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Maui’s Best Beaches: Your Essential Vacation Guide to Sun, Sand & Surf

maui beaches

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Join me on an exploration of Maui’s Best Beaches With This Essential Travel Guide!

In This Maui Article You Will Discover:

  • The Best Beaches on Maui
  • Google Map Locations of Each Beach
  • What to Expect At Each Beach
  • PLUS — a Bonus Surf Beach for Beginners!

To me, Maui feels like home. From when I first visited the island in 1983 until today and my more recent forays, I have always felt a connection to the island and a draw to return. Maui offers so much for everyone — and is, simply put, one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

But when one thinks of any Hawaiian Island, beaches come to mind first and foremost. So without further delay, I give you my top seven beaches on the gorgeous island of Maui:

Ka’anapali Beach

kaanapali beach

The quintessential sun, sand and swimming beach on Maui: Ka’anapali Beach.

This beach is one of the quintessential sunbathing beaches on Maui: soft and smooth golden sand rims a calm, temperate sea that laps gently against the shore. Sun beats down all day long, and the weather is good any time of day or year, thanks to west-central Maui’s dry and warm persona. For many visitors, this will be the first beach you visit, as it is located in the resort/hotel area of Ka’anapali, and is situated directly in front of many hotels. (The best stretch is located in front of the Royal Lahaina Hotel.) There’s not much more to be said about Ka’anapali — it’s Hawaiian Island relaxation at its finest, and a darn near perfect stretch of sand. All the amenities — from shopping to dining to nightlife to golf — are located nearby.

Hamoa Beach

hamoa beach

Hamoa Beach is one of Maui’s most beautiful locations, and has great waves to play in!

This is my favourite beach on Maui. Located in Easternmost Maui, Hamoa Bay is accessed via the famous Hana Highway, and will take two hours to reach from Paia (provided you don’t stop for too much banana bread along the way). Author James Michener wrote of Hamoa Beach, “a beach so perfectly formed that I wonder at its comparative obscurity.” Well, unfortunately it’s not that obscure anymore, as the uber-lux Hotel Hana Maui uses it as its main recreational beach, but there are some tips to get this amazing, silver-sand crescent to yourself. First off: stay the night in Hana and hit Hamoa early. This is great for two reasons: the first, tourist hoards don’t show up in Hana until around noon (due to the long drive) and second, Hamoa gets the most sun in the morning, due to the cliff behind. In any case, the crowds will never be too extreme, and the wonderful shore break offers great “play waves,” body surfing, boogie boarding and skim boarding. Intermediate and advanced surfers can paddle out to catch some waves, but beginners should be wary of conditions here. Also, while there are washrooms, you’ll need to pack your own food and drink at this secluded beach.

Ho’okipa Beach Park

hookipa beach

An advanced surf beach, Ho’okipa Beach should be your first stop on the Hana Highway.

I love to look out over Hookipa Bay. Located on the north side of Maui, it’s the kickoff to the Hana Highway, and it welcomes me like an old friend before I head down the road to Hana (my favourite area on Maui). Hookipa Bay is a windy, rough-and-tumble beach known for awesome surfing — provided you are an awesome surfer. It is absolutely and advanced-only surf beach, popular with locals and pros. However, even if you don’t get wet, it’s still worth a stopover to breathe the salt air, watch the locals rip it up on the waves and prep yourself for your two-hour-long drive down the twisty Hana Highway.

Keawakapu Beach

keawakapu beach

Keawakapu Beach, southeast Kihei, offers the more secluded side of Kihei.

Located at the southeast end of Kihei, this is another sunning and swimming beach and is a great place to pass the day. Take a book. Pack a lunch. Relax. Again, basking in central Maui’s arid and warm climate, Keawakapu offers long days of sun, a relatively calm sea (although waves big enough to have some fun with will roll in during winter) and warm water — there are open-air restaurants a short jaunt away, too. For those staying in Kihei, this should be your go-to beach, a it tends to draw fewer crowds than the Kam’ole Beaches, which are located right on the Kihei Strip. Keawakapu Beach hours are listed as 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., basically sunrise to sunset.

