My parents separated before I was old enough to attend preschool. I lived with my dad in New York City, while my mom moved to one of the most exotic places in the world: Hawaii. I missed seeing her on a regular basis, but I was extremely lucky to have a parent that called such a beautiful locale home. During my annual visits, I explored the Aloha State and got to know it as if I were a resident myself.
My mother played tour guide regularly, showing me many of Maui’s stunning beaches. In fact, some of my best memories with my mom involve days spent discovering the sugary white sand on Ka’anapali or the red shores of Kaihalulu. We body boarded at Kapalua and snorkeled off Black Rock. And while picturesque beaches on Maui may seem a dime a dozen, my three favorites — situated on the west side — stand out from the rest.
All Hawaiian beaches are public by law, but it can be a bit tricky to find their public-access points. This is the case with Oneloa Beach, but the upside is that it saves this relatively hidden gem from overcrowding. (In fact, you may even have the place to yourself!) To get there, start on Lower Honoapiilani Road, turn onto Ironwood Lane and then take a quick left turn into the parking lot, which is opposite of the Ironwoods gate. There, you’ll find a footpath that leads directly to the beach.
Also known as Ironwoods Beach, Oneloa sits next to the Kapalua Resort, just off the Kapalua Coastal Trail. With no large hotels on it, Oneloa’s quarter-mile stretch of pristine white sand is quiet and peaceful. After my children were born, this was one of my favorite places to bring them for building sandcastles and picnicking. Like us, you might actually find it hard to leave.
Plan to visit Oneloa Beach in the morning. The cove often becomes very windy in the afternoon.
Napili Bay is one of the most beautiful on all of Maui. Located on the northwestern coast, the crescent-shaped beach is perfect for swimming, snorkeling and even stand-up paddle boarding. Be careful of the steep drop-off into the water, though, which puts you into deep water pretty quickly!
This beach is also an excellent place to spot a humpback whale during peak season (January through March), so remember to pack your binoculars. I’ve seen these magical creatures many times during their annual migration from Alaska to Hawaii. Keep an eye out for a blow or a tail slap as they skim the water; if you’re lucky, they might breach, throwing their entire bodies up into the air!
Napili faces due west, so plan to stay for the sunset and the amazing views. Settle in as the descending sun casts rich orange and red hues over the horizon and the neighboring island of Moloka’i.
Napili can get crowded and parking is limited, so get there early.
D.T. Fleming Beach
Situated on Honokahua Bay, just north of The Ritz-Carlton®, Kapalua, D.T. Fleming Beach has it all. You’ll discover wide, sun-drenched shores that stretch for more than 500 yards, plus plenty of natural shade, thanks to the large ironwood trees that line the edge of the beach park.
The swimming here is excellent; in the winter months, waves big enough for surfing and boogie boarding roll in. Spread out your towel on the golden sand and plan to stay for the day. With lifeguards, restrooms, picnic tables and barbecue grills, it’s a great place for families and groups of friends wanting to get the most out of their Hawaiian beach experience.
Where to Stay: