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Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
This is both a friendly beach park and a surf spot for mellow, longboard rides. With a narrow, sandy beach and a grassy area with plenty of shade, it offers mostly calm swimming conditions and a good view of neighboring Lanai. Smaller than Launiupoko, this beach park tends to attract locals looking to surf and barbecue; it has picnic tables and grills. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; surfing; swimming.
Small and secluded, this crescent fronts the Fairmont Kea Lani. Swimming and snorkeling are great here, and it's a good place to whale-watch. As at Wailea Beach, private umbrellas and chaise lounges occupy the choicest real estate, but there's plenty of room for you and your towel. There's a nice grass picnic area, althought it's a considerable distance from the beach. The pathway connecting the two beaches is a great spot to jog or to take in awesome views of nearby Molokini and Kahoolawe. Rare native plants grow along the ocean, or makai, side of the path; the honey-sweet-smelling one is naio, or false sandalwood. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming.
Surrounded by sleepy condos, this round bay is a turtle-filled pool lined with a sparkling white crescent of sand. Sunbathers love this beach, which is also a terrific sunset spot. The shore break is steep but gentle, so it's great for body boarding and body surfing. It's easy to keep an eye on kids here as the entire bay is visible from everywhere. The beach is right outside the Napili Kai Beach Club, a popular little resort for honeymooners, only a few miles south of Kapalua. Amenities: showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; surfing; swimming.
More an offshore snorkel spot than a beach, Olowalu is also a great place to watch for turtles and whales in season. The beach is literally a pullover from the road, which can make for some unwelcome noise if you're looking for quiet. The entrance can be rocky (reef shoes help), but if you've got your snorkel gear it's a 200-yard swim to an extensive and diverse reef. Shoreline visibility can vary depending on the swell and time of day; late morning is best. Except for during a south swell, the waters are usually calm. A half mile north of mile marker 14 you can find the rocky surf break, also called Olowalu. Snorkeling here is along pathways that wind among coral heads. Note: This is a local hangout and can be unfriendly at times. Amenities: None. Best for: snorkeling.
Look for a little road and public parking lot near the Wailea Marriott if you are heading to Mokapu and Ulua beaches. Though there are no lifeguards, families love this place. Reef formations create tons of tide pools for kids to explore, and the beaches are protected from major swells. Snorkeling is excellent at Ulua, the beach to the left of the entrance. Mokapu, to the right, tends to be less crowded. Amenities: parking (free); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; swimming.
Locals successfully fought to turn Makena—one of Hawaii's most breathtaking beaches—into a state park. This stretch of deep golden sand abutting sparkling aquamarine water is 3,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. It's often mistakenly referred to as "Big Beach," but natives prefer its Hawaiian name, Oneloa. Makena is never crowded, no matter how many cars cram into the lots. The water is fine for swimming, but use caution. The shore drop-off is steep, and swells can get deceptively big. Despite the infamous "Makena cloud," a blanket that rolls in during the early afternoon and obscures the sun, it rarely rains here. For a dramatic view of the beach, climb Puu Olai, the steep cinder cone near the first entrance you pass if you're driving south. Continue over the cinder cone's side to discover "Little Beach"—clothing optional by popular practice, although this is technically illegal. On Sunday, free spirits of all kinds crowd Little Beach's tiny shoreline for a drumming circle and bonfire. Little Beach has the island's best body surfing (no pun intended). Skim boarders catch air at Makena's third entrance, which is a little tricky to find (it's just a dirt path with street parking). Amenities: lifeguards; parking (no fee); toilets. Best for: surfing; swimming; walking.
This is the beach park of all beach parks: both a surf break and a beach, it offers a little something for everyone with its inviting stretch of lawn, soft white sand, and gentle waves. The shoreline reef creates a protected wading pool, perfect for small children. Outside the reef, beginner surfers will find good longboard rides. From the long sliver of beach (good for walking), you can enjoy superb views of neighbor islands, and, landside, of deep valleys cutting through the West Maui Mountains. Because of its endless sunshine and serenity—not to mention such amenities as picnic tables and grills—Launiupoko draws a crowd on the weekends, but there's space for everyone (and overflow parking across the street). Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; surfing; swimming; walking.
You can tell from the trucks parked alongside the road that this is a favorite local surf spot. Watch conditions before swimming or body surfing, as riptides can be mean. Look for awesome views of the rugged coastline and a sea arch on the left end. Iwa, or white-throated frigate birds, dart like pterodactyls over the offshore Alau Islet. Amenities: None. Best for: surfing.
Who wouldn't love Keawakapu, with its long stretch of golden sand, near-perfect swimming, and views of Puu Olai cinder cone and Kahoolawe? It's great fun to walk or jog this beach south into Wailea, as it's lined with over-the-top residences. It's best here in the morning—the winds pick up in the afternoon (beware of sandstorms). Keawakapu has three entrances: one is at the Mana Kai Maui resort (look for the blue "Shoreline Access" sign); the second is directly across from the parking lot on Kilohana Street (the entrance is unmarked); and the third is at the dead end of Kihei Road. Toilets are portable. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: sunset; swimming; walking.
Over the years Kapalua has been recognized as one of the world's best beaches, and for good reason: it fronts a pristine bay good for snorkeling, swimming, and general lazing. Just north of Napili Bay, this lovely, sheltered shore often remains calm late into the afternoon, although currents may be strong offshore. Snorkeling is easy here, and there are lots of colorful reef fish. This popular area is bordered by the Kapalua Resort, so don't expect to have the beach to yourself. Walk through the tunnel from the parking lot at the end of Kapalua Place to get here. Amenities: parking (no fee); showers; toilets. Best for: snorkeling; sunset; swimming.
Outrigger Aina Nalu
Outrigger Maui Eldorado
Outrigger Royal Kahana
Outrigger Napili Shores
The Kapalua Villas