Mokapu Beach

Mokapu Beach in South Maui: Good Swimming & Snorkeling Near Wailea
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

You can often track down a fair bit of elbow room at Mokapu Beach, a nice-looking quarter-mile swath of South Maui sand adjoining more-trammeled Ulua Beach. When conditions are calm, especially in the morning, swimming and snorkeling can be great off the gently sloping shoreface. 

- The Local Expert Team

There’s no shortage whatsoever of gorgeous beaches in South Maui—enough so that some can be surprisingly uncrowded. Mokapu Beach is popular, sure, but often not thronged to the degree of some other beachfronts in its vicinity. With a quarter-mile stretch of sand, it’s often easy to find some elbow room while enjoying the postcard beauty.

Fronting the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Mokapu Beach forms the northern section of a lineup of beaches along the Wailea seashore. Ulua Beach lies due south, and the two are both primarily accessed from a public lot via Ulua Beach Road. To the north of Mokapu, meanwhile, the lengthy and often uncrowded Keawakapu Beach points the way to Kihei.

Parking can be an issue. The shared Mokapu/Ulua lot often fills up quite early in the morning. That’s mainly on account Ulua Beach is a coveted diving spot, and heavily used by dive schools for lessons. Given calmer conditions in the morning—this coastline tends to get windy in the afternoon—those lessons often kick off bright and early. The earlier you can arrive, the better. There’s also another nearby Kilohana Parking Lot: here — which is only a 4-minute walk.

But a full Ulua Beach Road parking lot isn’t the end of the world. You can also walk down to Mokapu Beach from the north via Keawakapu Beach, parking at its southern access off South Kihei Road. 

You’ll find restrooms and showers at Mokapu Beach, but no lifeguard. There also aren’t any concessions, though you’re close to restaurants and shops. 

How about that name? Mokapu stems from moku kapu, “sacred place,” and references the former existence of a rocky islet offshore here. It was taken out by target practice in World War II, however.

The gentle, sandy slope offshore Mokapu Beach invites swimming as well as snorkeling when the water is calm. That’s often the case, especially in winter, given this South Maui coast is sheltered from northerly swells. Sometimes in summer, though, southerly or westerly swells (as under Kona weather influence) can make for rougher waters here that are best avoided. 

As at Ulua Beach, nearshore snorkeling can be quite good at Mokapu Beach. Tropical fish such as parrotfish, triggerfish, and goatfish are frequently seen, while sea turtles, whitetip reef sharks, rays, and other larger critters are possibilities as well. (Don’t worry about those whitetip reef sharks, by the way: They’re essentially harmless, and a thrill to see.)

The mild waves at Mokapu Beach can also be solid for body-boarding as well. It’s also a pleasure to walk along the Wailua beachfront via the paved path that begins back of Mokapu Beach and runs south to Polo Beach. 

In short, Mokapu Beach can host a great day at the beach in South Maui without a crammed crowd. And did we mention how fabulous the sunsets are on this west-facing strand? Well, now we did…

Insider Tips:
-From December through April, Mokapu Beach can be a decent spot to scan for humpback whales in the nearshore waters.
-As we mentioned, the wind typically gets going along Mokapu Beach in the afternoon, which can make for a bit more unpleasant sunbathing.