Photo: Off the Coast of South Maui | Surf Shack
Some would say it’s the closest thing to walking on water. You stand just a few inches from the sea, and glide over the swells with your paddle. Stand-up paddling or SUP, for short, is the fastest growing sport in the world, with more new participants than any other outdoor sport!
And for good reason. It’s easy to learn (especially compared to surfing or windsurfing), everyone in the family can do it, and the rewards are high. You get a very close experience with the ocean without having to put on a snorkel mask. You can see fish and might even catch a glimpse of a whale. It’s also a great workout for the core, butt, quads, and chest. So if it’s your first time, you’ll probably be a little sore the day after.
Photo: SUP in South Maui | Maui Wave Runners
You can go out in glassy conditions with no wind, on windy days to let the breeze propel you on a “down-winder,” with waves and catch a few, and no waves, which is nice for surfers on their off-days.
Maui is a perfect place to SUP, in fact the current world SUP champion Kai Lenny was born and raised here. As an avid fan of SUP and longtime resident of Maui, these are my recommendations on the best Maui stand-up paddle beaches for beginners, intermediates, and experts.
Best SUP Spots on Maui
For Beginners: Cove Park – If it’s your first or second time, I’d recommend The Cove in Kihei. It’s a small beach, between Kamaole I and Kamaole II Beach Park, where the water is shallow, the waves are consistent, and the weather is pleasant. Most importantly, though there are SUP lessons and rentals right across the street.
Photo: Cove Park | Park Star Cut Gems
For Intermediates: Launiupoko Beach – For those with a little experience in stand-up paddle, I’d recommend Launiupoko Beach Park, located off the highway, just a few miles before you get into Lahaina Town.
Photo: Launiupoko Beach | Kim Starr via Flickr
The beach park itself is great, with nice long waves, shallow clear water, a small kids area where they can SUP, BBQ grills, and good showers and bathrooms. Many locals make a day of surfing and SUPing at this beach, so it can be crowded on the weekends. There are no surf shops nearby so you either have to rent in Lahaina or Kihei and drive it to the beach, or have one delivered.
Photo: Island Surf Board Rentals
Two other good intermediate spots are Ukumehame Beach Park and Sugar Beach. Located in the center of Maui, Sugar Beach is a great starting point for a cruise down the coast of Kihei.
For Experts ONLY: Maliko Gulch – For the adventurous types who really want to experience the full SUP gamut, there’s a spectacular “down-winder” from Maliko Gulch (found off the Hana Highway between Ho’okipa and Haiku) to Sugar Cove in Spreckelesville on the North Shore. A down-winder is when the wind is at your back, letting you glide and slalom down the open-ocean waves and swells. It’s a lot of fun!
You’ll need a willing volunteer to drop you off at Maliko Gulch and pick you up four miles down the road at Sugar Cove, which is also a nice beach for them to hang out at while they wait. A late morning down-winder after the winds have picked up is a treat. If you go in the afternoon try and make sure you’re done by 4 pm as this is normally when the trade winds start to lighten up.
When you’re finished, take advantage of being right next to Pa'ia town, which has a number of great little restaurants perfect for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Try Café des Amis, Pa'ia Fish Market, or Flatbread Pizza.
PLEASE NOTE: The waves here can be very big during the winter! I’d strongly advise you talk to someone at Hi-Tech (Pa'ia store (808) 579-9297 or Kahului store (808) 877-7873), or Second Wind (808) 877-7467 to get advice and learn the conditions of the day.
Where to Rent Maui SUP Boards
Hi-Tech Surf Shop – Hi-Tech is a local surf shop located conveniently across from Cove Park at 2021 South Kihei Road. They rent SUP boards for $35/day (including paddle). You can get a better price on weekly rentals, which is great if you plan on SUPing for many days on your trip.
2021 S Kihei Rd, Kihei, HI 96753
58 Baldwin Ave, Paia, HI 96779
425 Koloa S, Kahului, HI 96732
Island Surf Board Rentals – Many of the best SUP beaches on Maui don’t have surf rentals close by, so you’d have to rent elsewhere and drive it to the beach. Luckily, Island Surf Board Rentals will deliver your board to the beach of your choosing for $50/day.
Maui Stand-Up Paddle Board Rental – This is another good place that delivers. They rent stand-up paddle boards for $45/day with the option of a GoPro for $35/day.
Maui SUP Lessons
Photo: Maui Wave Riders
Maui Wave Riders – They’re right next to Hi-Tech Surf Shop in Kihei and have another location in Lahaina. Lessons are normally 1 ½ hours and include a rash guard, booties, and SUP equipment. Prices range from $65/group rate to $145/private. SUP is a relatively easy to learn and most people feel comfortable after an hour. They also rent SUP equipment at $30 for 2 hours or $40 for the day (7am-3pm).
2021 South Kihei Rd, Kihei, Hawaii 96753
133 Prison St, Lahaina, Hawaii 96761
Other great places for rentals and lessons include Hawaiian Paddle Sports and Surf Shack in Kihei, and 808 boards in Lahaina.
Photo: Sands of Kahana