Makena Beach
Photo: eddygaleotti/Fotolia

Wherever you decide to stay on Maui, a beach won’t be far away. In fact, most resorts have several beaches to choose from, complete with showers, beach gear rentals and parking. West Maui is the best place to go if you are looking for a diverse choice of activities, such as golf, restaurants and shopping. But if what you want the most is simply lying on a long sandy beach, visit either South or East parts of the island. Here are the best beaches on Maui.

»West Maui

West Maui


West Maui is home to some of the best beaches on Maui. Kaanapali Beach dominates the West Maui area with its long stretches of sand, countless hotels, condos and restaurants. A bit further north, Napili and Kapalua Bays offer more seclusion, amazing golf and many awesome beaches, some with low waves perfect for kids, while others with high surf for surfers. Stay at the posh Ritz-Carlton Kapalua for a five star experience.

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»South Maui

South Maui


South Maui is home to the relatively small but popular Polo Beach. You can stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani, Grand Wailea Resort, or rent a condo.

Further south, the beach that fronts the Makena Resort is one of our favorites because it never gets too crowded and offers wonderful views of the Molokini Crater.

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»East Maui

East Maui

In East Maui you will get a taste of what Hawaii used to be like 100 years ago before it became a tourist hotspot.

Hamoa Beach is the nicest – it has unique black sand, showers and chairs for guests or Travassa Hana. There are other amazing beaches in the area, including the Red Sand Beach which, true to its name, features red sand. Explore the stunning Waianapanapa State park and relax on empty tropical beaches.

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»Makena (Big) Beach on the South Shore

Makena (Big) Beach on the South Shore


Nothing will ruin a good vacation faster than a massive crowd. You probably have a picture of a tropical bay in your head. You imagine the nice palm trees, a couple of chairs, gentle rolling waves and maybe a cool drink in your hand. You arrive at your dream destination, only to realize that the dream has turned into a nightmare. There are so many people that you can hardly see the sand, there isn't a chair in sight, and the gentle waves have turned into 10 foot swells. Fortunately, Maui has enough diverse beaches to keep even the most picky traveler happy. Big Beach, or Makena Beach, is part of Makena state park near the Wailea area of Maui. Big Beach is a great getaway for anyone looking for a little more space and privacy. This spot will not always be as deserted as some of the more remote beaches on the island, but since it's so massive, space will never be a problem.

You'll be about five minutes by car from the Wailea area resorts. There is a large parking lot at the entrance so parking isn't a problem except on the weekends and holidays. The surf sn't the biggest that we've seen, but you should always check the surf conditions before you enter the water. With some bottled water, a picnic lunch, and a big beach towel you can sit comfortably here for the entire day. Remember, while there isn't a lot of crime on Maui, be sure not to leave any valuables in your car. Many people are surprised that their cameras are gone after they park their car, leave the windows down, and their camera sitting on the front seat. If you drive further south on Makena Road, you will reach the 'Ahihi-Kina'u Natural Area Reserve and see sharp black volcanic rock just off the road. Makena Road ends at La Perouse Bay. Photo:

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»Malu'aka Beach on Maui

Malu'aka Beach on Maui

Malu'aka Beach, located in front of the Makena Beach & Golf Resort on Maui, is great for sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. The bay is quite large, so it never felt crowded, unlike many other hotel beaches on Maui. The waves are small due to the lava rock that frames the bay on both ends. You won't have to swim far to get from the sandy part to the lava rock on the south end which is covered with coral. Brightly-colored fish such as moorish idol, manini and trumpatfish feed on the coral and will be easy to spot. Snorkeling is a must here, so bring a mask and snorkel or rent one at the hotel. We spotted a sea turtle swimming just a few feet from us near the black rock on the south end. Snorkeling equipment, kayaks, lounge chair shades and other gear can be rented from the Activity Center. The staff is very friendly so don't be afraid to ask for a few pointers to discover the best places to snorkel in the bay. If you plan to snorkel a lot while in Hawaii, you are better off purchasing your own gear. A set of snorkel, mask and fins rents for $18 per day at the hotel.

Swim out towards the black volcanic rocks on the south end and watch colorful fish feed near the coral. Yellow and blue tropical fish of various sizes swim right next to you if you are careful not to disturb the water with your fins. We even saw a sea turtle swimming just a few feet from us. After exploring the bay under water, head to the hotel for a light lunch next to the blue pool, surrounded by tropical plants. Hotel guests can pick up complimentary towels by the pool or from the Activity Center. Lounge chairs are also provided free of charge to hotel guests. If you are not staying here, Malu'aka Beach is open to the public like all the beaches in Hawaii, but remember to bring your own towel and gear. The Pool Bar is a great spot enjoy a casual lunch by the pool. The by offers spectacular views of the Molokini Island, a famous snorkeling and scuba diving destination. You can catch a catamaran from the beach first thing in the morning and visit Molokini which is about 45 minutes away by boat. Photo:

