Whale Watching on Maui Q & A

When is whale watching season on Maui?
Unofficially, whale watching season runs from December 1 – April 30. But you may also see the whales before and after those dates

Where is the best place to see the whales?
Well, we may be a teeny bit biased, but the best place to see the whales is from one of our whale tour boats. We will get you as close to the whales as is safely possible – safe for the whales and you, that is, on the largest and most stable boats in Maui. Book online here and save 10% .

I want to see whales every day I’m on Maui! Where’s the best place to see them from shore?
Honestly, you should be able to spot them from pretty much every beach on the south (Kihei/Wailea) and west (Lahaina/Ka’anapali) shores. You can also see them on the north shore (Paia/Ho’okipa). The best place, unfortunately, is probably on Highway 30 connecting Ma’alaea and Lahaina. If you see one while driving, remain calm and try not to accelerate into the driver in front you who just slowed to take a better look!

What types of whales come through Hawaii?
North Pacific Humpback Whales

What do they look like?
They are primarily grey, with some areas of white. Oh, and they’re big. BIG. The North Pacific Humpbacks are the fifth largest whale species on the planet and can grow to 60-feet long and weigh between 25 – 40 tons.

Why do they come to Hawaii?
Good question. They come to mate, give birth and nurture their calves. Hawaii is the only state in the union where they will mate. It’s believed the humpbacks are drawn to Hawaii for its warm waters, underwater visibility, varying ocean depths and lack of natural predators.

How far do they travel?
They swim, pretty much non-stop, about 3,500 miles from Alaska. The journey generally takes 4-to-6 weeks.

Do they arrive in any particular order?
They do! Normally the first to arrive are the mother whales who are nursing their calves. Next up is the juveniles, then the adult males, followed by adult females. The last to arrive are the pregnant females. The pregnant whales bring up the rear because they feed and nourish themselves until the very last minute up in Alaska.

Once they get to Hawaii, where do they go?
They basically go to two different areas. A four-island cluster comprised of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kaho’olawe make up the first area. The other area, called the Penguin Band, is a section of shallow water about 25 miles southwest of Molokai. That said, whales have been spotted by residents and visitors on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai.

How many whales are there?
In 1993, there were an estimated 6,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean. Of those, about 4,000 came through Hawai’i. Since the signing of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which banned commercial whaling, that number has increased. Scientists estimate there are now roughly 23,000 north pacific humpback whales, with about 12,000 – 14,000 of those coming through Hawaii each year.

How long do Northern Pacific Humpback Whales live?
They live about 50 years, but there have been accounts of some living much longer.

What do they eat?
They survive mainly on small fish, plankton and tiny crustaceans. What’s interesting is they never eat in Hawai’i’s waters. They spend all summer eating in Alaska, then store up the food as blubber, which they then use to fuel their winter trips to Hawai’i.

How long can the whales stay underwater?
While adults can stay underwater for up to 45 minutes, they tend to come up for air every 10-15 minutes. The calves come up about every 5 minutes.

Why do they jump out of the water?
Commonly called breaching, a study published in January, 2017 showed that humpbacks are more likely to breach when they are far apart (2.5 miles or more,) while tail or fin slapping occurs more frequently when they are together. This suggests that the humpbacks breach for long-range communication versus simply water slaps when they are near other whales.

Is there a Hawaiian name for humpback whales?
Yes, the Hawaiian name is kohola

To book a whale watch tour with us, go here. If the boat goes out and no whales are seen, you will receive complimentary tickets for another trip. Book online and you’ll save 10%.

What to Expect on a Maui Sunset Dinner Cruise Out of Lahaina

A warm island breeze softly brushes your shoulders while you sit back in your seat to enjoy the soothing rhythm of the Hawaiian waters gently lapping the sides of the boat. Watch as the sun paints the sky intense shades of sunset with a refreshing beverage in hand and loving companion at your side. As the only boat with all premium seating, at no extra charge, we invite you to board Hawaii Ocean Project’s own Maui Princess for an enchanting evening full of love, laughter, and lifetime memories out on the calm ocean water.

