Don’t worry, you won’t hear engine noise at this under-the-radar beach park. Instead, Airport Beach’s combination of soft sand and manicured lawn makes it one of the best little beaches to visit along the Kaanapali shoreline.
In this post:
What we liked:
- Free parking in the dedicated lot
- Not as busy as more famous nearby beaches
- Park amenities such as restrooms, outdoor showers, and barbecue grills
What to consider:
- No nearby street parking if the parking lot fills up
- No onsite restaurant or snack bar
- No lifeguard station at this beach
About Airport Beach
For a low-key beach experience, you might want to check out West Maui’s Ali’i Kahekili Nui Ahumanu Beach Park, locally known as Airport Beach. Nestled between the Westin Ka’anapali Ocean Resort Villas and an enclave of palatial beach homes at the Kaanapali Beach Resort, this unassuming beach park offers a welcoming strip of sand on the Kaanapali resort shoreline.
One of the things that sets Airport Beach apart is its large no-fee parking lot and park amenities. You’ll find spacious restrooms, barbecue grills, a gazebo, and an expansive lawn, all of which make it a great spot for picnicking or hanging out with friends and family. And if you’re looking to get in the water, you’ll be pleased to know that Airport Beach is a favorite spot for scuba divers, particularly for intro sessions.
How Airport Beach got its name
While the Kaanapali beach park is officially named after Hawaiian royalty — Kahekili II — the nickname Airport Beach comes from a now-defunct airport that closed in the 1980s. According to Lahaina News, the old airport’s terminal building used to sit where the current park gazebo pavilion stands. A stone plaque monument now lies on the former grounds as a historic reminder of the site that was once an oceanfront airport.
What to do at Airport Beach
While the runway and airport terminal may be long gone, Airport Beach is an under-the-radar spot for Maui visitors. Here’s what to do while you’re there.
Scuba and snorkel
While the closeness of the coral reef to shore doesn’t make Airport Beach the best choice for swimming and wading, snorkeling and scuba diving is another story. We attended an introductory scuba diving session at Airport Beach, and we weren’t the only group to take advantage of the relatively calm waters and easy access to the reef.
Sunbathe on the beach
The park features a wide section of beach, around 70 to 80 feet from the grassy knoll to the water’s edge. The size makes it ideal for setting up a lounge chair and beach blanket to lay out on the beach. But don’t forget mineral sunscreen, a hat, and a beach umbrella. There isn’t much shade to be found, save a few palm trees that dot the park grounds.
Picnic on the grass
Between the beach and the parking lot lies a well-manicured grassy area that provides the perfect staging ground for a picnic. Whether you tote a few sandwiches to the park or go all out with a cooler filled with meats for barbecuing, Airport Beach is a great place to enjoy an outdoor meal.
Watch for whales
During Maui’s whale watching season — November through May — carry a pair of binoculars if you plan to spend time at Airport Beach. According to the Maui Ocean Center, around 10,000 humpback whales journey from the frigid waters of the North Pacific to the warm waters of Hawaii. Many whales pass through the Lahaina Roads channel between West Maui, Molokai island, and Lanai island — where the shore of Airport Beach faces.
If you’re lucky, you may spot whale flukes, fins, and spouts from shore.
Stroll the boardwalk
If you’re itching to explore, take the pedestrian path that parallels Kaanapali shoreline. From Airport Beach, head north on the boardwalk path. Travel past the resort buildings to Duke’s Beach House for a meal and libations. Or meander south to the charming Castaway Cafe.
Getting to Airport Beach
From Honoapilani Highway, turn west on Puukolii Road. Look for the Kaanapai Beach Resort sign at the street entrance. Follow Puukolii Road straight, directly into the beach parking lot. Look for the welcome sign to Ali’i Kahekili Nui Ahumanu Beach Park, which leads to the parking area.
Where to find parking
The park has a dedicated parking lot for beachgoers, and there’s no fee to park.
The downside? When the parking lot gets full, nearby street parking isn’t available. The adjoining parking lots are for the resort, which charges a hefty parking fee.
While we haven’t had a problem finding parking here in the past, the lot can fill up during the busier tourist seasons. We recommend arriving before 10:00 a.m. for the best chance to snag a parking spot at Airport Beach.
Things to do nearby
- Wailele Luau at the Westin Maui – Oceanside luau that includes a buffet meal and Polynesian fire-knife dancing
- Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency Resort – Another oceanside luau that features both traditional Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural dances
- Whaler’s Village – Busy shopping center with stores and dining options
- Kaanapali Golf Course – 36 holes with stunning ocean views
You might also be interested in: Things You Shouldn’t Miss When Vacationing in Maui
Where to eat nearby
- Maui Fruit Ninja – Pop-up stand that serves fruit bowls, acai bowls, and juices; limited days and hours
- Castaway Cafe – Casual beachfront restaurant open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
- Duke’s Beach House – Famous Kaanapali restaurant named for famed surfer and swimmer Duke Kahanamoku; known for their hula pie
- Monkeypod Kitchen at Whaler’s Village – Chef Peter Merriman’s restaurant thought to have the best Mai Tais
- Leilani’s on the Beach – Award-winning spot with ocean views and locally sourced dishes
- Macadangdang – An OpenTable Diners’ Choice restaurant that features Hawaiian and Filipino fusion cuisine