Snorkeling Wailea Beach is very popular and very busy, being the house beach for two big resorts. The snorkeling here is good, if you swim past the right end of the beach. Past the left end is not as good with even lower visibility and fewer fish and corals.
Not too far south of Kihei, Wailea is a beautiful sandy beach. Like all the beaches in South Maui, Wailea is best snorkeled in the mornings before the winds pick up.
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The Grand Wailea and Four Seasons resorts rent equipment like kayaks, paddle boards, and boogie boards, which can be dangerous to snorkelers. Most of the folks renting this equipment are inexperienced and we have almost been hit numerous times. So, be very cautious.
The public parking area is large for this beach, but it can fill up, so come early to guarantee your spot.
Water Entrance for Snorkeling Wailea
Walk to the end of the sandy beach you choose to snorkel. You can enter barefoot and put your fins on when you can float.
Where to Snorkel
Of the two choices for snorkeling Wailea, the right end (looking from the beach) is better, though the visibility is often not great. The reef here is much healthier than the one past the left end of the beach and there are more fish to see.
After entering and swimming away from the beach, you have to go a decent ways past the first few fingers of coral reef to get into the healthy coral area with interesting topography. If you swim around the point until you are facing the condos that are on the shore, you will be in the right area. It is about an 850 foot swim. We saw three turtles in this snorkeling Wailea area on our last visit, too.
Avoid hugging the shore, because the corals are much better in slightly deeper water, about 10 feet, and the visibility is also much better farther out, too.
If you swim to Ulua Beach, the next beach north, and back to Wailea Beach, it is nearly a mile long swim. You can do that if you are up for it or just turn around before you get tired.
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Snorkeling Wailea past the left end of the beach is decent, if you swim far enough. The visibility is often poor on this side, because of all the kicked up sand from the many people in the water here.
The reef near the beach is not very alive with either corals or fish. But, if you want to see some better corals, swim all the way along the point until you are in front of the big tree on the point, about 900 feet. In this snorkeling Wailea area the visibility improves, and the there is a patch of corals that are healthier. There are also better fish populations and we saw a couple of turtles. The depths here go down to about 15 feet.
But we recommend you don’t bother swimming much farther around the rocky point than the area offshore of the tree. There is a wide boring sandy area just past it. Though, if you were so inclined, you could snorkel from Wailea Beach to Polo Beach, the next beach south, and back. The round trip swim is nearly a mile.
Got Hurt Snorkeling and Travel Insurance Won’t Cover It?
Yes, many travel insurance policies exclude snorkeling accidents, leaving you in the lurch. See our recommended travel insurance that does cover snorkeling.
What We Saw While Snorkeling Wailea Beach
We saw a decent amount of fish in good variety while snorkeling Wailea Beach. There is some healthy coral here if you know where to swim.
- Boxfish, Spotted
- Butterflyfish: Blacklip, Forceps, Fourspot, Milletseed, Multiband, Ornate, Raccoon, Teardrop, Threadfin
- Chromis, Blackfin
- Coris, Elegant
- Damselfish, Blue-Eye
- Eel, Whitemouth Moray
- Emperor, Bigeye
- Filefish: Barred, Squaretail
- Flagtail, Hawaiian
- Flounder, Peacock
- Goatfish: Blue, Manybar, Yellowstripe
- Gregory, Hawaiian
- Hawkfish, Arc-Eye
- Moorish Idol
- Needlefish, Crocodile
- Parrotfish: Bullethead, Stareye
- Porcupinefish, Spotted
- Puffer, Stripebelly
- Sergeant: Blackspot, Hawaiian
- Snapper, Blacktail
- Surgeonfish: Goldring, Orangeband, Ringtail, Whitebar
- Tang: Convict, Goldrim, Lavender, Yellow
- Toby: Ambon, Hawaiian Whitespotted
- Trevally, Bluefin
- Triggerfish: Black, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Picasso, Pinktail
- Unicornfish: Bluespine, Orangespine, Paletail
- Wrasse: Belted, Bird, Christmas, Rockmover, Saddle
- Blue Rice
- Sandpaper Rice
- Oyster, Black Lipped Pearl
- Sea Cucumber, Teated
- Sea Star, Crown of Thorns
- Urchin: Banded, Blue-Black, Collector, Pale Rock-Boring, Red Slate Pencil
- Zoanthid, Pillow
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Driving Directions – From Kihei
1. Head south on S. Kihei Rd. Toward the end of the road, there is an intersection where you need to veer left onto Okolani Dr.
2. Continue to the intersection with Wailea Alanui Dr. and turn right.
3. Follow this through the big intersection with Wailea Iki Dr. near The Shops at Wailea. Keep driving until you pass the Grand Wailea Resort and turn right just after. There is a black stone sign that says Wailea Beach and a blue shoreline access sign with the number 106. If you see the Four Seasons Wailea, you just missed the turn.
4. Follow the road to the public parking areas, a large one under the trees to the right and some spots along the road down to the turnaround.
There are restrooms, showers, a barbecue, and a picnic table for your use at this beach.