Maui beaches: the southwest from Kihei to Ahihi
The island of Maui is an invitation to rest and relaxation, and what better way to relax than to enjoy its beaches. Maui offers, due to its 8-shape, several beach areas where it is nice to sunbathe. The biggest of them all is the one we are interested in in this article: the western zone, from Kihei to Āhihi, including Wailea and Makena.
The coast of this part of the island is a long strip of sand more or less wide, interspersed with rocky parts and small capes, which has become a favourite place for lazing around by the water. There are also many resorts that welcome travellers who come to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Maui.
In this article, you will find the list of all the beaches you can access from north to south. We have also tried to estimate their interest (from our point of view), evaluating them to help you decide. Some beaches have very particular characteristics that may or may not please you, so we have evaluated each beach according to their location, environment, traffic and the opportunities they seem to offer.
1Beaches around Kihei
Kihei is one of the main towns along the great bay of Ma'alaea. It is also a good place to stay to explore the island and enjoy the beaches of the area.
Kealia Coastal Boardwalk
We start this article with the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, which is not really a beach but rather a short 600m/650yards (1.2km/0.74mile round trip) walk that takes us through the ecosystem of Kealia's small pond, located right next to the ocean.
The whole route is done on wooden footbridges where many explanatory and playful panels are placed, giving a lot of information about the local fauna and flora. Shady lookouts are scattered at several points along the route and allow you to observe the fauna of the protected ponds. You may see one of Hawaii's endemic small birds whose names and photos are inscribed on the panels.
Access to the nearby beach is possible at several points along the course. The visit is free of charge. There are no amenities on site.
The route is very interesting and pleasant, but since there is no shade at all on the footbridges, the heat can quickly become overwhelming. We therefore recommend that you take the short walk at the beginning or end of the day.
How to get to the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk
Access to the Boardwalk is from the small protected area parking lot on North Kihei Road.
The long sandy beach of Ma'alea covers the bottom of the bay of the same name. We'll come to tread the sand and walk along the water's edge with our hair in the wind. The place is wild and not really suitable for swimming, as the ocean is often rough in this windy part of the island.
The quietness of the place makes it a nice place for a walk at the end of the day.
How to get to Ma'alaea Beach
The beach can be accessed from the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk or by parking along the North Kihei Road where there are a few depressions to leave your vehicle.
Located on the roadside at the entrance of Kihei, this strip of sand that can be described as "not very attractive", allows in case of strong heat to take shelter under the two trees that border it. The place is still charming, suitable for a small barefoot walk in the sand, but its proximity to the road takes away from its charm, especially since the beach is quite small at high tide.
How to get to Kenolio Park
For parking, you will easily find space in the parking lot in the small shopping area just across the street from the Kihei Canoe Club on South Kihei Road. There are no facilities at the beach area. Swimming is unsupervised.
Mai Poina Beach Park
A few steps away from Kenolio Park, the Mai Poina Beach Park is clearly prettier and more photogenic, especially at sunset, even if the beach remains quite simple. We enjoyed strolling along this beach lined with palm trees at the ends, clearly giving it an exotic feel. Despite its proximity to the road, the traffic is not too noisy, with a light dune acting as a sound barrier.
Do not hesitate to venture to the southern end of the beach, the most interesting part, at the end of which is a beautiful hidden area, covered with palm trees and protected from the road. From here the sunset is remarkable! This is one of our favourite spots to see the sun go under the horizon, all in a quiet place!
Sanitary facilities are installed in the car park near the beach and a few picnic tables are set up near the road. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to Mai Poina Beach Park
Parking is easily available at several locations along the South Kihei Road which runs along the entire beach. Only two parking spaces are located at the sanitary block level.
Kalepolepo Beach Park
Kalepolepo Beach Park offers access to the ocean protected by the seawall of an ancient fishpond built 500 years ago and now used as a swimming area.
There is also a small museum: the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Sanctuary Visitor Center which is open Monday through Friday from 10am to 3pm and offers various exhibits about marine life, geology and history related to the sea. Admission is free (donations are possible).
