South Maui in a Day
A Wayfinders Guide to South Maui Beaches, Kihei & Wailea, Snorkeling, & Hiking at La Perouse Bay
This Maui itinerary explores the incredible sights, attractions, beaches, and hiking trails of South Maui. Travel connoisseurs exalt South Maui for its miles of white sandy beaches, spectacular coastal areas, snorkeling on its reefs, and expansive lava fields like La Perouse Bay.
In South Maui, travelers can discover the genuine warmth of Aloha and genuine Hawaiian hospitality. Sheltered on the leeward side of the Haleakala volcano, this side of Maui is relatively drier and sunnier than the rest of the island. This island region additionally provides spectacular views of Lanai, Molokini, and Kahoolawe offshore. Expect to find world-class golfing in Wailea and some of Maui's finest restaurants and dining.
South Maui includes the coastal communities of Ma'alaea and Kihei and the growing resort communities of Wailea and Makena.
How Our Maui Itineraries Work
Remember, each of our Maui Day-By-Day Itineraries is used as a grab-and-go resource for 'mapping' your trip. Mixed, shuffled, and re-ordered our itineraries according to your desires for this dream vacation. As fellow travelers, we understand the value of having options. Subsequently, consider our plans as suggestions that you can ultimately adapt to your liking. For instance, if one of our suggested stops or Maui attractions doesn't sound appealing to you, skip to the following suggested stop on the list.
Mapping Your Maui Trip
We've designed our itineraries around many on-island Maui days: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven-day itineraries. Soak in the best sights as you make the most of your precious time with our well-planned itinerary. We split our itineraries between those seeking adventure and those seeking to relax. Overall, we designated this to build your dream Maui trip.
In this South Maui itinerary, we have NOT included dining recommendations at this point because we do not want to assume anyone's dining preferences. There are several excellent options for finding dining - including TripAdvisor, Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc. We can add local dining options or suggestions; drop us a line and let us know: [email protected].
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South Maui Map
We’ve provided all Maui directions via Google Maps when possible, as Google Maps works on all platforms and across all devices. You should be able to pop the directions into your phone or tablet and go.
To help you visualize each day’s itinerary, we’ve also provided a South Maui overview map that helps you get your bearings.
South Maui Itinerary Stops
Itinerary for South Maui...
Stop # 1.) South Maui Beaches - Northwest shoreline
Kamaole Beach Park I, II, or III OR Keawakapu Beach OR Palauea 'White Rocks' Beach
We'll kick off our South Maui itinerary by exploring a few of our favorite South Maui beaches. Use our list to choose from several famous beaches. Though not an exhaustive list of all the beaches in South Maui, you can find A LOT of beaches here! If another beach in the area fits your fancy more than the ones listed below, swap it. We highly recommend these three beaches because they offer a good variety of what's available in South Maui.
Head south on either Highway 31 or S. Kihei Road to reach the beaches. Once the S. Kihei road ends, follow the Wailea Alanui Dr until you reach the S. Kihei Road via the Okalani Drive. Continue driving through the Okolani Dr. Highway 31 until the Wailea Alanui Drive. Eventually, turn onto Makena Alanui and continue south to future stops on our itinerary.
These South Maui beaches are all along the northwest end of this region. And they are:
Kamaole Beaches: provide the most convenient entrance. It offers an abundance of shopping and dining opportunities nearby.
Keawakapu Beach: one of the most secluded beaches along this stretch.
Palauea' White Rock' Beach: Popular but more complex to access than in the past.
Wailea Beach: another great option, but it can be crowded because of its proximity to the 'Grand Wailea.'
Again, don't fret if you want to swap one beach out for another. There are plenty of great options to choose from along this fantastic stretch of coastline.
Kamaole Beach Park I, II & III
Kamaole Beach I - Of the three, most consider this beach the most prominent and most excellent beach with fine white sand and great swimming conditions. This is the magical point where Maui's southern coast starts to throw out all the stops. The sand here is simply amazing- similar to that found further south in Wailea and Makena.
Kamaole Beach II - This Beach is like Kamaole I, but smaller. It extends just under a third of a mile long from end to end. At the end of the beach, you find great snorkeling spots. Swimmers enjoy the entire length of its nice sandy bottom.
