Directly next to the Kahului airport lies Maui's most hidden beach known as Kanaha Beach Park. A mile-long stretch of green grass lawns and tree-lined soft white sand beaches, it is a world-renown windsurfing and kite-boarding spot, attracting both experienced athletes and beginners. On any given windy afternoon there are swirls of butterfly-like sails off-shore. Kanaha also has some fine swimming, and though popular with locals on weekends, is wonderfully uncrowded during the weekdays.
AT A GLANCE:
HIGHLIGHTS: surf-protected swimming, surfing (winter), windsurfing and kite-boarding (both beginner and pro), proximity to the airport makes it a perfect last or first beach visit.
LIFE GUARD: YES
WARNINGS!: Be aware of far offshore reef; gets windy in the afternoons on windy days and this also creates currents.
AMENITIES: Lifeguard tower, showers, restrooms, picnic tables and BBQ, beach volleyball courts, ADA accessible.
Live Kanaha ocean camera link:
County of Maui Kanaha park link:
From the airport, keep to the right lane in the airport circular road past the terminal buildings and look for the car rental return signs. The right lane will turn right, into a side road heading between the car rental areas. Proceed on this road past all the car rental shops and extra cars' parking lots, to a STOP sign on Alamaha St. (0.3 mi from the right-hand turn). The park has three distinct usage areas, two of which are east and you would make a right at the STOP, one is left of the STOP.
Park area 1: Easternmost portion of the park will be the 3rd left after taking right at the STOP sign.
This portion of the park has ample parking. There is a grassy lawn that spreads throughout the picnic area. You will also notice multitudes of wind surfers setting up their gear in the afternoons on the lawn. Restroom building is centrally located, with sidewalks leading to it. Well-protected from the currents and wind, designated swimming area is located directly toward the ocean from the restrooms. Shallow and roped-off, this swim spot offers swim opportunity to the whole family and is popular with young moms. The windsurfer launch zones are on both sides of the swim area, an exciting and colorful people-watching opportunity. The sailing community is very friendly and on any given afternoon you will hear locals explaining the nuances of the site and hazards to look out for to visitors from around the globe.
Park area 2: The central part of the park can be accessed by taking either the 1st or 2nd left-hand turns after turning right at the STOP sign. This area has the lifeguard tower, canoe house with colorful double-hull traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoes, and volleyball courts. There is also ample parking, picnic areas (some in the shade), and a restroom directly in the center of the parking area. Designated swim areas are on both sides the life guard tower. Facing the ocean the area on your right is roped off and is shallow, perfect even for small keiki (kids). The area left of the tower is the most protected from the wind. Directly left of the central swim zone begins kite-boarders' access area. If you have never seen kite-boarding, this is a spectacular spot to watch them fly out across the ocean.
Park area 3: The western portion of the park is less developed. To get there, turn left at the stop sign then find parking, mostly along the roadway. There you will look for unmaintained gravel and sand roads to the beach. This area is mostly occupied by kite-boarders, so the beach is full of the activity of launching and retrieving kite gear, and is a great place to observe the process.
Note: swimmers have the right of way at all times, so the swim areas have buoy lines to keep out ocean sport enthusiasts and equipment.
Swimming & family day-use:
Located within the park are 3 rope-marked swimming areas protected from kite and sail use. Swimming is an often overlooked use of this park because of its popularity as a premier kite-boarding, windsurfing and surfing spot, and even when the park looks busy, the swim areas are often uncrowded. Shallow, sandy and reef-less swimming coves are the calmest water parts of the beach front, great for family play and leisure swims. Though the weather is often windy in the afternoon, swim areas are naturally sheltered, and the views from the beach are fantastic.
Kanaha is a very well-known spot in the Hawaiian islands for windsurfing. On both high-surf and no-surf days the panorama is filled with sails because the winds here are so reliable. People travel from around the world to practice and sail here. On any given afternoon grassy area adjacent to the ocean is an international melting pot for the sport. The most popular launch site and place to find your bearings as a visiting sailboarder is to turn right at the stop sign and then look for the 3rd entrance to the park on the left. 50 yards into the park there is a public restroom and the launch is about 50 yards to the left of it on the ocean side. The lifeguard stand is at the first entrance to the park, and adjacent to the canoe pavilion on the ocean front. windsurfing access point is by the lifeguard tower. If you are a new visitor to the park, you may want to visit with the lifeguards for a quick orientation and a wealth of valuable information.
This new and exciting sport has taken fast hold in terms of popularity on Maui. The western end (to the left at the STOP on Alamaha St.) of the beach is now commonly referred to as Kite Beach. After STOP, take first available turn to the right (towards the ocean) into a dirt road, of which there are many, most of them leading to the beach.
Surfing (winter or northerly swells only):
The outer reef is about a mile off-shore and it is quite a paddle to get out there. Once out, you have your choice of more advanced-skill outer waves or smaller, but still powerful, re-forming waves closer in, a great spot for advanced beginners. Powerful waves and currents are not friendly to complete beginners.
Stand-Up Paddling (SUP):
Kanaha beach park has become a popular spot for this new sport in the last few years, and SUPers are now competing with surfers for the waves or gracefully sliding across the bay on no-swell mornings before the winds stir the water up.