As for the beach, it does not really offer any interest here, hence our rating (the small visitor center remains nevertheless very interesting to discover). Sanitary facilities are accessible at the level of the car park. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to Kalepolepo Beach Park
There are two car parks near the park, from the South Kihei Road. The first one is the Visitor Center, but only open during opening hours (weekdays from 10am to 3pm) and the second, smaller one, is just adjacent (to the south).
West Lipoa Street beach
You won't be disturbed by the crowd here! This uncrowded beach is not far from shops and resorts, making it easy for those who want to walk to it, parked at their hotel or at nearby car parks. A few palm trees are present to remind you that the Tropic of Cancer passes just a few kilometres to the north.
There are no facilities on site, swimming is not supervised.
How to get to West Lipoa Street beach
Several pedestrian "Shoreline access" lead to the beach from Uluniu Road. Simply park on this street and take one of these access points.
Kalama Beach Park
This is more of a park than a beach for swimming. Kalama Beach Park is ideal for just soaking your feet, watching the surfers in the distance when the waves are present, picnicking by the ocean or walking along the waterfront on the boardwalk.
Shower, toilets and picnic tables are on site.
Cove Beach is at first glance a banal sandy roadside beach. But few people suspect that there is another beach hidden behind the rocky outcrop south of the parking lot. Invisible from the road and simply bordered by a small resort, this pretty sandy beach out of sight is an ideal place for a quiet swim or to enjoy the sunset romantically.
On the parking level there is a picnic table, chemical toilets and a shower. There is no shade on the sand.
How to get to Cove Beach
To get there you will need to park in the small car park of about 20 spaces located on the roadside at the corner of Iliili Road and South Kihei Road. From there you will have to follow the path on the rocky side that starts at the beginning of the car park. The hidden beach is on the other side.
Kama'ole Beach Park I (Charley Young Beach)
This long and wide sandy beach will delight young and old alike during the summer season! Here the beach is beautiful but unfortunately very busy, which discouraged us from putting our towels there in April or October.
In spite of the absence of a coral reef, we did not notice any significant swell, which can be reassuring when swimming there with children. The view is pleasant with the islands of Molokini, Kaho'olawe, Lanai and the West Maui peninsula in the distance. Make sure you have enough shelter, shady places are rare here.
You will find sanitary facilities with showers as well as a few picnic tables in the green areas (pleasant lawn). Swimming is supervised during the day.
How to get to Kama'ole Beach Park I
There are two ways to access it. One to the north, from Charley Young Beach Park, leads to an area of small rocks at the north end of the beach, also called Charley Young Beach at this location. Parking is available at the car park at Kaiau Place.
Another access more to the south, makes it possible to reach directly the middle of the beach via a small carpark of about twenty places located in front of the sea at the side of the South Kihei Road. This car park being quickly full, a second car park has been set up on the other side of the road.
Kama'ole Beach Park II
In the same style as its namesake, but much cuter with small sand dunes at the front, all bordered by a spotless lawn, Kama'ole II extends over 350m/380yards. There will be a little more shade at the north and south ends of the beach only and this until around 3pm.
Swimming is supervised and sanitary facilities equipped with showers are present. Finally, several picnic tables and a restaurant on the other side of the road will allow you to have a bite to eat.
How to reach Kama'ole Beach Park II
There is no parking here but there are a few parking spaces along South Kihei Road where you can leave your car.
Kama'ole Beach Park III
Continuing in the footsteps of Kama'ole I and II, this is the third of the name. The beach is about 350m/380yards long and is distinguished from the other two by the presence of a few rocks in the north, south and centre, giving it a lot of charm. It will be difficult to find shade on the sand here.
Large green areas and numerous picnic tables in the shade of the trees await you on the heights of the beach. Like its namesakes, swimming is supervised and the car park is equipped with showers and sanitary facilities. Swings for children are located at the level of the green spaces.
How to get to Kama'ole Beach Park III
There is a long car park at the beach level, with access from South Kihei Road.
2Beaches around Wailea
Wailea town is located south of Kihei. Famous for its huge and luxurious waterfront resorts, it is home to long, rather chic and green beaches, most of which are lined with a few deckchairs.
