When it comes to narrowing down the best Kihei spots for your South Maui beach break, it can get overwhelming. It’s Maui, after all.
Not only are there plenty of beaches to choose from, but Maui beaches are all impressive in their own way. The soft sand, long stretches of beach, temperate weather, and (predominantly) sunny skies draw visitors from around the world.
So which Kihei beach should you choose?
We’ve literally done the legwork for you. Over our last several visits to Maui, we’ve walked nearly the entire length of Kihei’s shoreline to bring you our list of the South Maui town’s best beaches.
And not only have we walked these beaches in person, but we’ve also cross referenced our findings with both the Maui County Coastal Zone Management and the Maui County facilities department.
In this article:
- Map of the best Kihei beaches on Maui
- Best beach for exploring on foot: Kealia Beach (aka Sugar Beach)
- Best beach for windsurfing: Mai Poina Oe Ia’u Beach Park
- Best beach for a look at cultural history: Kalepolepo Beach Park
- Best beach for a quiet sunset: Lipoa Street Beach
- Best beach for snorkeling: Charley Young Beach
- Best beach for an afternoon beach break: Kamaole Beach Park I
- Best beach for getting in the water: Kamaole Beach Park II
- Best beach for bodyboarding: Kamaole Beach Park III
- Best beach for a lazy afternoon: Keawakapu Beach
Map of the best beaches in Kihei, Maui
1. Best beach for exploring on foot: Kealia Beach (a.k.a. Sugar Beach)
Where the West Maui shoreline transitions to South Maui lies Kealia Beach, known colloquially as Sugar Beach. The long, thin stretch of sand is the perfect sport for exploring on foot. North Kihei beaches such as Kealia typically see windier weather than their southern counterparts. These conditions make the beach better for walking and exploring rather than snorkeling, swimming, or sitting on the sand (unless you enjoy sand blowing in your face).
Explore the Kealia wildlife refuge
On the north side of Sugar Beach, wander the Kealia boardwalk and wildlife refuge to view the local flora and fauna — it’s a great spot perfect for bird watchers. Along this wetlands path, gain beach access and keep an eye out for turtles bobbing with the waves.
Paddle with a canoe club
On the southern end of Sugar Beach, watch for surfers and canoers (multiple canoeing clubs call this stretch home) — or launch one yourself.
Parking at Kealia Beach
Park at the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk, along South Kihei Road.
As an alternative, look for the public parking spaces near Nani Kai Hale just off of South Kihei Road. (Just be careful not to park in a private lot.) From there, take the boardwalk path that leads to the beach.
2. Best beach for windsurfing: Mai Poina Oe Ia’u Beach Park
South of Sugar Beach sits the 5.3-acre Mai Poina Oe Ia’u Beach Park. Not only does Mai Poina offer a sensational view of West Maui and its towering wind turbines, this spot is often less crowded than other Kihei beaches. However, visitors must also contend with the windy conditions at this spot, which makes snorkeling less desirable in these waters.
Windsports at Mai Poina
Windsurfers, kite surfers and board surfers take advantage of windy conditions and waves at Mai Poina Beach, making it a popular Maui spot for active beachgoers. Spectators on land can walk the long stretch of beach while watching surfers from shore.
Parking at Mai Poina Beach Park
You’ll find a few parking spaces in front of the picnic pavilion. But your best bet is to find street parking along South Kihei Road.
3. Best beach for a look at cultural history: Kalepolepo Beach Park
In the middle of bustling modern-day Kihei, Kalepolepo Beach is home to an ancient Hawaiian space: the Ko`ie`ie Fishpond (also known as the Ka`ono`ulu Kai Fishpond and Kalepolepo Fishpond, according to the Association of the Fishponds of Maui).
A rock wall spans more than 1,000 feet long, enclosing approximately three acres of ocean waters. It’s thought that the wall was built some time after AD 1488 to 1643.
Discover an ancient Hawaiian fishpond
The ingenious fishpond design caught and retained large fish behind the rock wall and sluice gate while allowing smaller fish to escape. In this culturally significant spot, Hawaiian people collected fish for their monarchs.
Many fishponds and remnants of fishponds exist throughout the Hawaiian islands today. However, the fishpond at Kalepolepo Beach is one of the most easily accessible public fishponds.
Try wading into the water at Kalepolepo Beach in the morning hours — you may just spot sea turtles along the rock wall.
Parking at Kalepolepo Beach Park
Look for the Kalepolepo Beach Park sign off of South Kihei Road. Turn into a small parking lot, which has around nine spots available. If the lot is full, try parking along the street.
4. Best beach for a quiet sunset: Lipoa Street Beach
If you’re looking for a tucked-away spot to enjoy sunset away from the crowds, head to Lipoa Street Beach. This hidden gem is of the lesser known, less-frequented beaches on Maui, nestled behind a residential neighborhood and small condo buildings.
Sit, don’t swim at Lipoa Street Beach
While Lipoa Street Beach may be a tranquil spot for watching the waves and catching the sun sink beneath the horizon, think twice about getting in the water. This isn’t the best spot for swimming and snorkeling. When in the water, it gets rocky and often murky.
While we don’t recommend a swim here, this hidden gem has another perk: its vicinity to Nalu’s South Shore Grill and Maui Pie, two of our favorite eateries for fueling up on our next island adventure.
Parking at Lipoa Street Beach
From South Kihei Road, turn onto Lipoa Street heading west. (Look for Times Supermarket.) Drive on West Lipoa Street until the road ends. That’s where you’ll find the beach access point. You’ll find only street parking at this location.
