters), so it's a great place for running or beach walks.

The Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort is a few steps from the beach. It's a low-key, comfortable resort with several swimming pools, multiple dining options, and the full range of resort amenities and activities.

5. Mokapu Beach

Mokapu Beach
Mokapu Beach

Usually mentioned along with its next door neighbor, Ulua Beach, this area in Wailea is considered the best place to visit in Maui for diving (and snorkeling).

Ulua Beach especially sees many instructors and dive groups, so it can be crowded on weekends and holidays. Mokapu Beach is less crowded and perfect for enjoying the warm sun and clear, calm water.

Mokapu is a beautiful, wide, curving beach with warm, light-blue water. It's a beach park, so there are lifeguards and basic facilities. Both beaches have parking lots: park at Keawakapu Beach (the next beach) if they're full.

The Residence Inn by Marriott Maui Wailea is about five minutes' drive from Mokapu Beach. The all-suite hotel has studio, one-, and two-bedroom suites, each with a full-size, fully equipped kitchen.

6. Kapalua Beach

Kapalua Beach
Kapalua Beach

There's a reason Kapalua is constantly ranked as the best beach in Hawaii. It's especially great for families because the water is extremely calm and warm and there are many tide pools to explore.

Beyond the beach, attractions include whale watching off the coast (done mainly in winter). Aside from the beach, there's a good amount of development, with condos and hotels like The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on the beach. The shoreline has a row of palm trees and shrubs before becoming a white sandy beach, sloping towards the aqua-colored ocean.

The Kapalua Villas, Maui is a modern condo-style resort, right on the beach; most units have kitchens and laundry facilities. The accommodations are spacious, with full kitchens, and the location is ideal.

7. Kaanapali Beach

Kaanapali Beach
Kaanapali Beach

Part of Lahaina, this mega-resort area is in west Maui and originally was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty. The almost two miles of beachfront can be crowded during busy holiday seasons, but it's usually possible to find your own spot.

Lahaina is to Maui what Waikiki is to Oahu, but it does provides an authentic Maui beach experience, even if you never leave your resort. The beach is one of the top attractions on Maui.

The wide beach area, sometimes a few hundred yards from trees to water at low tide, is bordered by bushes and palm trees. At the north end of the beach there's the iconic Black Rock, the area in front of which is a great spot for snorkeling. It's also where cliff divers impress the tourists each day at sunset.

The Royal Lahaina Resort is a very large beachfront resort property in the center of Kaanapali Beach. There are a range of accommodations, from basic rooms to luxurious villas. The resort has a large tennis center and its own golf course.

8. Kahekili Beach

Kahekili Beach
Kahekili Beach

Smart tourists avoid busy Kaanapali Beach for the quieter Kahekili Beach right next to it. Cross the lava rock and pass the hotel that separates the two, and you have a much more natural experience.

The smooth, flat beach is good for diving, but the current is strong, so it's bad for swimming. Off the sand, there's a popular picnic area, with many shady trees to set up under.

The Kaanapali Ocean Inn is on Kaanapali Beach, a short stroll from Kahekili. It's a family-friendly, mid-range hotel. All the rooms have private, furnished balconies, and some offer beach and ocean views.

9. Keawakapu Beach

Keawakapu Beach
Keawakapu Beach

After visiting some of the more popular beaches in Maui, you may want to seek out a more hidden, raw, unspoiled location, and Keawakapu Beach fits the bill.

This beach is halfway between Wailea and Kihei off Kihei Road, and since there aren't too many resorts nearby, it's a bit off the radar. Typically, you'll see more locals than tourists.

The sand here is soft and white, and there's a reef just off the beach that is good for snorkeling. If you're coming by car, there is a public parking lot across from the beach.

The Days Inn by Wyndham Maui Oceanfront is an older, basic budget property, but it's right on the path to Keawakapu, a few steps from the beach. Some of the rooms have patios that lead onto the sand.

10. Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach

Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach
Waianapanapa Black Sand Beach

With beautiful black sand, formed from waves crashing on flowing then cooling black lava, Waianapanapa Beach at Waianapanapa State Park is on the famous Hana Highway.

It's a gently curving beach, with rocks at one side and trees at the other. The black sand is coarse, but it's still easy on the feet (except it gets very hot as the day goes on).

The water here is shallow, but you will find strong currents and a dangerous shorebreak, where waves break on a reef close to the beach. It's not a good place for swimming.

It is an excellent area for sightseeing: the Hana Highway is one of the world's most beautiful roads. The beach is just part of the 122-acre Waianapanapa State Park. The park is filled with forests, volcanic coastal areas, and caves. You can camp or rent bare-bones cabins to stay overnight inside the park.

11. Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach

Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach
Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach

After enjoying the black-sand beach of Waianapanapa, why not head to Kaihalulu to check out a red-sand beach.

The interesting beach is in a hidden cove, surrounded by cliffs of lava rock, with orangey-red sand. The red comes from the high iron content in the sand, which rusts in the salt air, turning the beach red. The sand here is coarse, so shoes or sandals are recommended.

The Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach is off the Hana Highway and accessed on foot via a steep and sometimes crumbling trail.

The Hana Kai Maui is a beachfront condo property in Hana, about 15 minutes from the Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach. There are 17 studio, one-, and two-bedroom units, all with their own kitchen.

12. Hamoa Beach

Hamoa Beach
Hamoa Beach

Hamoa Beach is another one of Maui's beaches constantly ranked as the best in Hawaii, and it lives up to the hype. Although there is some development in the area, the beach retains a raw quality that can be hard to find in modern Maui.

There are no lifeguards, but there are bathrooms and showers, something lacking at many rural or raw Maui beaches. The beach is wide and flat, sloping gently into the sea.

The sand is soft and fine here, perfect for barefoot strolls. There are also many shady areas along the tree line. Street parking is available; just be sure to read the posted signs carefully, as they do tow illegally parked cars.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I picnic on the beach?

Many beaches have separate picnic areas, some with picnic tables, BBQ grills, and even electric outlets. You can also picnic on the sand. Keep in mind, Maui beaches are tobacco-free, and alcohol consumption is prohibited. Fires are not permitted on the beach.

Are there private beaches on Maui?

In Hawaii, all beaches are public. However, the public beach area can stop at the high-tide, high-water line. Land and sand beyond that line can be privately owned, and public access can be restricted.

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