Here’s the best snorkeling in Maui places and beaches to explore around the island
Maui not only has some of the best beaches to enjoy a beach day but also some of the best snorkeling in Maui places worth visiting for visitors to explore some of these cool venues. I’ve asked a few of my travel writers and bloggers to share their favorite Maui snorkeling spots and why they love these places below so that you might be inspired to also visit and check out these fabulous snorkeling venues.
Many of these Maui snorkeling spots and beaches are well known and a few are more local areas to explore. Being outdoors and have an active snorkeling experience along Maui’s pristine ocean areas and snorkeling spots in Maui is truly “Maui No Ka Oi”, meaning Maui is the best.
Snorkeling in Maui on the North Coast areas
There’s a lot of cool snorkeling places to enjoy on the North shore to western side of the island. If you are looking to base yourself out in this area, check out the hotel accommodations for the following areas below:
Honolua Bay is a fantastic place for snorkeling in Maui. Located on the northwest corner of the island, Honolua Bay is set in a cove that helps protect it from strong winds. This means the water is usually calmer than on nearby beaches, making swimming easier and the waters clearer.
There is a large variety of colorful fish here as well as several large coral reefs to explore. You’ll almost always see green sea turtles as well and it’s not unusual to see dolphins nearby. To get the best view of the underwater wildlife, swim further out from shore along the sides of the cove and explore the coral in those areas.
Honolua Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District, which means you’re not allowed to take any natural resources from the beach. (That even includes rocks.) Since fishing isn’t allowed, the bay is teeming with fish, making it a fantastic spot to snorkel Maui venues like Honolua.
The beach itself is quite rocky and can be challenging to get in the water. This is also a popular location for snorkeling tours and you’ll often see catamarans in the bay. Booking a snorkeling tour is a good choice if you’d rather avoid entering the water from the rocky beach.
Getting to the beach itself is about a five-minute walk through a beautiful forest. There’s not much parking at the trailhead and there are no facilities on the beach, so you’ll want to plan accordingly. There are also no lifeguards at this beach, yet snorkeling at Honolua Bay remains one of the best things to do in Maui.
by Karee, Our Woven Journey
Snorkeling in Maui on the West side of the island
If you are looking to snorkel Maui on the west side of the island, there’s a lot of cool snorkeling places to explore around the west coastal areas for snorkeling fun. If you are looking to base yourself out in this area, check out the hotel accommodations for the following areas below:
Black Rock Beach
One of the best snorkeling beaches in Maui is around Black Rock Beach at Maui’s popular resort town of Ka’anapali, Located just north of Lahaina on the Valley Isle’s west coast, is known for the many beachfront resorts and condos lining the pleasant boardwalk. The powdery golden sand of Ka’anapali beach makes it one of Hawaii’s most acclaimed beaches. About halfway this stretch of sand is one of Maui’s sacred spots called Pu’u Keka’a or Black Rock. This promontory was once the place where the souls of the dead vaulted into the spirit world but also the spot from where Chief Kahekili, the island’s last ruler, demonstrated his cliff-diving skills. A daily ceremony commemorates these cultural events.
The clear waters around this rocky peninsula make this landmark one of Maui’s most popular snorkeling spots. It’s publicly accessible and there’s parking close by. Despite the fact that the waters around Black Rock are frequented by less experienced swimmers and that drownings do occur here from time to time, there are no lifeguards at this part of the beach. The only lifeguard tower at Ka’anapali beach is located at the southern tip known as Hanakao’o (or Canoe) Beach Park. So, know your limits and don’t venture out into deep water.
There’s plenty of marine life to be found near the sides of Black Rock so there’s no need to swim around the rock where the current can be strong. Some of the sea creatures you may encounter are honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), cornet fish, butterfly fish, parrot fish, sergeant and the humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Hawaiian triggerfish). The snorkeling site is accessible right off the beach and there’s a sandy bottom all along the rock. Clarity tends to be optimal at Black Rock. It’s recommended to arrive in the morning when there are less swimmers and cliff-jumpers on site.
Sarah with CosmopoliClan
Check out these well reviewed hotels and resorts in the Kaanapali area
Another popular snorkeling beach in Maui is at Kapalua Bay. Located in the Napili area on the west side, Kapalua Bay has a nice sandy stretch of beach with amenities to include toilets, showers and parking. The snorkeling is ideal at Kapalua on the north end side by the rocks where marine life and tropical fish is teaming with activity. Make sure you snorkel with a buddy since there are no lifeguard stations on the beach area.
