Secret Beaches of Maui | Maui Ocean Center

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Unveiling Maui’s Secret Beaches

April 10, 2024

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Craving a slice of Maui magic away from the crowds? Look beyond the popular stretches of coastline and discover the island’s best beaches and hidden gems. From the fiery shores of Kaihalulu Beach to the secluded coves of Mākena and Pāʻia, this guide unveils a treasure trove of secret beaches, each offering a unique blend of beauty, tranquility, and adventure. Dive into the crystal-clear waters of One’uli Beach, witness the awe-inspiring power of the waves at Honolua Bay, or simply soak up the sun on the pristine sands of Kaulahao Beach to experience why Maui is the best Hawaiian island to visit. Whether you seek serenity or an adrenaline rush, Maui’s secret beaches have something for every explorer and offer one of the best ways to spend a day in Maui.

 

VOR Beach (aka Kahului Airport Beach)

 

VOR Beach, also known as Kahului Airport Beach, is a hidden gem on the north shore of Maui. Unlike the popular beaches in the south, VOR Beach offers a secluded and peaceful escape for those seeking tranquility. 

 

Located near the Kahului Airport flight path, reaching VOR Beach requires driving down a secluded neighborhood road and parking in a sandy turnaround. This unique location keeps the crowds away, making it a perfect spot for relaxation and enjoying the natural beauty. The beach is lined with palm trees and offers stunning views of the West Maui mountains. Protected by an outer reef, VOR Beach boasts gentle waves, ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and stand-up paddleboarding. While not as renowned for snorkeling as other Maui beaches, VOR Beach still offers an opportunity to explore an underwater world rich with colorful fish and coral reefs.

 

Unlike other beaches, VOR Beach has no restrooms, showers, or lifeguards. Be sure to come prepared with everything you need for your beach day.

 

Directions

If using navigation, input “VOR Beach” and follow the second gated road after Stable Road (avoid the first dirt road).

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Afternoons: Clear and sunny afternoons are ideal. Pack your snorkel gear for underwater exploration.
  • Evenings: Resident Honu are more likely to make an appearance.
  • Mornings: While mornings are fine, some smaller coves may still be in the shade.

 

Note that mornings on this side of Maui can be cloudier, but it varies.

 

Next time you’re on the scenic drive along the Road to Hāna, consider including VOR Beach as a must-see stop. 

 

Little Beach

 

Little Beach, also known as Puʻu Olaʻi Beach, is a secluded cove nestled within Mākena State Park on the south shore of Maui. Unlike its neighbor, the expansive and lively Big Beach, Little Beach offers a more intimate and serene beach experience

 

Reaching Little Beach requires a short hike over a rocky lava outcropping from Big Beach, which helps deter casual visitors and maintains a sense of privacy. It’s important to note that while nudity is not officially permitted, Little Beach has a long-standing reputation as a clothing-optional destination.

 

Protected by the lava rock outcropping, Little Beach boasts generally calm waters, making it ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and stand-up paddleboarding. The underwater world here also offers opportunities for snorkeling, with colorful fish and coral reefs to explore. Surrounded by lush greenery and volcanic rock formations, Little Beach offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the neighboring island of Kahoʻolawe.

 

Similar to VOR Beach, Little Beach has no restrooms, showers, or lifeguards. Be sure to pack everything you need for your beach day, including food, drinks, and any necessary beach gear.

 

Directions

Little Beach is located north of Big Beach (Mākena Beach) in Mākena State Park. Park at the first Big Beach entrance and walk to the right side of the beach. You’ll see a rocky path leading over the lava rocks to the secluded Little Beach on the other side. 

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Early morning and late afternoon: Ideal for sunbathing and may have calmer waters. There may also be less crowds.
  • Mid-afternoon: More sunshine for sunbathing, but potentially more crowds and choppier water.

 

Mākena Cove (aka Maui Secret Beach)

 

Mākena Cove, also known as Maui Secret Beach, is a secluded cove south of Big Beach and Little Beach at Mākena State Park. While the name “secret beach” might be a bit of a misnomer these days, it still offers a more private and intimate experience compared to other beaches in Maui. 

 

Mākena Cove boasts beautiful white sand, clear turquoise water, and dramatic black lava rock formations, creating a picturesque setting. The cove’s secluded location and limited size contribute to a peaceful and serene atmosphere, making it perfect for relaxation and enjoying the natural beauty. It’s a cozy spot, so it gets crowded quickly if even just a few groups show up at the same time. 

 

Parking can be challenging, especially during peak season, so be prepared to arrive early or look for alternative parking options. There are no public restrooms, showers, or lifeguards at Mākena Cove. Be sure to come prepared with everything you need for your beach day.

