The beaches of Lahaina are the most underrated on the island. The swimming is poor due to the offshore reef, but they are sunnier, less crowded, and more protected from the wind than most other beaches on Maui. If it’s raining in Kapalua or Napili, or windy on Ka‘anapali Beach, 90 percent of the time it’s going to be sunny and calm on the beaches of Lahaina.
Also known as Breakwall, 505, or Shark Pit, this is the most happening stretch of sand in Lahaina. Most visitors access the beach from Kamehameha Iki Park, and there is beach parking in a small lot or in the back of the Front Street tennis courts. This is the area where most of the surf schools set out from. There is also a beach volleyball court which can get busy during the afternoons. Visitors are encouraged to marvel at the Polynesian voyaging canoes on display as part of the Hui O Wa‘a Kaulua Canoe Club. This area was once the playground of Hawaiian royalty. You can hear the drums of the Feast of Lele lu‘au while watching the sunset from here the north end of the beach, which can be busy. Visitors rarely wander to the south end of the beach where palm trees hang out over a secluded cove. Locals call this area Shark Pit, referencing the harmless reef sharks which hang around the offshore ledge. The swimming here is poor due to the offshore reef, although it provides calm water for wading with small children. There is one shower but no restroom at this beach.
Pu‘unoa and Mala (Baby Beach)
On the northern end of Front Street, the beach which runs along Pu‘unoa Point (and known to locals as Baby Beach) is an oasis of tranquility where you have to ask yourself if you’re still in Lahaina. Shielded from visitors by its residential location—and protected from big surf by the offshore reef—the sand running along this lazy promontory is the perfect spot for a sitting in a beach chair and listening to the waves. Numerous trees provide shade, and the calm waters are ideal for beachgoers with young children or those who want to tan on a raft.
Finding the beach can be a challenge, and parking can be an issue. For the access point with the largest amount of parking, turn off Front Street onto Ala Moana Street by the sign for Mala Ramp. Instead of heading down to the boat launch, proceed straight on Ala Moana until the road ends by the Jodo mission. From here you will see the beach in front of you, and the best section of beach will be a five-minute walk to your left along the sand. Transients sometimes hang out around this parking lot; don’t leave any valuables in your car. If you’re walking from downtown Lahaina, the quickest access to the nicest part of beach is to turn off Front Street onto Kai Pali Place where you will notice a shoreline access path. If you are coming from downtown Lahaina, this turn will be about three minutes after you pass the Hard Rock Café.
Wahikuli and Hanakao‘o Beach Parks (Canoe Beach)
On the northern tip of Lahaina, these two beach parks comprise the strip of land between Front Street and Ka‘anapali. Wahikuli is the beach closer to Lahaina, and Hanakao‘o is the one at the southern edge of the Hyatt. Of the two beaches, Wahikuli offers better swimming, although a secret about Hanakao‘o is that on the days when the main stretch of Ka‘anapali Beach is windy, Hanakao‘o stays tucked in a cove where the wind can barely reach. Hanakao‘o is also known as Canoe Beach since this is where many of the outrigger canoe regattas are held on Saturday mornings. As of the time of writing, a new beach path was being constructed so visitors can walk or ride bicycles from the south end of Ka‘anapali through Hanakao‘o, Wahikuli, and down to Front Street in Lahaina.
Excerpted from the Ninth Edition of Moon Maui.