Congratulations on getting married! Are you dreaming about dipping your toes in the sand while you say “I do”? Hawaii destination wedding is a popular choice or many couples, and the island of Maui offers incredibly beautiful locations for beach weddings and vow renewal ceremonies. Not as crowded as Oahu and less rural than Kauai, Maui has a good number of hot spots to spend a night out and celebrate some more. In this guide I will introduce you to all popular Maui wedding beaches and share my 20-year experience of planning affordable weddings in Maui.
Most Maui beach weddings happen along its South and West shores. Both shores face west, so the sunset over the ocean photos are gorgeous. Even though both shores are the driest, compared to other parts of Maui, it rains a lot more on the west side. Sometimes we have to relocate the wedding at the last moment. I always recommend having a beach wedding on the south side, but if the couple wants the west side, we will accommodate them.
All beaches discussed below are public beaches. And every Hawaii public beach wedding ceremony requires a permit. There is a limit of 30 participants to each wedding party, and that includes all vendors.
Your expert Maui wedding planner can help you narrow down on the best beach and best options for your couple and will assure that the wedding runs smoothly, so you can relax and enjoy your special day.
South Maui Wedding Beaches
Probably the prettiest and most popular Maui wedding beach is Makena Cove or more commonly called Secret Cove, because it cannot be seen from the street. There is a wall to park along, and then you have to walk through a narrow opening in the wall to see the beach. It is a smaller beach, so it can be crowded. But if you don’t mind sharing, it is definitely one of the best Maui wedding beaches on the south side. If you hit it on a good night and have it all to yourself, pictures can be amazing. The downside to this Maui wedding beach location is that because of its popularity, there can be two or three other weddings close by. I have witnessed 6 or 7 weddings there at one time, so photography definitely needed to be maneuvered. Because of that, Makena Cove is not my first recommendation, but it is asked for a lot. A small group of 12 people is a very good rule of thumb for Makena Cove, though it’s not a mandated number. I would not recommend having a larger wedding there.
There is a big difference in lighting between the early morning and sunset ceremonies. In the morning, your faces are in the natural light, you have the beautiful blue sky in the background and the blue colors of the ocean are more pronounced. If we decide on a sunset time frame, the sky will turn to golden-red-purple but the ocean will turn dark. We start the sunset weddings about an hour before the sunset time so that the ceremony itself and friends and family photos are taken in the light. Then we take romantic photographs of the couple up until the sun sets in the ocean in the background.
September 2018 UPDATE: The old Makena Golf & Beach Club is being demolished. The concrete structure fronting Maluaka Beach is being methodically brought down and turned into recyclables by a crew from Northwest Demolition & Dismantling. The project will be mostly complete by the end of 2018.
Beautiful Maluaka beach sits right in front of Makena Beach & Golf Resort (formerly Maui Prince Hotel). It’s a great snorkeling and swimming beach, not too crowded and it has public restrooms. The parking is limited, so I wouldn’t recommend it for large parties. For the purpose of wedding photography, the palm trees are all in the back of the beach, so you’ll never have them in the photos in front of the ocean. I see this as a drawback of Maluaka beach. But for someone staying in the hotel and not wanting to drive, it can be an excellent wedding location.
Keawakapu beach is long and wide; it is located in front of private residences. On the north end of it, there are a few resorts. The most prominent is Mana Kai, which has Five Palms restaurant on the ground floor with the best ocean-view seating. Keawakapu beach can get crowded, so it’s not my first choice. But it’s a great spot for wedding photographs, when there are no people in the background. No public restrooms here.
Po’olenalena beach is long, has plenty of room and plenty of parking, and works really well for large groups. It can get crowded during the day, but in the early morning and around sunset there are usually few people. It is one of the most popular Maui wedding beaches, because of its fabulous ocean views. On the north end of it there is a port-a-potty.
Makena Surf Beach
Makena Surf is located at the southern end of Po’olenalena beach, they practically make one beach. You can walk down from Po’olenalena to Makena Surf but it is a long walk. Better to find the correct lot that allows for public parking at Makena Surf. There are only 9 spaces, so it works best for smaller groups, even though the beach itself can accommodate larger parties.
It’s not easy to find the entrance to Makena Surf, so this beach is rarely busy. In addition, it’s gated, and you need to find the right gate. The gate is closed half an hour after the sunset, and the gatekeeper can come even earlier – that’s the downside of Makena Surf.
Wailea beach is situated between the Grand Wailea and Four Seasons – two large hotels. Plus, a paved walking path runs along Wailea resorts and brings in more tourists. It’s a gorgeous beach, but I try to avoid it, because it always has too many people.
But some couples don’t want their toes in the sand. With a spacious grassy knoll and the beach in the background, Wailea beach is my favorite Maui wedding beach for couples who want their ceremony on the grass. Not crowded and with lots of trees around, the grassy lawn is a perfect spot for wedding ceremonies. After that, we can walk down to the sandy area and get some decent shots. Restrooms are available.
