The Best Places to Paddleboard in Maui: From Makena Beach to Molokini Crater

Maui is a great island for paddleboarding, with many protected coves with calm waters and some fun areas with waves for the more experienced boarders.

Photo from https://www.instagram.com/mauipaddleboarding

Key takeaways for where to paddleboard in Maui

Maui offers a wide range of locations for paddleboarding, each with their own unique features and benefits.

  • Ka’anapali Beach: Located on the west side of Maui, this popular beach offers calm, clear waters and a wide, sandy shoreline for easy launching. Paddle out to the nearby Black Rock for some snorkeling or just enjoy the views of the surrounding resorts and mountains.
  • Kapalua Bay: Located on the northwest coast of Maui, Kapalua Bay is known for its turquoise waters and calm conditions, making it a popular spot for paddleboarding.
  • Lahaina Harbor: Located on the west side of the island, Lahaina Harbor is a popular spot for stand-up paddling. Rent a board from one of the local shops and explore the harbor, or paddle out to the nearby islands for some snorkeling.
  • Wailea Beach: Located on the south side of the island, Wailea Beach offers calm, clear waters and a wide, sandy shoreline for easy launching. Paddle out to the nearby coral reefs for some snorkeling, or just enjoy the views of the surrounding resorts and mountains. A popular spot for paddlers of all skill levels.
  • Honolua Bay: Located on the west side of the island, Honolua Bay is a popular spot for stand-up paddling. Rent a board from one of the local shops and explore the bay, or paddle out to the nearby reefs for some snorkeling.
  • Check out the waters around Makena Beach and Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge for calmer waters for beginners learning how to paddleboard.
  • Molokini Crater: Located just off the coast of Maui, Molokini Crater is a crescent-shaped islet that is popular for snorkeling and paddleboarding.

The best place to paddleboard in Maui will depend on your skill level and the conditions on the day you go, and your proximity to the beach. If you’re staying on the west or south side of Maui, you will usually be in luck, as the waters there are calmer than on the northeast side.

Go snorkeling and stand-up paddleboarding together for twice the fun. Photo from https://mauistanduppaddleboarding.com/

What conditions are ideal for paddleboarding in Maui?

If you want an easy day of paddling, look for protected areas with flat water, such as the shallow waters of Makena Landing, Wailea, and the Kapalua Bay. These areas are ideal for beginner paddleboarders and stand-up paddleboarders alike.

Paddling is easier and more popular on the leeward side of the island in west and south Maui, as evidenced by the locations of the paddleboard shops.

For those looking to get a better view of the island, head to Ka’anapali Beach on the west side of the island.

Whether paddleboarding or stand-up paddleboarding, the best spots for those learning paddling are in flat waters, protected areas, or surf spots, depending on your mood and energy level. Paddleboarding is typically done in protected areas, while stand-up paddleboarding is done in areas with surface waves, but it depends on what kind of experience you want.

Wailea beach paddling

There are a number of great spots to check out on Maui, no matter what kind of experience you’re looking for. Ask the locals for the best spots on the day you’re looking to go out on the water, but in general, the popular areas for a fun coastline paddle are in the calm waters around Wailea Beach. Wailea offers lots of coastline to explore, and the beach also offers clear views of the islands offshore.

Makena beaches have lots to offer paddlers

If you’re looking for something a little more adventurous and are a more experienced paddler, check out the beaches at Makena State Park. The waters here can be choppy and there are some strong currents, so try to focus more on paddling and less on the spectacular views of the nearby islands.

Calmer paddling in Kapalua Bay

For a more relaxed experience or if you’re just getting comfortable with paddling, head to Kapalua Bay. The waters here are usually very calm, making it the perfect spot for beginners. The bay is also a great spot for snorkeling, with plenty of reef and marine life to explore.

For intense paddleboarding adventures on Maui

More experienced paddleboarders might want to try the open ocean around the islands of Molokini and Lanai, where the waves can offer more challenging conditions. Definitely do not attempt this paddle unguided, as many paddlers have been lost at sea.

For a downwind paddle run on the North Shore of Maui that “makes heroin addiction seem like a vague craving for something salty,” [source] you can attempt the Maliko run:

Paddleboarding is popular all over Maui

No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, you will find plenty of suitable paddleboarding spots on Maui. if those spots weren’t enough or you’re in a different part of the island:

  • Head to Lahaina Harbor for some of the best paddle boarding on Maui. The harbor offers plenty of flat water and is a great place to paddle board for all levels of experience.
  • For more experienced paddle boarders, head to Ho’okipa Beach Park. The beach offers more challenging waters with bigger swells that are perfect for more experienced paddle boarders.
  • Make sure to bring a snorkel mask, as the waters around Maui are full of sea life that can be seen up close.
SUP vs prone paddleboarding

To clarify the difference: Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is a type of water sport in which participants stand on a board and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water. Paddleboarding is similar to SUP, but participants lay or kneel on a paddleboard, which is a smaller, more maneuverable board than the boards used for SUP. Paddlers of both persuasions frequent the same waters, but SUPers prefer calmer coves and bays to maintain stability in the water.

Stand-up paddleboarding or paddleboarding to Molokini Crater

Stand-up paddling (SUP) nor prone paddleboarding from Maui to Molokini Crater is not recommended due to the distance and open ocean conditions. The trip is about 15 miles, which can be quite intense and tiring, and the open ocean can have strong currents and rough waves; many paddlers have lost their lives attempting the trip.

Do not attempt the paddle from Maui to Molokini Crater unguided, unless you are a very experienced paddler with the proper equipment and taking every safety precaution.

If you are interested in paddling to or around Molokini Crater, it is best to join a guided tour or charter a boat from a reputable company. These tours will provide you with the necessary equipment (board, paddle, life jacket, and more), as well as safety measures for your peace of mind for the trip.

Depending on the tour you choose, the departure points could be Maalaea Harbor or Kihei, and your guide will provide all the necessary instructions for a safe and enjoyable paddle to the coolest crater outside of Maui.

Find more adventure activities to do in Maui.

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3 thoughts on “The Best Places to Paddleboard in Maui: From Makena Beach to Molokini Crater”

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