Beaches & Ocean Safety
Check ocean conditions at Maui beaches: http://www.hawaiibeachsafety.com/
All Maui County Parks, beaches, and recreation facilities are non-smoking.
All beaches in Hawaii are public property; public access entrances are at regular intervals.
Lifeguarded Beaches on Maui
Maui has nine beaches with Lifeguards (seven listed below). Please go online or pick up a guide book to learn more.
- South Side: Kama’ole I, Kama’ole II, Kama’ole III, and Makena State Park
- North Side: Ho’okipa Beach Park, Baldwin Beach Park, and Kanaha Beach Park
- West Side: D.T. Fleming Park and Hanakaoʻo Park
The Kamaole Beaches
Kama’ole Beach Park is comprised of a trio of beaches separated by rocky points at either end of each of them. Locals call them Kam I, Kam II and Kam III; combined, they offer 1.5 miles of surf, sand, & sun along with splendid views of Lanai, Molokini, and Kahoolawe. They are all family friendly with great accessibility and full facilities including lifeguards (8 – 4:30), fresh-water showers, restrooms with changing areas, volleyball courts, and barbecue stations.
Snorkeling is good at all three beaches, especially around the rocky points that bracket each Kam. The north edge of Kam I has the best snorkeling of all—locals call the area Charley Young Beach, and it is one of their favorites. Charley Young has port-a-potties and a fresh water shower, but no life guard of its own. Its parking lot is on the corner of S. Kihei Road and Kaiau St. Public access to the beach is at the end of the 1-block long Kaiau St. via a cement staircase down to the sandy beach.
Kam I, the northern most of the group, is the beach directly across the street from KBC. It has a parking lot, spaces available along Kihei Rd., and a dirt parking lot on the other side of the street (next to the ABC Store)—but you need not worry, as all you have to do is walk across the street from your KBC unit! With its fine white sand, excellent swimming conditions, and perfect setting for viewing spectacular sunsets, you can see why it is one of the most popular beaches on the south side. Kam I has a free beach wheelchair available on a first-come, first-served basis. It is located at the Lifeguard Tower.
Kam II offers the same accessibility of parking and full facilities as its siblings, it is just smaller and a bit less crowded. It offers ADA accessibility with ramps available from the beach park to the beach. Across the street are restaurants and handy shops.
Kam III, with its large grassy park, new bathroom and new playground, is a local favorite for family gatherings—a perfect place to picnic and play and share a day. Beach-wise, Kam III is terrific for boogie boarding due to its regular shore-breaks.
Because most afternoons have strong trade winds (especially in the summer), morning hours are always best for beaching it: sunning, swimming, paddling, snorkeling, and kayaking. But as the trades kick up, the blowing sand sweeps across the beach and messes with your towels and toys and can be quite stinging to your skin. They also wind-whip the ocean, producing a lot of chop, making your in-the-water activities less safe and fun.
And though the trades kick and pick up in the early afternoon, most days they die down as sunset approaches. This is why you will see a stream of people crossing South Kihei Road to set up beach chairs, lay out beach blankets and spread them with pupus and liquid refreshments, and settle down on one of the Kams to enjoy yet another spectacular sunset. Bring your cameras.
Makena Beach State Park (aka Oneola or Big Beach), Hawaii’s most photographed beach, is 1.5 miles long and 100 feet wide (sand to shoreline) of gorgeous. The water is pristine; there are no homes or hotels around—there is only what develops naturally—sand dunes with kiawe scrub and other vegetation, the sandy shoreline, the endless ocean, and the infinite sky.
Bordered by Pu’u Ola’i, a large volcanic cinder cone on the northeast, and by multiple outcroppings of black lava on the southeast, Makena’s shoreline is largely protected from wind. The “Makena Cloud,” an ever-present slice of shade stretching from the tip of Haleakala out to Kaho’olawe, is usually overhead, cooling you and the sand.
