Kaopala Beach

Kaopala Beach in West Maui: Small Uncrowded Cove With Limited Appeal
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Small and a bit off-the-radar, Kaopala Beach in West Maui isn’t for everyone: There are no facilities here, the sand’s modest (and sometimes MIA at higher tides), and the water can be off-putting. That said, folks who want to ditch the crowds will likely find it wonderfully quiet—and quite lovely in its pocket-sized way.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Not everybody’s going to love Kaopala Beach, a small West Maui cove beach between Kapalua and Kahana. We’ll get to the drawbacks shortly. But its fairly obscure profile gives you a good chance of finding the place to yourself—not something you can see about many beachfront here—and it’s got its own share of tranquil beauty.

Now, for the drawbacks. There are no facilities here, and the beach itself is small with a fairly narrow strip of sand and quite a bit of rockiness. At high tide, there may be barely any beach at all. Visitors looking for a broad, long stretch of soft sand will be disappointed. 

And while people do swim here, it’s a questionable choice given the icky discharge out of a creek a short ways to the south, wafted north on the alongshore current. A 2019 survey of 19 West Maui beaches found that Kaopala’s waters had the highest turbidity levels. (Kaopala means something like “garbage” or “muck,” for what it’s worth.) 

Sometimes, though, the waters here are reasonably clear, drawing waders and even snorkelers. (Keonenui Beach the next bay north, though, is a better snorkeling spot.) And its small size and semi-hiddenness make Kaopala Beach a generally uncrowded shoreline, although you may see locals surf-casting here. If there are more than a few parties occupying the beach, it’s probably not worth checking out.

The beach lies along Lower Honoapiilani Road, with parking along the shoulder. A stairway leads down the bluff to the beach below. 

Leaning palms and a view of Molokai give Kaopala Beach its own tropical beauty, even if it’s not an absolute standout in that department. (The Valley Isle has high standards, after all.) Sunsets are quite nice, as everywhere along the West Maui seaboard. You’ll usually see a hammock or two strung up along the beachfront, inviting a bit of surfside R&R.

All things considered, Kaopala Beach is mainly for Maui beachgoing “completists,” as well as those who particularly enjoy off-the-beaten-path, lightly trammeled seashores. There’s not very much to do here, and the water quality overall leaves much to be desired. 

Then again, it’s easy enough to find alternative beachfronts of more broadly appealing character close by, not least the lengthy Kaanapali sands not far south. Somebody looking to explore as much of the West Maui coast as possible—and eager to ditch the crowds—may find an hour lounging at Kaopala Beach quite pleasant. For certain people, it might even end up in “hidden gem” territory.

Insider Tip:
As we’ve mentioned, swimming or snorkeling at Kaopala Beach is a hit-or-miss affair and often inadvisable given the murky and unpleasant creek outflow. If you do go in, be aware that there’s a fairly steep drop-off not all that far from the beach. Sea turtles are sometimes sighted in the little bay here.