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Top 10 Snorkeling Spots in Maui You Can’t Miss

  • Post category:Hawaii

Maui, often referred to as the ‘Valley Isle,’ is a snorkeler’s paradise, offering an array of stunning underwater landscapes teeming with vibrant marine life. Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or a beginner looking to explore the underwater world, Maui has something for everyone. In this article, we will take you through the top 10 snorkeling spots in Maui that you simply can’t miss.

Key Takeaways

  • Molokini Crater offers a unique snorkeling experience with its crystal-clear waters and abundant marine life.
  • Turtle Town is famous for its frequent sightings of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, making it a must-visit spot.
  • Coral Gardens is known for its beautiful coral formations and diverse marine species.
  • Honolua Bay provides excellent snorkeling conditions with its calm waters and vibrant coral reefs.
  • Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve offers a pristine snorkeling environment, perfect for spotting rare marine species.

Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater, located roughly 2.5 miles off Maui’s south shore, is a partially submerged crescent-shaped volcanic crater. This unique snorkeling destination is a Marine Life Conservation District Seabird Sanctuary and one of the few volcanic islets on Earth. The water around the crater is so clear that spotting animals is super easy! With visibility up to 150 feet, it’s no wonder all the guidebooks urge visitors to check it out.

Location

Molokini Crater is situated in South Maui, west of Makena Beach. However, you can’t drive to it because it’s in the middle of the ocean. That means you need to take a boat to reach it.

Marine Life Density

The sunken crater provides a protected cove from the open ocean, which houses hundreds of varieties of tropical fish, marine mammals, and corals. You’ll find more than 250 species of fish here!

Area Size

The area size of Molokini Crater is quite large, offering ample space for exploration and adventure.

Depth (ft)

The depth ranges from 0 to 40 feet, making it suitable for snorkelers of all skill levels.

Exposure

The crater is open to the ocean, providing a unique snorkeling experience unlike any other. The clear waters and abundant marine life make it a must-visit spot for anyone looking to explore Moorea’s natural beauty and vibrant culture.

Turtle Town

Turtle Town is actually just a nickname for all the spots along the Makena or Wailea coast, due to common turtle sightings. Thanks to current government protection and the ESA, this area is home to a dense population of the Hawaiian green sea turtles. There has been some debate as to precisely where Turtle Town is. The general consensus is that the site is located along the southern coastline of the island, between Nahuna Point and Black Sand Beach. Turtle Town is best visited while on a Maui boat tour, as it is well-known for some of the best snorkeling in Maui, particularly if these large lumbering sea creatures are your interest.

Marine Life

Made up of lava formations that were created hundreds of thousands of years ago by underwater volcanoes, Turtle Town, as its name suggests, is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Maui. Especially if you want to see Hawaiian green sea turtles.

Snorkeling Conditions

There are always calm wind conditions and clear waters, so boat tours out to Turtle Town are ideal. Snorkelers will be inspired when they see the gentle slope which allows them to find a depth where they are most comfortable. Snorkelers can watch the Wrasse fish cleaning the shells of the Hawaiian green sea turtles, and they can find themselves surrounded by a variety of other marine life.

Best Time to Visit

Turtle Town is best visited while on a Maui boat tour, as it is well-known for some of the best snorkeling in Maui, particularly if these large lumbering sea creatures are your interest. The calm wind conditions and clear waters make it an ideal spot for snorkeling year-round.

Discover the hidden gem of Maui snorkeling: Turtle Town. Explore various snorkeling spots along the Makena or Wailea coast, and enjoy diverse marine life.

Tips for Snorkelers

  • Always maintain a respectful distance from the turtles.
  • Use reef-safe sunscreen to protect the marine environment.
  • Bring a waterproof camera to capture the incredible underwater scenes.
  • Consider joining a guided tour for the best experience.

Conservation Efforts

Thanks to current government protection and the ESA, this area is home to a dense population of the Hawaiian green sea turtles. These efforts ensure that the turtles and their habitat are preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Conclusion

Turtle Town is a top place to snorkel on Maui for many reasons. Not the least of which of these is the chance to view the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles in their natural habitat. There are always calm wind conditions and clear waters, so boat tours out to Turtle Town are ideal.

