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Maui Snorkeling Guide
Welcome to our comprehensive Maui snorkeling guide – your passport to exploring the vibrant reefs, meeting charming marine life, and creating memories that will sparkle like the sun on the Pacific waves.
Whether you’re a first-time snorkeler or a seasoned pro, our guide is here to ensure your Maui snorkeling adventure is nothing short of extraordinary. So, slip into your swimsuits, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to discover the aquatic wonders that make Maui a true tropical paradise.
If you’re curious about the reopening of Maui (it’s very open!) after the Lahaina fires, contact me for more information.
Maui Snorkeling Guide
Let’s dive (get it?) right into this Maui snorkeling guide. Here are the best places to snorkel in Maui, listed in no particular order.
One of the best places to snorkel in Maui is Honolua Bay. This is a protected marine sanctuary. It is peaceful and a great way to experience nature.
To reach Honolua Bay, you must walk through a rainforest for a few minutes. When you reach the bay, you will notice there isn’t any sand. Instead, the beach area is covered with smooth large rocks.
Head down the old boat ramp to get into the water. The boat ramp and rocks are slippery, so be careful.
Out in the water, you will see butterflyfish, yellow tang, peacock groupers, and Moorish idols. If you are lucky, you may even spot manta rays or octopus.
It is best to check the water conditions prior to heading to this popular spot. When there are swells in the area, it is too rough for snorkeling. However, you can always surf instead!
Oh, and if you didn’t bring snorkel gear with you, you can head to a snorkel store like Boss Frog. It is a good place to rent snorkel gear, so you can see the best Maui has to offer.
The area surrounding Mokuleia Bay was designated as a Marine Life Conservation District back in 1978. A staircase from the road will lead you down to Slaughterhouse Beach.
This is a great spot to take the kids snorkeling during the summer months. That is when you will find calm waters. During the winter months, the waves can be rough.
When snorkeling here, always go to the right. That is where you will see tropical fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles.
If you do happen to swim to the left, you will be disappointed. There isn’t much marine life on that side.
Experienced swimmers may want to tackle the long swim from this bay to Honolua Bay.
One of the excellent snorkeling spots in my Maui snorkeling guide is Kapalua Bay. In the early morning, you will discover sea turtles on the left side of the bay.
Over on the right side of Kapalua Bay, you will find plenty of tropical fish. There is also a beautiful coral reef way down to the right.
Easy entry to the water is available on the left side of the bay. There you will find gently sloped sand. The right side is quite rocky. It is easy to slip if you try to enter or exit the water on that side.
Kahekili Beach is also known as Airport Beach. It was given this nickname because the Kaanapali Airport used to be located in this area.
The coral reef here is quite large. All around the reef, you will see black triggerfish, bluefin trevally, unicornfish, and much more.
It is best to enter the water where the visibility is good. Avoid the poor visibility areas so you don’t disturb the coral reef.
Kaanapali Beach is one of the best snorkeling spots in west Maui. The trade winds rarely affect the water here, especially if you head down to the area where Black Rock Beach is located.
Black Rock is a large rock. According to legend, ancient Hawaiians believed the souls of people leaped into the afterlife from this rock.
You may see people cliff-diving into the deep water at this rocky point. Or one of the other rocky cliffs in the area.
When you are snorkeling, spend your time near the Black Rock. Or the little cove to the right of the rock. This is where you will see the most marine life.
If you are visiting Maui during whale season, Black Rock has a surprise for you. Go underwater and listen to the whale song bounce off the lava formations. It’s an experience you will never forget!
Oh, and you will have the opportunity to see the humpback whales too. Not that you needed another good reason to spend time at this beach in Maui!
Coral Gardens can be found to the south of Olowalu. It is just in front of the West Maui Mountains. So, you will have gorgeous views above and below water.
Boat tours are the only way to access this snorkeling destination in Maui. There are only a few boats here every day. That means if this is your first time snorkeling, you can get an uninterrupted experience in the crystal-clear waters.
Napili Bay is one of the kid-friendly beaches in Maui. It is one of the best spots for swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. If there are strong currents, it is a popular option for surfing.
Colorful fish can be seen more to the left of the bay than to the right. But you can enter the bay from anywhere.
Keep in mind that if there are surfers in the water, visibility will be poor for snorkeling.
There isn’t a parking lot at this beach. You will want to arrive early to find street parking.
Baby Beach is an excellent place for beginner snorkelers. The coral reef there prevents any large waves from reaching the shoreline.
Let the whole family enter the shallow waters to learn how to swim and snorkel. This is also the perfect time to teach everyone how not to touch any of the marine organisms they see in the water. This will help protect marine life for years in the future.
If you have the time, walk over to the Japanese Buddhist temple at the Lahaina Jodo Mission. Just make sure you wear shoes so the thorns from the kiawe trees do not pierce your feet.
Charley Young Beach
This beach is down in south Maui. You will find it on the northern end of Kamaole Beach Park I.
The parking lot at Charley Young Beach never fills up. So, you can arrive at any time to snorkel in the crystal clear waters. However, the water is the calmest in the morning. Visibility is best then too.
There are plenty of fish, as well as Hawaiian green sea turtles here. Just remember to never touch the turtles. They are wild animals, and you can get fined if you disturb them in any way.
Keawakapu Beach is near one of the popular resorts on Maui. So, it may be crowded at times.
Enter the water in areas where it is sandy. Try your best to avoid the rocky areas, as they can be slippery. Plus, they are near the reef. If you did happen to fall, you could damage the coral reef.
I recommend spending most of your time over by the lava fingers to the right. This is where most of the fish and sea turtles spend their time.
The water can be rough at Keawakapu Beach on occasion. So, be aware of the currents and consider your skill level before entering the water.
