Kahekili Beach Park (aka Airport Beach) is easily one of the best all-around spots I’ve visited in West Maui for snorkelers of all skill levels. The reef starts right at the shore and the waves are typically calm making it easy to snorkel for beginners and families with children.
What makes it so spectacular is how healthy and colorful the coral is for a popular snorkel spot. It’s dead along the shore but you don’t have to swim far to see a vibrant garden of coral reef. You can find healthy coral at other snorkel spots in Maui but this is one of the most accessible.
Located at the north end of Ka'anapali, Kahekili Beach Park is less trafficked than the popular beaches you’ll find on the other side of Black Rock. It includes a pavilion with a picnic area and barbeques that makes for a great day at the beach.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything there is to know about snorkeling at Kahekili Beach Park including where to snorkel, what you’ll see, and more. Let’s dive in!
Should You Book a Snorkel Tour?
Snorkel tours are a great way to try snorkeling with the help of experienced guides. They also allow you to visit locations only accessible by boat and usually make for a fun day because of the added boating experience. If you’re looking for something more than your typical day-at-the-beach snorkeling, a snorkel tour might be for you!
- Where to Snorkel at Kahekili Beach Park
- Water Entrance at Kahekili Beach Park
- Marine Life at Kahekili Beach Park
- More About Kahekili Beach Park
- Getting to Kahekili Beach Park
- Parking at Kahekili Beach Park
- Facilities at Kahekili Beach Park
- Are There Places to Eat at Kahekili Beach Park?
- Can You Rent Snorkel Gear at Kahekili Beach Park?
- Is Snorkeling at Kahekili Beach Park Good for Families?
- Why Is Kahekili Beach Park Known as Airport Beach?
- Snorkeling Etiquette, Conservation, and Saftey
Where to Snorkel at Kahekili Beach Park
The best place to snorkel at Kahekili Beach Park is right in front of the pavilion in the middle of the park. It’s not hard to miss as you’ll see other people snorkeling there.
There are two main places where you can snorkel once in the water, the reef along the shore and the reef a couple of hundred feet out. As mentioned, the coral along the shore is dead but there are still plenty of fish to see there if you don’t want to swim further out.
If you do want to swim further out, you’re in for a treat. Since the water is deeper the coral is more protected from swimmers allowing it to thrive. It’s a popular place for scuba companies to take beginners for this reason. You’ll likely see groups of them out there.
Water Entrance at Kahekili Beach Park
Entering the water at Kahekili Beach Park is as simple as stepping in from the beach. However, since the coral starts right off the shore, you’ll need to start swimming or floating shortly after entering.
You’ll also want to make sure to bring flippers or a flotation device. The best snorkeling is a couple of hundred feet from the shore where the water is deeper. It’s not a difficult swim but it is easier to enjoy the underwater environment if you have some help.
The waves at Kahekili Beach Park are typically calm but can pick up in the afternoon. It’s always best to check the conditions before heading out to know if it’s safe to swim or not.
Marine Life at Kahekili Beach Park
We saw a lot of green sea turtles the day we visited Kahekili Beach Park (including one of the biggest I’ve ever seen). You can find sea turtles at most Maui snorkel spots but this one definitely seemed to have an abundance of them.
The healthy coral here means you’ll also have a good chance of seeing an abundant variety of reef fish. Reef fish that you’ll see at Kahekili Beach Park common to Maui and the Hawaiian islands include butterflyfish, parrotfish, cornetfish, Moorish idols, tangs, triggerfish, and more.
Kahekili Beach Park is also a great place to whale watch during the winter months and hear their song. Go underwater for a few moments and you can almost always hear them sing.
More About Kahekili Beach Park
Getting to Kahekili Beach Park
Kahekili Beach Park is around 10 minutes from most places in West Maui (Lahaina) and 40-50 minutes from most places in South Maui (Kihei or Wailea). The main road you’ll take to get there once in West Maui is Honoapi’ilani Road. You’ll take that all the way up the west side and then turn onto Kai Ala Drive to reach Kahekili Beach Park.
Parking at Kahekili Beach Park
You’ll see the parking lot at Kahekili Beach Park not long after turning onto Kai Ala Drive. It’s a good size parking lot but it does fill up fast. The day we visited, we had to wait about 10-15 minutes before a spot opened up. You can’t park at any of the resorts in this area, so you’ll need to wait for a spot if one isn’t available.
Facilities at Kahekili Beach Park
You’ll find all the typical facilities at Kahekili Beach Park including bathrooms and beach showers. There’s also a large picnic area with a pavilion and barbeques that are available on a first come, first served basis.
Are There Places to Eat at Kahekili Beach Park?
There aren’t any places to eat directly at Kahekili Beach Park. However, since it’s located in Ka'anapali, there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance including Castaway Cafe and Pailolo Bar & Grill. Some of our favorite restaurants in West Maui are located on the other side of Black Rock in Ka'anapali at Whalers Village.
Can You Rent Snorkel Gear at Kahekili Beach Park?
We didn’t see anywhere to rent snorkel gear directly at Kahekili Beach Park. However, The Snorkel Store is located nearby and does offer rentals. Unless you’re only planning on snorkeling for one day, I’d rent gear closer to where you’re staying for the entire trip. It’s typically a better value than renting for a single day if you plan on snorkeling more than once.
Is Snorkeling at Kahekili Beach Park Good for Families?
Yes! This is absolutely one of the best spots in West Maui for families to snorkel. The calm waves and reef close to the shore make it easy to snorkel for everyone. It’s also a great beach to spend the day at and has a large grass area for kids to run around and play when they’re done in the water.
Why Is Kahekili Beach Park Known as Airport Beach?
Until 1986, there was actually a small airport here called Ka'anapali Airport with a runway just 30 feet from the shoreline. It was the only place you could land a plane in West Maui until the Kapalua Airport opened in 1987. The airport eventually closed due to planned resort expansion in the area.
Snorkeling Etiquette, Conservation, and Saftey
It’s important when snorkeling to remember that you’re in the water with other people as well as marine life. Keep an eye on your surroundings to make sure you don’t bump into other people or disturb the environment. The coral is fragile and shouldn’t be touched as well as any of the marine life as it can be harmful to you and them. Green sea turtles are protected and violators can face steep fines if caught. Finally, always wear biodegradable reef-safe sunscreen as it’s now illegal in Maui to wear anything else that might damage the coral reef.
As for safety, never snorkel alone! Even in a protected cove like Napili Bay, you’re still in the ocean and anything can happen. It’s always best to play it safe and snorkel with a buddy.
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