The Insiders Guide to Honolua Bay in Maui

The Hawaiian islands are famous for their beautiful beaches and stunning, dramatic coastline. Maui is the second-largest Hawaiian island with 120 miles of coastline. Over 30 miles of this, is covered by the most beautiful beaches.


There’s a beach to suit everyone, whether you’re a water sports enthusiast, enjoying surfing, and body boarding or you like to swim among the fish with your snorkeling gear. You may prefer to spend your time relaxing, sunbathing, and watching the world go by. Whatever you like doing at the beach, there’s a Maui beach out there to suit you.

Honolua Bay is rated one of the best beaches for snorkeling in Maui, maybe even of all the Hawaiian islands. It’s a sheltered bay that has calm waters during the summer months. During the winter months, the powerful waves are ideal for surfing.

Key Features:

  • Location: Lahaina, North West Maui
  • Lifeguard on Duty: No
  • Beach Length: 1/2 mile
  • Beach Width: Not available.
  • Facilities: None
  • Activities: Snorkeling & surfing
  • Parking: Limited
  • Danger: Beach is rocky, wear foot protection

It’s not the prettiest beach on Maui as it’s got a narrow rocky shoreline. However, what you find under the water’s surface, makes it one of the best beaches out there. This article will help you prepare for the trip and show you how to get there. Here is what we’ll cover:

Where is Honolua Bay in Maui?

Honolua Bay is a sheltered beach on Maui’s north-western coast, approx. 20 miles north of Lahaina. The bay is close to DT Fleming Beach Park and Slaughterhouse Beach, and it has views of the islands of Lanai and Molokai, giving you picturesque views from above the bay.

Honolua roughly translates to mean ‘two harbors,’ and the bay was historically used to receive supplies and ship products by Honolua Ranch. 

The beach itself is not the prettiest on the island of Maui, as it’s a narrow beach made from mainly boulders and rocks. However, once you get under the water’s surface, you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

What Can You Do at Honolua Bay, Maui?

To get to Honolua Bay, you need to walk through the jungle-style rainforest. Once you’ve made your way through the tropical plants and lush foliage, you’ll find the stunning bay and the rocky cliffs that make it so beautiful and unforgettable.

As the bay is in a remote area, and away from any close inhabitants, it’s given a break from the daily lifestyle that people have on the environment. This allows marine life to flourish in the bay, giving you more to see.

As the beach is narrow and rocky, it isn’t ideal for sunbathing. However, if you get into the water, you’ll understand what brings people from miles around to spend their time here.

Honolua Bay Snorkeling

The snorkeling at Honolua Bay is second to none. Some even say it is the best place to snorkel in Maui.

When the ocean waters are calm and clear, during the summer months, you’ll be able to see the most magnificent marine life with your own eyes. 

Fishing here is prohibited, so the reef fish that live in the reef grow large, and there are many that you’ll not see anywhere else in Maui. 

The varieties to see include parrot fish, butterfly fish, and goat fish. You may also spot turtles, mantas, and even Hawaiian spinner dolphins if you’re lucky

The beach is mainly rocks and boulders, that may be slippy with algae, so you need to be careful getting into the water. The best place to access the water is past the old boat ramp. You may still need beach shoes to do this comfortably.

Honolua Bay Surfing

During the winter months when the waves are powerful, surfers flock to Honolua Bay. The north swell produces the most perfect waves and surf breaks that you’ll find in Hawaii, and possibly the world.

The waves here aren’t for beginner surfers. If you’re not used to powerful waves, it could be dangerous. There’s no boat ramp available for access to the surf, so you need to hike a little to catch the break.

The annual Maui Pro Surf Competition is held at Honolua Bay every year, and surfers come from all over the world to compete against each other. 

Marine Life Conservation District

Honolua Bay is part of the Honolua-Mokule’ia Marine Life Conservation District and is a protected area of over 45 acres. There’s no fishing allowed, and it’s strictly prohibited to take anything from the bay, including any natural resources, such as marine life or even rocks.

The bay is an area of significant environmental, cultural, and historical value. The Hawaiian people want to make sure that the bay and the marine life are here for many generations to come to enjoy. To help preserve the area, local property owners have prohibited visitors from using sunscreen and bringing dogs along to the beach to protect the reef system.

Make sure that you follow these rules and also take everything with you when you leave. There are no facilities available on or around the beach, so don’t leave any rubbish when you go.

Can You Swim and Snorkel at Honolua Bay?

Yes, you can swim and snorkel at Honolua Bay. The snorkeling is in a class of its own, with some amazing sights to see.

The water is a little murky as you enter, so you’ll need to swim out a little to get better visibility. Many people enter the water on the left side of the beach as there is some sand. However, this is where the stream enters the water, so visibility will be low here. 

The best place to enter the water is on the right side of the beach, just past the old cement boat ramp. This will give you clearer waters from the start, but you may have to wear something on your feet when climbing over the rocks and slippery boulders.


Are There Sharks at Honolua Bay?

Sharks have been known to spend time in Honolua Bay, and most of these you don’t have to worry about. Whitetip reef sharks and blacktip reef sharks are not generally aggressive, and you don’t have to worry too much about coming across these breeds of shark.

However, if you do see one of these sharks, keep a respectful distance and don’t bother them. 

Tiger sharks can be aggressive and have been known to come into the bay, more so than other areas of Maui. The chances that you’ll come across a tiger shark are slim, but it is possible. Make sure that you always exercise caution when in the water.

How to Find Honolua Bay?

Honolua is located on the north-western coast of the island of Maui, approx. 20 miles north of Lahaina. To get there you’ll need to travel along Route 30, known as the East Honoapiilani Highway. You’ll see a sign for DT Fleming Beach and continue for around one mile.

Just past Mile Marker 33 you’ll pass the lookout to Honolua Bay and start to descend. The overhead view from Kalaepiha Point, the cliff on the southern side of the bay, is spectacular and gives you a view of the whole bay that you don’t want to miss. At this point you will understand why this beach is consistently ranked as one of the top beaches on the island of Maui.

Once you cross a one-lane bridge you’ll find parking for around five cars. There are also portable toilets here if you need them. If there’s no parking available here, you can park along the side of the road.

The path to get to the forest trail is just off the highway. The forest trail will lead you to the beach. There are two trails to the beach. Both of these are flat, but you may have to wade through the stream to get there so you could get your feet wet.

There are no facilities at the beach so remember this before you get here. There are portable toilets next to the parking area, and sometimes you’ll find a food van here, but this can’t be guaranteed.

Where To Stay Near Honolua Bay?

There are hotels and vacation rentals available close to Honolua Bay. However, most people looking to stay in the area will choose to stay at Kapalua, on the north shore of Maui. Honolua Bay is approx. five miles from Kapalua, heading north.

Kapalua Resort is a great choice, giving you luxury accommodation that’s located in one of Hawaii’s largest nature preserves. It’s also surrounded by beautiful beaches. What more could you want?

Why Honolua Bay is a Must-Visit Beach on Maui

If you love being in the water, admiring the wonders beneath the surface, or riding the waves above, Honolua Bay is the place for you. The beach itself isn’t the beautiful soft sand that we’re used to, but the surrounding landscape and water-sports certainly make up for that.

In a secluded location, Honolua Bay is sheltered from the damaging winds and is also located in the protected Marine Life Conservation District. 

The Hawaiian people do what they can to protect the area, keeping it clean and making sure that nothing is removed. If you visit the stunning bay, make sure that you continue this in order for the bay to remain for future generations.