Kayaking in and Around Maui: 10 of the Best Places to Paddle and Canoe

By James @ Sea Kayak Explorer

The island of Maui is known for kayaking, snorkeling, and other water sports more than any other island in Hawaii. If you’re someone that loves kayaking, you’ll love the kayaking spots in and around this tropical area. 

The experience level of kayaking locations in Maui ranges from easy to more challenging. However, many of the best places to kayak in Maui, HI, provide calm waters and beginner-friendly experiences. 

With resorts close to the water, nearby amenities, and multiple launching points off white sand beaches, kayaks are just waiting to get into the water. 

This list is organized from beginner locations to more challenging areas and some that work for everyone sitting around the middle. Let’s jump into it and explore Maui.

For more kayaking destinations, check out our post on the best places to kayak in Hawaii here.

1. Makena Landing, HI

Located in South Maui and part of Makena Landing Park, you’ll be launching from the sandy beach in an area used by local kayak fishermen and Hobie Catamaran sailors. 

The waters around Makena Landing are calm and well-traveled, making them great for beginners and family outings. Amenities are available in the park before and after you launch, including access to restrooms and fresh-water showers.

Paddling a quick way will bring you to an area known for its groups of turtles living in their natural habitat. Choosing a different direction will lead you to the famous Turtle Tour and access to massive reefs. 

The views here are breathtaking both above and below the water, so don’t forget your snorkeling gear. 

Make sure to get to the water early, at least before 10 am, to avoid big groups of tourists, tour groups, and the wind that can pick up later in the afternoon but otherwise, it should be easy paddling. 

2. Turtle Town, HI

Maluaka Beach, HI by dronepicr (CC BY 2.0)

After pushing off from Makena Landing, it’s not far to Turtle Town. However, these two places should not be confused as just two parts of the same route. They each offer their own experience with different views and different levels of crowds. 

The only thing the spots share is calm waters and an easy-to-paddle route that includes plenty of chances to relax and take photos of the scenic view.

Close to multiple resorts, including the Makena Beach & Golf Resort, the Four Seasons, Andaz Maui, and Grand Wailea, it should be easy to get to Turtle Town early. This is true whether you’re kayaking solo or part of a tour for a leisurely adventure.

This spot won’t provide an adrenaline rush or even require much of you physically, but it’s great for beginners and an excellent way to start a morning of kayaking.

3. Lahaina, HI

Another calm water option is Lahaina, which sits just south of Lahaina Town. The views are wondrous, with the West Maui mountains taking a prominent spot and clear waters showcasing both tropical fish and turtles.

From January to March, whale watching is possible, and the rest of the year, you may have a chance to see spinner dolphins as well as green turtles and monk seals. 

Lahaina is a leisurely paddle for families, couples, and solo kayakers that is no less memorable than more professional endeavors. 

Beginners will enjoy the laid-back pace they can take to enjoy the view or go whale watching, while experts will find a place to relax before or after more experienced paddlings nearby.

4. Kaneohe Bay, HI

Kaneohe Bay is the only bay with a coral reef and sits close to Moloka’i Island for competent kayakers of all skills. The 8-mile stretch of coast features calm waters with maximum visibility of 40-feet and plenty of local fish and turtles to watch. 

If snorkeling is part of your plan for the day, this is a great place to do it. You can see hammerhead sharks, parrotfish, schools of mahi-mahi, and Aku.

Along with the reef, there are five islands included in this Kaneohe Bay route. The two biggest islands, Mokoliʻi (Chinaman’s Hat) and Moku o Loʻe (Coconut Island) are often featured in Hollywood films such as Coconut Island, which was the prominent backdrop for the opening shots in the movie Gilligan’s Island.

5. Olowalu, HI

Olowalu, HI by Kirt Edblom (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Moving north-west on the island of Maui, we move up to Olowalu, which is another reef location with excellent spots to kayak

These waters, however, are not as beginner-friendly as Turtle Town. You’ll find you need a bit more muscle to paddle, and at times the wind can create choppy seas. 

Even experienced paddlers may want to consider going with a tour the first time or hiring a private guide, not because of the surf or current but because Olowalu has some areas with unmarked reefs and sections where the water is very shallow. 

Experienced paddlers, adult families, and those looking for a bit of adventure will love Olowalu, but this is one place to keep kids back on the beach.

Snorkeling is possible out on the reef, where you’ll get to see green turtles, manta rays, and many types of tropical fish. 

