Slaughterhouse Beach

Slaughterhouse Beach: Beautiful West Maui Bayfront With Good Summer Snorkeling
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Don’t be turned off by the name: Slaughterhouse Beach along Mokuleia Bay on the northwest coast of West Maui is a treasure. This scenic cliff-nestled beach offers nice views of Molokai and good summer snorkeling in waters protected by a marine reserve. Winter visitors should stay out of the ocean unless they’re experienced wave-riders, but watching ace surfers at work is a reason to stop.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

The soft sands of Slaughterhouse Beach nestle against Mokuleia Bay on the northwestern seaboard of West Maui. That bay and the next one over to the east, Honolua, are protected in the Honolua-Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District, with fishing banned and sea critters fairly abundant. Despite its sinister-sounding name, this is a jewel of a beach with fine summertime snorkeling and year-round scenery.

What about that rather grisly name, anyhow? Well, it’s basically a local tag that’s stuck, and it derives from decades ago when a slaughterhouse operated on the clifftop here. (You’ll also see this strand referred to—and sometimes mapped—as Mokuleia Beach.)

It’s reached along the Honoapiilani Highway (Route 30) between mileposts 32 and 33 northeast of Kapalua. Park along the road and use the concrete stairway to get down the roughly hundred-foot cliff fronting Slaughterhouse.

In summer, you’ll find plenty of sand to enjoy at Slaughterhouse Beach. Winter surf often eats away at the beach, leaving it scrawnier in that season.

Speaking of winter surf, it’s the reason you should generally stay out of the water that time of year: It’s dangerously rough and roiled by strong currents. Especially since there are no lifeguards here, be wary of the hefty wintertime surf break attracts advanced surfers and body-boarders who are fun to watch, but do so from the safety of the shore.

The summertime waters of Mokuleia Bay, which ranges from about 10 to 50 feet deep, are usually much friendlier. This is a good place to go swimming when conditions are calm, and the snorkeling can be quite good. The bay is generally bottomed with sand, but boulders and lava-rock outcrops on the fringing points support coral and draw sea life. The northeastern point—the righthand one, facing the ocean—offers the best snorkeling. Along with a multitude of fish, sea turtles are commonly seen here.

Two caveats to this. First, an ephemeral creek drains into Mokuleia Bay near here and sometimes clouds the water somewhat with its runoff, which reduces snorkeling visibility. Second, and more importantly, you should always watch the surf for a little while before getting in the water, whether to swim or to snorkel. (That’s true for any beach on Maui, windward or leeward.) Again, the bay’s summer waters tend to be placid and safe, but the ocean is unpredictable and you always want to stay aware.

Body-boarding in summer is also a possibility off Slaughterhouse Beach: a thankfully much tamer version than the huge winter waves demand.

You’ll have a great view of the big island of Molokai from Slaughterhouse Beach, especially in the morning light. There’s shade here in the morning and again late in the day, but the afternoon’s can be a bit sun-blasted (and breezy). 

If tooling your way around West Maui’s top end, definitely consider Slaughterhouse Beach for some quality surfside time. Especially appealing in summer, it can also be a scenic stop in winter with the big waves breaking.

Insider Tips:
-When waters are calm in the summer, you can actually snorkel your way from Mokuleia Bay to the coral formations of Honolua Bay around the point in between. A nice underwater tour of this protected marine reserve!
-Car break-ins are not uncommon in the roadside parking area for Slaughterhouse Beach, so don’t leave valuables in your vehicle when you visit. There’s also extra parking at this Makuleia Bay Parking Lot.
-There are no restrooms or washing facilities, so go to the bathroom before you come here!