The entire family immediately fell in love the first time we visited Kapalua Bay Beach. It’s a stunning crescent-shaped beach in West Maui that’ll leave you feeling relaxed.
It’s hard to write this post without sounding too cheesy but it’s the truth. Kapalua Bay is a beautiful place. The backdrop of the villas and palms, the cove curving around to the rocky points, and the blue-green tones of the water all blend together to make for a scenic day at the beach.
Kapalua Bay Beach is a lot smaller than the resort beaches you can find in other parts of Maui but that doesn’t make it any less desirable. In my opinion, that only adds to the allure. It even took home the title of “America’s Best Beach” in 2018 from beach expert, Dr. Beach.
On the other hand, the size can be one of the drawbacks. Parking isn’t great because it’s smaller so finding a spot in the lot or on the beach can be tough when it’s busy (get there early if you can). It also doesn’t have as many amenities as the larger beaches of Ka’anapali or Wailea but it’s certainly not lacking in things to do.
In this post, we’ll cover the top things you can do here. From snorkeling and hiking to just lounging in the sun or playing in the sand, Kapalua Bay Beach has something for everyone.
Find a Spot on the Beach
The first thing you should do when arriving at Kapalua Bay is to find a spot on the beach. There isn’t a “best place” on this beach to park yourself, anywhere you can find a spot will do. If you’re going to snorkel, I’d recommend the right side of the beach as that’s where the best snorkeling is.
Additionally, if you want some shade, it’s best to get there by 10 am since it can get crowded early. If you’re arriving later, be sure to bring an umbrella and beach chairs as those might not be available to rent later in the day as the beach fills up.
I’ve also seen people set up their chairs on the grass above the beach. This is a great spot for those that have a hard time walking on sand or when the beach is too crowded.
Grab Snacks and Rentals From the Kapalua Bay Beach Crew
Kapalua Bay doesn’t have a ton of amenities but it does have the Kapalua Bay Beach Crew. This beach stand offers a variety of rentals at reasonable prices including beach chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards, paddle boards, kayaks, and snorkel gear. They also offer paddle board lessons and guided kayak snorkel tours.
Their selection of snacks is limited to basics like chips, bars, drinks, and some sweets. I wouldn’t count on it for lunch but it’s great when you need a little something to hold you over until your next meal. The Kapalua Bay Beach Crew is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm.
Snorkel Kapalua Bay’s Coral Reef
One of the most popular activities you can see beachgoers participating in is snorkeling at Kapalua Bay. It’s a popular place to snorkel because it’s a protected cove that keeps the water nice and calm most of the time. That makes it a great place to snorkel for beginners and families with children.
The coral and marine life at Kapalua Bay are abundant with a variety of things to see including green sea turtles. The right side of the bay typically has better visibility than the left and it improves the further out you go. That’s where we usually recommend snorkeling, however, it’s possible to see fish all over the bay, including the left side.
If you’re interested in learning more about snorkeling here, we wrote an entire guide that you can access by clicking the button below. We’ve also reviewed a number of snorkel tours if you’re interested in more than just your typical day-at-the-beach snorkeling experience.
Take a Stand Up Paddle Board Lesson
If you’re new to paddle boarding or just want some expert advice to improve your skills, the Kapalua Bay Beach Crew offers private and group stand up paddle board lessons. This is a great option for those wanting to try a watersport as it’s typically easier on beginners than surfing.
However, a stand up paddle board lesson might not be necessary. Paddle boarding is pretty easy and you don’t have to stand up (you can paddle on your knees). If you think you can do it without any guidance, opt for the stand up paddle board rental instead and venture out on your own.
Team up on a Two Person Kayak
The Kapalua Bay Beach Crew also offers two-person kayak rentals at $40 an hour as of this writing. That’s a great price to get out there and paddle around the bay for an hour with a friend. The bay is not that large, so you probably don’t need any more than an hour to make your way around. Just be sure not to go past the points as the current can be stronger out in the open ocean making it harder to get back into the bay.
Hike the Kapalua Coastal Trail
If hikes are your thing, the Kapalua Coastal Trail is a great little hike with some of the best views in West Maui that the whole family can enjoy. It’s an easy hike made up of paved and dirt walking paths that don’t take much effort to traverse. We were blown away by the views when we first hiked this trail as we rounded the bend and it opened up to Oneloa Bay.
It wasn’t immediately clear where the trailhead was but after walking back to the parking lot, we figured it out. The trail starts there at Kapalua Bay! Follow the walking path along the villas, you should see signs along the way marking the trail. Eventually, you will come to where the pavement turns into a dirt path, that’s where the views really start to get good.
The trail goes all the way to D.T. Fleming Beach and takes about an hour to complete there and back. You can also do it in reverse or start in the middle. Check out our review of the hike to learn about all there is to see and do while out there.
Check out the View at Namalu Bay
If you don’t feel like hiking the Kapalua Coastal Trail, I’d still recommend checking out the view from the point between Kapalua Bay and Namalu Bay. It will only take a couple of minutes from the beach if you follow the walking path along the villas. You’ll see a large grass area at the top of the right side of Kapalua Bay. Once you’re there, Namalu Bay should be just to your right.
From the grass area, you can see the view of the rocky point between the bays as well as Moloka’i across the ocean (pictured above). If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s even a small path from the grass to the rocks if you want to get the shot above. Just don’t go too far out as the rocks can be dangerous and the waves unpredictable.
Have Dinner at Merriman’s
Last but not least on our list is dinner at Merriman’s on the left side of Kapalua Bay. There are a number of outstanding restaurants in Kapalua but Merriman’s is the only one directly on Kapalua Bay. It’s a popular farm-to-table restaurant that serves a prix fixe dinner menu.
Reservations are hard to come by as they’re released 30 days prior and are usually gone within 4 hours. If you want to book a table, you need to be online and ready when reservations are released or you could miss out!
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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