6. Hanakao’o Beach Park, HI

A popular spot with locals and secluded enough that it’s less known to tourists is Hanakao’o Beach Park. Although it can get crowded on weekends, this park connects to the south of Ka’anapali Beach and is a good spot for an easygoing paddle that doesn’t require a tour. 

If you choose to opt-out of taking a tour, it’s best to consider a local guide, even if you’re paddling solo, because the waters have fewer markings, and visibility is less than pristine. 

Even an experienced tourist unfamiliar with the area could run into trouble if they get stranded on a reef.

Although easy enough for families, exercise caution when paddling with small children and those that can’t paddle, as the conditions can change if winds pick up later in the day. Choose early times whenever possible to avoid higher winds that can increase strength as the day goes on.

Launching takes place from a white sand beach known locally as Canoe Beach. The beach got its name because it is the spot that outrigger canoes regularly launch. You can find plenty of amenities such as barbeque grills, picnic tables, bathrooms, showers, and plenty of parking.

While the beach itself is relatively thin, the extra amenities and details make up for it. 

7. Honolua Bay, HI

Located along the Kapalua coastline in the Mokuleia Marine Life conservation district, Honolua Bay offers good currents and small waves for kayaking, surfing, and canoeing, as well as snorkeling. 

Launch usually happens at Fleming beach with kayakers going onto Mokuleia Bay and then Honolua Bay.

While suitable for family outings, Honolua Bay has strong winds and currents at times, making the water more challenging to traverse. Experts at this location recommend that children under 12 years stay onshore and inexperienced kayakers try out a tour rather than paddling solo.

Tours and kayak rentals are only available in the summer months as the winter months bring high surf and winds. Still, during summer, you’ll be kayaking in clear water with plenty of marine life, including boxfish, barracudas, and box turtles. 

8. Pali Sea Cliffs, HI

Starting at Papalau beach and running to the Pali lighthouse along sea cliffs that protect areas that aren’t accessible by land, this is a roughly 4-mile round-trip kayaking tour

Pali Sea cliffs can be experienced as a tour or solo excursion for beginner paddlers over 16, as sea conditions can suddenly change. 

Experienced kayakers who want to experience the area and don’t mind a less challenging adventure will find this area with fewer crowds and a leisurely atmosphere. 

In the winter, try out whale watching, and in the warmer months, snorkeling is also an option with clear waters and plenty of local fish and rays to see. 

9. Molokini Crater, HI

This protected volcanic atoll is part of the State Marine Life & Bird Sanctuary, and the Molokini crater offers a few options for kayakers. The volcanic atoll has visibility of up to 100 feet, making it great for snorkeling. 

However, if you’re looking for more challenge in your paddling and you’re willing to be out on the water before 7 am, try paddling to the crater. It’s a 7-mile round trip that you can take instead of a boat. 

Molokini Crater is an area for experienced paddlers with challenging surf and currents. It isn’t recommended for anyone under 16 years of age or those who aren’t physically fit. 

Local kayak fishers dating back centuries have used this route for fishing. Knowing you’re paddling the same waters as they did can be an inspiring part of the day and an exciting story to tell after vacation is over.

West Shore, HI

Kamaole Beach Park, HI by Caroline Gagné (CC BY 2.0)

Maui’s West Shore is home to calm and clear waters that are perfect for a day out at sea. Because the waters are so clear, you have a bird’s eye view of the magnificent and colorful coral reefs just below.

As you kayak, enjoy breathtaking views of the Ukumehame Valley, which forms a deep V in the West Maui Mountains. The mountain range is alive with tradition, and offers some of the richest history that Hawaii has to offer.

Launch from either Kamaole Beach Park (shown in the image above) or Ukumehame Beach Park, or join a kayak tour and depart on a 1.5 mile journey from Olowalu Beach where you’ll stop in prime snorkel spots on the 2.5 hour tour.

Summing up the Best Places to Kayak in Maui

As you can see, exploring Maui from a kayak is one of the best ways to see its natural beauty. From the calm, protected waters of Ho’okipa Bay to the dramatic waves and currents of Moloka’i’s Na Pali Coastline, Maui offers a diverse set of kayaking opportunities.

So, whether you’re new to paddling or just looking for some more ideas on where to go next, we hope our list of kayaking destinations in Maui helped inspire you for your next paddling trip.

Now, get out there and explore what this beautiful island has in store!