Dinner Cruise Highlights:

  • Live entertainment
  • Delicious food
  • Refreshing beverages
  • Impeccable service

Departing at 5:30 pm seven days a week from the historic whaling port of Lahaina, our large luxury vessel makes its home in the West Maui waters. So wander in from the bustling shops of Front Street and check-in at the north end of the Lahaina Harbor between 4:45 to 5:00 pm. The evening’s entertainment will vary each night to ensure that each experience is one-of-a-kind! Paired with the strums of our musicians, the island of Maui forms her own performance as she fades into shades of gold while the sun sets. You might even get to catch a stunning show from our finned friends during the whale season of December to April.

With a stunning backdrop forming, dinner will be served on the open-air upper deck by our attentive staff.
Choose between:

  • Mouthwatering prime rib that is carved on board
  • Delectable roasted chicken
  • Macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi fillet with a harmonizing buerre blanc sauce
  • Appetizing vegetarian patty with marinara sauce.

Each meal will also include a fresh garden salad with croutons and papaya seed dressing along with potatoes, carrots, dinner rolls, and a refreshing beverage. For guests onboard the Maui Princess, sodas and juices will be unlimited while our full bar will feature three alcoholic drinks included, with additional available for purchase. And those with a sweet tooth, don’t fret! A delightful cheesecake will be served as dessert with a seasonal fruit drizzle to wrap up the dinner service.

But the evening does not stop there! With a full 2.5 hours on board, join your new Maui friends and sway to the beat or kick back to watch the stars appear. As the clock rings 8, our cruise will dock back at the Lahaina harbor but that does not mean that your time with Hawaii Ocean Project has to come to an end. We have a number of ocean activities to add to your agenda and booking online leads to an instant 10% off the full price of all our activities! So clear your Hawaii vacation itinerary and board a Hawaii Ocean Project adventure today!

What affects visibility while snorkeling on Maui?

Unlike diving, where things like water salinity levels, hydrogen sulfide and water temperature gradients can deeply affect visibility, when snorkeling around Maui, most of the external factors that affect visibility are easy to spot. If you notice the water seems unusually murky, then it’s probably not a good time to snorkel. Here are five easy ways to tell if visibility is going to be clear when you snorkel.

A wavy day means that sediments on the ocean shore will be stirring. This is why snorkeling where there’s an off-shore reef blocking waves is advantageous. But, if you’re in an area without a blocking reef, one way to quickly check the wave conditions the night before you’re planning on snorkeling is with a surf app like Surfline or Magic Seaweed, or google “surf forecast at …” (fill in the beach you want to visit). If you see the waves are going to be big (over 4 feet) for surfers in your general area, it will most likely mean the area you’re snorkeling will be wavier than usual. Anything less than four feet and you should be in the clear (pardon the pun.)

RELATED: Best places to snorkel on Maui

The wind can wreak havoc on visibility. On Maui, the best time to get in the water is early in the morning. Not too early, as you want the sun to illuminate the water, but ideally, you’ll be in and out of the water before the tradewinds kick in. The deeper the water you’re going to be snorkeling in, the less wind becomes an issue. This is why a snorkel trip from a boat, like excursions to Molokini and Lana’i are pretty much wind-proof.

It doesn’t happen often, but when a big, steady rainstorm hits, it can definitely affect water clarity. Unless the water is super shallow, the issue is not that the rain kicks up sediments, it’s more because of the run-off from all the water coming down and entering the ocean. After big rains, you may hear there’s a “brown water advisory.” If a brown water advisory hits your beach, you should stay out of the ocean. Not only will the water be murky, but the brown water may contain harmful pathogens and other pollutants that can cause illness.

On the other end of spectrum, sunshine also affects clarity… in a good way! Just like on land, the brighter it is, the easier it is to see. Even on cloudy days, it’s never that dark during daytime hours here, but still, a little sun doesn’t hurt your visibility. Think of it as a spotlight, illuminating the fish around you.

