17 Fun and Relaxing Things to Do at Kaanapali Beach

Updated Dec 6, 2023 , ,


Ka’anapali Beach is a 2.8-mile stretch of gorgeous white sand beach located on Maui’s west side. Whether you’re looking to relax and catch some rays, go snorkeling, do some shopping, or do something a little more adrenaline-inducing – think cliff jumping or parasailing – you can find it all here. Here are our top 17 things to do at Ka'anapali beach to relax and have fun!

Find a Spot on the Beach

It’s not hard to find a great spot on the beach at Ka’anapali. Just about anywhere you choose will be spectacular! If you’re looking to jump off of and/or snorkel by Black Rock, you will likely want to be at the north end of the beach, closer to the Sheraton.

Parking can be hard to come by in this area, so be prepared. All hotels must offer at least a few public parking spots, but unless you arrive early in the day, chances are you will need some luck to get one.

There is also a small (and I mean small) lot in the garage between the Sheraton and the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel that offers a handful of free spots for beach access. 

If you prefer to be closer to Whalers Village and the shops and restaurants offered, you can park in the Whalers Village parking structure. Technically you’re not supposed to park in the structure for beach access, but I don’t think anyone will stop you. It is a paid lot ($4 per half hour as of this writing), but you can get your ticket validated for a couple of hours free by purchasing from any of the stores or restaurants in Whalers Village.

Snorkel at Black Rock

Snorkeling is a great activity to consider while spending time at Ka’anapali Beach! Snorkeling is a relatively low-commitment and low-cost activity that can make lasting memories.

Seeing a green sea turtle swimming and feeding along the volcanic rocks and reef, yes, please! Spotting a Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (the Hawaii State fish) is fantastic! Having a unique vantage point to watch people plunge into the water from the top of Black Rock (while minding your surroundings!) is so cool!

There are two main areas to snorkel: along the rock wall of Black Rock itself and around the point of Black Rock, the latter being recommended for experienced snorkelers only.

Remember to apply your reef-safe sunscreen before you go in the water, bring a boogie board or pool noodle if you’d like a little extra flotation help, use flippers if you’d like to have a bit more speed, and of course, don’t forget your mask and snorkel! Want more information about snorkeling at Black Rock? We have a fantastic in-depth guide here!

Take a Sunset Dinner Cruise

Picture yourself on the deck of a gorgeous catamaran with a mai tai in hand and the scent of delicious island delicacies in the air. Gazing out at a magnificent Hawaiian sunset, the warm breeze kissing your face, and the gentle lapping of the ocean below your feet.

Sounds amazing, right? Prepare to have all of your senses dazzled on a fabulous sunset dinner cruise, many of which depart directly from Ka'anapali Beach!

Sunset dinner cruises are a great way to have a fantastic meal and get a different perspective of Ka'anapali, Maui’s west coast, and the outer islands of Lanai and Molokai, all while taking in a gorgeous sunset! A dinner cruise will last anywhere from 2.5-3.5 hours, and you’ll have a delicious sit-down or buffet meal, including an open bar.

You’ll have breathtaking views of the Maui coastline and a front-row seat for that amazing Hawaiian sunset. If you’re booking a sunset dinner cruise between December – April, you may get the added bonus of seeing Humpback Whales put on a show during their annual migration!

Companies such as Hula Girl, Sea Maui, and Teralani all have catamaran sunset dinner cruises that depart directly from Ka'anapali Beach. That being said, please remember you are boarding the catamaran directly from the beach and walking through potentially knee-deep water. Participants should be able to walk well in sand/shallow water and should dress accordingly. You’ll be asked to remove your shoes and will most likely get wet up to your knees.

All companies have highly trained, friendly, and experienced staff that will help you to the catamaran and also once onboard. There are many different departure options for sunset dinner cruises, as well as different experiences too. Maybe you don’t need dinner and would like cocktails, or maybe you’re looking for more of a romantic experience for yourself and your significant other. Check out our full article on sunset dinner cruises in Maui for more info! 

Attend a Luau

Taking in a luau in Maui is a fun and exciting way to learn more about Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and dance, all while sampling an array of delectable island offerings. Throw in access to an open bar that is offered at most luau’s, and you have the makings of a super fun and, dare I say, educational evening at Ka'anapali!