The long sandy beach of Keawakapu Beach stretches for about 1.1km/0.7mile before joining Mokapu Beach to the south. The north of the beach is bordered by a large residence overlooking the sand. Its easy access makes it a popular place, especially in the evening, where many people meet to watch the sunset.
The bottom is sandy, except on the north side of the beach where small rocks will accompany you in the water, enough to satisfy those who want to vary the pleasures between swimming and snorkeling. Note that there is little shade here in the afternoon. On the sanitary side, there are chemical toilets in the north and south car parks. Showers are available at the resort levels and at the south end of the beach. Swimming is unsupervised.
How to get to Keawakapu Beach
The main access is at the north end of the beach, at the level of the large residence. Here, a large car park with direct access from the South Kihei Road makes parking very easy. To the south, another small car park at the end of the South Kihei Road also provides access to the beach, as well as to Mokapu Beach.
Mokapu Beach is located in the immediate extension of Keawakapu Beach, in a chic area of hotels and residences. The northern, southern and middle parts of the beach have a slightly rocky area, which makes this beach particularly attractive without too many people.
The only drawback is that there are a few deckchairs on the south side of the beach for guests of the neighbouring resort. But remember that no beach is private in Hawaii, so you can come and enjoy the beach without fear, as the deckchairs only occupy a very small part of the beach anyway.
A sanitary block with showers is located at the level of the south car park. Swimming is unsupervised.
How to get to Mokapu Beach
There are two ways to discover Mokapu Beach. The north access is common with Keawakapu Beach. Here a small parking lot located at the end of the South Kihei Road makes it easy to reach the beach. As for the southern access, it is common with Ulua Beach, at the end of Ulua Beach Road where a parking lot is available a little back from the beach. At the end of this parking lot, an impeccable lawn of grass welcomes us. You will then have to take the path on the right (the Wailea Beach Path) to reach Mokapu beach.
Ulua Beach Park
In the extension of Mokapu beach, Ulua Beach is a pleasant, medium-sized beach bordered by a park with an impeccable lawn and dotted with palm trees. You will enjoy strolling along the Wailea Beach Path which runs along the beach and its luxurious resorts and villas set back, especially at the end of the day in the sunset.
The most charming part of the path is to the north of the beach, near the small rocky point. A sanitary block with showers is located at the parking level. Swimming is unsupervised.
How to get to Ulua Beach
Access is from the parking lot at the end of Ulua Beach Road. Once at the end of the grassed area, take the left hand path (Wailea Beach Path) to reach the beginning of the beach.
Wailea Beach is one of the busiest beaches in Maui as it is bordered by two large hotel complexes with facilities scattered throughout much of the north. Although the beach is pretty, it lacks charm compared to its neighbors, which is why we think it is worthy of its rating.
Nevertheless the access is easy with a large public car park. Showers and sanitary facilities are located near the car park with some picnic tables. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to Wailea Beach
A large public car park is located near the chic Four Seasons Resort Maui. Access is from Wailea Alanui Drive.
Polo Beach Park
Polo Beach is a pleasant beach in two separate parts with a few rocks that provide some contrast. The northern part is mainly frequented by the guests of the hotel just above, but the second part on the southern side is free of deckchairs.
Several picnic tables are located near the car park as well as a shower and sanitary facilities. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to Polo Beach
Access is easy with a fairly large car park nearby, with access from Kaukahi Street. From the parking lot, a footpath (the south end of the Wailea Beach Path) leads up to the ocean and then provides access to either the north or south side.
This charming little beach also called White Rock is very pleasant because it is not very crowded and away from the big resorts. It is bordered only by a few houses and palm trees while being framed by two rocky points. With a bit of luck, you will be able to protect yourself from the sun under one of the trees bordering the beach. If you are looking for peace and quiet, Palauea Beach is for you!
Only chemical toilets are located at the north entrance. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to Palauea Beach
There is no parking here but it is easy to park on the shoulders of the road along Makena Road. The beach can be reached via a small path through the trees.
