The Best Snorkeling On Maui
Maui is synonymous with epic snorkeling. The island is dotted with countless snorkeling nooks filled with healthy corals, teeming populations of reef fish, sea turtles, and other sea creatures.
While snorkeling is one of the most popular things to do on Maui, it is not a risk-free activity. Always assess the conditions and your personal comfort level before entering the ocean. Also, please be mindful of marine life and coral reefs. Do not touch, harass, or pursue marine life, and avoid stepping on or touching corals. Finally, only wear mineral-based reef-safe sunscreen to help preserve Maui’s coral reefs for future generations.
With that being said, here are the top ten best snorkeling spots on Maui!
The Top 10 Snorkeling Spots On Maui
Molokini is a crescent-shaped islet two miles off the coast of Makena. Once a fiery active volcano, the half-submerged crater is now a marine preserve and bird sanctuary, home to a prosperous coral reef. Nearly half a million visitors make the voyage to Molokini each year.
Due to the crater’s remote location, the only way to visit Molokini is by tour. Tour boats provide floatation devices, snorkel instruction, and all the necessary gear for snorkeling, which is ideal for beginner snorkelers. Plus, the steep walls of the ringed crater keep the waters protected from the wind and waves. As a result, visibility usually tops 100 feet. Expect to see shimmering yellow corals, eels, and hundreds of tropical fish.
One of Maui’s most untouched reefs lies below sheer cliffs along Honoapi’ilani Highway. Coral Gardens is typically only accessed by tour boats thanks to its hard-to-reach location. Minimal visitors have kept the reef in pristine condition.
Bordered by precipitous cliffs, the conditions at Coral Gardens are often calm and sheltered from the wind. Here, a quilt of corals covers fingers of lava that flowed from the West Maui Mountains over 500,000 years ago. In addition to scores of vibrant tropical fish, don’t be surprised if green sea turtles crash your snorkeling sesh.
Turtle Town / Maluaka Beach
Keen on spotting some sea turtles? Turtle Town is an excellent place to start. Many tour boats stop at this location after snorkeling Molokini. However, Turtle Town is also accessible from the sand at Maluaka Beach.
From the beach, swim out to the point on the left-hand side. A wealth of red pencil urchins fit snugly into the reef, surrounded by populations of butterflyfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, and other tropicals. But don’t let the flourishing reef distract you from what you came to see- sea turtles! At Turtle Town, it’s only a matter of time before you spot a turtle cruising through the blue.
But I thought Turtle Town was on the west side? Yes, we have many “Turtle Towns.” The one along the Pali is a very popular as a Maui sailing destination.
Olowalu Reef is often referred to as Maui’s “mother reef.” Some of the coral heads here are 1,500 years old! Marine life prospers here- rays, reef sharks, and sea turtles are often spotted coasting through sandy channels between towering coral heads.
In addition, Olowalu Reef is home to a unique “turtle cleaning station” where turtles stop in for a shell cleaning courtesy of algae-munching tropical fish. Finding the turtle cleaning station will require some help from experts on tour boats, but the reef is easily accessible from the beach. Look for a silvery strip of sand and bright sky-blue waters near mile marker 14 on Honoapi’ilani Highway.
Located on Maui’s lush northwest coast, Honolua Bay is a jungle of yellow-lobe corals and pinkish-brain corals, inhabited by a bounty of fish and turtles. The best snorkeling at Honolua is found during the summertime, as the bay transforms into a world-class surf spot in the winter.
Accessing the vibrant seas at Honolua Bay requires permission to cross private property and a brief walk through a dense forest, then a long swim to reach the more abundant areas of the reef. The easiest and safest way to be rewarded with some of the best snorkeling on the island is on a Honolua sailing tour. This way you can conveniently get there from Lahaina Harbor, then enjoy these protected waters without breaking laws and going out when dangerous.
Black Rock Kaʻanapali Beach
If you’re staying at a Kaʻanapali hotel, you’re in luck. Great snorkeling exists mere meters offshore of Kaʻanapali Beach. Head to the northern side of the beach to Puʻu Kekaʻa- commonly known as Black Rock.
The reef along the point is a dedicated hangout for plenty of fish and turtles. Just keep an eye out for cliff jumpers flinging themselves from Black Rock, and always be cautious of the wind, waves, and ocean conditions. Inexperienced snorkelers can quickly get in over their heads here, and rescues are frequent. For the best snorkeling conditions, get an early start and ensure there is no substantial swell in the water.
Ahihi Kinaʻu Reserve
Ahihi Kinaʻu Reserve is a large natural area reserve amid lava fields on Maui’s south coast. Some of the finest snorkeling on the island is found within the reserve. While there are several snorkeling nooks in Ahihi Kinaʻu, the most accessible is Kanahena Beach, referred to as “Dumps” by local surfers. Avoid this spot during large west and south swells, as the area turns into a popular surf spot not suitable for snorkeling.
However, on calm days, the snorkeling here is second to none. There is a large parking area with plenty of parking and informative signs about caring for the reef. Visitors must pay a $5 fee to help conserve the space for future generations. The beach can then be accessed by a short trail through the lava field.
Kahekili Beach Park
Kahekili Beach Park, also known as North Kaʻanapali Beach or Airport Beach, is one of the most ideal off-the-beach snorkeling spots. Not only is the reef located just feet from the sand (which means no long swim from the beach), but there is also ample parking, picnic tables, showers, grassy areas, and clean restrooms. Kahekili Beach Park is an excellent place for beginner snorkelers on calm days.
Five Graves refers to the rocky area off Makena Drive in South Maui. The easiest entry point is at Changs Beach. However, Five Graves is considered an expert-only snorkeling spot. If you’re a strong swimmer and a well-versed snorkeler, Five Graves’s rocky underwater terrain is loaded with schools of fish and an abundance of sea turtles.
Kapalua Bay’s crescent-shaped cove is protected from the strong tradewinds, making it an ideal snorkeling spot, particularly in the summertime. The soft sand offers an easy entry point, and the reef near the northern point sits in only about ten feet of water.
With showers, restrooms, and a beautiful strip of sand, Kapalua Bay is a great place to both snorkel and spend a day at the beach with the family as well. Parking can be tough, so get here early.