Luaus are almost always held outdoors, on or near the beach, in the evening to coincide with the gorgeous tropical sunset. That being said, if you get chilly easily you may want to bring a light jacket or sweater. For most, it’s not necessary, though.

Your luau experience will typically last 3-4 hours and kicks off with fascinating cultural demonstrations and, at some luau’s, will include an imu ceremony (where they uncover the succulent, tender pig that has been cooking in the imu for hours *drool*).

Next, you’ll move on to the dinner portion of the evening (either sit down or buffet, depending on the luau), featuring a mix of Hawaiian and Polynesian flavors. After dinner, your evening will conclude with energetic, beautiful, and captivating dance performances.

At all luau’s, you will be greeted and taken care of by exceedingly welcoming hosts. Luau staff are typically well-versed in Hawaiian and Polynesian culture and heritage and eager to share their knowledge, stories, and warm aloha with you.

The Royal Lahaina Resort, Sheraton, Westin, and Hyatt all offer luau’s with gorgeous Ka'anapali Beach as the backdrop. Want more information about luaus? Head over and check out our article on the best Maui luaus. You can also read about our top luau pick in our Old Lahaina Luau review!

Whale Watch During the Winter

Did you know that Maui is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales? And that’s not hyperbole. Just let your fingers do the googling! The “whale season” officially(ish) starts in mid-November and runs through mid-May.

I say officially(ish) because these gentle giants don’t have a calendar on their flipper telling them an exact date to start and end their migration. The first sightings can come as early as September, and the last can be reported into June, though they are extremely few and far between at those ends of the spectrum. The height of whale season is mid-January-March. Again not hyperbole. You will see whales during this time.

While on Ka’anapali beach, the shallow waters of the Au’au Channel (the waters between Maui and Lāna’i) lay in front of you. This channel, along with the Pailolo Channel (between Maui and Moloka’i) and the Maui Nui Basin (the waters between Maui, Lanai, and Kaho’olawe), are the best places on the island to spot whales!

Whales can easily be spotted from shore, especially during the height of the season! But, if your dream is to get up close and personal, responsibly, of course, then a whale-watching tour is definitely for you! Especially if you plan to be in Maui during that peak time.

Gemini, Trilogy, Sea Maui, The Magic Merman, and Teralani are just some that offer whale-watching tours with convenient departures directly from Ka’anapali Beach. You really can’t go wrong! See why whale watching is one of Maui’s most beloved winter-time activities. For even more information, be sure to check out our Whale Watching Tours post. 

Cliff Dive off Black Rock

Looking for something more adventurous to try while spending the day at Ka'anapali Beach? Why not add cliff jumping to your list! On any given day, you’ll find Black Rock teaming with locals and tourists alike, scaling the side and then plunging off the top of the volcanic outcropping.

Though cliff jumping may sound daunting (especially if you’re acrophobic!), it isn’t that bad. All it takes is a quick swim, a short climb, and an exhilarating leap from the top!

Don’t forget to apply your reef-safe sunscreen, and bring a boogie board or pool noodle if you’d like a little extra help on the swim out (if you’re going to use one of these items, be sure to swim out with a partner and have them hold it for you while you do the climb and jump). Water shoes are also a good idea if you have tender feet as you are climbing on the volcanic rock!

A place of deep cultural significance and believed to be a favorite cliff-jumping spot of Maui’s last ruling chief, Black Rock cliff-jumping should be on your radar! Check out all the information you need in our guide to cliff jumping at Black Rock in Ka’anapali.

Rent a Stand-Up Paddle Board

Kaanapali Paddle Board Rentals

Renting a stand-up paddle board is a fantastic way to exercise while enjoying distinctly different views (than those from the shore) of Ka'anapali Beach, the outer islands, and Black Rock.

There are a plethora of small stands up and down Ka'anapali to rent a stand-up paddle board, or SUP, as you may see it referred to. Hale Huakai in front of the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel on the north end, Sea Maui Surf by Whalers Village, and Ka'anapali Surf Club toward the south end in front of the Westin (plus additional locations), to name a few.

Many rental locations offer private or semi-private SUP lessons if you feel you need some training, though it’s unnecessary. Paddle boarding is pretty easy and can be done by kids and adults alike.