RELATED: Common fish you’ll see when snorkeling Maui

When a snorkeler kicks up the sand or clay at the bottom of ocean, those particles will then cause the water to become murky. That seems obvious. To avoid this, if you’re near the ocean floor, try swimming with just your hands. The force of your flippers is often enough to stir up the ground.

Please remember when snorkeling to respect your environment. Just as you don’t want anyone to stand on your face, never stand on coral. If possible, keep those legs flapping and try to stay off the ground. Mahalo!

Corals of Maui

Snorkeling in Maui is fun. When you enter our waters, you’re liable to see fish of all colors, turtles, sea urchins, and maybe even (harmless) sharks and rays. But when snorkeling, don’t overlook the coral. Coral are beautiful, living ANIMALS. Coral has a unique, symbiotic relationship with other sea creatures and plants, and helps “power” our beautiful reefs. However, many corals are dying out due to rising sea temperatures and poisoning from popular sunscreens. See our sunscreen guide to learn more about how sunscreen poisons the reef and what to look for when purchasing reef-friendly sunscreens. Here are four common corals you’ll see in Maui. For fish, check out our Fish Guide for Snorkeling Maui.

Lobe Coral
Found in a variety habitats, lobe coral is one of the most common corals in Hawai’i’s oceans. It’s mostly seen in depths from 10 – 45 feet, though it can also be seen in shallow tide pools and can thrive as deep as 150 feet. They grow less than a centimeter a year, yet lobe coral can become massive entities, up to 20 feet across. Only the outermost layer, about 1 millimeter, is actually alive. There are several species of lobe coral in Hawai’i. You’ll often see yellow, greenish and tan varieties off of Maui’s shores.


Cauliflower Coral
The most common species of coral in surge-zone slopes of shallow reefs less than 10 feet deep, the cauliflower coral ranges in color from tan to pink. It can also be found in depths of 90 feet or more. Cauliflower coral is unusual in that it can only grow to maximum length of about 12-to-15 inches, whereas most corals do not have a capped size. The living portion of cauliflower coral is the outermost layer, roughly 2 millimeters deep.

RELATED: Best places to snorkel on Maui


Rice Coral
In still-water habitats, rice coral can be the dominant species of coral. It tends to live below the reef, where it is blocked from the effects of wave surges. One unique aspect of rice coral is its ability to take on a variety of shapes, depending on its proximity to light. If it is in direct sunlight, it tends to grow into spiked peaks, whereas in shady or deeper waters, it’s more flattened out. You can even find both forms of the coral in one seabed when spiked pinnacles, blocking the sun, live over the flat-type of coral. Rice coral, generally, ranges in color from solid cream to dark brown with lighter branch tips. However, the flat, blue rice coral, endemic to Hawai’i, is popular amongst snorkelers due to its bright blue color. Rice corals can grow to several feet in diameter.

Finger coral
Living in wave protected, shallow waters to 100 feet, finger corals are very common in Hawai’i’s waters. It derived its common name because the coral grows out and up, forming appendage-like structures. The “fingers” tend to be flattened at the tips. Finger Coral are light-brown/grey to yellow in color. It’s slow-growing, but it is believed there are colonies over 1,000 years old! (Image credit: By James St. John [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)


RELATED: Maui Snorkeling Q&A

Safe Snorkeling in Maui

Known for the warm, clear waters and colorful marine life, it would be a shame if you missed the unique opportunity of snorkeling in Maui. Enjoyable for all ages, snorkeling offers the chance to glimpse at a whole other world built just under the water’s surface! Whether you are snorkeling just off the shore of one of Maui’s white sand beaches or on one of our snorkel boat tours, we wanted to pass on some ‘ike (knowledge) when it comes to snorkeling safety!

