Snorkeling at Charley Young beach is the perfect activity to fill a Maui vacation day. The beach is conveniently located in central Kihei with ample parking at the end of a long uninterrupted stretch of sand. Kamaole I (another beautiful beach and a terrific place to snorkel on Maui) lies at the south end of the beach. Charley Young beach is a lesser known, intimate nook that maintains a tranquil atmosphere. It is also a great beach in Kihei for kids. Here you will find shady trees, tide pools and privacy amongst the lava rock formations. All ideal for exploration or resting after snorkeling one of the best coral reefs on Maui.
History of Charley Young Beach
Charley Young is named after the owner of the property that sits just above the beach. According to legend, Charley came to Maui during World War II to start construction on his home. Unfortunately, his home and nearby beaches were commandeered to mimic enemy beach landings. Charley was able to complete construction of his house after rightfully obtaining his land back post war. He gained popularity for his aloha spirit when he set up a hose for beachgoers to wash the sand off of their feet.
You’re unlikely to stumble across Charley Young due to the small side street access point. But if you know where to look, you’ll easily find this hidden gem.
Directions to Charley Young Beach
Heading south towards Wailea on South Kihei Road, you’ll pass Kalama Park and The Cove. Just around a slight bend past the best place to learn to surf on Maui, turn right onto Kaiau Place. You’ll see a large parking lot on your immediate right. Park here and proceed directly toward the water where you will see a beach shower and a paved path leading to the beach. While there are no bathroom facilities, there are a few porta potties at the end of the road. Keep to your right as you make your way down to the beach for more solitude and shade, or set up to the left for ample sun and people-watching!
If you’re up for a beautiful beach stroll you can park at the Kam I lot or find roadside parking at the end of the beach across from Dolphin Plaza. From here you can walk the sand north until you hit the lava rocks bordering the end of Charley Young.
Snorkeling at Charley Young Beach
On the morning of my snorkel adventure, I checked Maui’s daily snorkel report which rated southside beaches as a ‘9 out of 10’. Almost perfect! This helpful new feature on Boss Frog’s website is updated daily with ratings based on water clarity, ocean swells, weather and crowds. Considering today's rating as a green light to pursue my day of snorkeling, I headed out to one of the best beaches on Maui!
After settling in at private section of white sand between lava rocks, I headed for the ocean to explore below the surface. Entering the ocean was quite simple thanks to the lack of waves as predicted by the Maui snorkel report. I had no trouble donning my fins, mask, and snorkel rentals while standing on the sandy ocean floor in shallow water. TIP: If you do need to put on fins while on the beach, walk backwards into the water to avoid tripping!
Marine Life at Charley Young Beach
There were only a few other snorkelers out this morning, so I had plenty of room to myself. As I slowly swam towards the small reef, I was surrounded by a very wide variety of local Hawaiian fish. Some of these species were totally new to me! Among the marine life were numerous varieties of butterfly fish (two of which appeared to be playing an intense game of tag), a huge school of yellowfin goatfish, and even a few colorful parrotfish (my favorite). I also came across the largest white-spotted pufferfish I have ever seen!
Secretly, I’d been crossing my fingers to swim with a green sea turtle since Charley Young is famed for honu sightings. As I swam back towards shore, I happened to notice one taking a breath at the surface. My lucky day! The turtle took a few breaths and submerged before squeezing under a rock cave on the ocean floor. Sea turtles frequently relax under coral outcroppings or overhanging rocks. In respect for the turtle and Hawaii marine life protection regulations, I gave this lovely creature 10 feet of space at all times. It is always advised to observe ocean life from a distance, so I let this turtle go about its turtle business in peace 🙂
Discovering that the majority of the best snorkeling at Charley Young beach was close to the lava rocks, I was relieved that the waves were calm this morning. My best tip for snorkeling at Charley Young is to check the weather and heed Maui snorkeling advice to ensure you can safely navigate the lava formations that house marine life in this location.
I was very pleased with my day of snorkeling at Charley Young beach in south Maui. The myriad of local fish, idyllic ocean conditions and tranquil ambiance make this location particularly special. The next time I see a high rating on the Maui snorkel report for southern shores, I will without a doubt go back for more snorkeling at Charley Young beach! And I advise you to follow suit 🙂