Mai Poina ‘Oe Ia’u Beach
Mai Poina ‘Oe Ia’u beach is located in North Kihei just south of Sugar Beach. This is the only beach north of Keawakapu that I would use for wedding ceremonies. Its beautiful Hawaiian name can be translated as ‘Forget me not’; these words were written on a ribbon that Queen Liliʻuokalani gave to her friends when she was imprisoned in Iolani Palace. I use it as a back-up beach on rare occasions when it rains in Kihei, because it seems to almost never rain on Mai Poina!
Mai Poina has no public restrooms and plenty of parking. The beach can be very windy during the day, and when the winds are especially strong, it gets crowded with windsurfers. The sun sets not into the ocean here, but behind West Maui mountains.
Palauea – Best South Maui Wedding Beach
Palauea (meaning “lazy” in Hawaiian) is also known as White Rock beach. It is a hidden gem and my best pick of all South Maui wedding beaches. You don’t see it when you drive on the main road and you need to go through the neighborhood to get to it, so it doesn’t have many tourists. It is framed with multi-million dollar private homes at the back and with palm trees on both ends. It’s one of the most secluded beaches.
Palauea beach sits in the well-protected area of the coastline and is less windy, which is a definite bonus for beach weddings. Who wants bride’s hair blown around withing a few minutes of arrival! There is plenty of room to spread out, and it works well for large groups as well as small ones. It’s a great sunset setting. While you can see the island of Kaho’olawe and Molokini crater from all of South Maui beaches, the views of them from Palauea are especially photogenic!
There are no public restrooms on this beach; plenty of parking along the road.
West Maui Wedding Beaches
If people want to be right in Lahaina, for both the wedding ceremony and the dinner party, and don’t want to drive, Baby beach is a very good choice. It is small, and works best for parties of 12 or less. There are no waves at Baby beach, that’s where the name comes from – only baby waves there. Lahaina boasts many top-quality restaurants, some with scenic oceanfront seating or sunset views.
Baby beach is also a very good choice for wedding parties from cruise ships – you don’t need transportation as you can walk or take a taxi to Baby beach. Take photos of your wedding party with the cruise ship in the background. And stay right in town afterwards, close to all nightlife and restaurants that Lahaina has to offer.
On West shore, the more south the less rain. The huge benefit of Baby beach is that it’s located quite far south of the rest of the West Maui wedding beaches. We can switch last moment and do the ceremony here if it rains farther north.
Napili beach is nice if you are staying at Napili. You can walk out of your hotel down to the beach, and after the ceremony walk up to the Sea House Restaurant for the reception, and not do any driving.
Napili beach is crescent-shaped golden sand beach with turquoise water and palm trees on both sides. It is located in a residential neighborhood with low-rise condos. The beach has more laid-back feel to it than commercialized beaches in West Maui and is less crowded. It’s my second favorite West shore wedding beach, even though it can often get cloudy and not yield the best sunset photographs.
Kapalua beach is the crown jewel of West Maui beaches; the one we use the most on the West shore. It has everything – restrooms, parking, fine white sand with lava outcrops, palm trees and fabulous sunsets. The beach is long and can accommodate multiple weddings. It’s a great snorkeling beach, being in a protected cove and having less waves, so it gets very crowded during the day. By around 4 pm the beach-goers get tired and hungry and they leave. While I don’t recommend afternoon weddings on Kapalua beach, it’s my favorite for sunset wedding ceremonies. The scenery is perfect, especially with the island of Molokai visible from the shore and providing a beautiful additional backdrop for wedding photography. The famous Merriman’s restaurant is right on the beach, and it is one of the best venues on Maui for a dinner reception after your beach wedding.
Oneloa (Ironwood) Beach
There are a lot of stairs to get down to this beach. Oneloa (or Ironwood) beach is long and windy. I don’t usually recommend it because of the wind and because the palm trees are very far, so mostly the sand and the ocean are in the background for the pictures. I would go to D.T.Fleming beach instead.
D.T.Fleming beach is named after a man who introduced pineapple to West Maui and often makes it on lists of the best world’s beaches. The beach has a park and a grassy lawn, but we don’t usually use it for wedding ceremonies, because of the proximity of the picnic are with tables and grills. The beach itself is beautiful and has some secluded locations for the wedding ceremony. D.T.Fleming beach is easily accessible, and has restroom facilities.
North Maui Wedding Beach
Kuau Cove (Mama’s Fish House) Beach
Kuau Cove beach is in front of the famous Mama’s Fish House restaurant. Framed with coconut palms, it is secluded and romantic. But you don’t see the sunset on this side, only the afterglow. If the couple wants to have dinner in Mama’s Fish House after the ceremony, this beach can work well. But keep in mind, that Mama’s has a limit of 8 people, and will not seat more.
Maui Wedding Beaches Map
Susan Craft has been a wedding coordinator on Maui for 20 years. While she specializes in Affordable Maui Weddings, Susan can help with most of your wedding needs. Her years of experience helping couples plan perfect Maui destination weddings are summarized in How to Have a Great Maui Wedding Guide, available for a free download.