If you’re vacationing on the western side of Maui, and you’re looking for a laid-back beach vibe, then check out Napili Bay Beach. This award-winning beach has brilliant blue waters and breathtaking views of the nearby island Molokai. And since it faces west, Napili Bay Beach is where you’ll want to be to watch the sunset.
Guidebooks classify Napili Bay Beach as a resort beach. But don’t picture the sprawling, expensive high-rises you find elsewhere on Maui. This “resort” consists of older low-rise condos that make the area feel less commercialized and trendy. This old-school charm attracts vacationers from Europe and those with children. And the beach is comparable to any world-class beach on Maui, which is another reason it’s becoming so popular.
The crescent-shaped bay is home to a wide sandy beach that flows into the water and remains shallow close to shore. Add in the sandy bottom, and you can understand why Napili Bay Beach is popular with families, children, and the elderly.
When the ocean is calm, the bay looks glassy. Such moments are ideal to swim, wade, and play in the tepid waters. It’s also the right time to try your hand at paddleboarding. Snorkelers will love exploring the coral reefs that lay further from shore when the bay is calm. Visibility is better because waves haven’t stirred the sand, and it’s safer since the currents aren’t as strong. Some snorkelers have commented that although the coral isn’t as colorful as in other locations, the reefs are brimming with tropical fish, and you may spot a sea turtle. And during whale season, you may see a massive humpback breaching in the bay’s deep waters.
Like all beaches in Hawaii, windy conditions can create large waves. Those who love body surfing and boogie boarding during such swells will want to grab a wave. However, with powerful surf come dangerous rip tides. Napili Bay Beach has a strong undertow in these conditions that can pull swimmers out to sea. And since there isn’t a lifeguard on duty, be well-informed and know your swimming limits before entering the water.
Palm trees rim the upper portion of the beach, and shorter trees dot the coast to provide shade when the day gets hot. There aren’t any picnic tables or covered pavilions, but restaurants, bathrooms, and a general store are in the resort. However, lines can be long since this is the closest location to the beach. We suggest packing a picnic lunch or trekking to one of the other restaurants in the area.
Tourists are starting to discover this hidden gem, so the beach can be crowded. The best time to arrive is early in the morning or later in the afternoon when it’s not as many visitors. And with the crowds comes the issue of parking. Unless you’re staying at one of the nearby resorts, finding a parking place is challenging. Some visitors report that certain resorts and tennis clubs offer paid parking. The earlier you arrive, the better your chances are of finding somewhere to park. The Sea House and Kapalua Coastal Trail also offer free parking that you can put into your GPS: here.
We believe that a visit to Napili Bay Beach should be on your “things to do in Maui” list despite the parking hassle. You’ll have a fantastic beach experience if you plan and pack wisely.
At high tide, the surf at Napili Bay Beach can swell to the upper portion of the beach, so make sure your towels and belongings are far enough away. And since parking will be some distance from the beach, and you’ll be hiking a bit, pack wisely.