The Best Beaches in Maui for Sunbathing, Snorkeling, and Sunset Seeking

Hawaii’s second-largest island is well-known for its beaches — and for good reason.

Hamoa Beach, Maui
Photo: Getty Images/Michael Treloar

There’s something magical about Maui. Hawaii's second-largest island is a land of waterfall hikes, hibiscus, and swimming with sea turtles — plus, it's the birthplace of paddleboarding and zip lining for adventurous travelers.  

There are more than 120 miles of coastline around the island, so settling on where to park your towel can prove difficult. When it comes to Maui’s coast, the first thing you need to distinguish is if you’re on the windward or leeward side. The north and east shores on the windward side have their charms (like black sand beaches and the town of Hana), while the leeward south and west coasts have the postcard-perfect beaches you associate with a Hawaiian vacation. 

From the soft sands on Napili Bay to Honolua Bay’s clear waters — or the exhilarating cliff-diving spots at Kaanapali Beach — there’s a slice of shore in Maui for everyone. Maybe you want the swimmable Kapalua Bay, or the social scene at Big Beach. Maluaka Beach guarantees a turtle sighting or two, while Kaihalulu brings otherworldly beauty to your vacation.  

If you don’t have time to explore every inch of the island's coast, start with these 20 beautiful beaches for the ultimate Maui experience.

1. Kaanapali Beach

Kanapali beach on Maui

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The white sands of Kaanapali that used to host royalty are now the backyard for some of the area’s best resorts. Whether you’re swimming the crystal waters or sunbathing on three miles of powdery shoreline, you’ll be relaxed at this little idyll. From parasailing to kayaking to snorkeling and sunset cruises, the water is the main attraction here. Well, other than the daily cliff diving ceremony on the northern end of the beach every sunset as an ode to a similar feat by Maui’s King Kahekili. When you get hungry, head to Whalers Village, a popular shopping mall loaded with restaurants and stores.

2. Hanakao’o

Hanakao’o, Maui
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This less crowded stretch of sand connected to Kaanapali attracts swimmers, snorkelers, and bodysurfers. Hanakaoʻo, which translates to "digging stick bay,” was once known as Sand Box Beach due to a box of sand used for construction that resided on the beach for years in the 1900s. Now, it’s a popular place for boats to anchor and for surfers to enjoy its breaks. Walk through a green grass park to get to the sand and then soak up the rays in peace.

3. Hamoa Beach

Hamoa Beach, Maui
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This half-circle of salt-and-pepper sand (a mix of lava rock and white coral) on the east coast is shaded by hala trees. You might see this scenic spot if you take the popular Road to Hana drive, or if you’re looking for a place to get in some snorkeling. The bright blue water draws surfers, swimmers, and snorkelers to its crystalline expanse. There’s still plenty of sunbathing and camping to be done on shore, though.  

4. Olowalu Beach

Olowalu Beach, Maui
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Olowalu on the west coast of Maui is also known as “Mile Marker 14” and is just south of Lahaina. You’ll want to dive into its famous waters and explore one of the healthiest reefs off the coast of Maui. Sunbathers, don’t fret, there’s a chance you’ll still catch sight of the reef — it sticks up out of the water when the tide is at its lowest. Relax on the golden shore and keep an eye out for turtles. Just beware: The kiawe thorns in the sand can hurt bare feet.  

5. Kahekili Beach

Kahekili Beach, Maui
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Named for the last King of the Maui empire, Kahekili Beach is a long strip of sand with western-facing sunset views. Its gentle waters cover a reef that stretches all the way to meet the shore, making it a great place for novice divers or snorkelers to see the fish and turtles that inhabit the surf. What’s more: You’re bound to see a whale or two, or if you’re under the waves, you’re more than likely to hear their famous songs.

