(UPDATED MAY 4TH, 2021)
Maui holds some of the world’s best beaches. These beaches are a place for numerous fun activities, and one of the most popular is to explore what is going on underneath the water. Of course, some spots are better than others when it comes to snorkeling. Here’s our list of the best snorkeling locations on the island.
Snorkel by Boat:
Some of the best snorkel locations on, or, around Maui, are only accessible by boat. Here are two favorite snorkel destinations.
The island of Lanai offers up a gorgeous, uncrowded snorkeling experience. It’s not unusual to see spinner dolphins and turtles on this excursion. In fact, the boat ride out, on our 70′ catamaran yacht, is a sightseeing adventure on its own. During whale season, you’ll be in perfect position to view the humpbacks. Book a Lanai Snorkel and Dolphin Tour today.
Molokini is a volcanic caldera once offered some of the clearest water in the world and it’s still a nice destination. The only issue with Molokini is overcrowding. But because the water is so deep, neither wind nor wave conditions will spoil the visibility. Molokini is located two miles off of the Maui coast, so a boat is the best option to get there. We no longer go to Molokini, but if you’re heading out there, we recommend you catch a tour that launches from Kihei. It’s a short boat ride with little wind or waves, whereas if you leave from Maalaea, you may experience rough water.
Snorkel from the Beach:
Keep in mind, when snorkeling from the shore, the chances of having a lifeguard watching you are slim to none. Also, there are many spots that can be very dangerous to snorkel at during the wrong tides, currents or swell activity. We recommend joining us on our boats for an amazing, safe snorkeling experience.
Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve (Makena)
You’ll be snorkeling amongst some impressive, multi-colored coral formations if you come to this spot. The coral seems to sprout out of jagged volcanic rocks. Numerous varieties of colorful fish feed on these coral beds. Steer clear of the rocks, though, as they are very sharp. While there are many types of colorful fish, you probably won’t see too many turtles. For turtles, scroll down this list to the neighboring Turtle Beach. But you will often see octopus, eels, and even the occasional manta ray. We recommend going in the early morning before the wind picks up and the water gets cloudy. This is a nice spot for beginning snorkelers, though getting in the water can be tricky. Head down to the far side of the beach and enter where you don’t see large rocks in the water. If you enter on the near side of the beach (just off the path) the rocks are very slippery and people are known to fall and get injured.
Black Rock Beach/Ka’anapali Beach (Ka’anapali)
Black Rock Beach is, technically, on the north end of Ka’anapali Beach, so we’ll tie them together. One interesting thing about snorkeling here is that there’s no reef. Typically when snorkeling, you’ll be on the lookout for reefs, because that’s where a majority of fish like to feed. That said, alongside the Black Rock wall, there are corals that attract fish. The best snorkeling is actually around the point, but you should only attempt that if you’re a strong swimmer, as the water can get extremely rough. There are better places to snorkel than Black Rock, but if you’re staying at a resort on Ka’anapali Beach, you could do worse than a quick snorkel at Black Rock.
Ulua/Mokapu Beaches (Wailea)
A favorite spot to snorkel with easy beach access is off of the reef fingering out between Ulua and Mokapu Beaches in front of the Andaz Resort. Here you’ll find a shallow reef along sand bottom on both sides. Bright red pencil urchin, schools of small fish and turtles await you! If you go further out, there’s a 2nd and 3rd reef with a cleaning station. A “Cleaning Station” is where fish eat the algae off the shells of green sea turtles. You can often see dozens of turtles here, lounging! Though they’re deeper than most snorkelers will go, you can see them pretty clearly from the surface. You’ll also likely see scuba divers below, as many scuba schools come here to teach their students.
Honolua Bay (just past Kapalua)
Surrounded by rocky cliffs that block the wind, Honolua Bay is a snorkeler’s paradise. You’ll find plenty of coral, hence most of the fish, on both the far left and far right sides of the bay. Don’t be disappointed by the murky water when you first enter. As you get further from shore, the water becomes crystal clear. Turtles are in abundance, so chances are pretty good you’ll see a few. There’s really no beach to lay out on, but the snorkeling is spectacular. If there are waves breaking, go somewhere else. This is one of those spots that can be dangerous with swell.
RELATED ARTICLE: Fish Guide for Snorkeling Maui
Kamaole Beaches (Kihei)
The Kamaole beaches that run along Kihei are some of the most family-friendly beaches on Maui. All three have nice restrooms, showers, picnic areas, and lifeguards. While not known for it, there is actually decent snorkeling to be had at all of the Kamaole beaches, if you just head for the rocks that separate each of them. If you want to snorkel Kam I, head to the far north area and you’ll find a rock outcropping. Here you’ll see plenty of fish varieties and the occasional turtle. Kam III, though, is our favorite of the three beaches. The rocks that separate Kam III from Kam II are an excellent place to snorkel. Be careful not to get too close to the rocks, but in these waters, you’ll see an abundance of fish and turtles. It tends to get windy in the afternoon, which can make navigating the waters tough, so we recommend early morning swims here.
Kapalua Bay (Kapalua)
This is another beach that is great for families and beginning snorkelers. It’s blocked on both ends by reefs, keeping the water in the bay calm. The best snorkeling is on the far left and far right sides of the bay. But, we recommend you enter on the left (as you are looking at the water), as it’s a sandy entry. On the right side, you’ll be entering on rocks, which is fine, but it can be slippery and hard on sensitive feet. Like most beaches, you should try to snorkel Kapalua Bay in the morning, before the wind picks up. The other reason to go early is that Kapalua Bay is popular. Very popular. The parking lot is likely to fill by mid-morning.
Maluaka Beach, AKA Turtle Town (Makena)
You’ll never guess what the main attraction of Turtle Town is! Located south of Wailea, in Makena, Maluaka Beach is definitely one of our favorite snorkel locations on Maui. To find the turtles, head to the south end, where the beach becomes rocky. The reef starts here. Besides the turtles, both green and brown, you’ll see plenty of varieties of fish and possibly some eels. During whale season, this beach is also an excellent spot to see humpback whales. A shallow, sandy beach with plenty of shade opportunities, Maluaka is excellent for the entire family.
Mokuleia Bay, AKA Slaughterhouse Beach (Kapalua)
“Slaughterhouse Beach” got its lovely nickname from the one-time slaughterhouse that resided directly above the bay. The Slaughterhouse was torn down in the ’60s, but the name stuck. While Mokuleia Bay is part of the same nature reserve as Honolua Bay, it’s actually the more popular of the two because of its sandy beach. During the winter, the surf here can get intense and it’s advised that only the most experienced snorkelers attempt to enter. During the non-winter months, it’s OK for beginning snorkelers, but use your best judgment, as the water can get rough. If you go, we recommend early mornings. Once in the water, you may not see too many varieties of fish, but you’ll probably see the occasional turtle, octopus, or eel.
Napili Bay (Napili)
Napili Bay is a great beach for beginning snorkelers and families. The sandy beaches allow for easy entry into the water. The best snorkeling is along the far north and south ends of the bay. Don’t be disappointed if the water seems cloudy upon entry. In no time, you’ll be swimming in the clear waters for which it is known. Along with plenty of fish, you’ll probably see turtles. Another way to see turtles here is to simply wake up early, stroll along the beach, and look into the bay.
By the way, did you know that you can now save $10/person on our Maui Princess Dinner Cruise or a Snorkel Adventure to the Island of Lanai? Well you can! Just use the promo code VIP20 after clicking on this link: Hawaii Ocean Project Adventures.
Big thanks to the Maui Photographers that contributed the majority of photos on this post. Aloha and Mahalo!