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Beach

The 5 Best Beaches on Maui

With 130 miles of coastline, Maui has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. So how do you choose which is best for you? We hit the sand in search of the island's top five powder-soft stretches for your next vacay.

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Napili Beach

Pack your snorkels! A few miles south of Kapalua on the island’s northwest shore is where you’ll find Napili, one of the best beaches on Maui and a favorite for its shore break as well as a healthy resident population of sea turtles. The tranquil waters, home to schools of colorful fish, make for excellent swimming and snorkeling, while its wide sands sheltered from the winds mean families and couples can sprawl out as much as they like.

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Ka'anapali Beach

Once a stomping ground for Hawaiian royalty, Ka’anapali Beach has grown into one of the most famous—and most visited—beaches on Maui (but don't worry, the crowds are a far cry from those you’ll find on Oahu). Surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving—it can all be done here, and parasailing and whale-watching tours depart directly from the beach. A meandering pathway divides the two-mile stretch of sand from the strip of resident resorts, so beach-goers can walk the distance to Black Rock at the beach’s northern end, where a cliff diving ceremony occurs every night at sunset. Watch it from the sand, or from your poolside perch at Sheraton Maui’s Cliff Dive Grill.

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Top left photo courtesy of EyeEm

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Wailea Beach

Don’t be surprised if you spy a celebrity or two warming their toes in the sands of Wailea. This golden stretch is lined by some of the island’s most luxurious resorts (including Four Seasons, Andaz, and Grand Wailea) and has staggering views of the other side of Maui and the distant island of Molokini. Despite the exclusive atmosphere, all are welcome to build sandcastles; soak in the sun's rays; or snorkel the southern point of the bay, a favorite hangout for green sea turtles. During whale-watching season (January through March), you can even spot humpbacks breaching in the distance from your lounge chair—or, in our case, over cocktails at Grand Wailea’s Bistro Molokini.

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Hamoa Beach

You have to tackle countless hairpin turns and one-lane bridges on the Road to Hana to reach Maui’s quiet eastern side, but once you do you’ll be duly rewarded. Rugged cliffs give way to coastal vistas and what many consider the real Hawaii—a tiny remote community frozen in time. This is the home of Hamoa Beach, a 1,000-foot-long crescent-shaped stretch of coral and lava sand surrounded by lush sea cliffs and unprotected by outlying reefs, which means the waves come crashing in during winter months—heaven for surfers. There’s only one hotel in the vicinity, but it’s gorgeous.

RELATED: The Ultimate Maui Road Trip

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Kapalua Beach

This beach, on the island’s northwest coast, consistently ranks among the best not only in Maui, or Hawaii, but the nation. What’s all the fuss? The calm bay waters allow for leisurely swimming and kayaking, the surrounding palm trees and lava rock provide shelter from trade winds, the natural tide pools are perfect for younger ones to see marine life up close, and the winter months bring whales to the warm waters just offshore. Its proximity to historic Lahaina means the beach gets busy, so take a break from the throngs at Merriman’s Restaurant, a Kapalua classic and foodie favorite with fire pit seating overlooking the Pacific; then bed down at the romantic Montage hotel.

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