Snorkeling Kapalua Beach is very popular, and for good reason. We have snorkeled here many times and not thought much of it, but on a more recent trip we found an area that has some amazing corals, and so this is now one of our favorites.
Note: This page is a sample from our popular Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.
This small crescent bay with a gorgeous sandy beach is truly a Hawaii vacation dream. You could stay at Kapalua Resort or Kapalua Bay Hotel and Villas, which are the resorts in front of the beach, and use it everyday.
Snorkeling Kapalua Beach is great on the right side of the bay, while the left side is okay, but on both you need to swim out to get good visibility and healthy corals. One of the great things about this snorkeling spot is that it is in a fairly protected bay that you can snorkel when the trade winds are blowing and making other locations impossible even to enter the water.
Kapalua is a nice sandy beach, though steep at times. Barefoot entry is easy just keep your eyes out for the occasional rock in the sand. Walk to the end you intend to snorkel and enter there.
To snorkel the right side of the bay, just swim out and stay close to the rocks. The terrain starts out a little boring and dead, but the further out you swim along the rocky point, you get into some very healthy coral fields with many types of corals and large coral heads. The visibility gets better the further out you go. We saw turtles and many fish in a lot of variety here. Expect depths up to 20 feet. Don’t go past the point, as you are likely to encounter strong currents. When you are finished, head back toward the beach, and notice an area that runs parallel with the beach that is mostly rocks, but a number of fish hang out there. Swim toward the other side of the bay. It is not far off the beach and can be some interesting small stuff in shallow water.
Snorkeling Kapalua Beach on the left side did not compare to the right, but there is some live reef. This side often has poor visibility because it is more exposed to the common wind and wave direction. Like the right side, the reef is pretty dead in close, but there are some nice coral patches and heads further out. We didn’t see nearly as many fish on this side. The depths are similar to the right side. Again, don’t go past the point and swim back to the beach when you are done.
This was a very alive place. Here is what we saw:
1. In Kihei get on Hwy 31 (Piilani Hwy) or S. Kihei Rd. heading north.
2. When you reach the intersection with Hwy 311 (Mokulele Hwy) and Hwy 310 (N. Kihei Rd.) turn onto Hwy 310 (N. Kihei Rd.)
3. Follow to the next intersection with Hwy 30 (Honoapiilani Hwy) and turn left, heading initially south. This road is what you will follow to the north shore of west Maui.
4. You will pass by Lahaina and Kaanapali and you will be turning into the Kapalua/Napili area onto Napilihau St. right after the 29 mile marker. Follow this until it ends and turn right onto Lower Honoapiilani Rd.
5. Follow this until you pass the Sea House Restaurant and Napili Kai Condo entrances then turn left where you see a Kapalua Resort sign, a Napili Lani sign and a yellow fire hydrant (top picture, looking south). You have turned into the parking lot for the beach. At the end of the parking area you will see the blue shoreline access sign. Come early, because the parking fills up. If the lot is full you may be able to find parking along the side of Lower Honoapiilani Rd. in the area before you turned into the lot.
There are restrooms and showers at this beach.