Top 10 Beginner Surf Breaks in Maui

Stacey AlonzoLast updated: November 14, 2018

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top 10 beginner surf breaks headerMaui boasts more beginner surf breaks than any other Hawaiian Island. The hallmarks of a good beginner surf spot include being easily accessible to someone who has never surfed before, a non-competitive and friendly vibe in the water, and lack of dangerous obstacles like reef, rocks and rip tides.

As a beginner, try to surf mostly waves under three feet tall and avoid surfing during times of high wind or storms. Avoid large crowds as much as possible and know basic surfing etiquette for right-of-way in the water. The following 10 spots won’t always work for a beginner, but it’s likely that at any given time, at least a few will be viable and fun options.

The thing about “beginner” surf breaks is that under certain conditions they can turn into not-so-beginner spots. Unlike many surf spots in California and elsewhere, Hawaii has added dangers like strong riptides and heavy reef. It’s essential to have the right information to have fun and avoid potentially dangerous situations in the water. With that being said, Maui is home to some of the best beginner surf spots on the Hawaiian Islands (and we’re happy to share!).

  • Maui has the most beginner surf spots than any other Hawaiian Islands.
  • Tips for beginner surfers: Try to surf waves under 3 feet, avoid crowded spots, avoid surfing in stormy conditions, and choose spots that lack dangerous obstacles like reef, rocks and rip tides.
  • Familiarize yourself with surfing etiquette and right-of-way in the water.

top 10 beginner surf breaks on maui

#1 The Cove

The Cove

The Cove at Kalama Beach Park in Kihei is the beginner of all beginner surf spots in Maui. Think of it as Maui’s little Waikiki. Similar to Waikiki, The Cove is often crowded but gets consistent small waves most of the year that breaks both right and left in the shallow water. There are a handful of days where the waves are too large for beginners, but the more common problem is that they are too small and powerless.

The Cove

The Cove is great for many reasons and it’s the perfect place for a first-timer. It’s a short paddle out from the beach and foam-top longboard surfboards are available to rent directly across the street at Maui Wave Riders and the Surf Shack. Both also offer lessons, reef bootie rentals and rash guard rentals

For more information on surf lessons and rentals please visit mauiwaveriders.com at 808.875.4761 and surfshackmaui.com at 808.875.0006.

Parking is available along the ocean side of the street as well as in a small parking lot on the south end of the break. There are also porta-potties, a shower and a trashcan in this area. To the north end is Kalama Park, a grassy park with volleyball, bathrooms, a skate park, and several nearby restaurants and shops. The sandy beach is close to the surf break, and friends and family can easily take photos from shore. There is a lifeguard one beach south of The Cove.

There are only three downsides to The Cove: crowds, sea urchins and dirty water. It’s advisable to wear booties to protect against urchins. The water quality isn’t usually a huge hazard unless it has just rained. As for crowds, The Cove is filled with lots of novice surfers who haven’t yet learned how to go right or left on a wave or haven’t gotten the balance on their boards. The chances of getting hit or hitting someone else are high, but the upside is that the crowds are usually pretty friendly. The vibe here is as laid-back as it gets on Maui.

  • The Cove is like Maui’s little Waikiki, often crowded but gets consistent small waves that break both right and left in shallow water.
  • On days when the waves are big, it is much safer to sit out. But the Cove is often known for its often small and powerless waves.
  • Benefit: Short paddle out from the beach, right across from surfboard lesson & rental shop Maui Wave Riders and the Surf Shock. Great for families to watch on the small sandy beach to take photos of their beginner surfers. Close to shops and restaurants.
  • Downside: Crowded, sea urchins, and dirty water. We advise you wear booties, available for rent at the surf shops across the street.
  • Facilities: Parking along the ocean side of the street and in a small parking lot on the south end of the break. Porta-potties, shower, and a trashcan are available. Kalama Park offers a grassy park with volleyball and skate park.

