Looking for one of the best (and easiest) places to snorkel on West Maui? Olowalu Beach has a huge reef that comes right up to the sand. Plan your visit to Olowalu Beach, Maui, with our guide.
Olowalu Beach Overview
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Olowalu Beach is a snorkelers paradise on West Maui, thanks to the shoreline reef and the excellent visibility.
Nicknamed Mile Marker 14 because, well, that’s where it is, Olowalu Beach is unassuming from the road, but a treasure trove beneath the waves.
Known for easy snorkeling thanks to a reef that comes right up to the sand, the lack of facilities affect some of the family-friendliness. But the excellent visibility and easy access make up for the shortcomings.
What Is Olowalu Beach Good For?
Snorkeling is the main draw at Olowalu, as the reef system is easily accessible even for beginners. The reef is huge, with corals stretching close to the shore, and hundreds of acres out to sea.
Even the shallow waters of the shore line are worth exploring, and things only get better the further out you go.
Olowalu Beach is also reasonably well protected from the winds, which makes it unusual among the Maui snorkeling destinations.
When winds are destroying the visibility along the coast, you can still enjoy clear seas at Olowalu! Another reason for the popularity with beginners.
The reef system extends along the coast in either direction from Olowalu. With roadside entry to the water, it’s a good destination for launching a kayak.
Wait for high tide, and be careful when you’re steering to avoid hitting the coral. But once you get away from the shore, Olowalu is a fantastic place to explore.
Olowalu Beach is also worth a trip for those with an interest in natural history!
The valleys and uplands next to Olowalu were home to centuries of ancient Hawaiians, who were able to live off the produce of the land and sea.
And the reef at Olowalu is thought to consist of corals that might be up to 500 years old. So, keep that in mind as you enjoy the sunshine!
What Is Olowalu Beach Not So Good For?
Olowalu Beach is not great if you want to walk around barefoot. The kiawe trees provide welcome shade, but they also leave behind sharp thorns.
Kiawe thorns are strong enough to push through sandals and shoes, so you can imagine what they do to bare feet! Tread carefully, and double-check the sand before sitting down.
The northern end of the beach has a wider strip of sand for those interested in sunbathing, but otherwise this isn’t a good beach for relaxing.
There’s the aforementioned kiawe thorns, which can quickly ruin a good mood. Plus, most of the beach is narrow, and very close to the road.
The reef makes for excellent snorkeling, but it does ruin the swimming experience. Be careful entering the water, and watch where you put your feet. Honestly, you’re better off heading elsewhere to swim.
Oh, and don’t forget the sharks! Reef sharks are a reasonably common sight at Olowalu Beach, and although they rarely attack, it’s better to give them a wide berth.
Beginners and those looking to snorkel with young children are best off avoiding Olowalu when there are sharks about.
Expert Tips For Visiting Olowalu Beach
The best place to enter the water is right by the mile marker #14. This is where you’ll find a good break in the reef, which offers you easier entrance to the water.
Tread very carefully as you make your way in, to avoid disturbing the delicate reef.
One of the best things about Olowalu Beach is also its biggest issue: the reef is shallow. At low tide, snorkeling becomes almost impossible.
The reef can even stick up out of the water, and you’d have to lie flat to get a look at anything. Stick to the high tide for good snorkeling.
Just along the road from Olowalu Beach is Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop. Olowalu isn’t much of a sunbathers beach, so head here to grab yourself a bite to eat after snorkeling.
Once you’ve tried the sandwiches and soaked up the family atmosphere, make sure to get a pie to go.
Getting To Olowalu Beach And Parking
Olowalu Beach is on West Maui, just south of Lahaina. You can spot the beach from the Honoapiilani Highway, or Hwy 30, and when the tide is high sometimes the water even splashes onto the road.
Parking is wherever you can find a spot on the ocean side of the highway. If you want to spend more time on the sand, we recommend parking further north, near to Camp Olowalu, as this is where the beach widens out.
There’s typically room for parking, particularly as there’s good snorkeling right along this stretch of coast. But be aware of dry sand, as this has led to the occasional rental car getting stuck.
What Are The Facilities Like At Olowalu Beach?
The facilities at Olowalu are, essentially, non-existent. There are no restrooms or showers, not even a hose to wash down your feet.
And that’s true for essentially all the beaches in this area. Olowalu might have good water for children snorkeling, but if you want a family beach day, it’s better to head up to Ka’anapali.
There are also no lifeguards at Olowalu Beach, so be careful entering the water. Olowalu doesn’t get the strong currents of other beaches, but trade winds can be a problem across the coast.
Keep an eye on the conditions, and stay out of the water if the winds are strong. Because of the extensive reef, Olowalu Beach is only really worth visiting if you want to snorkel.
When visibility is ruined, there’s no point exploring the waters.
Olowalu Beach isn’t Maui’s most attractive beach, with a road that runs parallel and only a thin strip of sand. But you forget about all that when you get into the water.
The reef is incredible, and historic, and even first time snorkelers can get a chance to experience it up close.