Beaches In Wailea: Hidden Gems To Discover

Looking for a break from the crowds at the most popular beaches of Wailea?

South Maui is a busy tourist destination, and sometimes you want a beach trip away from the buzz of the resorts. Take a look at this guide to find the beaches that are hidden gems of Wailea.

A beach in Wailea seen through palm trees at sunset.

Mokapu Beach

Located in front of the Andaz Maui resort, Mokapu Beach is a Wailea resort beach that manages to avoid the worst of the crowds.

Separated by a rocky outcrop from the popular Ulua Beach, Mokapu offers a decent pocket of sand and some good snorkeling, and you still have room to lay down a towel. 

The swimming is good at Mokapu as the sands slope gently towards the sea. To the south of the beach is the rocky outcrop dividing Mokapu and Ulua, and it makes for good snorkeling.

The best snorkeling is around the rock to Ulua, but you’ll have to deal with the crowds. Mokapu and Ulua share a parking lot, and it can get busy.

Park at Keawakapu to the north, and walk down to Mokapu instead. The views are good, and the walk is short. 

Polo Beach

Okay, Polo Beach is definitely stretching the definition of hidden gem, particularly when you consider the Fairmont Kea Lani looms over it.

However, Polo Beach is made up of two intersecting crescent beaches, and one of these is underutilized.

Turn away from the crowds at the north end of the beach, and walk to the southern sand pocket. You might be surprised at what you find. 

Polo Beach has a little something for everyone, with lava rocks for snorkeling, gentle waves for bodyboarding, and a sandy entry for swimming.

There are also good facilities and a large car park. If you feel like a walk, Polo Beach is a good place to start the Wailea Coastal Walkway. 

Palauea Beach

Palauea Beach is popular with Maui locals, but is largely overlooked by tourists. Just a short drive from the major resort beaches, Palauea can be tricky to see as various vacation rentals block the view from the road.

The sandy bay has good snorkeling at either end of the beach, particularly in the calm mornings. As the winds pick up, consistent swells make for good bodyboarding. 

Palauea Beach has an isolated feel, which is a surprise as it’s so close to the big resorts.

The trail down to the beach can be hard to find, especially as there’s no official parking lot. But keep an eye out on the road from Wailea to Makena, and you’ll be rewarded with a hidden gem.

Chang’s Beach

Chang’s Beach is a hidden gem for snorkelers, who can take advantage of the easy entry granted by the shallow sea floor.

Impossible to spot from the road as it’s masked by vacation homes, Chang’s is a tiny crescent of sand just a short drive away from larger Po’olenalena Beach

The actual sandy beach at Chang’s is little, but thanks to its masked presence, it is rarely crowded.

And with the reef close to the shore, beginner snorkelers can use Chang’s Beach to get some practice.

When you’re done in the water, take a moment to absorb the peace and quiet on the sand. 

Maluaka Beach

One of the best stops if you want to see Turtle Town, Maluaka Beach is an uncrowded beach with excellent snorkeling.

Park at the north end to take a look at Keawala’i Church, and at the south end for your best chance to see sea turtles! The snorkeling is good at either end, but you’re most likely to see the Hawaiian honu to the south

The parking lot is a decent walk from the beach itself. Frustrating if you’ve got a lot with you, but possibly part of the reason the crowds are kept down. Make use of the drop-off point if you’ve brought snorkel gear

Oneuli Beach

When it comes to black sand beaches, it’s Wai’anapanapa State Park that tends to get most of the attention.

But Wailea is home to its very own hidden gem of a black beach: Oneuli Beach. With salt and pepper sand caused by lava rock mixing with crushed shells, Oneuli Beach is a striking destination on the road to Makena.

The black sand quickly gives way to a hard lava rock floor underwater, so swimming at Oneuli isn’t great.

Snorkeling is better, particularly around the Pu’u Ola’i Cinder cone, which is what gives the beach its dark sand. Come on an overcast day to see the black sand in all its glory. 

Little Beach

Little Beach is probably best known as being Maui’s only nude beach, even if nude bathing technically isn’t legal.

But while Little Beach has a big reputation, the hard to find nature of this small cove leaves many visitors wondering exactly where the famous beach is

To get to Little Beach, park at Makena’s Big Beach. To the north end of the beach are red rocks. Look here, and you should find a path leading you through.

Follow the path, and you’ll stumble on to Little Beach! The walk is a bit of a clamber, but it’s worth it for this hidden gem. 

Pa’ako Beach Secret Cove

You might be wondering how a beach literally named ‘Secret Cove’ possibly remains a hidden gem.

Calling somewhere a secret is one of the best ways to attract visitors! But Secret Cove, or Pa’ako Cove, remains a hidden gem because, like Little Beach, it’s so hard to get to.

To get to Secret Cove, park by the third entrance to Big Beach. You’ll have to walk, but you’re less likely to blink and miss the Secret Cove entrance.

The entrance is marked by a gap in a lava rock wall, which you can walk through to access the cove. 

Final Thoughts

The coast of Wailea is decorated with soft sand beaches, but many of them are overlooked in favor of the resort front destinations.

As you drive down the coast, keep an eye out for the parking lots and trails that indicate the quieter, but no less spectacular, beaches.

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