#2 Launiupoko

launiupoko

Launiupoko is a family-oriented beginner surf break in West Maui. It’s easily accessible from Honoapiilani Highway about 10 minutes south of Lahaina and is marked clearly just past mile marker 18. Launiupoko is popular among local families, longboarders, stand up paddleboarders and beginner surfers.

The waves tend to be long, slow and rolling — ideal for learning to surf. They break both right and left. The biggest problem is crowds, especially on the weekend. There is a decent sized parking lot that is almost always packed and some overflow parking across the street on the mountainside. At low tide, it can get a bit rocky and reefy; booties are advised. The paddle out can be slightly strenuous for a beginner but is excellent for building endurance. Surfboard rentals are available in Lahaina.

launiupoko
Launiupoko is the type of place to spend an entire day, or at the very least an afternoon. There’s a grassy park connected to the sand beach with picnic tables, grills, bathrooms, trash cans, and showers. Big trees provide lots of shade from the arid West Maui climate. There is also a natural tide pool perfect for small children and protected from the main surf area. It’s common to see big picnics, birthday parties, and family gatherings here on the weekend. It’s also a favorite spot to surf at sunset.

  • One of the most popular family beaches for locals, longboarders, stand up paddleboarders and beginner surfers in West Maui.
  • Waves are long and slow, break both right and left.
  • Benefit: Can easily spend an entire day. Natural small tide pool for small children to play.
  • Downside: Because of the popularity, big crowds especially on weekends. At low tide, it can get a bit rocky and reefy; booties are advised.
  • Facilities: A grassy park under shades connected to the sand beach with picnic tables, grills, bathrooms, trashcans and showers.

#3 Breakwall

Breakwall Lahaina

Breakwall, located just off Front Street in the heart of Lahaina and just south of the harbor, is hit or miss for beginner surfing. When the waves are small, it’s a great spot to learn to surf and the go-to break for surf lessons on the Westside. However, during large swells and especially during the summer months, Breakwall can get too big and chaotic for a beginner to paddle out safely.

When waves are small, Breakwall provides consistent small waves for beginners. When it’s bigger, Breakwall still has some fun beginner waves closer to shore on “the inside.” It tends to mostly have waves that break left but can sometimes break right depending on wind. If the waves are too big at Breakwall, head to any of our other beginner breaks on the Westside. However, when other breaks are completely flat, there is usually some sort of wave here. Use caution during low tide as the water is shallow and the reef is more exposed.
Breakwall Lahaina

The downsides to Breakwall are difficult parking and crowds. Free parking is available on Front Street along with several paid lots. Weekends and holidays can be tricky. There are usually at least ten students from a surf school in the water and lining up in their general vicinity is often a good choice for a beginner. Several surf shops offer trusted lessons and rentals in the area.

For surf lessons or rentals contact surf schools in the West Maui area:
Maui Surf Clinics (mauisurfclinics.com) 808. 244-7873
Maui Wave Riders (mauiwaveriders.com) 808.661.0003
Maui Mike’s Beach House (lifeisprimo.com) 808.661.7828
Island Surfboard Rentals (islandsurfboardrentals.com) 808.281.9835

Aside from the parking issue, Breakwall is perfectly positioned, visible from a sandy beach and also from various restaurants like Pacific’O and Betty’s Beach Café. From the water, cruise ships and sailboats often dot the horizon. A multitude of shops is just a short walk away. There are public bathrooms and a hose by the harbor. For a full shower, head toward the street from the volleyball court. There is often community soap here and even occasionally shampoo and conditioner.

  • Perfect for beginners when waves are small. Too chaotic for beginner when waves are big.
  • Most waves break left, but sometimes break right depending on the wind.
  • Benefit: Visible from sandy beach and restaurants like Pacific’O and Betty’s Beach Café. Close to shops, public bathrooms, and a hose by harbor.
  • Downside: Difficult parking and crowded with students from surf schools.