The ocean at Makena, however, is never a place for children or inexperienced swimmers or bodysurfers. Visitors should always consult the lifeguards here. The shore break crashes right at the water’s edge and is dangerous. Also, Kona weather brings powerful rip currents.
Makena Beach Park has two entrances, ample parking, restrooms, and picnic facilities that a handful of food trucks (both inside and just outside the park) compete to set their fare upon.
Even if you don’t venture much into the water when the surf is up, you will have a great seat for appreciating the more experienced folks doing some extreme and spectacular boogie boarding!
Ho’okipa Beach Park & Baldwin Beach Park are in Paia.
Ho’okipa Beach Park has a host of amenities including covered pavilions, picnic tables, BBQ grills, public restrooms, outdoor showers, and two lifeguard stations (8 AM – 4 PM). The beach itself is a long, narrow white sand beach with an exposed reef running along its shore break. Look for the Honu (Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles) bobbing about in the break as they feed on the reef. Around sunset, at the far end of the beach and close to the lookout cliff, you can find (by looking carefully) many honu who have come to bask (rest) on shore. Though they are large, and right there in front of you, they are hard to see because they blend in so well with the black lava rocks scattered along the beach. When you do discern/see them, it is an ah-ha! moment—and a primeval, mesmerizing sight. (Note: If you see honu, please do not try to feed, sit on, touch, or intrude on them in any way—keep your distance, at least 20 feet—and do not block their access either to or from the ocean. They are classified as an endangered species, and are protected by NOAA and the State of Hawaii—you could be fined a substantial amount if you are in violation.
Beyond honu sightings, there is another class of celebrities to seek out here. Ho’okipa is a mecca for surfers and windsurfers, and is in fact, one of the most famous beaches in the world. Professional windsurfing competitions are held here, and on just about any day you can watch these incredible athletes zipping across the ocean’s surface, break-dancing with enormous waves, spinning and sailing through the ocean spray into the air. Magnificent.
Baldwin Beach Park is a long and deep sandy beach just outside of Paia. Fully equipped with paved parking, lifeguards, bathrooms, showers, barbecues, picnic tables and a covered pavilion, it is a favorite of local families. During the winter months the main stretch of beach often has a large, regular shore-break, making it a popular destination for experienced boogie-boarders.
There are protected swimming areas on both the east end (aka Baldwin Cove) and west end (aka Baby Beach) that are excellent for young children. The dunes all along this area are an ancient Hawaiian burial site.
Hanakaʻōʻō Beach Park (aka Canoe Beach) is on Maui’s west side, located between Wahikuli State Wayside Park and the Hyatt Regency Maui, about 2 miles north of Lahaina. It is 5 acres of beach and park perfection, boasting plenty of parking, shady areas, restroom pavilions / comfort stations (ADA accessible), canoe clubhouses, a lifeguard station, 8 barbecue grills, 12 covered picnic pavilions (plus 2 not-covered tables), and 2 outdoor freshwater showers. The beach fronting the park is the beginning of the mile-long stretch of sand that runs to the world-famous shore dive spot, Puʻu Kekaʻa, better known as Black Rock.
Hanakaʻōʻō is popular with picnicking people, bodysurfers and boarders, swimmers and snorkelers. It is usually uncrowded, but can get plenty busy on canoe race days—it is the home of the Lahaina Canoe Club and is the site of outrigger canoe regalia competitions throughout the year (usually held on Saturdays). It is super exciting to be there when the competitions occur; all the canoe clubs on the island show up to race along the course lined by colorful buoys forming lanes for each contestant.
Take beach warnings and safety tips seriously as Hawaii beaches may have currents and dangerous waves called shore breaks.
Warnings for potential hazards may or may not be physically posted at every County Beach Park, so YOU must exercise caution and common sense at all times.
Before You Go to a Beach, Check Out This Website:
This website constantly monitors the surf, wind, and the updated reports from public safety officials that directly reflect conditions for safety of Hawaiian beaches. This site is amazing and invaluable!
