Mokapu & Ulua Beaches
Just south of Keawakapu Beach, in South Maui, lie two connected beaches named Mokapu and Ulua. They’re both beautiful crescents of sand separated by a small, rocky (but walkable) point. This is the northern end of the resort area of Wailea; the Wailea shoreline walking path starts at Mokapu, runs south past Ulua, and then on to the more-crowded Wailea Beach.
Mokapu is my favorite of all the walk-to beaches in the Wailea area. The resort that sits behind the beach, the Renaissance, closed a number of years ago. That left Mokapu under-used and sometimes nearly deserted (the words “deserted” and “beach” really go well together, don’t they?) Unfortunately, that’s now changing: the resort is being renovated and reopened (as something called “the Andaz”) in Spring 2013. That will bring more people back to Mokapu, and it means construction noise on weekdays until then.
Around the point, Ulua is also a great beach. Like Mokapu, it has a broad sandy bottom perfect for swimming. There’s no current to speak of, and the waves never present much of a problem if you’re a decent swimmer (if you want no waves, go in the morning). Unlike Mokapu, Ulua is somewhat shielded from the strong afternoon winds that scour South Maui on a daily basis.
The main draw for both these beaches – aside from being beautiful, soft crescents of sand in Maui, of course – is the snorkeling. The entire rocky point that separates Mokapu and Ulua is a snorkeling dream: tons of fish of all shapes & colors, sea turtles, and plenty of coral. It’s the most aquarium-like snorkeling experience I’ve had on Maui, and (on a previous visit) it’s the first place I ever swam alongside a sea turtle. It’s something I won’t soon forget.
If you’re a reasonably fit, confident swimmer I highly recommend snorkeling around the entire point starting from the Mokapu side. Even if you’re not, Ulua is probably the most user-friendly snorkeling I’ve ever seen: you can wade out on the sandy bottom and look at the rocks & fish from the side, no swimming required. The snorkeling is best in the morning. A 9am dip at Ulua is probably the one single activity I’d recommend to anyone staying in Wailea.
These two beaches aren’t my favorite beaches on Maui (see: Po’olenalena Beach), but the easy access and awesome snorkeling make them winners if you’re staying in the area. And saying that a beach isn’t your favorite on Maui is kind of like saying that strawberry isn’t your favorite flavor of ice cream: maybe not, but it’s still a pretty great thing.