Although really, if it’s your first trip to Hawaii, you will likely NOT be disappointed no matter which Hawaiian island you choose to visit! There are worthy beaches on each of the islands.
But, Maui DOES offer a lot of choices when it comes to beaches!
Best Maui beach towns
Where to stay in Maui: West Maui or South Maui?
And, it’s the 2 areas of West Maui and South Maui that the vast majority of hotels and resorts on Maui are located.
If you’re looking for a “cheap” place to stay on Maui, and/or you’re traveling to Maui alone, then there are hostels on Maui. Many Maui hostels offer free group tours. While you will find people of all ages staying at hostels, it may be especially for you if you’re in your 20s. Hostels do also offer private rooms as well as shared rooms.
Here’s a quick little intro to Maui that will hopefully get you a little more insight into the top areas to stay in Maui.
The West Maui coastal beach walk
Kaanapali is the main area of West Maui that has the most accommodation options in West Maui.
And all along Kaanapali Beach, you can basically walk alongside the entire stretch of the beach on a paved trail, called the Kaanapali Beach Walk. You can consider this a nice leisurely walk with ocean views!
There are also a number of bars (including a “cave bar“) and restaurants that line this coastal walk, which means there’s plenty of places you can eat and drink in an outdoor setting with beach views and ocean views! Also alongside this paved trail on the other side are a bunch of beachfront resorts.
And then there is another coastal walk in West Maui, a little bit further north up the shoreline in Kapalua. There is the Kapalua Coastal Trail, and this is generally a less crowded, quieter experience. You can find some beaches and resorts along here too.
The South Maui coastal beach walk
There is also a paved coastal trail in South Maui.
The South Maui coastal walk is more like a “beach to beach” walk. You won’t be walking along the beach the whole time, but you’ll still get grand ocean views the whole time!
You can walk from beach to beach to beach following the great coastal sidewalk that is called the Wailea Beach Path!
Or just go for a walk for the sweeping ocean views.
Once again, alongside this paved trail are a number of oceanfront resorts. There are a few that have a beach out in front too.
Which is the most convenient area to stay?
Well… it depends. 😜
It depends on how you want to spend your time outside of your beach time!
If you want to venture out further…
Among the 2 most popular activities on Maui:
These are things most people do as a day trip.
The drive times listed below for West Maui are from Kaanapali. For Kapalua, add an extra 10 minutes.
The drive times listed for South Maui are from Wailea. For Kihei, take off 10-15 minutes.
And then drive time can be longer due to traffic. But this is just to give you an idea.
How far is the Haleakala summit?
Driving from West Maui to the Haleakala summit is around 1 hour 45 minutes.
Driving from South Maui to the Haleakala summit is around 1.5 hours.
How far is the Road to Hana?
The unofficial “start” of the Road to Hana can be generally be considered the town of Paia. So for comparison, we’ll use the drive time to Paia.
Driving from West Maui to Paia is around 45 minutes to an hour.
Driving from South Maui to Paia is around 30 minutes.
The drive time between West Maui and South Maui
And then of course, you can make a day trip to the other part of the island that you’re staying!
Driving from West Maui to the far south end of South Maui (La Perouse Bay) is maybe around 1 hour 15 minutes.
Driving from South Maui to far north of West Maui (Olivine Pools) is maybe around 1.5 hours.
So that’s a brief intro to the popular areas of Maui to stay!
See below for some of the top individual beaches in each of these areas!
Here's some info on Hawaii trip prep!
- Best shoes for hiking in Hawaii
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Hawaii
- Do you need water shoes for Hawaii?
- THE top things to pack for Hawaii
- The top 5 Maui adventures you definitely need to think about doing: Maui tour OR on your own?
- Driving to the top of the Haleakala summit
- Road to Hana food stops
- Best Road to Hana hikes
- Things to do in Hana
- Things to do in the West Maui mountains
Best Maui beaches for your first trip to Hawaii
As it goes in Hawaii, (almost) all beaches in Hawaii are public. So basically all beaches on Maui are public. And as an FYI, even if a beach is public, that does not necessarily mean that there is a public trail to the beach.