 

Directions

 

While it may be called Secret Beach, finding Mākena Cove is fairly straightforward. From the Wailea resort district, head south on Mākena Road. Look for the beach access path between the lava rock wall. The entrance to Mākena Cove is a small opening in a rock wall along Mākena Road. There’s a somewhat large step down to get onto the beach, which may be challenging for some physically.

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Morning: Ideally between sunrise and 9 a.m. to get a prime spot before it fills up.
  • Afternoon: There will be more crowds but the cove gets the most direct sunlight between noon and sunset

 

Maui weather is the absolute best but Mother Nature sometimes rains on our plans. If your exploration day at any of these hidden beaches is interrupted by rain or poor weather, come visit us at Maui Center Ocean. With tons of exhibits, we take pride in showing off Hawai‘i’s amazing culture.

 

Learn more about our reservations to get your tickets today!

 

RESERVE TICKETS HERE

 

Pāʻia Secret Beach

 

Pāʻia Secret Beach, also known as Baldwin Cove Beach, is a clothing-optional beach nestled between Pāʻia Bay and Baldwin Cove on Maui’s north shore. It offers a unique blend of seclusion, natural beauty, and a relaxed atmosphere. 

 

The beach features coarse golden sand and tropically-colored waters. Unlike the swaying palms and soft sand found on most of Maui’s beaches, this shoreline is lined with sparse vegetation, trees, and bushes. Reaching the beach requires a short walk through a wooded area or along a red dirt path, which helps deter casual visitors. The beach is not officially sanctioned and lacks proper facilities, so it’s crucial to practice responsible beach etiquette. Pack out all trash and avoid disturbing the natural environment.

 

Directions

Park at either Pāʻia Bay (0.2-mile walk) or Baldwin Beach Park (0.3-mile walk). From Pāʻia Bay, head west (turn left facing the ocean) and walk over the small vegetated area at the far end of the beach. You’re likely to spot local families fishing here on weekends, but otherwise, it’s not uncommon to have the beach to yourself.

 

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Early morning: Before 9 a.m. gives you the best chance at a great spot.
  • Late afternoons: The crowds may disperse a little and you can enjoy the sunset.

 

Weekdays in general do see less traffic on this beach than compared to the weekends.

 

Slaughterhouse Beach

 

Slaughterhouse Beach, also known as Mokuleʻia Beach, is a beautiful beach located off of Route 30 in Mokuleʻia Bay, directly east of Fleming Beach and directly west of Honolua Bay. The beach is part of the Honolua-Mokuleʻia Bay Marine Life Conservation District, which protects the abundant marine life in the area. 

 

Despite the somewhat unappetizing name, which comes from a long-gone slaughterhouse that once operated on the cliffs above the beach, Slaughterhouse Beach is a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, and stand-up paddleboarding. The beach is known for its lovely stretch of golden sand, perfect for relaxing and soaking up the sun.  Protected by the cliffs and lava rock formations, the bay generally offers calm waters, making it ideal for swimming and snorkeling especially for families with young children.

 

Directions

Head north on Honoapiilani Highway past Kapalua. Look for a chain link fence and limited parking on the ocean side after mile marker 31. Take the stairs down the cliff and the beach will be right there to enjoy.

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Morning: Before 10 a.m. not only avoids crowds but also gives you calmer waters for swimming and snorkeling
  • Afternoon: After 2 p.m. gives you direct sunbathing sunlight.

 

One’uli Beach (aka Secret Black Sand Beach)

 

This beach lives up to its nickname, “Secret Beach,” as it’s not as easily accessible as other beaches on the island. Reaching One’uli Beach requires a short drive followed by a dirt road and a path through a lava field. However, the reward for this mini-adventure is a secluded and beautiful beach experience. 

 

The standout feature of One’uli Beach is its black sand, composed of eroded volcanic cinder from the nearby Pu’u Ola’i cinder cone. The contrast between the black sand, clear blue waters, and lush green mountains creates a stunning visual. While not ideal for swimming due to the rocky shore, One’uli Beach offers excellent snorkeling opportunities. The coral reefs are just offshore teeming with colorful fish and other marine life. 

 

The beach has a rocky shore entry, so wearing water shoes is recommended for comfortable swimming and snorkeling. Remember to be prepared, respectful of the environment, and mindful of the limited amenities.

 

Directions

One’uli Beach can be a bit tricky to find. Look for the turnoff after the Maui Prince Hotel on Mākena Alanui Road, but before you get to Big Beach. There’s a dirt road with an orange unlocked gate. Follow this road down until you reach the ocean. Parking can be limited, so be prepared to arrive early.

