Best Maui Beaches for Snorkeling and Swimming

Pohaku Park Maui Beach

One of the top things to do when vacationing in Maui is to go to the beach! It is the primary reason most people visit Maui and the Hawaiian islands. This article will go over the best Maui beaches for both snorkeling and swimming. There are some incredible beaches in Maui, but just because one is good for snorkeling, doesn’t mean it’s also good for swimming and vice versa. So I am here to share some of my favorite beaches in Maui no matter what you want to do. Most of the beaches in Maui that I list here are located in West Maui. So plan ahead if you are commuting from South Maui.

*How to use this map: Click on the star next to “Best Maui Beaches” and save this to your personal Google maps or click on the icons to pull up more info and driving directions.

Best Maui Beaches for Swimming

D.T. Fleming Park

This park is a great place to spend the day. It has shade trees at the back of the beach, picnic tables, BBQ grills, restrooms and lifeguards on duty. There is also the Burger Shack for food, and if you want, you can walk up to the Ritz-Carlton and eat at The Banyan Tree restaurant. D.T. Fleming Park also connects to the Dragon Tooth Trail which has beautiful views of the ocean and some incredible volcanic rock formations. It is a favorite stop of mine for any Maui itinerary. It has a beautiful stretch of white sand perfect for sunbathing. Make sure to bring your beach gear and enjoy one of the best beaches in Maui!

Address: Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Lahaina, HI 96761

Tip: Check out Maui Babe’s browning lotion and after browning lotion (I use this for sunburns too). It works great! And make sure you always wear sunscreen!

Napili Bay

This is a beautiful stretch of beach! It is on my list of best Maui beaches because of its sandy beach, and mostly rock-free water (in the center, not on the sides). It is located next to my favorite breakfast spot in Maui! The Gazebo restaurant. Just thinking of those piles of hot pineapple macadamia nut pancakes have my mouth watering. Depending on the time of year you visit, the waves can get really big. I mean REALLY big.

It is so much fun to body surf here, but be safe and respect the ocean’s power. When the weather is calm, it is a perfect place to go for a swim. I suggest you grab breakfast at The Gazebo, then drive over to Napili Bay and snag a good spot on the beach. You can relax here while you let your breakfast settle. There is parking for Napili Bay on the street leading down to the beach. The limited parking is probably the one drawback of this beach. However, you can usually find a spot along the road and then it is just a short walk to the end of the road where you’ll find the trail to the beach.

Address: 53 Hui Dr, Lahaina, HI 96761

Napili Bay in Maui

Napili Bay. Keep your belongings as high up on the beach as possible to avoid getting wet. Even then, it may not be high enough.

Pohaku Park

This small park is sometimes referred to as S-Turns. It is a great place to watch the sunset and sits across from the island of Molokai. It is also a great area to go whale watching in the winter months. And sea turtles are often frequently spotted here. For swimming, I recommend you swim to the right of the park to avoid the rocks. Kahana Beach, which is just to the right of Pohaku, is a great stretch of beach for swimming. You will see the Kahana Beach resort next door to Pohaku Park.

There is a public access trail to Kahana Beach in between the Kahana Beach resort and the Sands of Kahana. This long sandy beach is great for swimming! It gets deep immediately in front of the Kahana Beach resort, but if you have kids or prefer a shallower entry, move a little further down the beach in front of the Sands of Kahana, and you’ll have a shallow entry.

Address: 4085 Lower Honoapiilani Rd, Lahaina, HI 96761 (*Pohaku has a few picnic tables and only a porta-potty for a restroom)

Trees at Pohaku or S-Turns Park

Pohaku Park at sunset.

Best Maui Beaches for Snorkeling

Kapalua Bay

Just a little further north from Napili Bay is Kapalua Bay. I go to this beach every time I visit Maui. It has excellent snorkeling (go in the morning) and such a picturesque setting. There are restrooms as well as an outdoor shower. It has a nice sandy beach with a few shady spots, plus it is alongside the Kapalua Coastal Trail so if you get tired of laying on the beach, you can go for a beautiful “hike” along this trail.

I think this beach is a little too rocky for swimming, but it is a favorite for snorkeling. I’ve seen turtles, eels, and all sorts of colorful fish here. They also rent kayaks and stand up paddleboards.

Address: Kapalua Coastal Trail, Lahaina, HI 96761

Kapalua Beach Maui

Kapalua Beach in the morning before the crowds arrive.

Tip: Snorkel early in the morning between 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. for the calmest and clearest snorkeling conditions.

Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay is an amazing snorkel spot in a marine life conservation area. It’s a bit of a drive to get to this protected bay, but it’s worth the trip! You have a short walk through a “jungle” before reaching the rocky beach. This is not your typical sandy beach either; it is covered in rocks, so be careful as you enter the bay. Its limited facilities and rocky beach make it best suited for snorkeling.

Snorkeling is best on the right side of this protected bay. You have to swim about 600 feet offshore to get to the reefs, so I recommend you wear a life vest if you have any concerns at all about swimming that far. Plus sometimes it is very shallow over the vast reefs, so I like a life vest as it helps me float over the reefs and avoid touching them.

There are portable toilets at the beginning of the trailhead, but no other facilities at the beach. Make sure you’ve got all your essentials packed in a beach bag, including good walking shoes.

