Anyone who believes “rules are meant to be broken” hasn't set foot on a Maui beach.
In this tropical paradise, rules are in place to ensure the island's pristine beaches stay that way and surfers, divers, snorkelers and other water lovers remain safe amid a sometimes turbulent current.
When you heed the following legalities, surf-and-sand precautions and beachcomber basics, you'll be sure to make the most of your Maui vacation:
Mind the legalities
- All of Maui's beaches are open to the public. Put another way, none of Maui's beaches are private – except, of course, those privately owned. This distinction is simpler than it sounds. Most beaches are marked with “public beach access” signs. Simply look for the sign, park in a designated public parking lot (one not belonging to a private resort) and walk along access paths to your beach of choice.
- Play it safe and refrain from drinking alcohol on Maui beaches. Island laws vary widely depending on a beach's proximity to schools, public highways, public lookouts and other designations, so it's simpler and infinitely safer to abstain from alcohol than risk a citation.
- Smoking is prohibited on all Maui beaches, and here there is no gray area. Violators can be fined up to $500 for lighting up.
Heed surf-and-sand precautions
- Look for posted signs or flags about ocean conditions, which can range from calm to dangerous, with ferociously tall and dangerous waves. These conditions can change quickly, so keep an ear tuned to local weather reports and watch the movements of the locals, who are instinctively in tune with the fickle nature of the ocean.
- Employ the “buddy system,” meaning never go into the ocean without taking a buddy with you.
- Never turn your back on the ocean. Instead, keep your eyes trained on incoming waves.
- Don't approach sea turtles or Hawaiian monk seals, which are protected wildlife in Hawaii. You may swim with them, but touching is strictly prohibited.
- Wait until the water clears before going into the ocean after a heavy rain. Your goal is to remain alert to your surroundings. Likewise, don't swim in murky areas or even the mouths of rivers or streams, which can draw predators.
- Wear reef shoes or other heavyweight footwear to guard against cuts and other injuries if you explore coral reefs or tide pools.
Know beachcomber basics
- Coat yourself in sunscreen to protect your skin from the harmful effects of the sun, even on overcast days. The rays in Maui can be deceptive, and a sunburn would hamper a vacation.
- Pack accordingly, but you'll be glad to have sunglasses, beach chairs or mats and drinking water in your beach bag. A change of clothing will come in handy, too, especially if you plan to leave the beach and do some sightseeing or dining afterward.
Just when you think you'll never be able to pry your toes from the sand, remember that a sunset tour on a Maverick Helicopter can be the ideal capstone adventure. A Maverick “limousine in the sky” will spoil you with theater seats and first-class amenities. It is a luxurious place to cast off the last remnants of sand from your feet.