#4 Kaanapali Beach

kaanapali

Kaanapali Beach is a picturesque surf break in Kaanapali just outside the Kaanapali Alii and to the right of the Marriott. The beach is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful in the world. It’s also a top place to learn to surf on the island.

Kaanapali Beach is known for its fine sandy beach and undeniably perfect sunsets. As a surf spot, it has consistent waves and few rocks. The gentle waves break left and usually make for fun, short rides. It’s a good spot to practice standing up.

kaanapali

The surf break is conveniently located within walking distance from all the major resorts in Kaanapali and also the popular shopping complex, Whaler’s Village. The most convenient place to park is at Whaler’s Village, but there are only a limited amount of spots reserved for beach parking. There are public showers, and restrooms abound, and Kaanapali Beach also has oceanfront dining and reserved cabanas for friends and family to watch nearby. There are red lifeguard flags on the beach when hazards are present, like strong currents, eliminating all the guesswork with the conditions.

Kaanapali Surf Club does rentals and lessons on the path next to the beach between the Westin and Kaanapali Alii. Island Style Adventures by Whaler’s Village also provides both lessons and rentals. The location does not get any more convenient than this for visitors staying in Kaanapali without a vehicle. The view isn’t so bad either. This is one of the best places to view the not-so-distant neighboring Molokai from Maui.

For more information on surf lessons or rentals please visit bamsurfhawaii.com at 808.270.0044 and isasurfschool.com at 808.244.6858.

  • Kaanapali Beach is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful in the world, known for its fine sandy beach and undeniably perfect sunsets. It’s also a top place to learn to surf on the island.
  • Benefit: Consistent waves and few rocks. The gentle waves break left and usually make for fun, short rides. It’s a good spot to practice standing up.
  • Walking distance from all the major resorts in Kaanapali and also the popular shopping complex, Whaler’s Village. Also has oceanfront dining and reserved cabanas for friends and family to watch nearby.
  • Facilities: Public showers and restrooms are available.

#5 Puamana Beach Park

Puamana Beach

Puamana Beach Park is a beginner surf break just south of Lahaina right past mile marker 19. Rides tend to be short and the waves often close out (meaning the wave breaks all at once instead of right to left or left to right). However, it’s not a bad spot to work on standing up on the wave. The paddle out is so short that it allows for many waves with little fatigue.

Puamana Beach

It’s such a short distance from shore that it makes for easy breaks. There are grills, picnic tables, plenty of trees to string up a hammock, porta-potties and a shower. Enjoy watching the waves and wild chickens roaming around the parking lot and grass.

  • Paddling out and rides tend to be short, that allows for many waves with little fatigue.
  • Facilities: Picnic tables, plenty of trees to string up a hammock, porta-potties and a shower.

#6 Grandma’s

grandmas

Grandma’s is the only surf break in Maui with an adjacent campground. There are waves to be had just a few feet away from Papalaua Park. Grandma’s is the first turn off on the left after the tunnel on Honoapiilani Highway, with surfable waves between mile markers 11 and 11.5 (Note that the GPS often directs to Papalaua in Lahaina, so pay close attention to the mile markers and signs). Amenities are few, but there are porta-potties and trashcans. Rentals are available in Kihei or Lahaina, each about a 15-20 minute drive in opposite directions.

grandmas

Grandma’s is characterized by gentle, “mushy” waves that break left and right over the reef with a short paddle out. It’s usually not very crowded, but weekends can be a different story. With the right swell, there are waves that stretch about half a mile, all the way towards Thousand Peaks, allowing surfers to spread out. However, on a small swell, the surfing area can at times be quite small.

  • Grandma’s is the only surf break in Maui with an adjacent campground.
  • Facilities: Few amenities, but there are porta-potties and trashcans.
  • Rentals available in Kihei or Lahaina, each about a 15-20 minute drive in opposite directions.

#7 Paia Bay

Paia Bay beach with a wave breaking.