3Beaches around Makena
We are now south of Wailea, in the Makena area. The big resorts are becoming rarer and there are beautiful quiet and sometimes wild beaches. Little by little the houses are becoming scarcer and give way to a virgin and wild coastline.
This beach is a haven of peace because its access requires you to walk over a small rocky barrier from the nearby beach. The access is still easy and really worth it because the beach is deserted! In addition, the two rocky extremities offer perhaps the possibility to cross here some turtles!
There are no facilities on site, just chemical toilets in the parking lot. Swimming is unsupervised.
How to get to Po'olenalena Beach
To get there, you will have to park at the Paipu beach car park (at Po'olenalena Park). Then you will have to find the small path that goes right at the end of the car park. It joins the northern end of Paipu beach and continues upwards towards the rocky area. The last few metres require you to go down some rocks.
To the south of Po'olenalena Beach, within the Po'olenalena Beach Park is Paipu Beach. This beach is pleasant because it is located away from the resorts and the city. The beach is large enough to have space and there are many trees to the north of the beach to provide shade before you reach the sand.
There's only chemical toilets in the parking lot. A shower is available at the south end of the beach. Swimming is unsupervised.
How to get to Paipu Beach
There are two accesses. The northern access is easy thanks to a large dirt car park at Po'olenalena Park, which is entered from Makena Alanui. The southern access is possible from a path that starts from a very small car park of 9 places (often full), located a little later, still along Makena Alanui.
Chang's Beach (Makena Snorkeling Bay)
This is where one of the best snorkeling spots in this part of Maui is hidden! The tiny Chang's Beach (also called Makena Snorkeling Bay) is located below a residential area. The beach is not large and is surrounded by many rocks making it an excellent place to see many fish and turtles.
In fact, it only took us a few seconds to see turtles there.
Moreover, the place is not well known and therefore not much frequented! A sanitary block with shower is located at the level of the small car park.
How to get to Chang's Beach
Access is easy by walking down a footpath from the small 5/6 beach car park located along Makena Alanui just before the junction with Makena road.
This is one of the best places in Maui to swim quietly with turtles! Don't look for a nice beach here, there are only a few pebbles and rather sharp rocks, but the place is an excellent snorkeling spot to get close to the turtles. But beware, it is for experienced snorkelers.
The advantage of this place is that the water is usually clear. The absence of sand offers good visibility and algae are very present near the rocks, which attracts turtles that come to feed.
We have seen turtles every time we have been here!
However, vigilance will be required here because the currents can be very strong. Only go into the water if the ocean is calm and don't get too close to the rocks, you risk being swept over them by the waves.
There are no amenities here. It's just a small rocky point.
How to get to 5 Graves
After parking in the small recess on the shoulder along Makena Road, access is by following the Shoreline access that runs along the wall of a house and around a small cemetery. The rocky point is reached very quickly. To get into the water, the most convenient way is to use one of the two small pebble beaches located on either side of the rocky headland, the one on the right being less subject to waves and currents.
Properties are located just above it, but remember that the Shoreline is still public in Hawaii.
Makena Landing Park
Intended for kayak launching, this little piece of beach will delight those looking for a little seclusion, while offering the possibility to do some snorkeling. The setting is rather pleasant despite the adjacent road and the coast torn by rocks gives a certain charm to the place. Do not hesitate to walk a little to find a piece of sand set back from the road.
Sanitary facilities with shower are available in the car park. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to Makena Landing Park
Access is very easy from a car park which is entered from Makena Road.
This very pretty beach located away from the resorts is relatively uncrowded during the week. It faces Lanai and the water is particularly beautiful and calm which makes it an excellent place for family bathing. You will be able to see pleasure boats mooring not far from the shore.
Bordered by greenery and rocky areas to the north and south, you can relax by the water's edge, on your towel, or equip yourself with your masks, snorkels and flippers to explore the rocky bottom at either end of the sand spit. This is a beach that we have enjoyed very much.
Note that there is little shade on the beach. Sanitary facilities with shower are accessible on each car park. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to Maluaka Beach
There are two separate accesses as the Makena Road does not run along the beach. The road stops at the northern end and ends with a drop-off zone. The north parking lot is located 5 minutes by flip-flop from the beach, in front of the small Keawala'i church on Makena Road. The beach can be reached on foot.