Address: Bay Drive, Lahaina, HI 96761

Tip: Purchase a rashguard before coming to Maui. You will be so grateful to have this extra bit of sun protection when you’re out snorkeling for hours at a time.

Olowalu

Olowalu at mile marker 14 is another excellent option for snorkeling. You can book kayak tours here or rent a stand-up paddleboard and paddle out to the reef. The best snorkeling is about 100 feet offshore. So I would recommend bringing a life vest. There is also a blacktip reef shark nursery here; however, I have gone here multiple times and have never seen one. I have, however, seen turtles and plenty of interesting coral and colorful fish. Afterward, get some of the best pie in Maui at Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop. I highly recommend the banana cream pie and coconut cream pie.

Address: Olowalu, look for dirt parking at Mile Marker 14. Leoda’s: 820 Olowalu Village Rd, Lahaina, HI 96761

Lava rocks at Dragon's Tooth Trail by D.T. Fleming Park

Lava rocks at Dragon’s Tooth Trail near D.T. Fleming Park. It’s easy to see where the name came from.

Best Maui Beaches for Both Snorkeling and Swimming

Ka’anapali Beach & Black Rock

This is one of the largest and most popular beaches in Maui. This beautiful sandy beach stretches for almost a mile. It is also where the famous Black Rock is located. Get an early start and snag a free parking spot if you can. There are a few public parking areas scattered along Ka’anapali Pkwy. Look for beach access signs near the parking garages to find your way to the beach. Additionally, you can park in the parking garage for Whalers Village, where you can get a 3-hour validation if you purchase something at one of the stores.

There is excellent snorkeling at Black Rock when the conditions are calm. Just be careful as this area can also get some massive waves and currents near the rock. Watch the adventurous people who make the climb up Black Rock to jump off. Be careful if you are snorkeling and keep an eye on those jumping to make sure you don’t get in their way. I have seen eels, shark, turtles, octopus, and lots of fish all around Black Rock. Even if the snorkeling isn’t great during your visit, it is still a spectacular beach for swimming and sunbathing.

Ka’anapali is the perfect beach to spend the day. Sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and reading your favorite book are all perfect ways to spend the day here. There are also lots of restaurants and places to eat at Whalers Village, in addition to shopping. So make a day of it!

Address: 2525 Kaanapali Pkwy, Lahaina, HI 96761 (the beach is in front of a row of resorts, look for public parking signs along the Ka’anapali Pkwy)

Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach Maui

Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach. Snorkeling is best near the rock and around the tip. Just be careful of the currents near the rocks.

Kamaole Beach I, II or III

The Kama’ole beaches are a great set of South Maui beaches in Kihei. You will enjoy easy access to good food and shopping in addition to some of the best Maui beaches. Each beach offers its mix of swimming and snorkeling. I think Kama’ole I and Kama’ole II are better for snorkeling than III.

There are lots of unique lava rock formations in the water where you’ll find all sorts of fish, turtles and perhaps even an octopus all curled up. The beaches also have showers, bathrooms, and lifeguards. Depending on the time of year, you may find these beaches better for boogie boarding than snorkeling or swimming. They are worth checking out when in South Maui.

Address: S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753

Tip: Make sure you purchase reef safe sunscreen. In 2021, Hawaii will implement a ban on the sale of sunscreen containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Maui Sunset looking across at the island of Molokai

Maui Sunset looking across at the island of Molokai

Funny Beach Experience You May Wish to Avoid

In case you’re as “lucky” as I was, to be on the beach in Maui on the first working day of the month, you may hear a loud siren. Yep, I was in the water snorkeling to my heart’s content at Kama’ole Beach II when I heard this loud siren go off. My first thought was “SHARK!” You have never seen anyone swim so fast to the shore! My husband says I pushed a young boy out of the way in my hurry, I, of course, deny that. Everyone in the water was scrambling for the beach like mad!

By the time I made it to the beach, I had overheard a local Hawaiian telling a visitor that it was “just” a tsunami drill. I am sure they are entertained each month to watch visitors race for the shore each time they test this essential warning system. I appreciate that they have the system in place, and honestly when my heart stopped trying to pound out of my chest, my friends and I all had a good laugh at each other and our moment of panic. It’s funny, but the thought of a tsunami didn’t scare us as much as the thought of a shark did!

What to Bring to the Beach

snorkel gear (rent or pack from home)
sunscreen
bug spray
water bottles (I like to freeze some the night before)
chapstick
snacks
rashguard (the Hawaiian sun can be brutal)
hats
beach umbrella (most condos supply these)
beach mats & towels
underwater cameras
good book
sandcastle building set
beach bag
swimsuit cover-up
flip-flops
sunglasses
picnic lunch (optional)
beach ball
baby shampoo (use this inside your snorkel goggles to keep them from fogging)

Final Thoughts

Maui has many incredible beaches. As always, please make safety your priority. Don’t swim or snorkel alone; it’s always nice to have a buddy. When in doubt, stay out. If the waves look too big, or the situation doesn’t feel right, don’t go in. Ask a local, read weather reports, and take the necessary precautions to give yourself the best possible trip to Maui.

This list of beaches is what I consider to be the best Maui beaches for swimming and snorkeling. However, you should discover for yourself your favorite Maui beach. You’re going to want to return, so why not begin creating your future list of favorite places. If you’re like me, Maui will soon feel like your home away from home.

A hui hou! (Until we meet again!)

best Maui Beaches
Best Maui Beaches

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