Paia Bay in Paia can sometimes work as a beginner surf break in the winter, when Ho’okipa is just a little bit too big. It is rarely surfable in the summer months. When waves are small, Paia Bay offers a sandy beach to paddle out from and several spots to surf. The waves here can be deceiving, sometimes looking big but then losing power right before they break.

Alternatively, with a bigger swell, Paia Bay is a completely different beast: there are strong currents and powerful sets. Overall, by North Shore standards, Paia Bay is considered a rare gentle wave. To help figure out if it’s a beginner day or not, look around for other beginners in the water or ask a local. Another good indication is whether or not it’s crowded; on a beginner day, there will usually be almost no one in the water.

Large sandy beach at Paia Bay.

Paia Bay breaks right and left. Generally, a good area to surf is just slightly to the east side of the beach. There isn’t much to worry about in the way of rocks or reef. There is one area of rocks close to the beach, but it’s highly unlikely to end up anywhere near it. Further west down the beach is a popular beach break with boogie boarders and kids. One downside is water quality. It can get quite murky here, even when it has not rained recently. However, the view of Nakalele Point, the northernmost tip of the island, more than makes up for it.

Paia Bay is a popular hangout, especially on the weekend. There is a large parking lot that does fill up. It also has a big, grassy area, sandy beach, basketball courts, bathrooms, shower, skateboard park, and picnic tables. The Paia Youth and Cultural Center is also on site. There are nearby rentals in Paia at Hi-Tech Surf Sports. Note that out of all the spots on the list, Paia Bay ranks highest among theft so be sure to lock your car and keep valuables out of sight. Also, try to avoid staying too long after sunset.

  • Surfable in winter months on small waves. Waves look big, but often lose power before they break
  • Watch out for strong currents and powerful sets. Ask a local about conditions.
  • Paia Bay breaks right and left.
  • Downside: Often times murky water.
  • Facilities: Large parking log, big, grassy area, sandy beach, basketball courts, bathrooms, shower, skateboard park and picnic tables.

For more information on rentals please visit surfmaui.com at 808.579.9297.

#8 Thousand Peaks

thousand peaks

Thousand Peaks is aptly named for its seemingly endless peaks. Located at mile marker 12 at Ukumehame Beach Park off Honoapiilani Highway, “Thousands” refers to a stretch of surf breaks with numerous peaks and waves breaking all over, both rights and lefts. The biggest problem here is a long paddle out and getting caught inside (Getting caught inside is inevitable for a surfer. It refers to being trapped in the spot where waves are breaking and can be solved by paddling out in a horseshoe shape, right or left and then back around, rather than straight out).

thousand peaks
It’s good to paddle out with a more experienced surfer if the waves have any size to them. The best part about this break is that because there are so many peaks, it’s usually possible to find one all to yourself (A “peak” refers to the spot where a wave breaks and is usually the most ideal place to catch a wave).

Amenities at Thousands are few, but there are porta-potties, grills, trash cans and a parking lot. There are no showers. Camping is prohibited here but available just a half mile south at Papalaua Park. Rentals are available in Kihei or Lahaina, each a 15-20 minute drive. Enjoy breathtaking views of the usually foggy West Maui Mountains and the contrast of desert and jungle.

For a more personal experience, unlike the larger surf “schools” at Kaanapali, Breakwall and Cove/Kalama park, Hawaiian Paddle Sports teaches private surf lessons away from the crowds at Thousand Peaks.

  • Thousands of surf breaks with numerous peaks and waves breaking all over, both rights and lefts.
  • Benefit: With so many surf peaks, it’s usually possible to find one all to yourself.
  • Downside: Long paddle out and getting caught inside. Better to paddle out with a more experienced surfer if the waves have any size to them
  • Facilities: Porta-potties, grills, trashcans and a parking lot.

#9 Guardrails

guardrails

Guardrails is an unmarked stretch of Honoapiilani Highway about 5 minutes south of Lahaina between mile markers 18 and 19. It refers to the breaking waves along the guardrail of the road, just past Launiupoko. It is generally not crowded but frequented by longboarders and stand up paddleboarders. Guardrails is a quiet getaway with friendly surfers.