To the south, the road also ends at a dead end with a second parking lot at the end of Makena Keonoio Road. Then take the footpath to the beach.
If you are looking for absolute peace and quiet, come and find it at the end of a small dirt road! Almost nobody knows about this little piece of beach with grey and reddish sand. The beach here is wild with a few rocks in the water, but on flat seas (the currents and waves can be strong here), it can be pleasant to swim here in peace and quiet.
The left side of the beach is the most charming with small cliffs that fall at the end directly into the ocean.
The difficulty of access may allow you to observe turtles and monk seals, as people are unaware that at the end of this path is a beach.
On the way back we saw 4 deer crossing in front of our car! A little further on we saw a herd of about thirty individuals! Fantastic to see them here in Maui!
There are only chemical toilets on site. Swimming is not supervised.
How to get to One'uli Beach
To reach it, One'uli Beach will require you to take an undergrowth dirt road that heads towards the ocean from Makena Road just before you reach the first parking lot in Big Beach. The track is not long and we drove it with our sedan. Only the first 30 meters are a bit tricky with big holes.
Big Beach, also called Makena Beach (because of its location within the Makena State Park), or Oneloa Beach, is a very long (1 km/0.6 mile) and wide sandy beach that is quite busy, but not crowded because of its size. From the sand, the beach lacks a bit of charm because of its width, but if you take a bit of height, the view is superb!
For this, do not hesitate to climb the small cliffs north of the beach. You can reach it thanks to a rather rocky path which passes through a small fault and then leads to Little Beach.
The swimming conditions are pleasant despite the omnipresent waves. Bodyboarding enthusiasts are also welcome here, especially when the swell gets stronger with the south wind.
As the beach is frequented by families, it is supervised in several places, but it is strongly advised to always keep an eye on your children here.
On busy days, expect the 3 car parks to be full and to have to park along the road. On site you will only find chemical toilets near the car parks.
How to get to Big Beach
2 large car parks provide parking at the beginning and middle of the long beach, which can be accessed directly from Makena Road. From the first car park on the north side of the beach, you will have to walk 200m/220yards on a wide shady path before reaching the seaside. From the second car park, the access will be shorter (about 80m/90yards). Finally, south of the beach, a third pedestrian access leads to the beach, but here it will be necessary to park along the Makena Road on the side of the road.
Little Beach is known in Hawaii to be one of the few nudist beaches in Hawaii! Because yes, if you're planning to come back to work with a beautiful all-over tan, this is the place to be!!
I was surprised by the people on the beach! Worthy of the density of Honolulu's beaches, all with a very large nudist majority. So you will understand that I could not put here a complete picture of the beach, yet very pretty. I only managed to take on the fly a small picture of the south end (I did not feel comfortable here with my camera).
The small beach is located north of Big Beach, still in the Makena State Park, away from the parking lots via a rocky path. You will feel here in a small cocoon, framed by two rocky headlands. There is no shade on the sand, nor any amenities (but there are chemical toilets in the Big Beach car park). Swimming is unsupervised.
How to reach Little Beach
To reach Little Beach you will have to park at the first north parking lot of Big Beach. From the car park you will have to walk to Big Beach following the wide path for 200m/220yards. Once on the sand, you will have to walk another 200m/220yards until you reach the bottom of the small cliffs north of the beach. From here you will have to follow the small rocky path that climbs through a small fault to the top of the cliffs and continue the path to reach the other side of the small cape and then go down to the beach.
We recommend that you take closed shoes rather than flip-flops as the rocky passage is quite slippery.
Here is a small fairy-tale beach, also called "Secret Cove Beach", "Makena Cove", or "Wedding Beach". All these dreamy names are a foretaste of what awaits you! Pa'ako Cove is a small gem not visible from the road, where a small sandy beach is nestled in a green and small rocky setting bordered by palm trees.
Ideally positioned facing the sunset, Pa'ako Cove is Maui's most popular wedding venue!