But for the purposes of this list, that doesn’t matter, because all of the beaches on this list have public access.
There are many Maui beaches that have beachfront resorts (oceanfront resorts!), and some of these are on the list below. Being public beaches, it means that you can go to them even if you’re not staying at a resort that’s right in front of that beach.
This also means that you won’t find any beachfront resorts with a private beach on Maui.
1. Kaanapali Beach
Kaanapali Beach is one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) beaches in West Maui.
Along here you will find many beachfront hotels and resorts, including:
- Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa
- Kaanapali Beach Hotel
- Aston at the Whaler on Kaanapali Beach
- Kaanapali Alii Resort
- Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club
- Hyatt Residence Club Maui, Kaanapali Beach
- Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
2. Napili Bay
This is a beach located at the southern end of Kapalua.
Napili Bay may be a spot to see if you can find turtles swimming in the ocean.
3. Kapalua Bay
Kapalua is a smaller resort area in West Maui, and this is one of the beaches in the area. This is considered to be a good snorkeling spot on Maui.
Where to stay if you want to be right in front of Kapalua Bay
This is a quieter beach in Kapalua.
Ironwoods Beach: See more about this Maui beach.
This is a pretty popular beach in Kapalua, and it’s known for being good for boogie boarding. You can buy boogie boards when you get to Maui, for example at the ABC store (convenience store) in Kaanapali or at Walmart.
You can go for an oceanfront lunch or snack at the Burger Shack that’s located pretty much at the beach.
DT Fleming Beach: See more about this Maui beach.
Where to stay if you want to be right near DT Fleming Beach
That covers some of the great West Maui beaches. Be sure to see the best of West Maui to see if you’d like to spend more time there.
Now we are moving on to South Maui.
6. Mokapu Beach
Where to stay if you want to be right in front of Mokapu Beach
7. Ulua Beach
This is also a top Maui snorkeling spot.
Where to stay if you want to be right in front of Ulua Beach
8. Wailea Beach
One of the famous beaches in Wailea, called Wailea Beach!
Where to stay if you want to be right in front of Wailea Beach
9. Polo Beach
Another great beach in South Maui.
Where to stay if you want to be right in front of Polo Beach
More places to stay if you want to be along the Wailea Beach Path
10. Maluaka Beach
The area of this beach is also known as turtle town, and this means that this is among the top snorkeling spots on Maui. You have a chance at swimming with turtles!
Maluaka Beach: See more about this Maui beach.
11. Makena Beach aka Big Beach
This is a wide and expansive beach. It’s a popular beach that’s a part of Makena State Park. It’s the “big” beach compared to the “little” beach.
12. Makena Cove
Makena Cove is also called “Secret Cove.”
It’s not so much of a secret anymore, but if you didn’t know about it, you may just drive right past it!
So in that sense, you could say it’s a bit of a “secret” path… hidden in plain sight!
This is a smaller beach that’s likely to also be a quieter beach.
Makena Cove: See more about this Maui beach.
That covers some of the great South Maui beaches. Be sure to see the best of South Maui to see if you’d like to spend more time there.
And those are some of the best beaches on Maui!
There are also some beaches on the Road to Hana that you may want to explore:
More for planning your Maui vacation:
- Best of hiking on Maui
- Best of the Road to Hana
- Best of Haleakala National Park
- The best of Maui in 3 days
- The big list of things to do in Maui
Looking to split your time in Hawaii on another island?
HAPPY MAUI BEACH VACATION!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
Possibly among the best Maui maps for tourists!The Franko maps of Hawaii have a high level of detail for activities and it's beachproof aka waterproof. There's an "adventure" guide map and a "snorkel/dive" guide map. Plus a wall map for home to get you excited for your upcoming trip!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of these amazing tours on Maui:
- Molokini Crater and Turtle Town snorkeling or snuba tour
- Haleakala sunrise tour with breakfast
- Road to Hana driving tour with lunch
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight #1: Fly over 2 Hawaiian islands to see Maui and Molokai waterfalls, rainforest, and sea cliffs
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight #2: Hana waterfalls and rainforest from above plus Hana fruit plantation walk on the ground
- Sailing the ocean with a sail + snorkel trip