All beaches / ocean locations on Maui can be potentially dangerous. For your safety, you need to be completely aware of the ocean conditions prior to entering the water. Check online before you choose which beach to visit. At Lifeguarded beaches, just walk up to the Lifeguards and ask about current conditions! This will help you decide if you are at a good beach for you.
We know things can look deceptively safe; the ocean looks smooth, the sand is soft, and the sun is soothing—just look at those kids having carefree fun—what’s to worry about? What may be hard for you to realize as you see people playing in the ocean and looking perfectly at ease, is that they may be very experienced, and so ARE aware of potential danger—THEY have learned extreme caution from years of experience, such that their awareness and caution is automatic, a deep knowledge inside them that is invisible to you.
- NEVER turn your back on the ocean.
- Conditions change frequently and without notice—YOU must make yourself aware of hidden dangers, such as submerged rocks and coral, currents, rip tides, and other conditions of the ocean.
- REMAIN WITH SMALL CHILDREN AT ALL TIMES WHILE YOU ARE IN OR NEAR THE WATER.
- Hawaii’s waves are stronger in velocity than waves similar in size that you may have encountered in other locations.
- Waves come in sets, you should enter and exit the water during the lull between the sets, or when the wave action is at its lowest.
- Do not body surf on breaking waves on the edge of the shoreline; waves can push you head first into the sand, causing life-altering and even life-threatening neck and back injuries.
- Never dive into shallow or unknown waters.
- Never swim alone. If snorkeling, make sure your equipment is in good condition. Keep track of landmarks on the beach to help you stay oriented—this can really help you, if not outright save you. Please always use common sense.
- Rip currents usually produce a flattening effect as the water rushes in, making it difficult to identify them visually. If you do get caught in a rip current—DO NOT PANIC—just relax and drift with the current until it releases you. Then calmly swim back to shore.
- Watch for runaway boards that wash in on the waves, and, by the way, stay clear of surfers.
- Sun burn is a danger, especially in the first few days of exposure. Please protect yourself from severe, painful, vacation-ruining sunburns by wearing cover-ups, sun visors and hats, sunglasses, and by using eco-friendly (reef safe) sun block. Read the labels on sun block products; the main ingredient you’re looking to avoid is oxybenzone. This is the chemical that has been scientifically proven to kill coral reefs. More information regarding this is included later in this compendium.
- All shorelines and beaches on Maui can be frequented by sharks, stinging jellyfish, and other sea creatures which can present potential harm to people entering the water.
“Swim Safe” Shark Tips
- Avoid swimming at dawn, dusk, and during periods of low visibility. Do not swim at night when some species of sharks may move closer to land to feed. However, keep in mind that sharks, especially tiger sharks, have been known to bite people at any time of day or night.
- Avoid swimming around shore-fishermen and in-ocean spear fishermen.
- Always heed warning signs or posted placards if a shark has recently been sighted.
- Avoid swimming in murky water, particularly after a storm. Sharks can easily mistake humans as prey when conditions are bad.
- Do not swim/surf/dive near harbor entrances, river mouths, or channels, especially after heavy rains. These types of waters are known to be frequented by sharks.
- Do not enter the water if you have any open wounds or are bleeding in any way, including females on their monthly period. Sharks can detect blood and body fluids in extremely small concentrations.
- Don’t wear high-contrast swimwear or shiny jewelry. Sharks can see contrast well.
- Don’t splash excessively.
- Don’t provoke or harass a shark, even a small one.
IN AN EMERGENCY, DIAL 9-1-1
NOTE: These safety tips were jointly produced by the County of Maui and the State Dept. of Land & Natural Resources in the interest of public safety and cannot guarantee or warrant your safety in the ocean.
Everyone enters the water at their own risk. KBC, the County of Maui and the Department of Land & Natural Resources do not accept responsibility, express or implied, for the use or misuse of the above information.