1. Buddy System
It should come as no surprise that when it comes to any outdoor activity, the buddy system is key. Two pairs of eyes are truly better than one and it is definitely helpful to have more than one person check the surroundings (tip #2).

2. Keep an Eye on Your Surroundings
The ocean can be, at times, unpredictable which is why it is important to be aware of what is around you. With that in mind, while snorkeling it is best to avoid alcohol to keep your senses sharp! If you are swimming close to the beach, keep in mind that you should only be snorkeling in clear water. It not only offers the best underwater sights, but it allows you to keep a watchful eye on what is around you! Weather and surf conditions can affect your overall experience snorkeling, especially if you are trying it for the first time, so it is imperative to avoid large surf and high wind when looking for a spot to snorkel.

It is also essential to avoid ocean currents, but should you get caught in one do not panic! Swimming against it will most likely just tire you out (tip #3) and the best way to get out of it is to swim perpendicular to the current.

3. Avoid Exhaustion
Whether you are an experienced swimmer or a beginning snorkeler, swimming is an activity that can easily tire you out. Sticking relatively close to the shore or boat is the best way to ensure that you only have a short swim back to rest. If you are out in the ocean blue, it might be worthwhile to have a flotation device with you as well as communicating with your snorkel buddy! The coral reefs are fragile microenvironments that are best admired from afar along with other marine animals and organisms. So should you find yourself getting tired on your offshore excursion, head back to where you can stand on the sand and not on the convenient rocky reef.

Hawaii Ocean Project takes safety seriously and while all of these tips are generally common sense, there is worth in repeating before you head out. So rub on some reef-healthy sunscreen, throw on your fins, and get ready to go on a Maui adventure

The Harmful Effects of Sunscreen on our Oceans

Sunscreens have been making headlines lately due to their contribution to coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Coral bleaching is the phenomenon whereby coral loses its color and rejects symbiotic organisms, essentially killing the coral. While rising sea temperatures are the main culprit behind coral bleaching, researchers believe oxybenzone, a UV blocker used in many popular sunscreens, is aiding in the destruction of coral reefs as put forth in this 2015 study: “Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

While the researchers focused on oxybenzone, it’s not the only ingredient in sunscreen that is harming the coral. Here are the five ingredients you need to avoid when purchasing sunscreen:

  1. Oxybenzone: used in over 3,500 different sunscreens worldwide
  2. Octinoxate: which lasts longer on the body than oxybenzone, but is used less frequently by manufacturers because it’s known to be even more dangerous to the ocean
  3. Octocrylene
  4. 4-mehtylbenzylidene: 4MBC, which is banned in the U.S., but not in Canada and parts of Europe
  5. Butyparaben

Zinc oxide and organic sunscreens, especially those that are 100% biodegradable, while still possibly damaging, are believed to be much better alternatives than those using the five dangerous compounds listed above.

The best choice, though, is to avoid sunscreen altogether. Instead of sunscreen, we recommend you simply cover up when swimming in the ocean. Sun protection shirts and rash guards are cool looking and do a good job of protecting the skin. Wearing a hat to the beach is always smart. Using umbrellas and tents to create shade are also excellent ways to avoid direct sunlight.

We realize, however, that covering up isn’t always practical. You came to Hawai’i to play in the sunshine! The non-profit, non-partisan Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a fantastic Sunscreen 101 guide that lists over 250 reef-safe sunscreens, including the best kid-friendly ones. They’ve even built a little Amazon store so you can purchase these products online. Additionally, there are a few locally made, reef-friendly sunscreens. Three examples are Raw Love, SolKine and Mama Kuleana.

On Maui, reef-healthy(er) sunscreens can be found at health food stores (such as Hawaiian Moons in Kihei, or Whole Foods in Kahului), as well as surf shops. Be sure to carefully read the active ingredients listed on the bottle because some manufacturers will say they are “reef-friendly,” but then go ahead and use harmful ingredients. Again, avoid the five dangerous ingredients listed above, and you’ll be doing your part to help save the coral reef.

