Kapalua Bay Beach: one of the best beaches on West Maui
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Kapalua Bay Beach is one of the most beautiful and family friendly beaches on Maui. A crescent shaped beach, it has everything a beachgoer could ask for: crystal clear water, easy access, important amenities (like bathrooms and showers), a parking lot, snorkeling, and beach rental equipment.
Kapalua Bay earned the top spot on the Dr. Beach annual survey of the best beaches in America.
About Kapalua Bay
Kapalua Bay is a protected bay on the North West side of Maui, just north of Napili Beach. During periods of low surf, the water in the bay is generally calm, which makes swimming and snorkeling enjoyable. It consistently makes the list for one of the best beaches in Hawaii, thanks to it’s crescent shaped, golden sand beach, easy access, and clear blue water. You can find great snorkeling in Kapalua Bay, especially along the rocky reef areas on each side of the bay.
Fast facts about Kapalua Bay
Parking lot: Yes
Google Maps directions
Getting to Kapalua Bay
Kapalua is located on the North West side of Maui, approximately 20 minutes from Lahaina and 15 minutes from Ka’anapali. To get there, you’ll take Highway 30, the Honoapiilani Highway and turn left in Napili on Napilihau Street. Make a right on lower Honoapiilani road and continue until you see the Kapalua Bay parking lot on your left.
The parking lot isn’t huge, so if it is full (and it tends to fill up very early) you can also park on the street and walk down to the beach. Be sure not to park in the Merriman’s restaurant parking lot next door to the public beach parking lot.
Things to do at Kapalua Bay
We love Kapalua Bay because not only is it beautiful, there is just so much to do there!
- Snorkeling: Kapalua Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui. Here you’ll find beautiful coral, a white sandy bottom, plenty of fish, and the semi-regular appearance of a turtle. This is one of our favorite spots to snorkel on the west side of Maui as it’s easy to enter the water and we always enjoy seeing the sea life here.
- Swimming: On days without high surf, Kapalua Bay can be a great place to swim. The bay will often have calm water, especially in the morning before the winds pick up, making it a pleasant place to get some laps in or splash around with your kids.
- Walking: If you’re tired of the beach, you can head out on the Kapalua Coastal Trail for a walk. This trail will take you from Kapalua Beach, along the coast for stunning views, past a bird refuge, to Ironwoods beach.
- SUP: If you want to spend even more time out on the water, consider picking up a stand up paddle (SUP) rental from the rental stand right on the beach. They also rent boogie boards, beach chairs, and umbrellas.
- Dinner: Sitting directly on the south end of the bay is the famous Merriman’s restaurant, consistently one of the highest rated restaurants on Maui. This restaurant books up well in advance, so a reservation is definitely recommended. Occasionally, they’ll open up a bar/grill area on the side where you can order a la carte items and drinks.
- Watch the sunset: While we love being at Kapalua Bay during the day for snorkeling and swimming, it’s also such a wonderful and easy place to take in the gorgeous sunset. Sit on the beach and look out over the sky changing above Lana’i and Moloka’i.
For more information on what to do on Kapalua Bay, check out our video that includes a day of snorkeling at Kapalua Beach as well as dinner at Merriman’s:
Tips for Kapalua Bay
While visiting Kapalua is always a treat, there are a few tips that can help make your trip even better:
- Visit early in the morning: The small Kapalua Bay parking lot fills up quickly so arriving early in the morning can help you secure a spot. It’s also a good idea to visit early because tradewinds can pick up in the afternoon which make the water a bit rougher.
- Check water and weather conditions: We love using the Snorkel Report to check the water conditions daily. While Kapalua is on the west side of Maui, it’s on the north west side, which means you can get more wind and rain up there than you would in Ka’anapali.
- Bring food: Kapalua has great amenities, like bathrooms and a shower, but quick and easy beach food is lacking. If you plan to spend a long time at the beach, make sure you bring beach snacks and food. You don’t want to give up one of those coveted parking spots because you need to run out and grab a snack!
Kapalua Bay beach safety
While Kapalua is a mostly protected bay, it’s not immune to dangerous ocean conditions. Practice beach safety here. It’s important to:
- Swim with a partner and never go out snorkeling alone
- Stay inside the bay — the current and waves pick up significantly once you leave the bay
- Check ocean conditions before you go in
- When in doubt, don’t go out!
And don’t forget that reef-safe sunscreen. It’s important to keep the reef and ocean life safe so wearing reef-safe sunscreen and sun protective clothing can help keep bad chemicals out of the ocean.
Read this article to learn more about reef safe sunscreen.
Places to stay near Kapalua Bay Beach
If you’re looking for the best places to stay on Maui, you’ll find a number of them here at Kapalua. The beach is so beautiful and highly sought after, most of the accommodations you’ll find here are more expensive than in neighboring communities.
- Montage Kapalua Bay: This is definitely the nicest hotel on west Maui and is quite possibly the nicest hotel on Maui. The Montage offers visitors residences that range from 1 bedroom to 4 bedrooms. It’s a serene spot that is uber luxurious.
- Ritz Carlton Kapalua: Another luxurious hotel option is the Ritz Carlton Kapalua. Set near DT Fleming Beach, this hotel offers sprawling grounds, great amenities, and a family friendly environment.
- Kapalua Villas: These spacious condominiums are perched up on a hill in Kapalua near the Ritz Carlton and offer spectacular ocean views (though there is no direct access to the beach).
Read more about where to stay on Maui.
Where to eat near Kapalua Bay Beach
If you’re willing to drive a bit from the beach, there are plenty of restaurants and places to eat in Kapalua. Here are some of our favorites:
- Merrimans: If you want to dine while directly overlooking Kapalua Bay, this is the place. It’s fine dining and difficult to get into, so book your reservations well in advance of your trip.
- Cane and Canoe: Another fine dining restaurant, but this one is set in the Montage Kapalua. This quiet restaurant offers great food and a beautiful sunset view.
- The Burger Shack: This is an awesome lunch option set on the Ritz Carlton property overlooking DT Fleming beach. Enjoy an easy meal of burgers and fries and top it off with one of their epic milkshakes.
- Honolua Store: If you’re looking for quick food at a good price (for Kapalua) make a stop at the Honolua Store. This upscale ABC store has a hot food counter where you can order breakfast, lunch and dinner options. The teriyaki chicken plate is a family favorite.
If you’re planning a trip to Maui, be sure to check out our Maui itinerary. We dedicate an excursion day to exploring west Maui and Kapalua Bay is one of the stops. This done for you itinerary will take you everywhere you need to go on the island. With one download, your Maui trip is planned.
Get The Maui Itinerary
The step-by-step itinerary takes you to all the best beaches, snorkeling spots, restaurants, and sights. You’ll get six carefully planned excursion days to help you see the can’t miss stops no matter how limited your time is.
Get all the details on our itinerary and download it for a memorable and easily planned trip to Maui.