Kahekili Beach Park or Airport Beach
Mostly a local favorite snorkeling beach in Maui is Kahekili Beach Park. Kahekili Beach park has ample parking at this family friendly beach park with a nice large grassy field, amenities to include parking, gazebos and restrooms. The reef is easily accessed from the beach area and is perfect for families and beginning snorkelers and swimmers. Located just north of Black Rock Beach, you’ll find this beach park is a very popular local and family style beach to enjoy.
Olowalu Beach park
A fantastic beginner beach park in Maui to spend some time in is Olowalu Beach Park. One the west side leading to Lahaina, Olowalu is known as “Coral Gardens” and is a great beginner snorkeling spot because of the calm waters, shallow water and easy entry to the beach area and reef. Further out in the deeper part, you can snorkel to enjoy more tropical fish and corals further down the reef areas of Olowalu.
One of the most popular beach parks on Maui’s west side is at Napili Bay. Located between Kahana and Kapalua is Napili beach in a quiet community of vacation rentals and residential homes but far from the crowded beach scene. With a beautiful beach area and reef area that is diverse and fun to explore. Recommended time to visit here is in the afternoon to evening with a perfect sunset view to enjoy on the west side of town. Late afternoon to early morning is when you’ll find a lot of the green honu coming into to rest on the beach and rocky areas of the bay. Most of the snorkeling action can be found of either edge of the beach where coral and food are attractive to the local tropical fish that congregate in these areas for shelter.
Check out these well reviewed hotels and resorts in the Napili area
Snorkeling in Maui on the South side
There’s a lot of cool snorkeling places to enjoy on the South side of the island. If you are looking to base yourself out in this area, check out the hotel accommodations for the following areas below
Top reviewed hotels and resorts in Wailea
Top reviewed hotels and boutique inns in Kihei
One of the best Hawaii snorkel spots is just off the island of Maui at Molokini Crater. This location, which is between 45 minutes to an hour boat ride from Maui (depending on the port your charter departs from) is one of the best things to do on Maui. It can only be reached by boat, but it is well worth every moment.
With its clear blue waters and vibrant reef, this mostly sunken volcanic crater is home to some of Hawaii’s most beautiful sea life. This spot is very popular for snorkelers and scuba divers for a reason. It looks like an aquarium from the moment you put your head in the water.
Molokini Crater includes a protected reef where you will find some of Hawaii’s most beloved locals, including the humuhumunukunukuapua’a fish, a variety of tropical fish, barracuda, eels, sea turtles, and more. You will definitely want to go on a charter for this experience because there is a current in the area, so it is best to go with guides who know what they are doing. They will also be able to educate you on all of the sea life – including some species indigenous to Hawaii – you will see on your snorkeling adventure.
One of our favorites – and one of the best things to do on Maui with kids – is an eco-snorkeling adventure to Molokini Crater with the Pacific Whale Foundation. It departs from Ma’alaea Harbor, near the Maui Ocean Center.
Not only do they give you a wonderful experience including food, snorkel equipment, noodles, and life vests, but the guides also serve as lifeguards in the water. Both to and from the crater, the guides provide educational talks to kids about the creatures they will see, conservation, and how they can be good stewards of the world’s oceans.
Hawaiians have great respect for the Kai (Hawaiian word for ocean), and getting to see Hawaii’s treasured world under the sea is a must-do activity. Molokini Crater is without a doubt one of the best Hawaii snorkel spots to visit on your next trip to Maui.
By Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids
If you’re looking for one of the best snorkeling tours of Maui and Molokini, check out this fun snorkeling tour here for more information and their itinerary of events.
Maluaka Beach or Turtle Beach
One of the most popular snorkeling beaches in Maui that is also known for the honu that frequent the area is Maluaka Beach.. Located south of Wailea at the end of Makena road is Maluaka beach better known as Turtle beach for all the green sea turtles or honu that congregate and rest in the area. The snorkeling is good just off the beach area on the reef that is teeming with hundreds of tropical fish, coral and under water tunnels that are fun to explore.
Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve
Past Wailea and Makena beach, Ahihi-Kinau is a natural reserve area managed by the state and is protected from boating and fishing that bears a very healthy fish and reef population along with other marine life to include honu, monk seals, dolphins and a host of parrot fish, trigger and butterfish Moorish Idol and surgeon fish along with so many other colorful tropical fish that is thriving in the area. You have to pay a $5 entry fee for non-residents which helps with future preservation of the area.
Located between Kihei and Wailea, Keawakapu Beach (called the “Hidden Cove”) has free public parking across the street and the beach has shelter with trees located on the .7 mile beach. Amenities on the beach includes showering facilities but no bathroom or lifeguard stations on the beach area. Easy surf and easy to get into the water and a few rocks and outcropping to explore for for snorkeling. You’ll find this beach also great for marine life, seeing humpback whales and green sea turtles (honu) resting on the beach areas.
Mokapu Beach and Ulua Beach
One of the coolest beaches to snorkel in South Maui is Mokapu Beach. Located in the south side at Wailea-Makena area, Mokapu is a beautiful 1/4 mile sandy beach that fronts the Andaz resort and a great swimming and snorkeling spot. The rocky outcrops around the beach areas make it a perfect spot to find a variety of tropical fish and marine life. The parking lot is shared with Ulua Beach which is also a popular swimming and snorkeling area and not as crowded as the other south shore beaches.
La Perouse Bay
Just south of Ahihi-Kinau is La Perouse Bay at the end of the road and similar in terrain to Ahihi-Kinau but it is not a natural reserve area. The area is filled with jagged lava rock areas with corals and tropical fish are sheltered in the deeper waters. The area is exposed with no shelter or amenities to make sure that you come adequately prepared for snorkeling fun in the area. La Perouse is also one of the most scenic places to watch a gorgeous sunset in South Maui area.
Kamaole Beaches I, II and III
Some of the best snorkeling beaches in Maui are located on the south side of the island at the Kamaole beaches. All the Kamaole Beaches are all located along South Kihei Road in Kihei. You will find that each beach is typically separated by rocky outcroppings between each beach that are ideal snorkeling spots. Kamaole Beach 1 has its own parking lot area located at the center right of the beach. Also, you’ll find showers, picnic tables BBQ areas, and a restroom along with lifeguard stations at the beach areas. There are grassy areas with trees for shade to relax under.
Kamaole ll has There’s a restroom, on-street parking, two water fountains, a shower, and ADA-accessible ramps from the beach park to the beach.
Kamaole lll has more rocky areas which are perfect for snorkeling in but the beach is the smallest of the three beaches. This beach has a large grassy area also good for lounging or picnicking. If you are snorkeling at this beach, be very careful of waves that can surge above and around the rocks making snorkeling challenging so always keep alert to the changing conditions.
Top reviewed hotels and boutique inns in Kihei
Other details and tips to snorkeling in Maui
Many of the Maui beach parks parking lots fill up quickly so go early to secure a spot or take public transportation or Uber to get to your snorkeling destination.
Surf and wind on the south and Western side beaches
Do to being more sheltered from rough surf, protection from surrounding islands and being on the leeward side, beach areas in Makena, Wailea and Kaanapali area are usually calmer places and also shallower beach parks and snorkeling spots to go to. But typically the winds and surf do pick up later in the afternoon on the western and southern side of the islands.
Hang out where the fish need shelter
Typically, tropical fish hang out in the reefs or rocky areas where they have shelter and food supply. Just be mindful of currents and incoming waves around the reefs and rocks in the shallow areas or places that can be dangerous.
Always snorkel with a buddy
Not all of these areas have life guards so always go snorkeling with someone that you can keep an eye out for each other
The reef is alive and fragile so don’t walk on it even if it looks like rocks or green coral, there are still thousands of organisms that thrive in the coral environment include the fish that lives and eats from the coral reefs.
Use Reef Safe Sunscreen
Hawaii law passed a law in January 2021 that bans outlets in the state or use of sunscreen that includes oxybenzone and octinoxate which are both harmful chemicals that are bad for coral and marine ecosystems. These are mandated in using these reef safe sunscreen for snorkeling in Maui, Hawaii.
Check out these other posts on visiting Maui below
Conclusion to best snorkeling in Maui, Hawaii
Which of these fun snorkeling spots in Maui will you do first? Share it in the comments below.
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