Kamaole Beach III -The Beach is simply beautiful, but it differs from I and II. The differences include:
- Much smaller
- Rocky areas span along with it
Often, waves crash onto the rocks, sending enormous water splashes into the air. It makes for an excellent show. The grassy area on this beach extends significantly further than any other beach. It creates the perfect spot for picnics, kite flying, or lounging.
- Directions to Kamaole Beach Park I
- Directions to Kamaole Beach Park II
- Directions to Kamaole Beach Park III
Keawakapu Beach is located in South Maui, between Kihei and Wailea, at the end of South Kihei Road. This beautiful white sand beach, which runs along a fully developed coastline, is approximately 0.7 miles long and offers opportunities for swimming, snorkeling (especially on the righthand side), boogie boarding, or just catching some sun on the shore.
Much of this shoreline consists of large residential communities. Subsequently, this beach has fewer crowds than its nearby counterparts.
To access the beach, head south on South Kihei Road and immediately past the 'Mana Kai Maui Resort,' 'Surf Shack' surf shop, and '5 Palms' restaurant right into the gravel lot for the Keawakapu Beach public parking. There are two public parking lots in this area, both of which we've provided Google Map directions for below. You've gone slightly too far if you reach the 'Days Inn by Wyndham.' However, the beach access point will be directly alongside that hotel after parking in the public parking lot.
- Directions to Keawakapu Beach
Palauea means 'lazy,' which fits the vibe of this laidback beach. Once you reach this lovely south Maui beach, soak up the sun as you lounge on the sand. Located off Makena Road, this medium-sized beach is under-used.
The snorkeling and scuba are excellent here. Rock formations on either side of the beach are good snorkeling spots, while the south end of the beach with all its rock formations is best for diving.
Palauea Beach is located just south of the 'Kea Lani Beach Hotel' and the 'Polo Beach Club.' Travel along Wailea Alanui Drive and take a right turn at the intersection after the 'Fairmont Kea Lani Beach Hotel.' Travel the length of this paved access road (Kaukahi St) and park along the route. The beach is located via an access path Makai (toward the ocean) off of Makena Rd about 200-300ft south of where you'll have parked.
Stop # 2.) South Maui Beaches - Southwest shoreline
Oneloa or Makena (Big Beach) & Little Beach
After doing a bit of beach exploration along the northwest shoreline in South Maui, you'll want to continue south along Makena Alanui road to our next stops - Big and Little Beach located along the southwest shoreline of this region. These are two of the most popular beaches on all of South Maui, and to be honest, Big Beach might even be one of the best beaches on the entire island.
Big 'Makena' Beach
Also known as Oneloa Beach (its proper Hawaiian name) or Makena Beach, Big Beach is probably one of the prettiest beaches on Maui and certainly south Maui. It is nearly 2/3 of a mile long and over 100 feet wide. The gorgeous sand and pristine waters attract snorkelers, swimmers, and sunbathers.
Makena Beach is accessible via a short road at mile 4 on Makena Alanui Road in South Maui. A small path over the hill to Little Beach, a favorite spot for sunbathers, connects Big Beach on the right. This beach, like many, closes in the evenings. We include more information on Little Beach below.
- Directions to Big Beach - Makena State Park
Little Beach (Pu'u Ola'i)
Little Beach in South Maui is the unofficial place to relax and bare it all, literally. Next to Makena (Big) Beach, Little Beach is often as packed as its larger brother.
This is a pleasant spot to body surf, swim, and snorkel when the surf is calm. The waves can pound you if the surf is high, so stay out of the water. Watch where the locals enter because they know the terrain. Inexperienced swimmers should avoid this area for its solid offshore current.
Little beach is located to the northwest of Makena Beach and is unapproachable by car. Park at the Makena Beach paved parking lot and walk to the Beach (Makena Beach). When you reach the ocean, turn to the west and follow the beach westward. At the end of the beach, follow the path up the lava rocks. It takes you over a bluff and on to Little Beach. Also, again, despite being against the law, Little Beach has become reasonably popular with the crowd that likes to "lose" their bathing suits. If you're traveling with kids, approach with caution.
