A coral-rich shallow bay fronts this beach of white sand, and its crescent shape gives a feeling of being sheltered from the open ocean. Dunes and plant-covered ground elevation backing the beach adds to the cozy and secluded feeling. In addition, public parking area with ample parking and its superb amenities make Kapalua Beach a gem of the Kapalua region on Maui's West Side. An added bonus is a 1.7 mile long paved oceanfront pathway that begins here and stretches north along the coastline bridging across three different bays, perfect for a good walk or jog before lounging on this luxurious beach. Fresh spring water seeping into the bay from under the mountains joins with the ocean water to form reef-like sandstone structures. While that provides great snorkeling opportunities, water entry and exit can be challenging in the middle of the beach. Look for easier sand-lined water access at either end of the beach crescent.
AT A GLANCE:
HIGHLIGHTS: Snorkeling is good here. Plenty of coral and fishes not too far offshore; visibility improves with distance and depth, towards the right side of the bay. Long paved walking coastal trail starts here and heads north for 1.7 miles. Scenic view of Molokai island.
ACTIVITIES: Swimming, snorkeling, scuba-diving(with a diving company), stand-up paddling and jogging.
WARNINGS!: The bay is filled with reef here; best to enter the ocean on the left-side of beach. Swim mask or goggles are recommend to look out for sharp coral and rocks that span the bay. Be careful, as coral cuts easily.
AMENITIES: Best public beach restrooms and showers on Maui's West Side. Small equipment rental company at the north end of the beach. Ample parking.
Kapalua Bay was named "Best Beach in the World" by the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine and the "Best Beach in America" by the Travel Channel, and for good reason as it is gorgeous. It is popular with sunbathers. However once in the ocean, the reef and fish take center stage and there are abundant opportunities for observing both without feeling crowded. On your return to shore a postcard view of white sand beach lined with trees greets you. There is a gear rental shack at the far end of the beach opposite the entrance side, in case you would like to try something new, such as stand-up paddling.
Snorkeling here is excellent, but one needs to pay special attention to avoid standing on or scraping against the reef, especially during low tide. While entering and exiting the water, look carefully for hazards. Best entry spots we found were to the left (facing the ocean) off the center of the beach. This area has more safe passageways with sandy bottoms, making the crossing to the deeper parts of the bay easier.
*Safety tip: Think of the bay as a shallow bowl. If you find yourself in shallow water dangerously close to reef, simply retreat to the bay's center to find deeper waters. Deepest water in the center right of the bay. Reef is a living organism and should not be stood on, touched or broken, as the impact can harm it irreparably. Also, be aware of the many sea urchins in this bay hidden amongst the rocks and coral. Their black spines can sting so do not touch or step on them. If you have aqua shoes, that's your best protection from urchin stings.
There are dive sites right outside the bay and a guided service is available through Kapalua Dive Company which operates from this beach.
This path is well-designed and executed, and stretches across some amazing coastline with breathtaking views of the cliffs and neighbor islands. The end point is just past the Ritz-Carlton hotel at a beach park called "D.T. Fleming Beach Park" which has rest rooms and additional facilities. Roundtrip to the Flemings' beach and return is 3.4 miles, and well marked.
Closest town: Kapalua/Lahaina
Take Route 30 north from Lahaina for 8 miles until you pass mile marker 18. Turn left on Office road, proceed 0.2 miles and turn left on Kapalua drive. Follow this beautiful tree-lined road through the golf course to the stop sign at the bottom of the hill. Turn left on Lower Hanoapiilani Road and look for the parking lot entrance on the right just past "Merriman's Kapalua" sign. Additional parking is across the street near the tennis courts.
Taking route 30 north, turn left a Napilikau Road intersection. At the bottom of the hill turn right on Lower Honoapiilani Road and proceed 0.8 miles looking for a beach parking area on your left just before "Merriman's Kapalua" restaurant.