Hawaii has some of the most pristine oceans and amazing aquatic wildlife in the world. Here’s where to find the best snorkeling in Maui when you visit.
Maui is known as the island of adventure in the Hawaii archipelago, an island filled with tons to see and do. Horseback riding, diving, surfing, hiking, and snorkeling are all must-dos when you visit.
Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities on Maui, with good reason, as plenty of oceanic hotspots attract beginners and experienced snorkelers alike. Coral reefs, sea caves, turtle habitats, and thousands of types of tropical fish line the beach of Maui.
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Recommended Spots For The Best Snorkeling in Maui
Maui has many places to snorkel. Still, some are better than others, from beginner-friendly locations that are easy from start to finish to challenging bluffs and rocky caves only experienced snorkelers should attempt.
Molokini Crater is a world-famous snorkeling spot known for its marine life, visibility, and shelter from the waves. It’s technically not a part of Maui, but most tours set off from this island to visit the crater.
About two and a half miles from Maui, Molokini is a crescent-shaped crater formed during the Cenozoic era between Maui and Kahoolawe. Its walls form a natural barrier from the sea waves, and about half a million people visit each year. It’s a great spot for beginner snorkelers and experienced ocean adventurers alike.
Before you go, learn about the geologic history of the crater so you’ll better understand its rock formations. One side of this crater was also used for WW2 target practice, so you’ll be able to see blast marks in the rock!
The best way to get to the crater is by an organized tour unless you have your boat and someone to operate it while you’re snorkeling.
Turtle Town is a bit of a controversial name, and it typically refers to whichever snorkeling spot has seen the most Hawaiian green sea turtles in recent days! However, Maluaka Beach is most commonly referred to with this name.
Maluaka Beach is a few miles south of Wailea, and the best snorkeling is at the lava-rock coast that juts out at the end of the beach. It’s a popular spot for sea turtles to hang out and easy to snorkel.
You can also check out some other snorkeling spots on the list like Ulua/Mokapu Beach or Kahekili Beach Park for easy snorkeling and the chance to spot these amazing sea turtles.
Located along the cliffs of Pali, Coral Gardens is not easy to get to. A snorkeling tour or charter boat is the best way to reach these colorful and calm waters. However, once you get there, you’ll find it’s well worth the trip.
Coral Gardens has three important things: tons of coral, gentle waves, and abundant marine life. It’s an incredibly private snorkeling and diving spot.
Thanks to the difficulty of access to get there, those who go out of their way to reach Coral Gardens will have the entire area to themselves. It’s a snorkeler’s dream come true.
Sea turtles are difficult to predict, but they’re known to frequent this spot. Sometimes, they’re at Coral Gardens, then the next, they’re at Molokini Crater, and the day after Kahekili. Coral Gardens also sometimes claims the title of “Turtle Town”, but it all depends on where the sea turtles are on any given day.
If you’re a surf fan, you’ve heard of Honolua Bay. It’s a worldwide surf destination that hosts tons of surf competitions. At least in the winter. The bay has gentle waves perfect for swimming or snorkeling in the spring, summer, and fall.
Honolua Bay is the perfect place to see marine life, but the best snorkeling spots are at the northern point of the bay, along the coast. You’ll have to do some driving and then some hiking to reach them, or you can go by boat which is far easier.
Several companies offer snorkel tours to the bay, and it’s worth spending the extra money. Honolua’s diverse marine life is an unforgettable experience, plus you’ll get to see one of the best surf spots in the world.
Kapalua Bay is one of the best places for snorkelers of all skill levels to explore. It offers protection at both ends of the beach and abundant marine life and coral for snorkelers to explore.
Stick to the beach’s northern end for better visibility, and if you want to snorkel more, check out the nearby Napili Bay. If you’re more experienced and want a more challenging coastline, take a look at Honokeana Bay which has more marine life but a rocky coastline.
The charm in Kapalua lies in its variety of challenges for snorkelers of all levels, its clear water, and lovely reefs and marine life. It’s also a popular stop for sea turtles and monk seals (remember to keep your distance), so you should have plenty to see on your snorkeling expedition.
Kahekili Beach Park
If you had to describe snorkeling in Kahekili Beach Park in one word, it would be “easy.” The park has plenty of parking, a snorkel store that rents equipment, plenty of access, and gentle surf.
The park is popular with families, divers, beginner snorkelers, and swimmers for its gorgeous water and easy tides. It’s the perfect place to start snorkeling and learn the ropes, with plenty of reefs and marine life to discover.
It was once known as the Airport beach as it used to be the only place you could land planes on Maui, but now it’s just a great beach to relax and enjoy the waves. Visibility near the shore is poor, but it gets better once you swim out. Visit in the morning as the wind tends to pick up in the afternoon.
La Perouse Bay
La Perouse Bay lies on the edge of Ahini Kinau Natural Reserve Area, one of the southernmost points of Maui. Miles and miles of lava fields surround the area, and there are a ton of hiking trails in the area.
The bay is as rocky as the surrounding landscape, the shoreline is dotted with tidal pools and sea caves, and it is the place to be if you’re an experienced snorkeler.
The unforgiving coastline rewards those who brave it with an incredible variety of marine life and gorgeous coves, including a pod of dolphins that often swim nearby.
It’s a snorkeling experience unlike any other, elevated by the harsh environment. The bay was formed from the 1790 Haleakala eruption, and the bay itself has poor visibility, but the coves that dot the bay are very popular snorkeling spots.
Black Rock Beach
Black Rock is a more accessible snorkeling destination but no less fascinating. It’s easy to access, and the large black rock that juts out from the water provides a startling contrast to the colorful fish in the surrounding water.
The Black Rock sits just off the northern shore of Kaanapali Beach, a small peninsula consisting of black rocks. You should avoid getting too close to the coast of Black Rock. Instead, follow along the lava-rock edge under the water to find a small cove with incredible marine life for you to enjoy.
Stick around for the sunset ceremony, where a man goes out onto the peninsula and lights a torch, then dives into the water, emulating what King Kahekili once did.
The craggy coast and rougher surf are not for beginner snorkelers, but those with more experience snorkeling will find a hidden gem.
Marine life includes a ton of fish, a thriving sea turtle population, majestic rocks, and expansive coral reefs. It’s difficult and secluded, and you can enjoy the numerous coves and sea caves without much competition.
This spot is also famous for divers, as there are many underwater caves. Snorkeling tours often stop on the outer reefs if you want some easier conditions.
Ulua and Mokapu are two connected beaches that straddle a rocky reef filled with coral, fish, and other marine life. It’s a famous scuba school spot, but the ample viewing opportunities, easy access, and gentle waves make it a great snorkeling destination for beginners and pros alike.
These two beaches are also known for sea turtle spotting, and there’s a turtle cleaning station about 30 ft below the water, and when visibility is high, you can even see it from the surface. It’s a little ways north of Wailea Beach and is one of the best places to get started snorkeling or diving.
Ready To Discover The Best Snorkeling In Maui?
Maui is known as the island of adventure, with good reason. It has everything from off-road to luxurious shopping malls, and the island is ringed with warm ocean water filled with colorful fish and unique marine life.
Snorkeling is one of the best ways to enjoy the abundance of nature surrounding Maui, leading to some truly unforgettable experiences. Maui has some of the best snorkeling in the world, with famous spots like the Molokini Crater, the ever-elusive Turtle Town, and the private Coral Gardens.
With so many beginner-friendly areas and so much wildlife to see, there’s no reason not to try snorkeling on Maui. Sea turtles, dolphins, morays, and anemones are all around the island. You just have to look in the right spots.