And no, you don’t have to stand up. You can paddle from your knees or sit on your bottom to make it a bit easier – the lower center of gravity = less losing balance and falling in the water, hopefully. 🙂

Take a Surfing Lesson

Kaanapali Surfing Lessons

Thought to be invented sometime in 12th century Polynesia and made famous worldwide by Native Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku in the early 1900s, surfing is arguably the most iconic Hawaiian ocean activity.

This section is titled Take a Surfing Lesson rather than Rent a Surf Board for a good reason. Surfing is hard, much more difficult (mentally and physically!) than stand-up paddle boarding. Almost all of the same locations that rent and offer lessons for SUPs (stand-up paddle boards) also offer surfboard rentals and surfing lessons.

We would suggest a lesson to get some of the basics down with the help of a professional showing you the mechanics of how to do it and, more importantly, the timing of catching a wave. It may take a bit of time and effort – not to mention you may realize that you aren’t in as good of shape as you thought (sorry!), but once you get up for the first time, you won’t soon forget the exhilaration and overwhelming pride of accomplishment.

Like the Beach Boys said, catch a wave, and you’re sitting on top of the world!

Parasail Above the Pacific

Kaanapali Parasailing

As you gaze out over the waters of the ʻAuʻau Channel, you’ll likely notice at least a couple of brave souls drifting along on a parachute high in the sky being pulled by a speeding boat.

Imagine yourself floating 1,200 feet above beautiful, clear turquoise waters with a literal birds-eye view of Ka'anapali and beyond. It’s not for the faint of heart, but if this sounds up your alley, UFO Parasail, located at Whalers Village, is your spot on Ka'anapali to experience this exhilarating ride!

Parasailing is a safe, fun, family-friendly activity (kids as young as 5 are welcome) that can be enjoyed by just about everyone. Well, everyone without a fear of heights, that is. Adventures last about an hour, and up to 3 people (depending on weight) can take flight together.

Please note that Parasailing is a seasonal activity that operates from May-December, the non-operational months being the height of the annual Humpback Whale migration.

Rent a Jet Ski

Kaanapali Jetski Rentals

If staying a little closer to the ground but still craving that adrenaline rush is more your speed (pun intended), then renting a jet ski is an ideal option!

Maui Water Sports – Jet Ski Maui in Whalers Village is where you’ll find jet ski rentals on Ka'anapali Beach. You’ll start your adventure with a short 3-minute boat ride to their “Jet Ski Island,” away from swimmers and snorkelers. You’ll be fitted with your life jacket, receive instruction on using the jet ski, and be given a safety briefing.

After that, your 45-minute jet ski adventure begins, where you can whip, whirl, and fly through the water to your heart’s content at speeds of up to 50 MPH! Or at least until your 45 minutes are up, whichever comes first.

Like parasailing, jet skis are rented on a seasonal basis and operate from May-December. The non-operational months are the height of the annual Humpback Whale migration. There is no minimum age to be a passenger on a jet ski, but all riders must be at least 32 inches tall.

No special training or license (or even a driver’s license!) is required to operate a jet ski. The only requirement is that the driver must be at least 16 years old to ride solo (15 with an adult passenger) and have a signed liability waiver. Participants under 18 must have the waiver signed by a parent.

Golf at the Ka'anapali Golf Courses

Kaanapali Golf Courses

Hawaii is home to some of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, with a handful in gorgeous Maui! Ka'anapali can boast two of these majestic courses.

The Royal Ka’anapali Course is one of only two courses in Hawaii designed by celebrated golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr. There is no doubt that he was spoiled for inspiration when planning this gorgeous 6,700-yard, par 71 course.

With jaw-dropping views of the West Maui mountains and breathtaking panoramic ocean vistas, this course does not disappoint in its beauty or challenge of play. Note – Be sure to read the historical plaques on each tee that tell Ka'anapali’s history.

The second course in the duo is the Ka’anapali Kai Course. You’ll undoubtedly notice while playing this course that it seems to flow completely naturally with its surroundings. Taking advantage of lava rock, natural canals, and gorgeous native foliage as boundaries and borders.

More forgiving of the two, the 6,400-yard, par 70 course lends itself to both the novice and seasoned player, highlighting the strategy of play rather than distance. Not to be forgotten, uncompromising views abound in this course as well. We have personally played both courses (more than once) and would recommend either course to anyone that enjoys playing golf. 

