Three of My Favorite Maui Beaches#3 Mile Marker 14 / Olowalu
There are plenty of shade trees to sling your hammock under at this beach. This is a wonderful boon to pale-folk such as myself. I snorkeled until my sunscreen alarm went off and then sat out under the shade trees to reapply.
It is very easy to get to. Right along the side of the road. Look for the mile marker sign and at mile 14 stop and park. Orient yourself to the sign! Straight across from it is the sand bar that will take you out so you don't get stuck!
One of the drawbacks to such shallow water is that it is possibly, very easily possible, to get stuck out there. Be careful snorkeling between the corals as the current may push you into them. Don't touch the corals!
The big channel is straight out from the mile marker, so when you first get to the beach, look back to check your location and then look out at the water itself and notice the different colors to see where the light path is. Stay on the light path as you go out. It should feel pretty straight.
The coral there is fairly brown and some is bleached out - but there are Convict Tang and Butterfly Fish out there. I also spotted some Moorish Idols and Bird Wrasse.
If you do plan to check out this beach - know that there are only porta-johns for facilities so plan accordingly. I'd also suggest bringing extra bottled water to rinse off with and leaving your sandals on - the trees have LARGE thorns. Most of the ones on the lower branches seem stripped off, but new ones from the top branches fall naturally and you wouldn't want one in your foot!
#2 Ulua Bay - This small beach has lots of people, full facilities with bathrooms, showers, and benches. If you are a person with special needs or if you have little children would be a great beach to check out. Parking if you aren't a resort visitor can be somewhat difficult to find as the public lot is very small and fills up fast. There is also less shade at this beach so go earlier in the morning to get a good spot and remember to wear your sandals as the thorn trees drop needles into the soft sand in the limited shady areas.
There are lots of little fish close to the shore at this beach. It felt like a fish nursery of sorts. Even just walking in and standing still in the water I could see little baby fish schooling about my knees. It was so much fun! I found Moorish Idols, Spotted Boxfish, and Yellow Trumpetfish in the clear water. There were also some Humu's (Reef Triggerfish) and baby Butterfly fish swimming about in the reef.
As for snorkeling - there really is only one large section of reef at this beach so be prepared to share the space with lots of other folks unless you go there in the morning. There were scuba teams starting up when I was visiting so occasionally something large and black would be swimming beneath me and out of the corner of my eye. Fairly frightening the first couple of times but I got used to it with so many of them around. That said, the coral shelf is beautiful and more vibrant than the one at Mile Marker 14.
#1 Honolua Bay - Chickens!! OMG chickens! I'm a big fan of chickens and Honolua Bay has plenty of these feathered friends.
Check the surf report before you go as this is an either / or beach. If the surf is too high the visibility is too low and the surfers claim the beach for the waves. Great for surfers, not so great if you wanted to snorkel.
This is also a harder beach to find but once you do you are rewarded with a lush rainforest path leading from the pull-out along the road down a vine-covered trail to a rocky coast. No sand here. No facilities except a questionable porta-john. Perhaps those reasons are why it was one of the least populated beaches we visited.
We came back to this beach again and again. Sturdy sandals, lots of extra water and snacks, and reed mats made it a more comfortable location. I loved listening to the roosters crow and watching the hens scratch the ground so all the little chicks could run in and peck the freshly uncovered earth. Cheep cheep! So cute!
The current was fairly strong and again, no sand, so getting smashed against the rocks in the shallows or pulled out from the bay if you go too far can be a potential hazard. This is not what I'd call a beginner-friendly beach like Ulua. Strong swimmers and experienced divers or snorkelers would do better out here. I suggest swimming out a bit as fast as you can to avoid the rocks and then putting on fins and a mask while treading water.
Right along the coast can be very murky but, once you get out into the depths, it tends to clear up quite a bit. The reef is beautiful with lovely colors and lots of fish. I spotted a huge baitball of tiny silver sardine-sized fish (not actually sure what type of fish they were) and it was amazing to watch them in person. I'd seen bait balls on tv, but seeing one in person is an entirely different experience. It was disorienting and mesmerizing and completely wonderful and very frightening all at the same time.
I spotted Racoon Butterfly fish, Ornate Butterfly fish, Bluespine Unicorn fish, Reef Trigger fish, Yellow Trumpet fish, bright little Christmas Wrasse, and huge and rainbow-colored male Redlip Parrotfish. There was also a beautiful spotted Moray Eel longer than I am tall free-swimming along the reef while being pestered by some other fish who it had apparently disturbed in some way. It ducked into a crack in the reef and coiled its body into the little cave to avoid the fish. Once they had left, it brought its head back out from the cave and stayed there for quite some time - mouth just slightly open, needle-like teeth smiling, as its head waved side-to-side with the current.
There were also some more aggressive fish in the bay. I'm not sure what type they were - flat, silver, oval-shaped fish about the size of two computer screens or a medium-sized dog. They repeatedly swam up and got uncomfortably close to me, spooking me behind my back or swimming up right behind my head to look me right in the eye. I suspect possible fish feeding...please don't feed the fish!
Also - Never Stand on a Reef! While out snorkeling one day a man from one of the tour boats decided it would be a good photo opportunity to stand on the reef. This was not acceptable and several people shouted at the man to get off the reef which, hopefully, embarrassed him and he'll never do it again - but it was still an injury to the reef. Standing on, touching, or purposely breaking off bits of reef for souvenirs hurts the reef and kills coral colonies. They are already stressed out enough -
please look, but don't touch.