The Hawai’i state legislature attempted to ban oxybenzone from our waters, but the bill stalled on the last day of the 2017 session. State lawmakers are already working to pass the bill in 2018. If it passes, Hawai’i will become the first state in the union to ban oxybenzone.

Best Tide Pools on Maui – HOP to it

Maui is blessed with miles and miles of sandy beaches. Not all beaches, though, have tide pools. In fact, most don’t have them. But when you come across a great tide pool, you can use it as an ecological teaching moment for children or just enjoy the sea life being presented to you. You will find fish, crabs and even turtles in and around tide pools. The tide pools listed below are mostly safe for people of all ages, though we end with one of the most dangerous places in all of Hawaii.

  1. Baldwin Beach (Paia)
    While the parking lot, bathrooms and lifeguards are all on the east side of the beach, if you walk west down the beach, you will come to “baby beach,” a large, calm tide pool that is blocked by a massive reef. The pool is safe for all ages, though bear in mind, the life guards are on the other side of the beach so keep an eye out on your children. The pool is large enough that you will often see people swimming laps in the calm waters. There is very little shade here, so be sure to pack a hat!
  2. Napili Bay (Napili)
    The south side of the ever-popular Napili Bay features some outstanding tide pools. Here you’ll find a wide variety of marine life in a protected little area. While Napili Bay doesn’t really have any amenities to speak of (no parking, bathrooms, showers of lifeguards,) the beach itself is always rated as one of the best on Maui. If you’re staying at one of the resorts or condos that line the bay, checking out the tide pools is a no-brainer.
  3. Keawakapu Beach (Kihei/Wailea)
    The north end of the beach (the Kihei side) has nice tide pools for exploring. You will probably see turtles in and around the tide pools. This beach is around a mile long with three separate parking lots and entries. For the tide pool, though, you can park at the 5 Palms public lot. There are showers, though there are no public restrooms or life guards. During a full moon, the tide pools are exceptionally vibrant.
  4. Kuau Cove (Paia)
    Though tiny, this little beach is perfect for children, as a natural reef blocks it from waves, creating a calm, near wave-free atmosphere. There are lots of tide pools to explore and soft, white sand to build castles. Because of the shallow reefs and smooth waters, it’s a fantastic place to teach children how to snorkel. The beach is located under Mama’s Fish House, so it’s sometime’s referred to as Mama’s Fish House Beach.
  5. Olivine Pools (Kapalua)
    Before we start in, a word of caution. It can be VERY dangerous here. There have been MANY deaths at these pools. (Read the comments at the bottom of this excellent online guide book post about Olivine Pools.) One rogue wave can send visitors, even when standing above the pools, out to sea. This is no joke, just Google (or Bing) “olivine pools maui death”. OK, do you still want to visit? What you’ll find here are stunningly beautiful tide pools teeming with sea life. Where the other tide pools on this list are great for children, this one is pretty much adults only. To get to them, you need to scramble down about a half-mile of lava rocks. Kids can make it, but they might scrape some knees in the process.

Where are your favorite tide pools on Maui? Hit us up on Twitter @HIOceanProject and Instagram @hawaiioceanproject or leave a comment below.

10 Fun Facts About Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

The scientific name for the green sea turtle is Chelonia mydas, but the Hawaiian name is simply: “Honu.” For many snorkelers, these fascinating marine reptiles become the highlight of a good outing. Despite their status as an endangered species, there are relatively common sightings around the coral reefs in Hawaii waters. Whether you join us aboard a Molokini snorkel tour or a Lanai snorkel tour, your odds of spotting one are good. Here are our favorite fun facts about Hawaii’s beloved green sea turtles, which we will refer to as Honu.

1. Sea turtles can’t retract their head into their shell like their smaller freshwater counterparts.

2. The Honu doesn’t get its name from the color of its shell, which is often brown, grey, black or dark olive colored. It gets its name from the color of its skin, or more accurately, subdermal (beneath the skin) body fat.

