Maui Beaches: The Best Among Hawaiian Islands

Snorkeling among reefs and turtles; nude, red, black, white sand beaches. Pros/cons. Sharks. 12 Maui beaches to explore with a little effort. Kids welcome.

Maui is considered “Nō ka ʻoi” – the best among Hawaiian islands. It has the famous Road to Hana, Haleakala volcano National Park, great hikes. Plus excellent snorkeling, more swimmable, and diverse beaches amid Big Island, Oahu, and Kauai. Rip currents, unlike on Kauai, are rare.

After visiting dozens of Maui beaches we chose 12 we loved and recommend to tell about. All the places are on the map below.

Maui Beaches: where and what to look for

1. Red Sand Beach Maui, Hana

Pros: Kaihalulu beach is one of the few red sand beaches in the world. It is beautiful, secluded, and located in the lush tropical area of Hana.

Cons: while we liked and explored it with kids, the trail to Kaihalulu beach is narrow, winding, and might be dangerous. During our visit, the entrance was located on private property.

Beaches where you can look for sea turtles

2. Kihei Maui: Kalepolepo Beach Park AKA Fishpond

Pros: Kalepolepo Beach is popular among families with small children. There there is some shade at the beach, no waves, and the water is shallow. The pond itself is an ancient structure and was built 400-500 ago. Sea turtles use rocky walls of the pond and the beach for rest:

3. Hookipa Beach Park/premium surfing location on Maui

Cons: we didn’t dare to swim at Hookipa as the waves were huge and the shore is rocky. Still, it is a cool spot to watch surfers.

Pros: sea turtles like to rest on the shores of Hookipa. Take a closer look at the first picture, there are more than a dozen of animals on the right of the surfers. (If you want to get a closer look, binoculars are a good idea. The second picture was shot through Celestron):

4. Maui Beaches: Honolua Bay. Beach with a fairy-tale-like trail to it

Cons: The creek feeds into the bay right on the beach, don’t go in the water, when it’s murky (because of the sharks). There is no sandy beach, just rocks to sit on.

Pros: Honolua Bay has a huge beautiful coral reef, and one of the most picturesque (and easy) tropical trails on Maui:

5. The most romantic beach: Makena Cove

Makena Cove is a small, secluded beach with some shade. It is a popular venue for wedding ceremonies. Makena Cove also referred to as a “Secret Beach”, our favorite one on Maui, and the most romantic we have ever seen:

Maui beaches for snorkeling, watching the reefs, and turtles (matter of luck)

Excellent snorkeling makes Maui distinct from other major Hawaiian islands. All you need to enjoy is the right spot, time (mornings), and a snorkel mask. Coral reefs, crystal clear, warm water, turtles, and fish, but not just that. There is a lot of locations with easy access (we tried with kids), where no tours needed. 3 of them below:

6. Ahihi Kinau Reserve

Pros: every time we were at the Ahihi Kinau, the water was calm and clear, marine life abundant. Although the beach is narrow, the area to explore in the ocean is huge and captivating.

Cons: the shore and the ocean bottom are rocky.

7. Kaanapali Beach. Black Rock

At the Kaanapali beach, the water, and ocean entry were so good, we took 3 y.o. to snorkel there (near Black Rock). Black Rock is also popular for cliff jumping. The last pictures was shot with a GoPro:

Green sea turtles are named after the color of the fat layer beneath the shell, not the color of their shell, which can be shades of brown, olive, yellow, black, and green

8. Maui Beaches: Makena Landing Park

The first thing you might see at Makena Landing: divers and snorkeling tours catamarans in the distance. A sign that something is going on underwater. 😀 Although the beach isn’t big, there is some shade, easy, sandy access to the water and the ocean area to explore is huge.

9. Black Sand Beach Maui

Cons: Now you have to make a reservation at Waiʻanapanapa State Park before your visit.

Pros: Unlike Big Island, there is one main beach known for its black sand on Maui. Waianapanapa state park located in picturesque tropical surroundings, has camping, sea arch, trails, and… mongooses (last picture). They were once brought to Hawaii to fight rats on sugar plantations.

White Sand Beaches

We liked Kamaole Beach III and Makena Beach a lot. Both were great to visit with a family, jumping on waves, watching the sunset. Bring your skimboard/boogie board. (Most places we stayed in have boogie boards for guests to borrow, but skimboards are better to buy than rent).

