Snorkeling Kapalua Beach is very popular. This small crescent bay on the north shore has a gorgeous sandy beach. Parking fills up, so come early for a close spot. The beach is a short walk from the parking lot.
Note: This page is a sample from our popular Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.
Snorkeling Kapalua is good as long as you swim to the right along the rocky point. This is where the corals are healthiest and where the fish hang out. The left side of the bay has OK snorkeling.
In the normal trade winds, you will find that this bay is fairly protected and you can snorkel when the winds are up in the afternoons. That said, north swells in the winter months can make snorkeling Kapalua dangerous.
Water Entrance When Snorkeling Kapalua
Kapalua is a nice sandy beach, though steep at times. Barefoot entry is easy, just keep your eyes open for the occasional rock in the sand. Walk to the end you intend to snorkel and enter there. Walk out until you can float and put on your fins.
Where to Snorkel
For snorkeling Kapalua on the right side of the bay, just swim away from the beach and stay close to the rocks. The terrain starts out a little boring and dead, but the farther out you swim along the rocky point, you will find some healthier corals and a few large coral heads. A bit of the coral has declined in health in recent years, lowering our ranking. The visibility gets better the farther out you go. We saw a turtle and some fish in this area. Expect depths up to 20 feet. Don’t swim past the point, which is about 900 feet from the beach, 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. A number of fish hang out there. Swim toward the other side of the bay. It is not far off the beach and you can see some interesting small stuff in 3-5 feet of water.
Snorkeling Kapalua Beach on the left side is not as good as the right side, but there are a few corals, a few fish, and maybe a turtle to see. 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 a few corals farther out. 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. We usually only go out 500 feet on this side because it gets so rough, but the point is out from the beach 1000 feet or so.
If you find this Kapalua snorkeling information helpful, you will also enjoy our free monthly snorkeling newsletter.
Snorkeling Sunburns Suck!
Check out the snorkeling rash guards, wetsuits, and reef safe sunscreen we use to protect ourselves and to protect fish and coral from sunscreen chemicals.
What We Saw While Snorkeling Kapalua Beach
You can see fish, coral, and turtles while snorkeling Kapalua, but not in high numbers.
- Blenny: Leopard, Scarface
- Boxfish, Spotted
- Butterflyfish: Bluestripe, Fourspot, Multiband, Ornate, Raccoon, Teardrop, Threadfin
- Chromis, Blackfin
- Damselfish: Blue-Eye, Brighteye
- Dascyllus, Hawaiian
- Eel: Stout, Whitemouth Moray
- Filefish: Barred, Fantail
- Flounder, Peacock
- Goatfish: Doublebar, Manybar, Yellowstripe
- Gregory, Hawaiian
- Hawkfish: Arc-Eye, Freckled, Stocky
- Jack, Rainbow Runner
- Moorish Idol
- Needlefish, Keeltail
- Parrotfish: Bullethead, Palenose, Redlip, Stareye
- Puffer, Stripebelly
- Sergeant: Blackspot, Hawaiian
- Soldierfish, Bigscale
- Surgeonfish: Orangeband, Whitebar
- Tang: Lavender, Convict, Sailfin, Yellow
- Toby: Ambon, Hawaiian Whitespotted
- Trevally, Bluefin
- Triggerfish: Black, Bridled, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Lei, Picasso, Pinktail
- Unicornfish: Bluespine, Orangespine
- Wrasse: Belted, Bird, Christmas, Hawaiian Cleaner, Saddle
- Blue Rice
- Branching Rice
- Pork Chop
- Sandpaper Rice
- Oyster, Black Lipped Pearl
- Sea Cucumber: Black, Plump
- Urchin: Banded, Blue-Black, Collector, Pale Rock-Boring, Red Slate Pencil
- Zoanthid Pillow
Have You Seen These Guided Snorkel Travel Adventures?
See all of the snorkeling trips to: Coral Triangle – Caribbean and Mexico – Pacific Islands – Red Sea
Driving Directions from Kihei
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. 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.