Shop at Whaler’s Village

Kaanapali Whalers Village Shopping

Ka'anapali has more to offer than just a gorgeous stretch of beach, ocean activities, and amazing golf courses – there’s also Whalers Village, the beautiful tri-level oceanfront open-air mall. If you’re anything like me, shopping, or window shopping, is a beloved vacation activity (much to my husband’s chagrin), and Whalers Village is a shopper’s delight!

The mall offers a wide range of stores, from high-end shopping like Louis Vuitton and lululemon to small boutique stores to Hawaiian originals such as Hilo Hattie and the ubiquitous ABC Store. Two stores are always a must for me at Whalers Village can only be found in Hawaii (and online, of course). SoHa Living for super cute island-inspired home decor, and Honolua Surf Co. for stylish, laidback clothing and swimwear for women, men, and kids.

After all that shopping, you’ll probably have worked up an appetite, and you’re in luck because there is no shortage of fantastic food choices. From casual grab-and-go food court options on the lower level to oceanfront sit-down restaurants, coffee, matcha, and gelato, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Don’t forget to check out the Hawai’i Wildlife Discovery Center on the third level. With 30+ exhibits and hands-on activities, kids and adults alike can learn more about Hawaii’s ocean life, whaling era, cultural values, and conservation work.

Whalers Village also offers a host of free activities that the whole family can enjoy; lei making, hula lessons, yoga classes, movie nights, etc. Check out their homepage here. Activities (with links to their details) are listed just below the video at the top of the page. Happy shopping!

Rent a Day Bed

Kaanapali Beach Daybed Rental

A daybed is an excellent option if you’re looking to soak up the beach atmosphere but don’t necessarily want to deal with finding a spot or lugging beach gear back and forth across the hot sand. Renting a day bed makes it quick and easy to arrive, set up shop, and start your fun-filled day at the beach!

Many hotels have daybeds, but some are for guest use only, so be sure to call ahead of time or go to the hotel’s front desk to check if you can rent them. The picture above is of the daybeds at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. This happens to be one of our favorite spots along Ka’anapali to spend a day at the beach.

We usually try to claim a spot on this stretch just in front of the hotel. It’s an equal distance between Whalers Village and Black Rock (if you want to shop or do some cliff jumping). The Ka'anapali Beach Hotel has a fantastic walk-up window to grab food and drinks and offers easily accessible restrooms. The best part? You don’t have to be a hotel guest to reserve a daybed or take advantage of their other offerings!

Tip – Don’t forget to bring your reef-safe sunscreen and plenty of water to stay hydrated while playing (or laying) in the sun on those warm tropical days!

Walk the Ka'anapali Beachwalk

Kaanapali Beachwalk

The Ka'anapali Beach Walk is a 5.5-mile (there and back) paved walkway that starts at Hanakaoʻo Park (also called Canoe Beach), snaking its way along the beach edge north to the Honua Kai Resort. Being paved and relatively flat, this is an excellent option for families with small children and older folks who may have trouble walking in the sand but still want to enjoy the gorgeous ocean and outer island views.

You don’t have to start at a specific end to walk this trail. You can pick it up anywhere along the way. On the walk, you’ll pass all the large oceanfront resorts of Ka’anapali, Whalers Village, Black Rock, the Royal Lahaina, airport beach, and finally, come to the Houna Kai Resort.

We suggest walking either in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the mid-day heat. Be sure to bring your reef-safe sunscreen, a hat to help keep the sun off your head and face, and some water to stay hydrated!

As of this writing (September 2022), part of the Beach Walk was damaged by a strong storm in July 2022. A portion of the walkway has been washed out in front of the Ka’anapali Alii, but they do have a detour. Check out our guide here for more information about the Ka'anapali Beach Walk. 

Cool Down With Ululani’s Shave Ice

Ululani's Hawaiian Shave Ice Ka'anapali

After walking around the shops at Whalers Village or playing on the beach, you may be in search of a way to beat the heat or maybe just a little sweet treat! Enter Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice on Ka'anapali Beach at the Hyatt Regency. The small location is highly visible just off the Ka'anapali Beach Walk.

This stop is a must if you have never had Hawaiian shave ice. Many assume that shave ice is just a snow cone, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Shave ice is much lighter and fluffier than a traditional chunky, crunchy snow cone.

Think of the purest untouched powder from a snowstorm sitting high atop a mountain. If you scooped that up and placed it in a bowl, that texture would be much more akin to shave ice than a snow cone. Not only that, but shave ice flavors are much more intense than a traditional watered-down snow cone.