The most difficult part about surfing Guardrails is getting in and out of the water. During low tide, sharp coral and rocks are exposed, and during high tide, the timing of getting out becomes difficult as waves slam down on these rocks. It’s not uncommon to lose one’s balance on the rocks, slamming one’s board or body on the ground. It’s best to go with an experienced surfer the first few times as there are very specific places that are best to get in and out of the water. Reef booties are helpful. There can also be a strong current, especially during high tide.

guardrails

Other than that, Guardrails is a fun spot for upper beginner and intermediate surfers trying to avoid big crowds. There are often less than five people in the water, sometimes none at all. There are both rights and lefts and a fairly long ride in either direction. The closest bathrooms, trash cans and showers are at Launiupoko Beach Park about 1 mile south. Parking is limited to pull-offs on the side of Honoapiilani Highway.

Be sure to check out Hawaiian Paddle Sports, they give the best private surf lessons that are away from the crowds.

  • Benefit: Not crowded, often less than five people in the water. Both ridable rights and lefts.
  • Downside: Getting in and out of water is difficult. During low tide, sharp coral and rocks are exposed while during high tide, waves slam down on the rocks. Best to go with experienced surfer.
  • Reef booties recommended.
  • Facilities: None. Closest is at Launiupoko Beach Park about 1 mile south.Parking is limited to pull offs on the side of Honoapiilani Highway.

#10 Olowalu

olowalu

Olowalu is one of best beginner surf spots on Maui. Located in West Maui, it’s the perfect place to learn how to surf because the Summer waves are on the smaller side and pretty steady. Olowalu is a beginner/intermediate surf break on Maui, so you don’t want to paddle out here for the very first time. Make sure you have some surf experience or paddle out with an experienced surfer or a Maui surf instructor.

PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE TURTLES!! They are protected under NOAA’s Endangered Species Act of 1973, and it is considered a crime to touch or harass them in any way*

olowalu

Olowalu is a great place to learn how to surf during the Summer months. The most ideal conditions would be a South or Southeast swell, North and Northeast winds, and during low or mid tide. The surf-able waves at Olowalu are medium in length, and there are both fun rights and lefts. So, no matter if you’re a regular or goofy foot, you can find some good nuggets here.
The paddle out is pretty easy at Olowalu, and a longboard is definitely a good choice for surfing West Maui breaks during the Summer season. There is very sharp coral on the ocean floor, so watch your feet and fall at Olowalu. One of the best things about surfing in West Maui is that the water is super clean, and there’s really good visibility. Not to mention, from the West Maui Mountains to outer islands, the 360-degrees of West Maui views are pretty fantastic too.

  • Beginner/intermediate surf break.
  • Best for beginners in summer months when waves are small and online on inside.
  • Nearby camp site.
  • Rights and lefts.

For private or group surf lessons at Olowalu, contact Zack Howard Surf School.

Hawaii and surfing go hand in hand. Out of all four major islands, Maui is arguably the best for a beginner surfer. The waves rarely get too large due to island blocking from Lanai, Molokai and the Big Island. More so, the localism isn’t nearly as much of a problem as long as one stays in beginner areas. The best part about surfing in Maui is the lack of crowds. Waikiki might have more name recognition in the world of beginner surfing, but Maui has a surprising amount to offer for novice surfers. It isn’t a bad idea to spend a trip to Maui developing a lifelong passion for surfing! Please comment below with some of your favorite spots to learn to surf on Maui!

where did you learn to surf? comment below!
All photography was either taken by Pride of Maui staff, from owners that have given us written permission, and/or purchased for use. We have all the rights necessary to use these images on our website.
Written By  Stacey Alonzo

Stacey is a travel writer, journalist, and photographer from Lake Tahoe who now lives in Maui. She has a passion for travel, surfing, yoga, and organic eating and aims to find the most adventurous activities for readers to do both on Maui and Hawaii in general.