And for good reason, there were no less than 3 weddings the night we came to the tiny beach. 3 couples who had to share the beach trying not to be in the pictures of the others!
So is this really the romantic place to be? I would still want to answer yes, because this place is really beautiful at sunset! The atmosphere is very special, especially when the weddings are over and the peace and quiet suddenly returns in this little corner of paradise.
If you're not into romance, you can try to come and put your towel down during the day. In the evening, you'll probably see a few weddings and a few onlookers also come to enjoy the sunset. The beach is not very big but it is still very pleasant.
How to get to Pa'ako Cove
Access to the small beach is directly on the Makena Road via a very small "Shoreline access" passageway at the level of the low wall that separates the beach from the road. But beware, there is no parking and it is forbidden to park on the sides of the road near the beach (probably because of the influx of vehicles here). To get to Pa'ako Cove you will have to park further down the road, where the signs will not prohibit you, and then walk to the beach.
7132 Makena Road
As you might have guessed, 7132 Makena Road is not the name of this beach. We named it because it doesn't seem to have an official name, unless we missed something.
This beach is very small, only 50 meters/50 yards wide and bordered by the Makena Road which passes a few meters from the water. At high tide the beach is almost non-existent, but at low tide it is a nice little strip of sand.
This small beach seems to be an interesting place for snorkeling as it is framed by rocks that can shelter interesting underwater life.
Access to the beach is through a very small parking lot located north of the beach where only three cars maximum can park.
4The Āhihi Kīna 'u Natural Area Reserve
We are now all the way south of Makena. The Āhihi Kīna 'u Natural Area Reserve is a protected area with very restricted access. The vast majority of this reserve is closed to the public in order to protect the marine fauna, only a small part in the north is open to snorkelers.
The small bay of Āhihi is the ideal place to come and snorkel in shallow water. Here the beach is not really charming, it's just a few pebbles. One will thus come only to devote oneself to the joys of snorkeling, all the more so as the area is really rich in small colored fish.
We didn't see any turtles, but beautiful fish of all kinds.
The bay forms an arc of a circle and offers many possibilities for snorkeling in calm seas. The area in the center near the shore is shallow, the rocks on the sides offer a beautiful coral diversity, and in the middle of the bay the depth of the water offers a very interesting dive in clear water.
On the crowded side, expect not to be alone here, as this is a relatively popular place.
As the area is protected, care should be taken not to apply harmful products to the skin before entering the water. Only use sunscreen creams that are not toxic for corals (a leaflet and rangers will explain it to you in the car park).
How to get to Āhihi Bay
You will have to park at the parking lot of Āhihi Cove located 250m/270yards south of the small bay, parking is not allowed on the sides of the road near the bay. You will then have to reach the bay by walking along the road.
The parking at Āhihi Cove was free when we passed through in November 2019 but payment terminals were being installed. It is therefore very likely that you will now be charged $5 a day for parking.
Here is the second and last snorkeling spot of the Āhihi Kīna 'u Natural Area Reserve. It is located at the end of a small path, on the edge of a black pebble beach. We won't sunbathe here but we will go directly in the water to discover a very abundant and not very fearful underwater fauna, thanks to its protection zone.
Here the depth is rather quickly important, but some big rocks near the edge allow to observe beautiful specimens of corals.
Volunteer rangers will probably be on site to warn you to follow a few rules before you venture into the water.
For example, it is forbidden to walk on the corals (like everywhere else after all) and especially to enter the water after applying sunscreen, unless you have applied it to your skin at least 15 minutes before swimming or use a cream that does not contain products that are harmful to marine life.
How to access Āhihi Cove
A large concrete parking lot will allow you to leave your vehicle there (parking can be paid at 5$ per day). From the parking lot, a short path of 200m/220yards will lead you to the small beach.
That concludes this article on the beaches from Kihei to Āhihi, southwest of Maui. For the curious who want to know what is hidden at the end of the unpaved road after the parking lot at Āhihi, it is La Perouse Bay, a pretty bay with turquoise waters from which starts a nice hiking trail that runs along the coast, crossing then the thick and recent lava flows. But we'll tell you more about that soon in a future article!