Coral Gardens

Coral Gardens, a hidden gem along the West Maui shoreline, is an exceptional snorkeling spot known for its vibrant marine life and stunning coral reef formations. This location is ideal for underwater exploration, as it is home to a diverse array of Hawaiian tropical fish such as Angel Fish, Butterfly Fish, Parrot Fish, and Triggerfish. Visitors might spot Octopus, Crabs, Moray Eels, and the occasional Hawaiian green sea turtle alongside these colorful inhabitants.

Area Size

Large

Depth (ft)

0 – 12

Exposure

Partial

Entrance

Sandy

One of the most captivating aspects of Coral Gardens is its reef formation, which extends from the southern end of Papalaua Beach towards majestic cliffs. The area boasts dramatic black lava fingers reaching from the shore to the ocean floor, creating an enchanting seascape. Snorkelers can discover secret coral sea caves and passageways, each teeming with a vivid array of marine life.

Coral Gardens offers calm ocean conditions and clear waters, ideal for beginners and advanced snorkelers. The depth varies from shallow to medium, allowing for a comfortable and safe snorkeling adventure. Accessible via ocean vessel on a Maui snorkel tour, this location promises an unforgettable glimpse into a dreamy underwater world. On your next visit to Maui, Coral Gardens should be a top destination to experience the magic of West Maui’s marine ecosystem.

Explore vibrant coral reefs, tropical fish, and marine life in Maui’s safe and educational snorkeling locations.

Honolua Bay

Overview

Honolua Bay, located on the Northwest side of Maui, is a local favorite and a Marine Life Conservation District. This means fishing is illegal, allowing marine life to thrive. The bay is surrounded by majestic cliffs, making it a stunning spot both above and below the water. The underwater views here are truly remarkable, with a wide variety of fish, turtles, and coral formations to explore.

Accessibility

Honolua Bay is one of the more difficult spots to access. There is no official parking lot, and parking spots along the road are limited. From the street parking, you’ll need to walk about 5 minutes to reach the rocky cove. While it may take a little longer to get to and there’s not a great place to sit out and enjoy a sandy beach, the underwater views more than make up for it.

Marine Life

As a part of the Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District, Honolua Bay offers countless tropical fish and coral reef formations. The bay is large, requiring a half-mile swim if you want to explore the whole area. Because of the surrounding cliff faces, the water remains generally calm even when the trade winds are blowing.

Tips for Snorkeling

  • Wear reef shoes to avoid any wounds or discomfort.
  • Do not touch or step on the coral reef or any underwater animals for safety and environmental reasons.
  • Wildlife sightings are likely but never guaranteed.

Honolua Bay is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore guided snorkeling tours, exquisite beaches, and boat tours in Maui’s stunning lagoon.

Practical Information

  • Location: Northwest Maui
  • Area Size: Large
  • Depth: 0 – 30 ft
  • Entrance: Rocky
  • Exposure: Partial

Highlights

  • Marine Life Density: High
  • Water Conditions: Generally calm due to surrounding cliffs
  • Best Time to Visit: Early morning for the best visibility and fewer crowds

Five Caves

Overview

Five Caves isn’t just an amazing location for snorkeling on Maui. It is a mystical place with common sights of the Hawaiian green sea turtle, tons of tropical fish varieties, Eagle Rays, and a diverse underwater landscape. Sleeping White Tip sharks have been spotted in the caves, so be careful to tread lightly out of respect for them and the other Hawaiian marine life.

Location

Located just north of Turtle Town, Five Caves provides a bounty of marine life, like Hawaiian green sea turtles and harmless reef sharks. It is best to reach Five Caves on Maui by boat, but the beach can also be accessed by Makena Road in South Kihei. Visitors without a guide should take caution due to the variable ocean conditions at this Maui snorkeling locale.

Safety Tips

Even if the surf is small, Five Caves can be a tricky area for many reasons. Make sure to always swim with a buddy and take proper safety precautions. The area is known for its variable ocean conditions, so it’s crucial to be prepared.