10. Kihei Maui: Kamaole Beach III

Kamaole Beach Park is spacious, cozy, with a long but narrow stretch of sand:

11. Makena Beach: Big Beach and Nude Beach

Makena beach state park is almost mile-long, wide, and has fine white sand as well. There are “Big Beach” and “Little Beach” (nude, unofficial), separated by the rock formations. Little Beach has drum and fire shows on Sunday evenings, loved by locals.

12. Maui airport beach great for bird/cat watching and kite/windsurfing

5 minutes (of driving) from Kahului airport there is a secret spot: Kanaha Beach. It is spacious, peaceful, has plenty of shade, mountain views, and fine white sand. The biggest variety of birds we saw on Maui was at this park, as well as wind/kite surfers and… cats 🙂

What the heck about chemical sunscreens at Maui beaches?

Many Maui beaches have plenty of printed and handmade signs “No chemical/spray sunscreens.” The reason is dying coral reefs. We saw entire colonies being grey and crumbled, like bones on the ocean floor. Or being bleached, nearly dead:

Almost dead coral reefs at Maui, Hawaii
Almost dead coral reefs at Maui, Hawaii

More than 10 million people visit Hawaii every year. Every day, barrels of chemical sunscreen washed into the ocean. While being harmful to the human body (chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream), they are killing the reefs at tremendous speed. Florida already lost 95% of its corals.

Please only use mineral sunscreen (zinc or titanium oxide) or wear rash guard

Chemical and spray sunscreens kill coral reefs

A little note about sharks in Hawaii

I was a person, who dismissed even the thought about sharks in Hawaii. Until one morning in Maui, when we heard from the ranger: “The beach is closed, the shark is giving birth”. Sharks are common in Hawaii, but the chances of being bitten are less than 1 in a million.

During the last trip to Maui, I asked locals about sharks. To my big surprise, all except one seemed very calm about them, including parents with small children. As for the safety, they said the same:

  • Avoid murky, unclear water.
  • Don’t go in the water with open wounds.
  • Swim, snorkel, surf, dive with someone else.

One mom, surfer, after watching us for a while added: “Try not to turn your back to the ocean, you should see the wave if it’s coming”.

Maui beaches: sharks are possible, but rare sight
Maui beaches: sharks are possible, but rare sight

Hours, prices, current conditions, etc., may change over time. Please verify all the essential information for the destinations before you go.

Maui, Hawaii Essentials

  • To explore Maui beaches you’ll need a car, comfortable footwear, a swimsuit, a cellphone pouch, and mineral sunscreen. Some people also prefer water shoes. We also found binoculars helpful.
  • Morning is the best time for snorkeling. We used and recommend full face masks, for both adults and children.
  • All pictures during snorkeling we shot with a GoPro, highly recommend as well.
  • For deep and touching insight on Hawaiian culture and “What Maui really Is” try Shaka Guide. It is funny, kid-friendly, and connected to a GPS self-driving audio guide. We paid $27 for a bundle of all Maui tours.
  • Spotting wildlife is a matter of luck. Please respect Honu (the sea turtle) and reefs.
  • All the places mentioned above we explored with kids 10 months, 3, 6, and 11 y.o. Our last trip was in December 2020.

All the mentioned places on My Map

Maui: swimming in 5 waterfalls, hiking Mars-like landscape, etc.

Kauaipros and cons of the “Garden Isle”. Kauai top 10 places to visit.

Oahu: visiting Pearl Harbor, pineapple farm, Honolulu, etc.

Hawaii on a Budget 2021: accommodation, car rentals, flights. Best time to go. Which island to choose. Flight with kids during Covid

Big Island: volcanoes, beaches, waterfalls, tropical forest, caves/lava tubes.

Alaska road trip: glaciers, fjords, wildlife, National Parks. Canada: Banff, Jasper, and Yoho 5 days itinerary

Thanks for reading friends!

By Mrs. Grazy Goat

I am Ira, the author behind Grazy Goat. My husband and I run this blog and share our experiences about thrilling places and cultures. Our son Artem recently joined us and helps with editing.

We are very happy to have YOU here 😻

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