- Location is the same as Big Beach above (North Parking lot is closest)
Stop # 3.) Snorkeling and Explore Lava Fields
Ahihi-Kinau Marine Preserve and Snorkeling
We'll continue to head south after you've finished soaking up some sun at Big and Little Beach. Next up, we have an excellent opportunity for snorkeling at 'Ahihi Kina'u Natural Area Reserve. If you find the parking lot crowded, move along. Don't risk the hassle of getting a ticket for illegal parking. So skip this spot and continue to La Perouse Bay, our next stop. Alternatively, if you've got your heart set on snorkeling - you can backtrack to one of the great snorkeling beaches we recommended. Palauea' White Rock' Beach, in particular, is great for snorkeling.
Ahihi-Kinau Marine Preserve
Ahihi Kina'u is a natural area reserve, not a recreational park. As a protected bay, tropical fish of all kinds gather here. It makes for an excellent spot for snorkeling. Since no fishing can occur here, visitors should take care to leave no trace here. According to DLNR, access to the northern portions of the reserve occurs during their listed visiting hours,5:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily.
The bay is relatively shallow, less than 15 feet or 100 feet from shore. The bay gradually gets more profound, but not over 25 or 35 feet. Snorkeling off to the left (east) shows the extensive coral formations. There are sand trenches and shallow caves in convoluted canyons near the shore. Many Hawaiian Green Sea turtles are further out, where the coral has fewer deep cuts.
Ahihi Bay is about five miles outside Kihei and about a mile from Big Beach (Makena Beach) along Makena Alanui Road. There are no showers, and no lifeguard is on duty. There is a $5 non-resident fee per vehicle. They used the charge for upkeep, maintenance, infrastructure costs, and marine reserve protection projects.
Stop # 4.) La Perouse Bay
La Perouse Bay Memorial, Lava Fields, and Hoapili Trail
Our final recommended stop on this South Maui itinerary is La Perouse Bay; it's literally where the road ends in South Maui. Here you'll have the opportunity to explore some of Maui's most recent (geologically speaking) lava flows, hike along the scenic shoreline, and explore the many sea estuaries that line this part of the rugged Maui coastline.
La Perouse Bay Memorial & Hoapili Trail
Haleakala's last display can be seen on Maui's southeast shore at La Perouse Bay. Scientists estimate that in 1790 Haleakala erupted to form the jagged lava rock coastline. There is a monument and ruins of Hawaiian natives who made their home on the sharp a'a lava rock.
La Perouse is the end of the road in south Maui. It is located at mile marker seven at the very end of Makena Alanui Road. From Kihei take Piilani Hwy south to Wailea. Turn right on Wailea Iki road and bear left on to Wailea Alanui Road, which turns into Makena Alanui.
Look carefully around you as you drive between mile markers 5.5 and 7. On either side, you should see fields of a'a littering the landscape. Just past mile marker 6.5, look mauka (mountainside), and you can see where the lava spewed forth from Kalua o Lapa cinder cone.
Once you reach La Perouse Bay, you can walk through the lava (use caution and wear the proper footwear), stroll along the coast through the wooded area to the beginning of the coastal Hoapili Trail, and explore the various sea estuaries. This is a favorite place for dolphins and local fishers. Make sure to wear sunscreen and be prepared for a lot of wind.
South Maui Final Suggestions & Thoughts
Our expert travel suggestions for South Maui in a day will serve as an essential resource when planning your trip. We covered nearly all the major highlights of this region. And we hope you have a great time exploring this portion of Maui.
Remember, each of our Maui Day-By-Day Itineraries is used as a grab-and-go resource for 'mapping' your trip. Because we provide daily itineraries, mix, shuffle, and re-order them according to your taste. Please don't feel obligated to do everything listed on our daily itineraries. We mean them as suggestions. Ultimately, only select the options you find most favorable.
Let Our Guides Help You:
Are you ready to explore the incredible sights, attractions, beaches, and hiking trails of South Maui? Our South Maui itinerary includes a variety of tours and activities that will take you to some of the most spectacular places on the island. From beautiful beaches to snorkeling on reefs, hiking in the lava fields, or exploring ancient lava tubes and caves. Get ready for a full-day trip or several days' worth of adventures in just one day. We want to help you capture the best vacation memories. Our team has been traveling to Hawaii for over 20 years, and we've seen it all. Click here to view our outstanding itinerary for the other regions: East Maui, West Maui, South Maui, North Maui, and Haleakala & Upcountry. Click here for guides of Maui regions, more information about Maui, and the best lodging locations in Maui. Start planning your Maui vacation today!