Wai’anapanapa State Park (Black Sand Beach)

blacksand beach

Wai’anapanapa State Park is a gorgeous example of black lava sand.

And now for something completely different — this beach is really not a swimming beach, nor a surfing beach, nor a sunbathing beach. It’s a place of intrigue, beauty and exploration, and a definite must see on your jaunt to Hana. Located just off the Hana Highway, a kilometer or so west of Hana townsite, Wai’anapanapa State Park is a gorgeous bay of black sand carved out by the rough ocean that has beat against the hardened lava flows for a millennium. Take some time to explore the coarse, gravely black sand — you’re looking at the genesis of the island itself when you gaze upon Wai’anapanapa. Take sturdy shoes to explore the lava rock formations and caves found on either side of the beach itself (the rock chewed up my new flip-flops last time I visited) and remember to keep steady footing… A fall on the sharp lava rock will literally tear you up. A great place to check out is the Blow Hole, where ocean waves are funneled into a spout, creating a veritable geyser when the conditions are right. (P.S.: There were enough warnings about dangerous currents, man o’ war jellyfish and rogue waves to discourage me from swimming — so be wary of the water.)

Napili Bay

napili bay

Access primarily from the Napili Kai Beach Resort, Napili Bay is like a “little Hana.”

Located on the western side of Maui, Napili Bay is really only accessible if you book accommodation in the Napili Kai Beach Resort — but it’s worth it, not only because the Napili is a nice place to stay, but because the beach is like “Hamoa Light.” A crescent moon of golden sand, Napili offers gentle waves, calmed by a small reef, a wonderfully sunny and comfortable experience as well as great swimming and boogie boarding. Locals and hotel staff can be seen fishing from the rocks on either side of the bay. The hotel has a nice restaurant which overlooks the beach, perfect for a sunset dinner or an early morning breakfast, preceded by a wake-me-up swim. True paradise.

Bonus Surf Beach!

Launiupoko State Park

If Maui has one shortcoming, it’s a relative lack of beginner surf breaks (when compared to neighbouring Oahu). Many surf breaks, such as Hookipa Bay, Jaws, Honolua Bay and Koki Beach are not only suited for advanced riders, they also tend to have a “locals only” motif. No big deal — if you’re a beginner through “relaxed intermediate,” head to Launiupoko State Park, located just east of Lahaina, right alongside Honoapiilani Highway (Hwy 30). Here, you can not only expect a nice picnic area and swimming lagoon, but gentle, rolling waves suited for relaxed and fun longboarding. (Be careful of the coral beneath you, though!) This is unquestionably the best place for the beginner, do-it-yourself surfer on Maui.

Find out more about the Beaches of Maui by CLICKING HERE (including famous Makena Beach… no I didn’t forget about it).

Did I miss you favourite Maui hotspot? Comment below!

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

4 comments… add one
  • I’m a bit partial to Kanaha Beach Park and Spreck’s, over Hookipa. A little more relaxed and better for beginners and intermediates for windsurfing/kitesurfing. Also, always liked Big Beach and Baby Beach (clothes optional) in Makena.
    ~ Aloha

  • David Webb May 31, 2010 Link

    Hi Steve – if you’ve done a little surfing before, you could probably handle Koki beach, which is in Hana, so it’s close to Black Sand Beach… just be careful of the currents.

  • Steve May 31, 2010 Link

    This is a very good list. I would probably head to the Black Sand Beach to check it out and explore for part of the day. Then I would go to a beach where I could swim and surf. I wouldn’t surf at Ho’okipa though since I’m still a beginner. Since you said Maui doesn’t have many beginner beaches, I guess that means I would head over to Launiupoko State Park.

  • Medicine Ball Exercises May 28, 2010 Link

    Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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