5. Best beach for snorkeling: Charley Young Beach
On the northernmost end of Kamaole Beach Park I lies Charley Young Beach, an excellent spot for both swimming and relaxing on the beach. While this beach remains a popular site for both locals and visitors, it feels more secluded than adjacent Kamaole Beach because this section of beach is somewhat set back from the hustle and bustle of South Kihei Road.
Explore tide pools and snorkel (with caution)
The beach’s rocky north end makes Charley Young Beach excellent for exploring tide pools (when the tide is right) and spotting turtles.
You can also wade into the water with your snorkeling gear. But bear in mind that there is no lifeguard on this section of the beach. Head farther south along the stretch to Kamaole Beach Park I to find a staffed lifeguard stand, subject to certain hours.
Parking at Charley Young Beach
The park has a decent-sized public parking lot with about 50 spaces on the corner of South Kihei Road and Kaiau Place. Limited street parking is also available.
6. Best beach for an afternoon beach break: Kamaole Beach Park I
Also known as Ili’iliholo, Kamaole Beach Park I is the northernmost section of the three Kamaole Beach Parks. The Kamaole Beaches are some of the most popular — and busiest — in Kihei because of the central location, easy access, facilities, and soft sand. But even with the crowds, the beach retains a laid-back aloha vibe.
Splash around or snooze on the sand
The beach park features a grassy area along South Kihei Road and a sandy beach with a lifeguard tower. It’s an excellent all-around beach for building sand castles or venturing into the water.
And the ABC Store across the street caters to beachgoers’ needs, from spam musubi to reef-safe sunscreen and other vacation essentials.
Parking at Kamaole Beach Park I
The park maintains a paved parking lot for around 20 vehicles. You may also find street parking along South Kihei Road. Or look for the overflow parking lot across South Kihei Road at the corner of Alanui Ke’ali’i.
7. Best beach for getting in the water: Kamaole Beach Park II
Like Kamaole Beaches I and III on either side, Kamaole Beach Park II is easy to access from the street and has plenty of room to dig in and stretch out under the sun.
Swim or snorkel at Kamaole Beach Park II
Not only does this section of beach have a lifeguard (when on duty), but it’s easy to rent snorkeling gear nearby. Head across the street to Boss Frog’s or Auntie Snorkel for gear and up-to-date snorkeling conditions.
Grab a bite nearby for a beach picnic
Kamaole Beach II is also closest to some of our favorite eateries for. Head across South Kihei Road for a treat from The Cinnamon Roll Place, or grab a hearty sandwich (and banana cream pudding!) from 808 Deli.
Parking at Kamaole Beach Park II
This beach doesn’t have its own parking lot, so prepare to park on the street (or look for parking at Kamaole Beach Park I or III). Consider staying at one of the vacation rental condos across the street for the easiest access to Kamaole Beach Park II.
8. Best beach for bodyboarding: Kamaole Beach Park III
The farthest south of the three beaches, Kamaole Beach Park III holds a special place in my heart of Maui memories. Since the beach sits mere steps (across the street) from our condo at Kamaole Sands, I’ve spent many moments marveling at the reflecting orange, purple, and pink hues of sunset from Kamaole Beach Park III.
While this section feels like a smaller stretch of sand than the other Kamaole Beach Park beaches, it has a lovely open grassy field for those who aren’t a fan of sitting on the sand, along with grills for barbecuing a tasty lunch. It’s also easy to access boat excursions from the nearby Kihei boat landing.
Take a dip in the water at Kamaole Beach Park III
We always see plenty of boogie boarders taking advantage of the waves while at Kamaole Beach Park III. And swimmers benefit from an on-duty lifeguard.
Just avoid crashing into the rocky areas on the north and south sides of the beach.
Parking at Kamaole Beach Park III
Beachgoers at this Kihei beach may find an easier time parking at than at the other Kamaole Beach Parks, since this section offers the largest parking lot, as well as street parking.
Slightly farther south, adjacent to the Kihei boat ramp, is another dirt parking lot next to the boat ramp’s paved lot.
9. Best beach for a lazy afternoon: Keawakapu Beach
Just before south Kihei morphs into the plush Wailea resort community lies Keawakapu Beach, a quintessential Maui beach if one ever existed. You’ll find parking easier to find here than along the busy Kamaole Beach Parks, since Keawakapu beach goers have access to a total of three (yes, three!) parking lots.
The beach itself runs from the Mana Kai Resort at the north side. It terminates at the end of South Kihei Road (at Wailea-Ekahi) on the south side.
Mellow beach tucked behind swanky houses
In addition to ample parking and easy beach access, Keawakapu Beach has plenty of sand for stretching out, even among a crowd.
The north end tends to be busier with its proximity to Kihei resorts and condos such as Mana Kai and Hale Hui Kai. The rest of the beach backs up to opulent beachfront homes.
In the morning, you’ll find locals and part-time residents walking their dogs and chatting along shore. Fitness types run along the sand while others brave the waves on boogie boards and paddle boards.
The best snorkeling can typically be had in the morning hours, before the wind picks up, kicking up waves and sand alike. Like many other beaches on South Maui, there’s no lifeguard at Keawakapu.
Parking at Keawakapu Beach
On the north side of Keawakapu Beach, find parking in the two gravel lots behind Mana Kai Maui Resort off of South Kihei Road.
Another option is the parking lot at the corner of Kilohana Drive and South Kihei Road, although you’ll need to cross South Kihei Road to reach the beach access path.
And farthest south (at the edge of Wailea), drive to the end of South Kihei Road to the Keawakapu Wailea-Ekahi beach access lot for additional parking.