South Maui is home to some amazing beaches. Whether you are looking for a relaxing beach to suntan, a coral reef to dive through, or waves to surf on, the options are many. In this post, South Maui is defined as from the beachfront condos in Ma’alaea, past the waterfront homes in Makena, all the way to La Perouse. Since the varieties of beaches and activities are so vast, and because it’s still the season for south swells, this blog will focus on the waves.
Sugar Beach – A 3-mile stretch of white sand that’s among the longest in the islands, this beach spans pretty much the entire Ma’alaea Bay. The sand here is extremely fine (hence the dubbing of sugar) and during the winter months, humpback whales can be seen in abundance. The west end of the beach is Haycraft Park and Ma’alaea Harbor. If there is a big south swell, the wave off the harbor, “Freight Trains,” (top right) can be one of the best in the world. It is easily one of the fastest right-handed waves in the world, and while many surfers can get into the tube, only the most talented can exit. Also, to the east of Ma’alaea is a great spot for windsurfing, during both trade and Kona winds.
Cove Park (seen on the left) – Located directly south of the volleyball courts at Kalama Park, and across the street form the Hale Kanani condominiums is Cove Beach Park, a very popular longboard wave. While this beach will never have giant surf, it is the perfect spot for beginners and keiki to learn since the waves rarely get bigger than overhead. It is also a slower and calm break, creating ideal learning conditions. There are a few surf schools if you need to rent a board or want a lesson. One word of caution, the water here is very shallow, so never jump head first off your board!
Makena Beach (seen below) – About three miles south of the Fairmont Kea Lani resort rests probably the most popular beach on the south shore, and one of the favorites on the entire island, Makena, or Big Beach. This 3000 ft long and 100 ft wide beach is absolutely gorgeous. To the south end, known to the locals as “3rd entrance,” is a left-handed point break that can get very big during the south swells of summer. The rest of the beach is home to some of the best and most powerful shorebreak on island, perfect for experienced skimboarders, bodyboarders, and bodysurfers. To the north of Big Beach is the aptly named, Little Beach, a small nude beach that has a hollow, but short, left-hand reef break.
Ahihi Bay – Located about ¾ of a mile past the last entrance to Makena State Park is the Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve. Home to some of the most fertile lava rock reefs on the island, this reserve offers spectacular diving. However, when there is a good south swell, a great left called “Dumps” (bottom left) shows her face. Since this spot is about as far south as you can get on Maui, there is very little swell shadow from Kaho’olawe, meaning the waves here are some of the biggest on the south side. The lava rock reef below is sharp and the wave is fast and hollow, so it should only be ridden by experienced surfers. A good piece of advice, the road to get here is narrow and with lots of blind turns, so drive slowly and carefully!
Surfing is one of the most popular activities to do on Maui for locals and tourists alike. The feeling of riding a wave is one of the most unique and empowering experiences one can enjoy. The pounding year-round surf was one of the main reasons I moved to Hawaii in the early 80s, and the ocean is still a powerful source of inspiration for me. Do you have any great surfing stories from Maui? We’d sure love to hear them in the comments below. Have fun, be safe, and see you in the water!