Hawaii Notebook 3: 5 best snorkeling beaches on Maui


Third in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Plenty of bays and lagoons, off-shore reefs, lava rocks and sea life make snorkeling on the Hawaiian island of Maui a real treat. Here’s a list of the five best beaches to snorkel:

1. Ka’anapali Beach

Ka’anapali Beach is one of Maui’s longest beaches (three miles) and most popular beaches. Located in West Maui,  it once was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty.  There are many resorts along the beach, but you can easily find spots that aren’t crowded. On the north end of the beach is Black Rock, a renowned snorkeling destination. You also can check out smaller Kahekili Beach, an extension of Kaanapali Beach separated by lava rock and a hotel. Named for Maui’s last king, Kahekili Beach offers good snorkeling, but watch for strong currents.

2. Napili Bay

Napili Bay faces a resort area, it’s not as busy as the Kaanapali Beach area. Napili is good for snorkeling when n the surf isn’t rough. Sea turtles (honu) often visit reefs just off the bay shore.

The sheltered cove of Napili Bay on the northwestern part of Maui offers good snorkeling. (Thomas Baca from Pixabay)

3. Honoloa Bay

For those who don’t mind a bit of a drive and adventure, head to under-the-radar Honoloa Bay. Pros: Because Honoloa Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District that bars fishing, there always is plenty of sea life and coral if you swim out a bit from the beach. The left side of the beach is best for snorkeling. Cons: The shore is very rocky and narrow, so it’s not a place to lie and read a book. The shallow water is murky. Parking is farther away and can be difficult. There’s no sign for the beach; look for mile marker 32 off Honoapi’ilani Highway and cars parked along the side of the road at an S curve just after Slaughterhouse Beach. Walk along a marked path to the bay.

Honoloa Bay is a snorkeling only spot due to its narrow, rocky shore. (Rusty Gage from Pixabay)

4. Kapalua Bay Beach

Along a protected bay in northwestern Maui near the historic whaling port of Lahaina, Kapalua Beach (in the featured photo by me at top) is a great place for young kids to snorkel. The tide pools, lava rock and sea creatures and two offshore reefs make for some fun snorkeling. Two sea turtles played in the shallows when I visited. During the winter, you may see whales in deeper waters.

Sea turtle
This was one of two sea turtles that swam very close to the shore of Kapalua Bay Beach. (Sheryl Jean)

5. Keawakapu Beach, Ulua Beach and Polo Beach

I’m cheating here by combining three beaches in Wailea in South Maui, but starting with Keawakapu and traveling south, each beach is less two miles from the previous one. They all have great snorkeling and bathrooms and showers (at the south end of Keawakapu Beach).

Go to the southern end of Keawakapu Beach, which is just under a mile long, to snorkel amid patches of reef. Quarter-mile Ulua Beach offers easy snorkeling at its rocky north end. Warning: Parking at Ulua can fill up early. Two sandy crescents make up Polo Beach, which faces the Polo Beach Club and the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel. When the waves are small, snorkel around the rocky point at the north end of the beach.

I also recently wrote about new tourist restrictions in Hawaii, including Maui, and Maui’s best snorkeling beaches.

Surf’s up: Hit the top 10 beaches this summer


It’s summer. That means it’s time to hit to the beach.

Whether you grew up near a beach, vacation at a beach or married on a beach, chances are you have fond memories of surf somewhere at some time.

The nation’s No. 1 beach this year is Kapalua Bay Beach, Maui, Hawaii, according to coastal ecologist Dr. Beach, aka Stephen P. Leatherman. (See my photo of Kapalua Bay Beach at top.) He’s a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University. The rest of his top 10 list is at the end of this post.

Sea turtle
This was one of two sea turtles that swam very close to the shore of Kapalua Bay Beach in April. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

When I visited the crescent-shaped, white-sand Kapalua Beach along Maui’s west coast in April, I could stand right next to sea turtles frolicking in the shallows.

Kapalua is one of the island’s safest swimming areas and its clear azure water and sheltered location (the bay is protected by two headlands formed by lava flows ages ago) make it a good snorkeling spot. It’s also near a few restaurants, bars and a water sports rental hut.

Great beaches

So, just what makes a beach great?

For me, it either has to be large enough for long walks or have a great surf for swimming and boogie boarding.

For Abbey Burns, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, a great beach must be swimmable, have little to no wind and provide “an insurance plan in case you forget something,” such as a snack shack or shop, according to Abbey Burns.

Her favorite beach is Mayflower Beach in Dennis (Cape Cod), Mass. During college, she went there every year to stay at a friend’s family home.

“I really love it because at low tide the beach is huge and you don’t even notice other people are there,” Burns said. Beaches in the Bay Area are too windy, she said.

Feet in the sand
Criteria for Dr. Beach’s top 10 list include the type of vistas and the color and softness of the sand. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Click here to continue reading and see the rest of the Top 10 list: Continue reading Surf’s up: Hit the top 10 beaches this summer