If you’re looking for a beach with some breathing room, then keep an eye out for the hidden bay of Palauea Beach.
Set back from the road and with a trail head masked by vacation homes and kiawe trees, Palauea Beach is a bit of an undiscovered gem.
Popular with locals, many tourists never even realize it’s there.
Plan your trip to Palauea Beach, Maui, with this guide to all you need to know. Including how to find it in the first place!
Getting To Palauea Beach
Getting to Palauea Beach can be tricky, as it isn’t exactly well signposted. It’s just past Polo Beach and the Fairmont Kea Lani, as Wailea turns into Makena.
(And if you’re thinking about staying in the area check out our review comparing Fairmont Kea Lani vs. Grand Wailea.)
- Traveling from Wailea, follow the Wailea Alanui Drive until it intersects with Kaukahi Street, and turn right towards the sea.
- Turn again, and follow Makena Road south for around one minute.
There is no official parking for Palauea Beach, although roadside parking is legal in the area. The beach isn’t visible from the road, but there are a few things to look for.
Keep an eye out for the port-a-potty and some large boulders. These mark the start of the trailhead. Park here, and pass through the kiawe trees to get to Palauea Beach.
Up until a few years ago, Palauea Beach was bordered by kiawe trees on an undeveloped strip of coast.
However, high-end vacation homes have made their way to the area, and Palauea Beach is now partly masked by a luxury neighborhood.
Access to the beach is through a small tree grove, and can be tricky to spot. However, the beach is still public, and worth the effort of finding.
Palauea Beach is also known as White Rock beach, and some use the names interchangeably.
If you’re looking for Palauea and people keep directing you to White Rock, it’s worth knowing they’re the same place.
What to Do At Palauea Beach
Small and secluded, Palauea Beach offers a haven for locals and visitors looking to get away from it all.
Actually finding the beach can be a headache, but once you’re there, things should start immediately looking up.
Palauea Beach might be small, but as a curved and recessed bay it captures less of the wind than much of South Maui.
The sloping sea entrance combined with gentle currents makes Palauea a good place to swim most days, especially as there are likely to be very few people in the sea.
Honestly, one of the best things to do at Palauea Beach is to soak up the peace and quiet.
Palauea Beach has the authentic Maui aloha that can be tough to find on a crowded resort beach.
Turn away from the luxury vacation homes and towards the sea, and you could almost feel you’re on your own private island.
Visit during sunset, for exceptional views and something close to solitude.
Can You Snorkel At Palauea Beach?
Palauea Beach doesn’t exactly have the best snorkeling on South Maui, but, to be fair, it’s up against a lot of competition.
The lava outcrops at either end of the small beach make good congregation points for fish, and the water tends to be clear enough.
It’s worth taking a look, particularly as the sea tends to be less crowded than other Wailea or Makena beaches.
Diving is also popular at Palauea Beach, but only on the south end. The best time for snorkeling or diving is the morning, when calm winds lend both better visibility and easier conditions.
As Palauea Beach is reasonably sheltered, there are fewer waves than other locations just minutes away. But watch out for rip currents, which can occur during heavy swells.
Can You Boogie Board At Palauea Beach?
Palauea Beach rarely gets the bigger swells for experienced boogie boarders, but the gentle currents are perfect for beginners and children.
The best time to visit for boogie boarding is when the south swells are hitting.
Facilities At Palauea Beach
There are no facilities at Palauea Beach, except for a port-a-potty at the trailhead, which is not well maintained.
We recommend bringing your own toilet paper if you plan on using it, and plenty of antibacterial hand sanitizer.
Unless you absolutely can’t wait, we recommend making the drive to Polo Beach, and using the better facilities. Polo Beach has free public parking, so it’s an easy spot for a bathroom break.
Anything Else To Know?
As a recessed bay, Palauea Beach is better protected from the wind than other Maui beaches. But that doesn’t mean that high currents can’t cause problems.
When Kona storms and heavy winds lead to large waves, swimming becomes incredibly dangerous at Palauea Beach.
Don’t enter the water if the waves are looking rough.
At the weekend, Palauea Beach does get slightly busier as the locals take the opportunity to visit.
It still won’t attract the same crowds as the resort beaches up the coast, but you might not get the complete serenity you were looking for.
But with locals comes the laid back local vibe. Even on busy weekends, Palauea Beach never feels overwhelmed.
Kiawe trees provide some nice shade at the edges of Palauea Beach, but they also leave behind sharp thorns.
Be careful where you put your feet as you travel across the sand, because few things can ruin a beach trip faster than a misstep on a kiawe thorn. Consider wearing water shoes!
(Also if you squint hard you might spot Clint Eastwood’s home!)
A Local Paradise
Tucked away past the big resorts but before the famous beaches of Makena, Palauea Beach has gone largely unnoticed by tourists.
Part of the reason is that it’s so tough to find. With no parking lot and a terrible port-a-potty, Palauea Beach isn’t for those interested in convenience.
However, if you want snorkeling and boogie boarding without the crowds, then this is a beach with plenty to enjoy.
And if you come at the right time, you might have the sand all to yourself.