Close your eyes and imagine for a moment you’re watching the sunset in Maui. You’re calm and relaxed, with toes in the sand, and the fiery colors of orange and yellow are reflected in patches of slick wet sand where waves lap at the shore.
As stars begin to poke through the sky, you walk past rows of tiki torches before reaching in your pocket, grabbing a key and waltzing right into your room.
That’s the dreamy, evening reality at beachfront hotels on Maui, where your room is just steps from golden sands and fiery sunsets each night. There’s an air of luxury, convenience and comfort to staying right on the beach, although with so many Maui beachfront hotels, trying to choose the best option can sometimes seem overwhelming.
Kaanapali and Wailea are Hot Spots for Maui Beachfront Hotels
If you’re researching Maui’s best beachfront hotels, the resort scene is centered on two main spots: Kā‘anapali and Wailea. About 45 minutes apart by car, these visitor enclaves are not only home to lavish, oceanfront resorts but are steps from golden stretches of sand that have made Maui world famous.
Wailea Resort is Home to Luxury Beachfront Hotels
Wailea Resort, in South Maui, boasts four different popular, white sand beaches that are connected by a coastal path. The furthest south is Polo Beach, home to The Fairmont Kea Lani, which twists toward the sky with swirling white spires pulled straight from an Arabian fairytale. Every room at the Kea Lani is actually a miniature suite, providing a spacious sense of comfort along with the oceanfront setting. Next up is The Four Seasons Wailea and famous Wailea Beach, which was named the #1 beach in America in 1999. Also fronting Wailea Beach is the Grand Wailea Resort, where you can swim in Maui’s best swimming pool and relax in Hawaiʻi’s largest spa.
The next beach north — Ulua Beach — is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving and is home to the Wailea Beach Resort Marriott and the exclusive Wailea Beach Villas. The Andaz Maui, on Mokapu Beach, has a three-tiered infinity pool with popular bars and a sweeping view of the sunset and is where the luxurious Wailea Resort officially comes to an end.
Kihei Boasts Beautiful Beaches and Beachfront Condos
If you drive north from Wailea resort up into neighboring Kīhei, the development changes from high-end resorts to rows of beachfront condos. The Mana Kai Maui, along Keawakapu Beach, is only a ten-minute walk away from the start of the Wailea beach path, and Hale Pau Hana is conveniently located between Kam I and Kam II beaches. While condos don’t have the same sense of glamor as the glitzy Wailea resorts, they’re also within walking distance of restaurants and shops that are a fraction of the cost of Wailea.
There are also beachfront condos in North Kīhei, though the beaches here aren’t as nice for snorkeling and the afternoons can be windy. That said, the morning hours are usually spectacular, and some condos — like The Maui Sunset — are set on beachfront Waipuʻilani Park where tennis courts and a large grassy lawn face out toward the sunset each night. Menehune Shores is an oceanfront condo that’s steps from Kalepolepopo Beach Park and features an ancient Hawaiian fishpond that’s perfect for families with young children. To stay at a Maui beachfront hotel on the island’s longest beach, there are numerous options along Sugar Beach, which at five miles long isn’t great for snorkeling (and afternoons can be windy) but is perfect for taking morning strolls and watching the sunset each night. Options include Kohea Kai Resort Maui at the southern end of the strip, to Sugar Beach Resort in the middle of the beach and Ma‘alaea up north.
There are Only Three Beachfront Options in Lahaina
If you’d prefer to be closer to Kā‘anapali and Lahaina’s shopping and dining, many of Maui’s best beachfront hotels are located in West Maui.
Despite Lahaina’s popularity, the only real options for beachfront hotels are Lahaina Shores at the southern end of town, the Puamana vacation rentals and the Pu‘unoa Beach Estates on small but popular “Baby Beach.” All are within walking distance of bustling Front Street and are set on relaxing beaches, but none offer any resort-like amenities or snorkeling right from shore.
Beachfront Hotels Range From Modern to Authentic on Kaanapali Beach
For that you’ll need to head ten minutes north to famous Kā‘anapali Beach, which was named the #1 beach in America in 2003. Whether it’s snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing, parasailing, whale watching, surfing or beach volleyball, you can find it happening along Kā‘anapali Beach, in addition to restaurants and shops.
On the southern end of the beach is the Hyatt, which is popular with families and groups. On the northern end, the Sheraton Maui fronts Pu‘u Keka‘a — also known as “Black Rock” — which is the site of some of Maui’s best snorkeling. Other resorts on Kā‘anapali Beach are the spacious condos at Kā‘anapali Ali‘i, the Marriott’s Maui Ocean Club, as well as The Westin Maui, The Whaler and Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel. Whereas the Hyatt and Westin have multiple waterslides and modern, poolside bars, Kā‘anapali Beach Hotel is a bit more authentic (and lower-priced), where the focus is on fusing a laidback vacation with traditional Hawaiian culture.
Kahekili Beach is the Site of a Few Hidden Gems
Though most of the action in Kā‘anapali is centered around Kā‘anapali Beach, a growing number of resorts now line the next beach further north. Known as Kahekili Beach (or “Airport Beach” to locals), here’s where you’ll find the Royal Lahaina with its nightly oceanfront lūʻau, and the Westin Kā‘anapali Ocean Villas as well as Honua Kai Resort.
Napili Bay is an Enclave of Beachfront Condos and Resorts
Up on the island’s northwestern tip, Napili Bay is another enclave of oceanfront condos and resorts, with the Napili Kai Beach Resort being one of the best options for visiting families and groups. The snorkeling at Napili Bay can be excellent, and neighboring Kapalua Bay was named the #1 beach in America 1991. In winter the surf can get very large, so the best snorkeling and swimming here are from late spring through summer.
Luxury Defines Kapalua’s Beachfront Resort
Finally, some of the best beachfront hotels in Maui are in Kapalua Resort — a pine-lined sanctuary of golf courses and sand on the island’s northwestern coast. The Montage Kapalua Bay is an ultra-luxurious oceanfront resort with one of the island’s best spas, while The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua is a five-minute walk from D.T. Fleming Beach, which was named the #1 beach in America in 2006.
How to Decide Where to Stay on Maui
With so many different options out there, how do you choose which beachfront resort is best for your trip to Maui?
Budget, of course, is usually a factor, and the best deals are usually at condos in Kīhei, Honokowai and Napili. Proximity to activities is also important, and if you want to be able to paddleboard or snorkel by just walking out of your room, resorts in Wailea and Kā‘anapali are often priced higher but carry the convenience of activities right out your front door. For a happy medium between the two, consider condos on Napili Bay and condos in Kīhei between Keawakapu Beach and Kamaole I.
A Note About the Maui Beach Hotel
As a word of caution, there’s a hotel on Maui called the Maui Beach Hotel that’s technically right on the beach — but it’s located inside of Kahului Harbor in an industrial setting that doesn’t offer any snorkeling, activities, or swimming. It is, however, just five minutes away from Kahului Airport, and is an affordable Maui beachfront hotel for travelers who don’t need any amenities and are visiting the island on a budget.