Southern Maui Overview

Genie Davis December 12, 2010 1 Comment


Southern Maui is a delightful tourist destination in the dry part of the island. It’s scenery is very different from the lush green dampness of Hana. Easy to access from the airport, with beautiful beaches and fantastic views of Lanai and Molokini crater – great for snorkeling trips – there are many wonderful resorts to choose from, and it’s hard to choose a beach because each one is soft white sand, gentle waved, and delightful. 

Southern Maui Sunset

Sunset in southern Maui is always spectacular.


We stayed at the Maui Prince Hotel, the resort farthest south in a strip of gorgeous beaches and many resort hotels to choose from. We loved its pristine sand crescent, the fact that Molokini early morning snorkeling trips run directly off the beach in front of the hotel, and the general laid- back vibe of the property. We also liked the large lanais in the guest room with flower garden, ocean, or partial ocean views. The hotel is Japanese owned and has a certain austere quality to the furnishings and a distinctly zen like feeling to many of the garden areas on the property. 

While the hotel is a very short drive to Big Beach Maui - a gorgeous, broad, and big stretch of sand just a few miles farther south from the hotel property, the beach at the Maui Prince is really everything you could want for your family. It’s uncrowded, the water is clear and the waves are gentle, and for adults and kids old enough to participate, the snorkeling right off the beach is one of the best spots on the island.  There’s also a luau held on the hotel’s manicured grounds several nights a week. The entertainment is first rate, and you can hear and enjoy the music even if you’re not attending, and just taking a twilight beach stroll or swim. Nearby you’ll find the shops at Wailea, an upscale mall with many restaurant choices; our kids enjoyed the coconut shrimp at Tommy Bahamas. One meal you shouldn’t miss is the hotel’s Sunday brunch, which even locals love. The fresh fruit choices alone are worth the price of admission, and kid’s prices are a comparative bargain and will keep everyone stoked for a day’s beach going or driving adventure. 

En route to the south end of Maui from the airport, you’ll travel past Kealia Pond National Wildlife Preserve. Take the time to walk through at least a portion of this seven hundred plus acre wetland either coming or going. The bird watching is simply awesome, and our kids loved seeing the variety of wild life and being able to see so many interesting birds. You’ll see coots, herons, plovers, ducks and other beautiful birds as you take an easy walk along a boardwalk with informational signs and plenty of shaded shelters for relaxing and watching the birds. You’ll also see sand dunes, pretty ponds, and a view of windy Maalaea Harbor

Once you’ve crossed the island’s center and headed south, be forewarned that the town of Kihei Maui has a lot of traffic – and many, many condos to rent. This is a great place to stop at a grocery store to provision up; there’s also an ABC store in town. If you haven’t enjoyed a trip to this haven of cheap fruit drinks, macadamia nuts, souvenirs, beach towels, and floaties, now is an excellent time. The beach toys are inexpensive and we’ve always donated our floaties to other hotel guests when we leave a destination. In Kihei, the town beaches invariably offer white sand and blue surf; however the water clarity and beach beauty is going to get better as you drive on to Wailea and Makena further south. A lovely stop here is the one and a half mile nature trail that hugs the coast line between two elegant hotels: the Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel and the Wailea Marriott Resort. The winding, easy path will take you past plants and trees and lead you to clearly marked shoreline access points. You’ll see great ocean views and there are several well placed benches where you can take a rest, have a snack, look for whales, and view Lanai in the distance. 

All of these beaches are perfect – great sand, warm, gentle surf. Even if you’re not staying at one of the resorts, you’ll be able to rent umbrella and chairs and enjoy a long and restful day in paradise. The soft fine sand here is great for sand castle building, too. The Maui Prince Hotel, where we stayed, is just down the road, where Wailea meets Makena. 

Southern Maui View of Lanai

We loved having a view of Lanai from the southern end of Maui.


As you cross into Makena, the golf courses and manicured gardens give way to a more wild coast line marked with lava as well as the large sandy stretches of Big Beach. Makena Landing is a beach park with facilities for boats and kayaks; and it’s fully equipped with bathroom facilities and picnic tables. 

If you go south on Makena Road you’ll reach an historic church, the Keawalai Congregational Church which dates from 1855. This isn’t an ordinary church in any sense,  with walls 3 feet thick and surrounded by ti plants. Its built of lava and coral, and it is situated on its own lovely sandy beach. We found the cemetery fascinating, with some graves decorated with a photo of the departed. Sunday mornings the church holds a Hawaiian language service with wonderful music. Out kids loved just hearing the Hawaiian words, and the setting adds a beautiful reverential feeling to the proceedings. 

Continuing south, you’ll come to another historic spot, the La Pérouse Monument, a mound of  lava rocks indicating the place French explorer Admiral Comte de La Perouse first arrived  on Maui in 1786. He was the first western visitor to explore the island, although he didn’t stay around very long and found the climate too hot for his taste. Near the monument you’ll find a parking area and a rocky coast line that is best for walking along rather than beach going. Because of the sharpness of the lava rocks, if your kids are large enough to be ambulatory but not small enough that spills can happen, be sure to carry them. Even a short stroll across the lava affords some lovely views, and if you’re up for a longer trail, a three quarters of a mile round trip will take you to the lighthouse at the tip of Cape Hanamanioa. 

Whether you’re relaxing on the soft sandy beaches or exploring the history of Makena, your family will love the southern side of Maui.

avatarAbout the Author:

Genie Davis is a multi-published fiction author, screen and TV writer, and travel writer. If it was possible, she'd like to spend every day traveling.

Tags: , Reviews, Sharing Experiences, Travel Excursions
One Comments to “Southern Maui Overview”
  1. avatar Favorite Southern Maui Family Hot Spots and Activities says:

    [...] Maui is both lush and green, and peaceful and a tourist destination of resorts and condos. The island has history and the island has nature; its neither as rural as much of Kauai or the Big Island, nor as urban as Oahu. The contrasts on this island are smaller than those between volcano and lava drenched sea scape on the Big Island, but equally pleasurable to discover and enjoy. One of our favorite discoveries on a recent trip was a beautiful, soft sand beach in South Maui. [...]