6. Maluaka Beach

Maluaka Beach, Maui
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Plan on a stop at Maluaka for kayaking, snorkeling, or paddleboarding — this is one of Maui’s best beaches for water sports. This golden spit of sand fed by aquamarine waters on the southern shore is known as “Turtle Town.” Wade into the water on the south end of the beach and take a swim with the graceful reptiles found gathering there. For nonstop access to the natural splendor, consider a room at the Makena Golf & Beach Club right on the shore. 

7. Wai’anapanapa State Park

Wai’anapanapa State Park, Maui
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The sand at this east coast beach is pebbly, volcanic, and the color of Kona coffee. While you’ll probably spend more time taking pictures of the shore than laying on it, there’s still plenty to do and see beyond the beach at this state park. Hike the King’s Trail, which was originally built as a footpath for royalty, to see coastal views, burial mounds, and black rock coves. Dip into the cobalt waters, jump from the volcanic cliffs, or get sprayed by the blowhole on the paved path from the overlook. Poke around the freshwater caves which feature prominently in the local legend of Princess Popoalaea who was supposed to have been murdered at the cave. The red shrimp that swarm the waters at certain times of the year are a reminder of the princess’s blood.  

8. Napili Bay

Napili Bay, Maui
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This West Maui marvel is protected by a tropical outer coral reef that’ll have you strapping on your snorkel. Come morning, the waters of the bay are smooth as a sheet of ice, making for perfect snorkeling conditions. The sugar sand slopes into the bright blue waters where swimmers relax in the gently lapping surf. The shore is great for tanning or sand castle building — or just lounging the day away with your favorite beach read. And when you’ve had too much sand and salt, grab an umbrella-covered table at Sea House Restaurant, perched over the beach, for poke nachos and a Mai Tai.

9. Pa’ako Beach

Pa’ako Beach, Maui
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Concerning Pa’ako Beach: If you know, you know. Keep an eye out for the narrow opening in a lava-rock wall in the Makena neighborhood you’ll be wandering through to get to this small, quiet beach, also known as “Secret Cove.” With golden sands, green palms, and white caps breaking against black rocks, this kaleidoscope of color is better for an Instagram picture than a beach day, but it’s worth a trip just for the photo op (and the bragging rights if you can find it!). You might even emerge onto the sandy shore and discover a wedding in progress at the gorgeous, south shore respite.  

10. Kaihalulu Beach

Kaihalulu Beach, Maui
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You’ve seen white sand, gold sand, and black sand on your trip to Maui so far, but what about red? This terra cotta swirl of sand and swimming pool blue water is a dramatic backdrop for any vacation picture. The remote cove near Hana was formed by lava which cooled above the sea instead of under, resulting in its iconic hue. The rust-colored crescent of sand snatched from the lava cinder cliffs is ringed by a wall of the more traditional black lava rock and is a hop, skip, and jump from a Japanese cemetery. A couple of warnings: The water is better for pictures than swimming (Kaihalulu translates to “roaring sea”); and you’re bound to find a few naked sunbathers.  

11. Makena Beach State Park

Idyllic Hawaii Beach (Makena State Park)

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Also known as Big Beach, Makena is one of the most beautiful beaches on the leeward side of the island. Set on 165 acres of a state park, with 1.5 miles of shore, this beach is a popular spot for swimming, surfing, and fishing. Take pictures against the blue-green sea, relax on the white sand, or take a walk over to “Little Beach” on the other side of the dormant volcanic cinder cone residing in the park.  

12. Baldwin Beach Park

Baldwin Beach Park, Maui

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This busy beach on the North Shore has everything from a covered pavilion to a nearby clothing-optional beach (if that’s your kind of thing). The long stretch of white sand is bookended by protected swimming areas with gentle waves the color of the bright blue sky overhead. When you get restless by all the relaxing in the sand and surf, take a walk along the seawall for even more gorgeous views.    

13. Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay Maui

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You won’t want to spread out a towel on this rocky ring, but when you see the turquoise water in the bay (which means “two harbors” in Hawaiian) you’ll understand why it’s a snorkeler’s paradise. This protected area, a Marine Life Conservation District, is filled with fish, turtles, and coral. Head to the west side of the beach — divers frequent the east end’s deeper waters — and swim out to get away from the murky water near the shoreline and rejoice at the gorgeous sights that abound under the sea at this West Maui beach.  