Ulua Beach is right next to Mokapu Beach. A long coral reef separates the two beaches.
The best snorkeling at this sandy beach is near any of the lava points. Find one of those lava points. Then grab your snorkel gear and head out to see marine life. If you’re lucky, you will see the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, domino damselfish, or a boxfish before you leave!
You may also hear Five Caves referred to as Five Graves, thanks to the small graveyard near the access path.
This is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Maui. You must be a good swimmer to snorkel here.
To enter the water, you will need to take the far-right path at the end of the access path. That path will take you to a small cove. Look for the natural step that was carved into the rock. That is the step you will use to get in and out of the water.
Once you are in the water, you will see lots of rock and coral formations. There will be tropical fish and sea turtles there too.
Scuba divers can venture even further to the nearby caves for a little exploring. Just don’t try this with snorkeling gear. The caves are too deep for snorkelers to enter.
A great place to snorkel all day long is Maluaka Beach. There is an area here that contains restrooms, picnic tables, and grills. I recommend arriving early at this beach park to claim your picnic area if you want a prime spot.
However, you will need to carry all of your stuff from your car. It is a good distance from the parking lot to the beach and picnic areas.
Once you have reached the sand, put your towels and chairs down. Then enter the water from almost anywhere to enjoy a snorkeling adventure. Just stay away from the very center where the rocks are located.
This reserve protects marine life, so the fish always seem to be bigger here. The water is almost always calm, especially in the bay area.
It is best to enter the water on the right side of the bay in this natural habitat. You will find a concrete platform located there.
Parking can be a challenge at the Ahihi-Kinau Reserve. The best time to snorkel here is early in the morning. You get to see the beauty of the area without needing to struggle to find a parking spot.
La Perouse Bay
This is one of the best beaches in Maui when you want to see spinner dolphins. However, the water is usually too rough for snorkeling. If the water is calm, the visibility won’t be good enough to really see anything in the water.
The best time to attempt snorkeling here is early in the morning. That’s when the waves will be the calmest.
To reach the shoreline here, walk down the right side of the parking lot. Go to the right of the fence. Then enter the water near the sign that says Conservation Area. You will need to swim towards the left because everything on the right is private property.
I have saved one of the best destinations for last on my Maui snorkeling guide. Turtle Town offers great snorkeling thanks to the turtles that feed and rest near the colorful coral reefs there.
You must take a Maui snorkel tour to Turtle Town. Most snorkeling tours will take you here, as well as to Molokini Crater. Pay close attention when near the Molokini Crater. You may have a rare sighting of whale sharks. They are not common in the area, but they are spotted occasionally.
Talk about amazing adventures on a boat trip during Hawaiian Islands vacation! Don’t worry; I’ll share more about Molokini Crater in the very last section of this Maui snorkeling guide.
The crew will tell you how to enter and exit the water from the boat in Turtle Town. They will also answer any questions you have if this is your first time snorkeling.
These boat tours are one of the best ways to snorkel, enjoy marine life, and relax at the same time!
Makena Beach is commonly referred to as Big Beach or Oneloa Beach. It is the biggest beach on the island.
Unfortunately, snorkeling and swimming are not recommended at this beach. The currents are normally too strong. So, it is best to relax on the sand and watch the waves roll in.
Last but certainly not least, we’ll discuss my favorite place to snorkel in this Maui snorkeling guide: Molokini Crater.
Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, just a few miles off the coast of Maui lies a natural wonder that’s bound to take your breath away – Molokini Crater. Molokini isn’t just a snorkeling destination; it’s a sanctuary of marine biodiversity that promises an experience straight out of your wildest dreams.
Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by waters so clear and calm that they practically beckon you to dive right in. Visibility here is nothing short of remarkable, often exceeding 100 feet.
Molokini Crater isn’t just a snorkeling spot; it’s a bustling underwater metropolis. Beneath the waves, you’ll find an array of marine life that call this crater home. Parrotfish nibble on coral with their vibrant beaks, surgeonfish flaunt their electric blue markings, and the Hawaiian state fish – the humuhumunukunukuapua’a – makes its appearance, dazzling you with its unique appearance.
Lucky snorkelers might even encounter the elusive octopus or spot a sleek reef shark cruising effortlessly through the depths.
How to snorkel at Molokini Crater
You can’t access Molokini Crater on your own, not unless you’re willing to paddle a LONG way! So, you’ll have to take a tour. Here are a few of my personal favorites:
- Molokini Snorkeling Adventure Aboard Calypso
- Four Winds II Molokini Snorkeling Tour from Maalaea Harbor
The allure of Molokini Crater isn’t just about its beauty; it’s also about conservation. As a Marine Life Conservation District, the crater’s delicate ecosystem is protected and cherished by locals and visitors alike.
Snorkeling here is a chance to not only witness the wonder of the ocean but to contribute to its preservation. By respecting the guidelines set to protect marine life and coral, you become a steward of this aquatic Eden, ensuring that generations to come can experience its magic.
Maui snorkeling guide
As we wrap up our Maui snorkeling guide, I hope you’re feeling as excited as we are about the incredible underwater adventures that await you on this tropical island. From the vibrant reefs to the enchanting marine life, Maui’s waters are a playground of wonder and discovery.
Are you planning a Maui vacation? Check out more of my Maui travel tips:
- The Best Airport to Fly into Hawaii
- The Best Beaches West Maui
- Black Sand Beaches Maui
- How to see snow in Hawaii mountains
- The 25 best restaurants in Wailea Maui
- The Best Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii
Guess what? I am a Hawaii Travel Agent and I love planning vacations and honeymoons in Maui! You can contact me if you’d like more information. I recommend starting with my Hawaii travel guide if you plan to DIY your vacation!
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