3. While adult Honu are herbivores with serrated jaws for eating seagrasses and algae, juveniles are omnivores, and dine on insects, crustaceans, worms, sea grasses and many other food sources that are available.

4. Honu grow to around 3-4 feet, but weigh up to 300-350 lbs or more!

5. This species of turtle won’t reach sexual maturity until they are between 20 and 50 years old. They’ve been documented at ages of 80 to 100 years and over. Scientists are still learning about their maturity and age range.

6. A sea turtle’s shell is called the carapace, and the underside of the shell is called the plastron.

7. Honu are found around the world in warm subtropical and tropical ocean waters. They’ve been documented nesting in over 80 different countries. In the U.S., you will find them nesting in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the east coast of Florida.

8. Honu habitats are split between the land and the ocean. The land is where they nest, lay eggs, and therefor hatch, while their ocean habitat is where they spend the vast majority of their lives. Since hatchlings rarely survive to reproductive age, most of them only touch land once in their lives, as they make their mad dash from their nest to the ocean.

9. Honu are known to travel long distances to return to their preferred breeding site. Sometimes across whole oceans. When the females are ready to lay their eggs, they climb out onto the beach, so it’s important to give them plenty of space if you do see them emerge from the water.

10. The main predators of the Honu are large sharks, especially tiger sharks. But human involvement is a close second, including entanglement in fishing gear, poaching, plastic ingestion, ocean pollution and coastal development. Respect and awareness can go a long way in preventing these dangers for the remarkable Honu.

We hope to see you aboard one of our snorkeling tours soon, and that you’ll get some amazing Honu sightings on your outing with us. Mahalo!

Snorkeling Q & A

Snorkeling ranks high on the list of things to do when visiting Maui. But you can’t just snorkel anywhere there’s a beach. Well, you can, but you might not see more than the back of your hand. To help you get started, we’ve put together a list of commonly asked questions. Let’s get to it…

Where are the best beaches for snorkeling?
Oh boy, where to start! Depending on where you’re staying and whether you have access to a car, there are numerous locations with great snorkeling. We put together a full list here. But, to keep it short, our two favorite places are Turtle Beach (Maluaka Beach) in Makena (South Maui), and Honolua Bay just past Kapalua (West Maui). Turtle Beach, surprise, features lots of turtles, while Honolua Bay is simply gorgeous, with abundant marine life.

I forgot to mention, we have children. Do have any recommendations for families and beginning snorkelers?
Turtle Beach is great for families, so that’s our top choice. But, the Kamaole beaches in Kihei, Kapalua Beach, and Napili Bay are also fantastic for families and beginner snorkelers. If anyone in your party is wary of the water, ask your hotel. Many of the hotels have “beach shacks” with experienced watermen (and women) who offer courtesy snorkel instruction.

My only goal for this trip is to see turtles. Where can I snorkel that I can be pretty sure I’ll see turtles?
Turtle Beach. Are you beginning to see a pattern? But, beyond Turtle Beach, on the westside, Napili Bay is also great for seeing turtles.

How about places for more advanced snorkelers?
Mokuleia Bay (AKA Slaughterhouse Beach) near Kapalua (West Maui) and Black Rock Beach at the tip of Ka’anapali (West Maui) both offer excellent sea life for more advanced snorkelers. The surf at these places can be difficult to navigate, especially in the winter.

Ok, we know where we want to snorkel. But we don’t have any equipment. Is there a place you recommend?
There are several rental shops on island. But first, one thing to consider is ordering gear from Amazon, and have it shipped to your resort/condo. Check with your place of stay first, but if they allow it, and if you think you’ll be going out on multiple days, it may be cheaper than renting. When your trip is over, you can send it back home via mail, pack it, or donate it. If that’s too much of a hassle, or you’re only going out one or two times, we recommend Lahaina Water Sports, on Front St., or Snorkel Bob’s and Boss Frogs, which, both have multiple locations, on island, for easy returns.

