Let’s face it: You probably flew long enough that you’d like to minimize travel time to the water once you’re in Hawaii. Here are Maui’s best properties right on the beach, whether in Napili or Ka ‘anapali in West Maui, Wailea in South Maui or Pa‘ia on the North Shore.
Feature Photo: Fairmont Kea Lani Facebook
TIP: Don’t waste your day! Since most hotels have check-in until 4pm, be sure to ask for an early check-in. If they can’t accommodate, they will usually let you store your bags so you can head to the beach!
Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel
Next door to the Sheraton Maui and thus close to the underwater attractions of Pu‘u Keka‘a (Black Rock), the moderately priced Ka‘anapali Beach Hotel has long had a reputation as the state’s most Hawaiian hotel. The staff not only embrace the Hawaiian cultural value of hospitality, but also made many of the heirloom-quality artifacts in guest rooms and public spaces. In early 2021 it debuted the first phase of a $75 million renovation, including upgraded room decor, new native plant gardens and a beachfront restaurant and Hawaiian voyaging academy, celebrating the achievements of the celestial navigators and outrigger sailing canoe crew members who first discovered these islands.
- Take advantage of the local expertise of Hale Huaka‘i, the hotel’s water activities hub, and learn the traditions of outrigger canoeing or the finer points of snorkeling from a friendly, safety- and sustainability-oriented team.
Napili Kai Beach Resort
The usually calm waters of reef-protected Napili Bay and its wide crescent of soft sand make Napili Kai Beach Resort an alluring choice for couples, families and solo travelers alike. The beachfront resort’s 163 accommodations include hotel rooms, studios and one- and two-bedroom suites, most with kitchen facilities, spread across 11 low-rise plantation-style buildings. Swimming pools tend to be on the small side, but there are plenty to choose from and the beach is only steps away. Unusual in not charging in resort fees, Napili Kai also hosts a long-running, weekly slack key guitar concert, putting greens, barbecue facilities, fitness center and intimate day spa; golfers and tennis players can head across the street to the championship facilities on the Kapalua Resort.
- Stand-up paddling and snorkeling in Napili Bay are first-rate, as are dining and views at the Sea House Restaurant, tucked on one end of the beach; the Kapalua Bay Trail begins nearby.
- Pick up complimentary beach gear at the poolside snack bar.
Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa
The first hotel to open on 3-mile Ka ‘anapali Beach, back in 1963, Sheraton Maui claimed pride of place with a 23-acre beachfront compound that includes Pu ‘u Keka ‘a, a/k/a Black Rock, the region’s premiere snorkeling spot and site of a nightly cliff diving ceremony. The hotel has grown to 508 rooms over the years, with 83 percent offering an ocean view. The lobby’s Sand Bar offers terrific views of sunset and the island of Lanai, with an ocean-themed game room below for kids. A leader in eco-friendly initiatives, the resort also includes an oceanfront lagoon pool with waterslide, three tennis courts, a vast fitness center and spa, which incorporates soothing seaweed and deep ocean mud into various treatments. A boardwalk leads to the shops and restaurants of Whalers Village.
- In calm conditions, snorkeling or paddling around Pu‘u Keka‘a can provide an amazing window into Maui’s marine life, from brilliantly colored reef fish to the occasional spotted eagle ray or even a rare Hawaiian monk seal; just leave the cliff diving to the experts.
Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Ka‘anapali
Fresh from a $120 million renovation that wrapped up in late 2020, this 12-acre resort on Ka‘anapali Beach has embraced its Hawaiian heritage with a redesigned luxury tower, upgraded complex of six swimming pools, a new wellness spa and four new dining outlets showcasing local culture and agriculture. The 217-room Hokupa‘a Tower offers an elegant hotel-within-a-hotel with ocean-themed decor and exclusive access to the second-floor, ocean-view Lanai lounge, offering Hawaiian breakfast bites, infinity-edge “cocktail pools” and cultural activities.
- The new Kawaiola (“Living Waters”) pool complex includes dazzling views of Molokai and Lanai, while the resort fee includes daily beach yoga and a Hawaiian fish ID card, among other amenities.
- Reserve an oceanfront cabana for two to soak in the views or sign up for a surf or stand-up paddle lesson from the Ka‘anapali Surf Club.
Four Seasons Resort Maui
The first full-service Four Seasons resort when it opened in 1990 towers above Wailea Beach, one of the best strands of sand in South Maui. The 383 recently renovated rooms on the 15-acre compound include 76 lavish suites with koa wood furnishings and contemporary Hawaiian motifs; you’ll pass lush gardens and fountain courtyards on the way down to the beautiful beach. Everything is top-notch, from the two pools (including the adults-only Serenity Pool), three restaurants, spa and fitness center to the nightly hula in the lobby lounge. There’s also no daily resort fee to drive up your bill, but plenty of complimentary amenities, especially down at the beach.
- Apply the free reef-friendly sunscreen, then wait 20 minutes before hitting the water on a boogie or paddle board or in a snorkel set.
- If you’d rather lounge and enjoy views of the uninhabited island of Kaho‘olawe and Molokini crater, the beach team will bring you chilled treats throughout the day.
Fairmont Kea Lani
Perched above secluded Polo Beach at Wailea’s southern end, the all-suite Fairmont Kea Lani embodies the genuine spirit of aloha and offers exceptional cultural, spa and dining experiences in a truly spectacular setting. Closest to the beach, two- and three-bedroom villas offer prime accomodations for larger groups or families, including a private furnished courtyard with plunge pool and barbecue grill. At the top of the hillside site, roomy suites (starting at 800 square feet) can also accommodate up to four and include a mini-kitchen in the foyer and large lanai. Don’t miss dinner at Ko restaurant (drawing from the island’s multi-ethnic plantation heritage) or a tropical cocktail at the swim-up pool bar.
- All guests can sign up for a complimentary outrigger canoe ride (you’ll be part of the six-person paddling crew), where you’ll learn some of the lore of this ancient tradition.
- Staying on shore? The beach pavilion team will set up an umbrella for you, provide reef-safe sunscreen and after-sun lotion, also for free.
Inn at Mama’s Fish House
A hidden sandy cove between Ho‘okipa Beach and Pa‘ia on Maui’s North Shore is home not only to the legendary seafood restaurant Mama’s Fish House but also a small cluster of cottages and suites managed by the same family. Both feature Polynesian-inspired decor, lavish flowers and warm hospitality. The deluxe two-bedroom beach cottage and one-bedroom beachfront suite boast the best views, but all of the handful of rooms (some adult-only) include high-end furnishings, gourmet kitchens and works by local artists. The boutiques and restaurants of Paia are within walking distance, while you’re also in prime spot to start an early morning road trip to heavenly Hana.
- Bring the beach towels and chairs from your room to Ku’au Cove, just steps from your lodgings, for a no-stress beach outing.
- It’s a short drive to watch wind surfers and basking sea turtles at Ho‘okipa Beach; to play in the waves, head to nearby H.A. Baldwin Beach Park for a mile-long beach with protected swimming areas at either end and reliable body- and boogie-boarding in between.