Accessed by roadside parking and screened a bit by kiawe trees, Palauea Beach—also known as White Rock—is off the radar of most South Maui tourists. Especially if you visit during the week, you’re liable to have plenty of elbow room and some welcome quiet along its expansive beachfront. Most of the time, the swimming here is very pleasant, and the snorkeling can be top-notch.
Palauea Beach lies south of Polo Beach and north of Poolenalena Beach. It’s accessed along Makena Road. Park on the roadside and follow one of the access trails through the kiawe stand about 100 feet or so to the sand. A port-a-potty marks the main beach-access path. (That portable restroom is the only thing in the way of facilities here, by the way, although nearby beachfront such as Polo have more.)
There’s a fair bit of new residential development happening in this area, so be cognizant of the route you’re taking to the beach (which, of course, is public).
Running several hundred yards, the White Rock beachfront is easy on the eyes and a great place for seaside R&R. The gentle slope of the foreshore continues as a sandy nearshore face, making for easy and inviting entry into the water. When conditions are calm, as they often are in this embayment, swimming is blissful here. So is stand-up paddleboarding or laidback body-boarding (which can be more exciting when there’s a south swell going).
The nearshore waters off Palauea Beach come edged on other side by rocky points. Both of these make for high-quality snorkeling, particularly the southern point separating White Rock from Poolenalena Beach. The northern or righthand (looking to sea) point is decent, too, but tends to have slightly worse clarity.
All that said, you need to stay observant when getting in the water at Palauea Beach. There aren’t any lifeguards here, and this is a slightly secluded seashore where ready help may or may not be on hand. Watch the ocean from the beach for a while before entering. When the surf is rough, it’s best to stay out, as there can be bad rip currents underway. The southerly or westerly blows of Kona storms tend to make for particularly dangerous conditions. Use your best judgment and never push your limits—advice that applies everywhere along the Maui seaboard, of course.
As we’ve mentioned, Palauea Beach is on the blessedly quiet side of things during the week. On a typical weekday, you may share it with a few, mostly local beachgoers relaxing and maybe shore-fishing here. It’s busier on the weekends, though, again, these are mostly area residents who are enjoying this low-profile oceanfront.
A nice change of pace from the more popular South Maui beaches, White Rock offers serene surfside vibes and, more often than not, first-rate swimming and snorkeling. Oh, and although it almost goes without saying along this west-facing coast, the sunsets from Palauea Beach are real winners!
Watch out for dropped thorns of the kiawe tree in the sand when you’re cruising around barefoot at Palauea Beach.