If you are a good swimmer and a relatively experienced snorkeler, Five Caves is another fantastic spot where you’ll find some of the best snorkeling on Maui. Sometimes known as “Five Graves” (because it’s near a graveyard), it is also an extremely popular location for experienced Maui scuba divers.

Black Rock

Black Rock is most popularly known as “the rock you jump off” on West Maui, but “the rock” also happens to be surrounded by a fabulous reef formation. The clear blue water is absolutely mesmerizing, the soft sandy bottom is inviting, the weather is divine, and the ocean here is calm. It’s simply perfect. The water at Black Rock starts at about 8 feet in depth and gradually extends to roughly 30 feet deep as you swim around the point.

Location

Black Rock is located at Ka’anapali Beach, with picture-perfect warm white sand and gorgeous views. This is the Maui you’re thinking of. Even though it does get quite busy, you’ll never really have trouble finding a space to snorkel because it’s a pretty big place.

Historical Significance

In Hawaiian, the name of Black Rock is “Pu’u Keka’a,” which translates into “rolling hill,” and it’s considered a historical area and a sacred spot because it’s believed that souls leap into eternity from the top of the hill.

Marine Life

Coastal rock formations like this are a prime spot for reefs, so that’s why this is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui. You can encounter vibrant marine life including manta rays and reef sharks.

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Snorkeling Experience

The beach itself is one of the most visited locations by locals on Maui, but Black Rock is still a bit of a hidden gem to most non-residents. The water is clear, and the reef is teeming with life, making it a must-visit spot for snorkeling enthusiasts.

Napili Bay

Napili Bay is just south of Kapalua and is a gem on the west side of Maui. Here you’ll find a larger bay than Kapalua with a beautiful sandy beach and few waves. Like Kapalua, the bay remains mostly protected by a reef (other than on days with high surf and strong currents) and it is a popular spot for families to enjoy the small waves and underwater sea life. In the summer, you can usually find small waves in the bay, making it an ideal place for swimmers of all ages to enjoy.

Fast Facts

  • Parking: Yes
  • Bathrooms: Yes
  • Lifeguard: No

Location

Napili Bay is right next to Kapalua Bay, so you can expect similar water conditions and marine life sightings. It also has a similarly difficult-to-find beach since you can’t see it from the street. However, Google Maps will take you right to the small walkway between properties to get you to the sand. There are also two other entries on either side of the bay from the road.

Best Time to Visit

Napili Bay is home to the West Maui Hawaiian green sea turtle and the magical Maui sunsets. Napili Kai Beach Resort fronts the bay so keep in mind that it can become congested during the high season on Maui. The best time to visit Napili Bay is in the early morning on a weekday, or late in the afternoon for a sunset celebration, with a flute of champagne in hand of course. We suggest that you arrive in the afternoon for Maui snorkeling and stay for the evening. It is truly stunning.

Kapalua Bay

Kapalua Bay is one of the most remarkable beaches on Maui, perfectly positioned between Oneloa Bay and Honokahua Bay. This crescent-shaped, golden sand beach is set amongst luxury rental properties, making it an ideal spot to enjoy both the water and the surrounding scenery. Kapalua Bay provides a calm environment with vibrant colors and excellent swimming conditions, making it one of the best spots to snorkel in Maui.

Location

Kapalua Bay is located in West Maui, nestled between Oneloa Bay and Honokahua Bay. This prime location makes it easily accessible and a must-visit for anyone exploring the island.

Marine Life

The bay is home to a variety of marine life, including colorful fish and coral reefs. You might even spot sea turtles swimming near the shore, adding to the bay’s allure.

Activities

  • Snorkeling: The calm waters and abundant marine life make Kapalua Bay a snorkeler’s paradise.
  • Swimming: The semi-protected cove ensures that the water is usually calm and perfect for swimming.
  • Sunbathing: The golden sand beach is perfect for relaxing under the warm Maui sun.

The quiet and peaceful community around Kapalua Bay is just divine. The beach itself is out of this world thanks to a protected, crescent-shaped cove that is ideal for Hawaii marine life to gather.