The flavors and ice from Ululani’s are exceptional. They make their ice using only ultra-purified water and make 100% of their syrups from their recipes. Their shaving machines create that paper-thin, fresh powder consistency that somehow absorbs the syrup without destroying its integrity but immediately melts smoothly in your mouth without tasting watered down. You really can taste the difference.

Combine all this with Ululani’s commitment to serving their confections in environmentally friendly bowls with compostable spoons and their exceptional service with what they call “Alohatude” – the genuine spirit of aloha with gratitude – and you really can’t go wrong. 

Grab Lunch and a Drink at Welowelo’s Walk-Up Window

Welowelo Ka'anapali

Suppose you’re looking for a quick, affordable, tasty lunch or snack while spending the day at the beach or walking around Ka'anapali. In that case, you’ll find it at the Welowelo walk-up window on the grounds of the Ka'anapali Beach Hotel. This fantastic little gem can be found down a few steps, adjacent to the hotel’s pool, just behind the resort’s fabulous oceanfront restaurant, Huihui.

The quick-serve walk-up window offers a humble menu of tasty sandwiches and burgers, mouthwatering pizzas, and delectable bowls, perfect for a filling lunch or grabbing a bite to share for an afternoon snack. All food is made to order with fresh, delicious ingredients. They also offer rotating flavors of Maui’s own Roselani ice cream, juices, sodas, and a selection of beer, wine, and pre-made cocktails.

There is an area of tables under an awning just to the right of Welowelo, where you can enjoy your food in the shade or walk over to the beach and take your lunch with a gorgeous view! Our family’s favorites from the Welowelo menu are the Welowelo Burger, Margarita Pizza, and the Fried Salmon Bowl. You really can’t go wrong no matter what you choose!

Tip – if you’re looking for a more comprehensive selection of cocktails, frozen libations, or draft beer, head into Huihui and order drinks from their bar (just to the left as you walk inside) to go. Side note – Last time we visited Welowelo (September 2022), they were still experiencing staffing shortages due to Covid, so they were not making pizzas at that time. Hopefully, they will bring them back because they are super tasty! 

Sit Down for Dinner at Hula Grill

Hula Gril Ka'anapali

Whalers Village and the hotels of Ka'anapali Beach offer a wide variety of restaurants. From grab-and-go to fine dining, you can find it all here. One of our favorite middle-of-the-road restaurants for a sit-down dinner is Hula Grill.

Located oceanfront in Whalers Village, Hula Grill consistently offers excellent service, tasty food and drinks, and an unbeatable view. The open-air dining room feels more like you’re dining on the lanai of a grand old home than in a restaurant, feeling the balmy air and taking in the relaxing views of the beach, ocean, and outer islands in front of you.

As you dine, you’ll be lulled into that laid-back island feeling with live music (5:30-8 pm) and hula (6:30-7:30 pm) from the restaurant’s Barefoot Bar, just next to the open-air dining room. Venture inside, and you’ll find the same feeling of dining at someone’s grand home with the open-air kitchen and numerous paintings, pictures, and tropical decor lining the walls and curio cabinets.

Hula Grill sources ingredients from local fishermen and farmers to ensure you’re getting fresh, delicious dishes that highlight Hawaii and Maui. Our favorite dishes are the Poke Tacos, Fire Grilled Ahi Steak, Coconut Seafood Chowder, and the Heritage Pork Shank.

If you still have even the smallest amount of room left in your belly after that delicious dinner, do not miss the Hula Pie! Big enough to share, even though you may not want to, the concoction of chocolate cookie crust, macadamia ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream is a tasty way to end a delightful dinner.

We highly suggest making a reservation to dine at Hula Grill and making it as early as possible before your trip (you can reserve up to 6 months in advance on their website). Reservations fill up quickly, and the wait time can be very long without one.

Tip – If you’re planning to have dinner, google what time the sunset will be on the day you wish to go. Try to make your reservation for around 30-45 minutes before sunset to have a fantastic view while you dine!

Justin and Katie Busa

Meet the Authors

Aloha! We’re Justin and Katie, the owners of Maui Hideaway. We’ve been visiting Hawaii together with our family for 20 years and would love to share the experience of the islands with you. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay or just some vacation advice, we’re here to help!

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