The largest and longest resort area beach on island, Maui's Ka'anapali region is famous for its beautiful azure seas and soft light sand. Each resort is a world unto itself, each offering visitors many options for activities and refreshments all along the popular beachfront paved walkway that stretches the full length of this beach. The hustle and bustle of the oceanfront is more reminiscent of Waikiki than the Old Hawaii feel of the beach parks further north.
This beach is very long and very wide in its northern portion by the Black Rock, tapering off further south into a narrow strip of sand by the Hyatt hotel at its southern end. There are several "public beach access" parking areas along its length off Ka'anapali parkway, as well as Nohea Kai Road that leads to the Hyatt. If you prefer your beach to be sheltered from the winds and well-populated, this is your West side beach. The water quality is quite clear, and surf is minimal, except for a distinct outer break to the left of the Whalers Village shopping center.
AT A GLANCE:
HIGHLIGHTS: Easy swimming beach, great winter whale watching, many commercial sports and activities,long paved walking path stretches the length of beach, restaurants and shopping.
ACTIVITIES: Swimming, snorkeling near Black Rock (north end), stand-up paddling, surfing lessons, sailing cruises launching off the beach (center part), parasailing, walking, jogging, people-watching, volleyball (north end).
WARNINGS!: Watch out for shore break and water depth dropping to overhead quickly.
AMENITIES: Very resort-oriented, no official public facilities except restrooms at the Whalers Village shopping center (central part of the beach) and beachfront restaurants (but a well-behaved visitor can certainly access a hotel's! ). South end by the Hyatt has a shower by the boardwalk.
Even though this beach fronts only resort properties, there are many positive aspects that make for a great experience. From the international melting pot "people-watching" aspect of the crowd here to the soft white sand and clear turquoise waters, there is a special draw to this place. Whale watching just off-shore highlights the late-December to early March months. Swim a little distance out past the wave noise during these months and you can hear whale songs live under water.
This beach is sheltered by the West Maui Mountains from the dominant island "trade winds", making it balmy but also hot from noon through the early afternoon. Luckily there are nearby resorts and restaurants offering refreshing drinks. No alcohol is allowed on the beach, but resorts welcome guests at a number of the locations.
Parking and beach access is widespread, so here is a breakdown of the 3 main areas of parking and access.
Sheraton parking access:
Snorkeling Black Rock
The big black cliff on the north end of the beach fronting the Sheraton hotel is known as Black Rock or "Pu'u Ke Keka'a", an important place in Hawaiian lore. It is said that the souls of the departed leap off to heaven from this rock. Well, souls are not the only ones leaping, beware of people jumping off the cliff into the waters, they come in all shapes and sizes and some probably shouldn't be jumping. A true "proceed at your own risk" activity if there ever was one. If you are an experienced snorkeler, the far outside of the sheltered bay has reef and lots of fish and the occasional turtle. There is also some dynamic underwater topography along Black Rock edges. This area can have currents depending on the wind and wave conditions.
This end of Ka'anapali has the widest beach of the whitest sand. There is room to spread out. Wear your shoes to get to the water, as the sand gets immensely hot mid-day. There is also a volleyball net closer to the beach entrance. Parking for this access is in the lower level of the south end of the Sheraton hotel parking structure. There are only about 20 parking spaces, but they do rotate often so be patient if there are none when you arrive.
Whaler's Village Shopping Center area is the center of the beach activities, sports and rentals, and has many restaurants, cafes and retailers. The south side of the complex has a large parking lot with marked designated beach access parking. Look for blue "Shoreline Access" signs. This is a good place to sign up for surfing lessons, stand-up paddling, boat excursions, or parasailing (during the late spring through autumn only, not during whale season). The beach here is busy with activities as well as sunbathers, and is noticeably more narrow than at the north end.
Nohea Kai Road access:
The roadway leading to the Hyatt regency hotel has a few access points marked by blue "Shoreline Access" signs. There is also a designated parking area in the Hyatt parking lot. Drive to the rear of the Hyatt hotel along the road to the left of the center entrance to the hotel. Look for labeled "Shoreline Access" parking stalls.
The beach at the Hyatt is narrow, with a dark mixture of river sediments and ocean sand that often create cloudy water conditions. If this is not to your liking, go north to the Whailers Village or Sheraton for best water clarity. Down the beach to the left there is a beautiful dark-sand bay, with many Hawaiian culture sites along the shore. It is uncrowded and of a good length to invite running or strolling, a nice change of serenity after the hustle-bustle of the Ka'anapali beachfront.
Closest town: Lahaina
Take route 30 north for 1.7 miles north past Lahaina. Look for Ka'anapali Parkway entrance on the left (oceanside). Once you have turned onto the parkway, the beach stretches all along the parkway, with Black Rock located at the end of the Parkway. For the south end follow the signs for the Hyatt and Nohea Kai road