Tips

  • Arrive early to secure a good spot on the beach, especially during peak tourist season.
  • Bring your own snorkeling gear to fully enjoy the underwater scenery.
  • Wear reef-safe sunscreen to protect the delicate marine ecosystem.

Ulua Beach

seashore during golden hour

Location

Ulua Beach is one of the most family-friendly beaches in South Maui, located in front of Wailea Elua Village. The reef is situated on the north side of the beach, separating Ulua Beach from Mokapu Beach.

Marine Life Density

The beach boasts a high density of marine life, making it a popular spot for snorkeling. You can expect to see a variety of colorful fish and coral formations.

Area Size

Ulua Beach is relatively large, providing ample space for visitors to spread out and enjoy the serene environment.

Depth (ft)

The water depth ranges from 0 to 10 feet, making it ideal for both beginners and experienced snorkelers.

Exposure

The beach has partial exposure, offering a mix of sun and shade throughout the day.

Entrance

The entrance to the beach is sandy, making it easy for families and beginners to access the water.

Ulua Beach is perfect for those looking to explore a less frequented spot with calm waters and abundant marine life. It’s a great place to decompress and enjoy a more intimate snorkeling experience.

Amenities

  • Parking: Yes
  • Bathrooms: Yes
  • Lifeguard: No

Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve

The Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve is a unique and protected marine ecosystem located on the southern coast of Wailea, past Makena, towards La Perouse Bay. This reserve spans 807 acres and is home to a variety of marine life, including dolphins, sea turtles, and monk seals. No fishing or motorized boats are allowed in the reserve, ensuring a thriving underwater environment. The coastline is jagged, with coral reefs intermixed with lava rock, making it a fascinating spot for snorkeling.

Marine Life

In the protected waters of Ahihi Kinau, you can expect to see a diverse array of fish such as butterfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, moorish idol, and needlefish. The tropical fish are often found close to the shoreline, especially in shallow waters, making it an ideal spot for beginners and families.

Facilities

The reserve offers parking and restroom facilities, but there are no lifeguards on duty. Visitors are advised to be cautious and respectful of the environment. Remember to take everything you bring with you when you leave.

Snorkeling Tips

  • Snorkel close to the road in the protected bay for the best experience.
  • Avoid stepping on the coral as it is a living marine animal.
  • Wear reef shoes to protect your feet from the jagged lava rocks.

Ahihi Kinau is believed to be one of the youngest and most delicate coral reef zones on Maui. This small cove is perfect for small groups, especially those with young children or guests who are not comfortable in open water.

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Conclusion

Maui is a snorkeler’s paradise, offering a diverse array of underwater landscapes and marine life that cater to both beginners and seasoned snorkelers. From the vibrant coral reefs of Molokini Crater to the serene waters of Kapalua Bay, each spot provides a unique and unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking to swim with sea turtles, explore underwater lava formations, or simply enjoy the crystal-clear waters, Maui has something for everyone. So grab your snorkel gear and dive into the adventure of a lifetime. Happy snorkeling!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to go snorkeling in Maui?

The best time to go snorkeling in Maui is during the summer months, from May to September, when the waters are calmer and visibility is at its best.

Do I need to bring my own snorkeling gear?

While you can bring your own snorkeling gear, many snorkeling spots in Maui have rental shops nearby where you can rent equipment. Some tours also provide gear.

Are there any dangerous marine animals to be aware of?

While snorkeling in Maui, you may encounter marine life such as sea urchins and jellyfish. It’s important to maintain a safe distance from all marine animals and avoid touching them.

Can beginners go snorkeling in Maui?

Yes, there are many snorkeling spots in Maui that are suitable for beginners. Beaches like Napili Bay and Ulua Beach have calm waters and are great for first-time snorkelers.

Is it safe to snorkel alone?

It’s always safer to snorkel with a buddy. If you are snorkeling alone, make sure to stay close to the shore and let someone know your plans.

What should I do if I encounter strong currents while snorkeling?

If you encounter strong currents while snorkeling, stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Avoid swimming directly against the current as it can tire you out quickly.