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»D.T. Fleming Beach on Maui

D.T. Fleming Beach on Maui


D.T. Fleming Beach is a white stretch of sand that fronts the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. The bay offers swimming in the summer and surfing during winter swells. Spend the morning here, followed by a lunch at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. We love this spot because it never gets too crowded. There is plenty of shade for a nap or a picnic lunch. The activities desk at the hotel rents snorkeling gear, kayaks and boogie boards. There is a shower so that you can rinse off the sand on your way home. Photo:

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»Family-Friendly Kapalua Beach

Family-Friendly Kapalua Beach


Kapalua Beach is a great family-friendly spot where you can go swimming year-round because it is protected from winter swells by lava rock on both ends. The bay can get quite crowded because it is popular with vacationers staying at one of the Kapalua Resort properties. The best time to go is early morning or in the afternoon. Stay for sunset which is very romantic. Most vacationers rush away for dinner, so you can have the beautiful sandy spot all to yourself. The bay offers snorkeling, swimming and other watersports. There are several accommodation options in the area: the luxury Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and Kapalua Villas. There are many condo rentals available in the area, which you can rent on vrbo.com or homeaway.com. Another great resort, Napili Kai is one bay over. Photo:

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»Polo Beach on the South Coast

Polo Beach on the South Coast


Polo Beach is a fun family vacation spot in front of the luxury Fairmont Kea Lani Maui hotel on the south coast. The sandy beach attracts families staying at the Fairmont or one of the other resorts in the area. There are showers near the beach, but the chairs are reserved for guests of the hotel. Public parking is a 5-minute walk, so it's an easy place to visit with the kids if you are not staying at one of the hotels in the area. The beach is quite calm year-round, perfect for families with young children. Combine a visit to the ocean with a lunch at the hotel or a shopping trip to the Shops at Wailea. Photo:

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»Oneloa Bay on Maui

Oneloa Bay on Maui


Oneloa Beach is located at the Kapalua Resort on West Maui. Unlike the popular Kapalua Bay, Oneloa is usually quite empty. Go there if you want to enjoy a quiet time by yourself. The scenic spot offers swimming, boogie boarding and other water-based activities, but be careful because there is a lot of sharp coral in the shallows. This is a great spot for a romantic sunset or a honeymoon picnic. There is parking and a public access path right to the white sands. Photo:

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»Tropical Hamoa Beach in Hana Features Black Sand

Tropical Hamoa Beach in Hana Features Black Sand


We fell in love with Hamoa Beach and ended up changing our schedule to give ourselves more time at this amazing beach. There are few rocks and coral in the water, so you can play in the waves. If you are staying at Travassa Hana, you will get chairs and towels when you get there. The scenery is unbelievable and on most days you will have the beach to yourself. Photo:

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»Red Sand Beach on Maui

Red Sand Beach on Maui


Finding the beach is not something that most vacationers consider difficult, however, Red Sand Beach on Maui is not your typical bay. A trip to Red Sand Beach is a bit of an adventure to say the least. In order to get there you have to first find the path, which is just past a small cemetery in Hana. If you manage to find the path then you must follow the path until it ends at a rocky cliff. You then work your way around a cliff face where you will catch your first view of Red Sand Bay. From there you work your way down the rocky path to the shore, which is surrounded on by high cliffs. The walk isn't that long but the path is slippery. If your looking for an easier beach to reach then try Hamoa Beach which is just down the road.

Although the bay is only a ten minute hike from he nearest road, the high cliffs surrounding it make it seem as though you may as well be on a deserted island. (Especially if the spot is empty when you are there.) Remember to bring some food and water since it is hike to reach the sand. Since there is no life guard on duty, there are also no warning signs about surf conditions or currents, so use caution if you enter the water. Photo:

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»Napili Bay on Maui

Napili Bay on Maui


Napili Bay on the west coast of Maui is protected by a natural reef on both ends which make the water calm enough for snorkeling even in the winter. Snorkeling is an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family and Napili Bay is a good place for beginners. Look for chools of tropical fish, star fish, sea urchins and sea turtles. There are three main pieces of equipment needed for snorkeling: mask, snorkel and fins. If you are staying at Napili Kai Beach Resort, complimentary masks and snorkels are available for rent. Waterproof sunscreen is a must. A light wet suit is also a good idea because it will shield your skin from the sun. Weenjoyed snorkeling from 10am to 12pm because the water was calm and the sun was bright but not yet strong enough to burn your back if you wore some waterproof sunscreen. Photo:

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»Kaanapali

Kaanapali

Kaanapali is one of the most popular places to stay in Maui. Vacationers have a choice of many hotels, villas and condos close to the long sandy beach. Hotels include The Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali Beach Hotel, Sheraton Maui Resort, Maui Marriott Resort & Ocean Club and Royal Lahaina Resort. Photo:

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Best Beaches on Maui