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Malu’aka Beach: Sea Turtles, Snorkeling, and Maui Fun

June 18, 2024

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For beach lovers seeking a more secluded Maui beach experience, look no further than Malu’aka Beach. Unlike some of Maui’s more busy beaches, like Kāʻanapali or Wailea, Malu’aka is located on the coastline of Mākena, nestled away from many of Maui’s family-friendly and five-star resorts. Because this sheltered cove is so peaceful, it has been aptly nicknamed “Turtle Beach,” as it’s a haven for honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles).

Malu’aka isn’t as developed as some of the other beaches on the island so you’ll be hard-pressed to find luxury stays, busy shops, and bustling restaurants full of Hawaiian cuisine. If you’re someone looking for a more natural Hawaiian experience, Malu’aka Beach may just be the perfect spot to spend one day in Maui.

We want to share this wonderful beach with you. Before you pack your bags, read through our guide on Malu’aka Beach to learn its history, prepare for great activities, know how to get there and where to park, and understand the rich environment of sea turtles and amazing marine life that call our waters home.



History of Malu’aka Beach

Malu’aka means “the cast shadow” or “guarding shade,” hinting at the beach’s towering trees that line the shore, offering seclusion, shade, and privacy. Hawaiian history hints at Malu’aka Beach as a cherished spot for royalty, likely enjoying the shade and calm waters to rest and reflect. It’s the same reason people love Malu’aka Beach today.


Development of the Mākena area—where Malu’aka Beach resides—began in the mid-20th century. While the beach remained relatively untouched for centuries, construction of nearby towns and their amenities began the tourist shift we see today. Despite the development, conservation efforts are a main priority of Malu’aka Beach, especially with so many sea turtles around. 


Turtle Beach in Maui

Sea turtles frequent many beaches around Maui, but Malu’aka Beach holds the distinguished title of “Turtle Beach.” The most likely reason so many sea turtles enjoy Malu’aka is because of its calm waters and abundance of algae within the coral reefs, a staple snack for these honu. They can methodically munch away at Maui’s marine flora while gliding peacefully through the tranquil waters off Malu’aka Beach.

Seeing our wonderful sea turtles is an amazing experience but our main goal is preserving their habitat and prioritizing their own well-being. Please give them plenty of space, stay quiet to avoid startling them, resist the urge to touch them, and be mindful of your movements in the water to protect the coral reefs where they rest and eat.



Malu’aka Beach Snorkeling

As one of the more secluded beaches on Maui, Malu’aka offers an awesome snorkeling experience for all experience levels. For starters, a reef break keeps the water relatively calm which is why beginner snorkelers love this beach. As for below the surface, the rocky outcropping and coral reefs are a healthy habitat for a variety of fish and sea turtles so you can enjoy your underwater viewing of Maui’s marine life.

If your goal is to see sea turtles, they are most active in the morning and evenings, so plan your snorkeling excursion around these times. You can either bring your own snorkeling gear or rent from local shops. There are no lifeguards on duty so be careful when swimming and always follow safe snorkeling practices, like swimming with a friend.



Other Malu’aka Beach Activities

While snorkeling and turtle watching might be the main draws of Malu’aka Beach, there are other activities to enjoy during your visit, especially if you’re looking for a relaxing beach experience.


Sunbathing and Relaxation

Spread out your beach towel, relax, and listen to the calming sound of waves lapping the shore (while of course getting a nice tan in the process).

You can also pack a lunch and enjoy a shaded picnic, escape reality with a good book, or build sand castles with your kids. The peaceful atmosphere of Malu’aka Beach is great for those who want to kick back and relax.



Malu’aka Beach’s calm, sheltered waters make it a fantastic spot for stand-up paddleboarding, especially for beginners. Unfortunately, there aren’t any shops directly at Malu’aka Beach so if you need to rent gear check out local surf shops in the Mākena area or reserve online in advance.

Remember to prioritize safety by checking weather conditions, wearing a life jacket, and wearing reef-safe sunscreen. A wider board will be more secure for beginners.



Malu’aka Beach offers amazing opportunities to capture life on Maui. There’s our sunrises and sunsets, paddleboarders drifting along, and the beauty of the beach around you. Don’t forget what’s happening under the waves with our coral reefs and marine life that call them home. An underwater camera can capture amazing photos beneath the surface. Remember to be an environmentally conscious photographer, minimizing disruption to marine life and avoiding damage to vegetation.



Malu’aka Beach Parking and Directions

Malu’aka Beach has two main public parking lots and both are free. 

Both parking lots can quickly fill up, especially on weekends and holidays. If you can’t find a spot in one lot, try the other one. If both spots are full, there may be parking along Mākena Alanui Drive, but this is also limited. If these options are not available, you may have to park further away, like in the guest lot at a resort or in town.


North Beach Parking

The larger of the two parking lots, head south on Pi’ilani Highway and turn right onto Wailea Ike Road. Turn left at Wailea Alanui Drive and continue for about two miles. Turn right onto Mākena Road and you’ll see the Keawala’i Church on your right. The parking lot will be on your right shortly after.


South Beach Parking

This parking lot is the smaller of the two and does have limited space. Take Wailea Alanui Drive south and then turn right onto Mākena Alanui Drive. About a half mile down the road, turn right on Mākena Keonoio Road and the parking lot will be at the end of the road. There’s a paved path to the beach from the parking area. 



What Else to Know About Malu’aka Beach

Public Amenities

Malu’aka Beach offers basic public amenities that are still very useful. There are public restrooms with showers available at the north and south parking areas. Also near the south parking lot is a grassy area with picnic tables that does offer a nice amount of shade. There is also a paved walkway that provides access to the beach from both the north and south parking areas.

We want to reiterate that there are no lifeguards on duty at the beach. Please swim with caution and always have a buddy, especially when snorkeling.


What to Bring

For beach essentials, you’ll definitely want to bring:

  • Swimsuit and towel
  • Reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses
  • Beach chairs and a blanket
  • Cooler with drinks and snacks

If you want to partake in activities, like snorkeling or paddleboarding, you should bring:

  • Snorkeling mask, fins, and snorkel
  • Paddleboard and paddle
  • Camera or underwater camera
  • Book or magazine

Of course, some other items to consider include:

  • Cash for possible vendors
  • Water shoes
  • Beach umbrella
  • Dry bag to protect your belongings from sand and water


Conservation Efforts

With many beaches on Maui, conservation efforts are of the utmost importance. Sea turtle and coral reef conservation efforts work to preserve marine life for everyone to enjoy. Respect the environment and don’t touch or disturb sea turtles or coral reefs to maintain their wellbeing and prevent damage. Keep an eye out for signs along the beach that explain conservation efforts and safe beach practices.

By promoting responsible tourism practices and educating visitors about the importance of preserving our ecosystem, Maui aims to ensure all beaches remain healthy for future generations.

When you’re done enjoying all that Malu’aka Beach has to offer, come join us at Maui Ocean Center and experience Maui’s amazing marine life on dry land. Our Seascape Restaurant offers an amazing dining experience and our Ocean Treasures gift shop ensures you leave Maui with a Hawaiian gift (no aquarium ticket required for our restaurant or gift shop). Reserve your tickets now and experience our amazing center today.


When traveling to Maui there will never be a shortage of things and places to see. Make sure you’re always abiding by local and cultural laws when exploring the natural beauty of Maui and most importantly, relax! That’s what you came to do after all. 


pricing information

Book at least one day in advance to enjoy a $5 discount on your admission fee!

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