The Beaches of Maui

For 12 consecutive years, the readers of Conde Nast Traverler magazine have voted Maui “the Best Island in the World.” A major reason for this has to be the 81 accessible beaches dotting the 120-mile shoreline on this 729 square mile Valley Isle. About 140,000 people are happy to call Maui home. Several million visitors just like to call it the best beach fun on the planet.

My favorite Maui beach is called by some Dig Me Beach. It’s at Kaanapali from Black Rock in front of the Sheraton Hotel to the Hyatt. The white sand is perfect for walking and people watching as you stroll along it for about a mile. The blue water offers spots for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. If you’re not staying at a hotel or condo in Kaanapali, get there early to park in one of the 3 free beach parking lots. You can also park in the pay lot at Whaler’s Village and get 3 hours free parking by having your ticket validated by one of the many fine shops and restaurants in Whaler’s Village. Try the beachfront Hula Grill’s barefoot bar and grill for great food and great views.

If you’re up for a little boat trip, you can leave the beaches for some wonderful snorkeling at Molokini crater. It is a bird sanctuary and marine preserve. Use a firm that leaves from the boat ramp in South Kihei. That will make your trip a short 20 minutes. Otherwise, 45 minute ride from other locations. Molokini is pristine with clear water and schools of colorful fish and bright coral reefs. I saw my first shark in Molokini. The crater shelters snorkelers with calm, safe water, but since it’s stuck in the middle of a channel near the open ocean, large fish do come by for a quick visit.

When in Maui, many people make sure to they visit Honolua Bay. I’ve tried it a few times but I don’t like the difficulty in getting there and the fact the water at the shoreline tends to be murky for a couple hundred feet due to fresh water runoff. Also parking is limited. This is a marine preserve and therefore has large schools of fish, especially near the mouth. I would try this only on an organized boat trip that drops you in the water at the mouth of the bay.

Ulua Beach is located in the heart of Wailea and offers convenient free parking and easy access for swimmers and snorkelers. It has an inner reef close to shore and an outer reef with deep water and schools of fish. For some reason, this beach is littered with the funny, slow-moving puffer fish. Also, schools of yellow-stripped goat fish hang out in the shallows.

Kapalua Bay is often voted as one of the top beaches in the world. It has showers and restrooms and free parking. It is a protected beach with two lava arms reaching around to form a small bay. The coral structures are especially fine in this bay. There is also a huge population of fish which may come into the calm bay to hide from the strong currents just outside the mouth of the bay.

Turtle Town in Makena is a unique turtle habitat. Turtles are all around the island but for some reason the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle likes to congregate in the clear deep water off shore. You can easily see twenty turtles during a short swim and snorkel in this calm area that’s a favorite stop for boats on their way back from Molokini.

Red Sand Beach in Hana, on Maui’s east coast, is hard to reach but interesting for those who like to get away from other tourists. The beach is located in the caldera of an old cinder cone and is made up of finely ground red cinders. It is located near the grounds of the Hotel Hana.

One of the largest beaches on Maui is Oneloa or Big Beach. The entrance is marked off the old Makena Highway. There are restrooms, parking, and several food vendors. The white sand beach is long and wide-very long and wide. It is the last major undeveloped beach on the leeward side of the island. The water is clear and gets deep quickly here. It’s worth a visit and an all-day stay. At the northwest end of Big Beach is a outcrop of lava rocks. You climb up a short path and over the rocks (it’s a gentle slope on the other side) to get to Little Beach. This secluded beach has been Maui’s unofficial clothing optional beach for years. There are plenty of trees for shade and various nooks for those who are shy. Not everyone strips. The beach can be crowded on the weekends. And the shape of the beach causes a strong tow that wants to drag you out to sea. You can get a good workout just swimming in place. Cameras are frowned upon at this beach.

Hookipa Beach in North Maui is about 6 miles from the intersection of Haleakal and Hana Highways, about two miles outside the town of Paia. The beach is world famous for its windsurfing. It’s a great place to stop and play or just watch the water and aerial acrobatics. There are restrooms, showers and plenty of parking.

Many of Maui’s beaches are unprotected. Note the beach warning signs, swim with someone and never turn your back on the ocean-especially entering and exiting. Study the beach before entering to see where the safest spot is. If you really feel the need to have a lifeguard handy, try the beaches in Kihei called Kamaole I, II, and III. These are known to the locals as Kam I, II, and III. All three beaches have lifeguard towers and shallow, calm beaches. Late afternoon winds can cause choppy surf but most of the day, the water is perfect for family fun. There are restrooms, showers, free parking, grills, and picnic areas. Across the street for all three beaches, which are one after another separated by lava rocks, you’ll find fast food outlets and convenience stores.

No matter what your swimming level or your personal needs, there is a beach perfectly suited to you. Life truly is a beach on Maui.

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