It would be a real bummer if I rented gear, drove out to the beach, and then found the water is cloudy due to weather or tides. Is there a place I can check water conditions?
For water visibility reports, Hawaii Weather Today serves up daily water reports for snorkelers and divers.

I’m ready for an adventure. Are there snorkeling places that you can only reach by boat?
There are! We offer full-service snorkeling excursions to Molokini and Lanai.
The Molokini boat takes you into the Molokini crater, which is a partially submerged volcanic crater. How many times can you say you’ve snorkeled in a volcano?! Because there’s no sand, and the crater acts as shelter, you’re bound to have crystal clear water unaffected by wind or waves. This is generally regarded as one of the greatest snorkeling venues in the world. The catamaran leaves from Lahaina Harbor, so it’s perfect if you’re staying on the West-side; you’ll spend more time on the water, and less time in traffic. Learn more

Another recommended excursion is to the island of Lanai. Because Lanai is privately owned by Oracle-founder Larry Ellison, you’ll find that it is nearly devoid of other people. The waters off of Sweetheart rock are simply gorgeous. Turtles, spinner dolphins, and many varieties of fish can often be seen. We find this trip to be seriously underrated. If you have kids, they may appreciate this trip more than Molokini because of the possible dolphin sightings… and the boat has a fun slide! Learn more

The Colorful Sands of Maui Beaches

Maui is blessed with the best beaches in the world. A unique thing about our beaches is the variety of sands you can discover. Here’s a quick primer on three different types of sands and where you can find them on Maui. Plus, we’ll point you to two more sands found on other islands.

Golden sand
Golden sands are the most common you’ll find on Maui. Our beaches are primarily volcanic in origin. Mixed into this base is organically formed “sand” created by sloughed off dead corals, broken shells of sea creatures, minerals, and bio matter deposited by fish. When combined, the result is the golden sands found in Lahaina, Wailea, Kihei and most beaches around Maui.

Red sand
Kaihalulu Beach, located south of Hana Bay at the base Ka’uiki Head, is an excellent example of a rare, red sand beach. Ka’uiki head is a cindercone, rich with iron. As it erodes, this iron seeps onto the beach to give it a magnificent, deep red hue. To get to Kaihalulu Beach, you must traverse a fairly treacherous hiking trail. Unless you are accustomed to hiking and walking along steep ledges, you may want to steer clear.

Black sand
The nicest black sand beach on Maui is Wai’anapanapa State Park, located just off the Road to Hana. When volcanic lava meets the ocean, it rapidly cools and shatters. The smallest of the shattered debris becomes black sand. While black sand beaches can form in mere hours, without an ongoing source of lava, they can also quickly disappear. Since Wai’anapanapa was formed by a now dormant volcano, the black sand you see on the beach is all the black sand you’ll ever see here. Because of this, it’s against the law to remove sand from the beach.

White sand beaches of Oahu
Mainland beaches, like the white sand beaches of Florida, are primarily formed with quartz minerals. Hawaii, however, does not have quartz deposits. The best examples of white sand beaches in Hawaii are Lanikai and Waimanolo on Oahu. These beaches are made up primarily of carbonate shells of marine organisms. Another source of white “sand” is the refuse created when fishes eat dead coral. The fishes cannot digest it and “poop” it back out. One parrotfish can create more than 800 pounds of “sand” per year!

Green sand beach on the Big Island
Papakolea Beach, located in a bay southwest of the Mauna Loa volcano, is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The green coloring comes from the green crystals (olivine) that formed when magma from the volcano cooled. Because these green crystals are more dense than normal volcanic ash sediments, they accumulate on the beach, rather than being swept out to sea. If you examine the sand at Papakolea Beach closely, you’ll see the green crystal sand mixed in among black lava sand and white coral sand.

What are your favorite beaches on Maui? Tell us in the comments below, or hit us up on Twitter @HIOceanProject and Instagram @hawaiioceanproject and tell us where you love to go.