Here’s how the approach to this beach usually goes: Excited beachgoers secure hard-to-find parking, make their way down the path to the eastern end of the beach, spot the long lava bench that stretches as far as the eye can see, and dejectedly turn back and drive away.
What they can’t see, though, is that the far western end of the beach almost always has a nice, soft bottom, calm waters, and can make for blissful and surprisingly secluded swimming and boogie boarding for the intermediate rider. Win. As an added bonus, clamoring up the rocks on the left side of the beach earns access to small tide pools teeming with life. Keep an eye out for miniature life, like fireworms (non-poisonous despite their ominous name), periwinkle snails, an array of sea urchin, brittle stars, and a number of different species of shrimp. If you’re with little ones, this beach can effectively keep wandering attention for hours.
When the weather is calm and the surf is low, snorkeling all along the quarter-mile beach at Oneola is supreme—tons of fish populate the shallow water and wild rock formations punctuate the typically calm surface to the north at Makaluaouna Point. There’s a golf course that borders this end of the bay—be aware that there could be the occasional stray golf ball flying around.
When the surf is high, swimming and snorkeling near these rocks can pose a significant hazard in the form of rip currents and the possibility of getting dragged over the shallow lava bed. Likewise, the beach loses much of its allure when the wind picks up—though this can be a true gem of an experience, exercise caution when posting up for the day.
Don’t skip out on the 1.76-mile Kapalua Coastal Trail, which starts at the public access parking lot for Kapalua Beach and winds a mile and a half along the coast amid million-dollar houses and ritzy resorts to D. T. Fleming Beach. Both ends of the stroll are paved with a dirt path and boardwalks in between, and stunning sunset views overlook the ocean and Moloka’i in the distance.