14. Kapalua Bay

Sunset at world famous Kapalua Bay Beach, in Maui

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This northwestern bay has the palm trees and gilded shoreline that make Maui famous. Swim in the bright, warm water, or grab your snorkel and explore the tropical wildlife under the water. When you want a little something to eat, there’s a beach shack with snacks and drinks, and be sure to stick around for the epic Hawaiian sunset. You can admire even more gorgeous views from your room at the Montage Kapalua Bay, which has ocean-view residences, locally-sourced cuisine, and sumptuous spa services.    

15. Ho’okipa Beach Park

Famous Hookipa beach, popular surfing spot filled with a white sand beach, picnic areas and pavilions. Maui, Hawai

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A Hawaiian vacation wouldn’t be complete without a few good surf breaks. This beach along Hana Highway is famous for its windsurfing and as the “home of contemporary surfing.” If you’re not sporty yourself, you can watch the surfers at the “Pavilions” from Ho’okipa Lookout up on the cliffs. Since most people are out in the waves, you’ll have plenty of beach to yourself where you can soak up the sun, lay in the shade, or look for the green sea turtles that come from swimming in the shore break to rest on the beach around sunset. Non-surfers will want to stick to the sheltered swimming areas and the shallow water near the shoreline — or they can explore the tide pools along the middle of the beach.  

16. Oneuli Beach

One'uli Beach

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Found in Makena State Park on the Wailea side of the Pu’u Ola’i volcanic cinder cone, this quiet, black sand beach is conveniently located near the resort areas. Named after its inky color (Oneuli means "dark sands"), it’s less of a beachcombing and sunbathing haven than a good photo op and snorkeling site. Be careful getting into the bay on the hard lava shelf you’ll have to traverse to get offshore, but once you’re in the water, you’ll find plenty of gorgeous coral and turtles.  

17. Charley Young Beach

Sunset at Charley Young Beach

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Named for a local celebrity, Charley Young Beach is a secluded sandy strip with a gentle surf. The large rock formation on the north end keeps the waves calm and provides a home for the sea turtles you’ll see on your snorkeling expedition. Both paddleboarders and swimmers dot the water; while on land, you’ll find a relatively quiet respite, perfect for a good nap in the shade and sunset pictures. End your beach day with a round of street tacos and mojitos at Kamaole Poolside Cafe right down the road. 

18. La Perouse Bay

Ocean Cove at sunset along the La Perouse coast in Maui, Hawaii

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See the geological wonder of Maui’s lava fields at this south coast beach. You may not be able to slip your shoes off and get cozy in the sand like at other beaches on the island, but you’ll still come away with otherworldly pictures and unique memories. There are coves and tide pools and rocky shoreline to explore. Snorkel the lagoon and keep an eye out for dolphins in the surf. 

19. Kanaha Beach Park

Kanaha Beach in Maui, Hawaii

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This beach is for anyone looking to get active on their Hawaiian vacation. Join the ample crowds of kiteboarders (this is the birthplace of the sport!) and windsurfers out in the waves, or enjoy picture-perfect views of the West Maui Mountains from your spot on the shore. Start a volleyball game, cast a line into the deep blue water, or board a canoe and head toward the horizon. There are also picnic and barbecue facilities for beach parties at this rugged, local favorite.  

20. Wailea Beach

Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
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This beautiful idyll, tucked perfectly between the Four Seasons and the Grand Wailea, is the epitome of a Maui beach getaway. Named for the goddess of canoe makers, the water is as perfect and as active as you’d expect. The wide, sandy shore is alive with beachgoers whale watching, boogie boarding, and reclining in beach chairs. Hit the Wailea Surf Haus beach bar for a hibiscus margarita when you want a refreshing way to toast a perfect Maui beach day.  

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