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Early morning: Around sunrise will get you a spot and avoid shade cast by Pu’u Ola’i Cinder Cone that comes in the middle of the day.
  • Mid-morning: Between 10 a.m. and noon the sun is at its highest so you may have the best chance at underwater visibility when snorkeling. 

 

Honolua Bay

 

Nestled on the northwest shore, this crescent-shaped bay was once a hub used by Honolua Ranch for receiving supplies and shipping products. (The ranch is largely intertwined with the development of agriculture on Maui.) Honolua Bay, meaning “two harbors” in Hawaiian, is now a paradise for snorkelers, scuba divers, and experienced surfers.

 

The bay is part of the Mokulēʻia Marine Life Conservation District, meaning it has special regulations in place to protect marine life and habitat. That means if you’re diving into the vibrant underwater world of Honolua Bay, please don’t touch or stand on the coral reefs and be mindful of what sunscreen you use—yes, reef-safe sunscreens do exist.

 

One important thing to know is that Honolua Bay is a rocky beach so our sunbathing friends should look elsewhere. There are no lifeguards at the Bay so be cautious when you’re in the water.

 

Directions

Honolua Bay is located about five minutes north of Kapalua, just past mile marker 32 on the Mokulele Highway. Two trails lead to the beach. The first trailhead is near the first bend in the road past the overlook. The second trailhead is just past the second big left bend in the road. Both trails are short and easy to walk.

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Morning: Between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. offers calm waters for great snorkeling and less crowds for disturbances.
  • Mid-morning: The sun starts to reach the bay around 10 a.m. to noon so you can sunbathe with limited crowds.
  • Winter months (experienced surfers only): November through March offer larger swells which makes this a prime spot for experienced surfers to catch some waves.

 

Kaulahao Beach (aka Kuau Beach Park)

 

Located on Maui’s north shore, Kaulahao Beach is the prime spot to encounter Honu (green sea turtles). These magnificent creatures are the largest hard-shelled sea turtle in the ocean and can be seen basking on the beach in the early mornings or late afternoons. (Remember, it’s crucial to observe them respectfully from a distance and avoid disturbing them.)

 

While turtle watching is the main draw, Kaulahao Beach offers a great spot to relax or snorkel. Calmer waters near the shore allow for easy viewing of fish and other marine life.

 

If Kaulahao Beach is on your itinerary, it’s important to know there are no restrooms, showers, or lifeguards at the beach, and parking can be limited, especially during peak season. And as always, please respect the turtles and allow them the same relaxation you’re seeking.

 

Directions

Kaulahao Beach is situated just outside Pāʻia town on Maui’s north shore. Take Highway 36 west out of Pāʻia and you’ll see the beach shortly after mile marker 4. Look for the small, unpaved parking lot on the right side of the road, or if no spots are available, there’s street parking along the highway. There are two short trails leading down to the beach and either will get you there.

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Early morning: An early arrival around sunrise is an awesome time to view sea turtles. This does mean cooler temperatures than the afternoon, however.
  • Mid-morning: Between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. is the sweet spot for sunlight and less crowds.
  • Mid-afternoon: You’ll find noon to 3 p.m. gets the most direct sunlight but also the most crowds.

 

Chang’s Beach (aka Po’olenalena Beach)

 

Chang’s Beach is a hidden gem on Maui’s south coast. The beach holds rich history in Maui’s agricultural past and is named after the Chang family who owned and farmed the land. There’s also a small family cemetery south of the beach that has become a popular snorkeling spot called “Five Graves.”

 

Snorkeling is still the main attraction of Chang’s Beach as well, offering calm waters great for beginner snorkelers and families. You can expect to see beautiful coral reefs, colorful fish and even the occasional sea turtle. For a dry activity, the soft sand provides comfort and a great place to relax.

 

One kicker to know is that Chang’s Beach is not accessible directly by land. Chang’s Beach is a secluded cove separated from the main Po’olenalena Beach by lava rock outcroppings. The only way to access Chang’s Beach is to swim or snorkel down the coastline. If this doesn’t appeal to you, Po’olenalena Beach itself is great for sunbathing, relaxation, and snorkeling.

 

Directions

Head south on Piilani Highway and turn right onto Wailea Ike Road. Turn left at Wailea Alanui Drive, which becomes Makena Alanui Drive and continue for about 0.8 miles past the Wailea Shopping Center. Look for a small public access sign on the right side of the road which leads to the south end of Poolenalena Beach. From there, you can swim down the coast to Chang’s Beach.

 

Best Time to Visit

  • Mid-morning: The sun starts to get higher in the sky starting around 9am until noon which gives you great sunlight and snorkeling visibility.
  • Afternoons: Warmer temperature and more sun brings nice relaxation but also more crowds, so something to consider.

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. 

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