Best Snorkeling in Maui: Can’t Miss Snorkeling Spots
You’ve never known snorkeling until you’ve been to Maui. From the world-famous lava rock at the northern end of Kaanapali Beach to Molokini’s little islet, there are no words to describe how breathtaking these snorkeling sites are.
Being able to experience these beautiful, crystal-clear, blue waters is reason enough to hop on the next flight to Maui, check into any of the exquisite beach-facing resorts that dot the Valley Isle, throw on your snorkeling gear, and hit the ocean reefs.
Don’t take our word for it; just ask the millions of readers of Travel & Leisure magazine who’ve voted Maui as the “World’s Best Island” for several years in a row. This dreamy tropical destination is the second largest of the eight main Hawaiian Islands.
That being said, we’ve put together a list of the top spots for the best snorkeling in Maui. It’s one of those places you need to see at least once in your life. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Best Snorkeling in Maui –Turtle Town
Turtle Town is the long stretch of coastline between Black Sand Beach in Makena and Nahuna Point. Although people call it “Turtle Town,” it is actually quite a large area. Most of the time, it generally refers to Maluaka Beach. It is hands-down the best snorkeling destination in the entire Turtle Town area. If you ever visit the south shore of Maui, you’ll want to hit up this beach.
You’re likely wondering what it is about this particular location that makes it the best snorkeling in Maui. It has everything to do with the rich and vibrant marine life that thrives beneath the water surface. If you thought the clear blue water and the brilliant white sandy beach were breathtaking, you haven’t seen what lies below.
For starters, you’ll get to see the famous Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, and no, that’s not a made-up word. It happens to be the Hawaiian State Fish.
You’ll also see several other fish species that you likely have never heard of before, including the goatfish, hawkfish, trumpet fish, big eye scad, squirrelfish, cardinalfish, and chub. There’s also the soldierfish, wrasse, tang, surgeonfish, damselfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, needlefish… the list goes on. You’ll see a wide variety of crustaceans and octopi, as well.
Now, they wouldn’t call it Turtle Town if it didn’t have any turtles, right? That would be an accurate assumption. However, to see them, you would have to head south, down the beach, until you get to the point where the coral reef begins. That’s where you’ll find them. This should be around the Makena South golf course’s 16th green.
You’ll find plenty of turtles in both shallow and deep water. The famous Hawaiian green sea turtles are brown, and you might mistake their shells for rocks when they’re lying still. Be sure to look out for them while you’re snorkeling. They are a sight to behold.
If you thought the ocean water in Turtle Town was clear, you’ll be blown away by what you’ll find at Molokini. This little island is surrounded by the most crystal-clear water in all of Hawaii. It is a snorkeling paradise located about three miles off the southwest coast of Maui. It is considered one of the top diving and snorkeling locations in the region.
The island – which is technically an ancient volcano – is set on the Alalakeiki Channel between the islands of Kahoolawe and Maui. The northern part of the island’s rim has eroded over centuries, allowing the ocean water to flood what used to be the crater. This is what is responsible for giving the island its unique crescent shape.
Molokini is both a State Bird Sanctuary and a Marine Life Conservation District, meaning you can’t fish there. This helps to preserve the vibrant marine life that you’ll enjoy viewing as you snorkel. To access the island, you will need to take a tour boat.
On any given day, water visibility usually exceeds 100 feet below the surface level. Some people have reported visibility of more than 200 feet, which is unheard of anywhere else.
Molokini also happens to be one of the safest snorkeling spots in the world since the massive volcano walls protect the inner crater from the powerful ocean swells. It’s certainly a great and safe place for young kids to appreciate the splendor of the ocean floor. You’ll enjoy snorkeling near the shoreline, where the water is shallow. Since the sunlight reaches the ocean floor in this zone, there’s lots of coral for fish to call home.
If you would rather go scuba diving instead, the outer rim of the crater’s southern shore has been touted as one of the best wall dives in the world. It’s a 350-foot vertical drop underwater.
Some of the beautiful marine life you can expect to find here include emperor fish, reef sharks, perch, soldierfish, squirrelfish, Moorish idol, damselfish, parrotfish, butterflyfish, and of course, the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a.
Kapalua Bay Snorkeling
When you head to the northwest coast of Maui, you’ll find Kapalua Bay. There are two reefs at both ends of the bay, which are responsible for its unique C-shaped cove, making the perfect snorkeling location.
One of the features that make Kapalua Bay a top choice for many is the sheer amount of convenience it offers. The hotels are all within a couple of feet from the water, and the beach is never crowded.
The water at the central part of the bay may get slightly cloudy, especially if it’s windy since the ocean floor here is sandy. You’re better off walking to the rocky edge at the beach’s northern end. This particular spot offers some of the best snorkeling in Maui. There’s a lot less sand there, so the water visibility is much better.
Since the depth of the water along the northern rocky edge is less than 10 feet, you’ll be able to get a clear view of the reef, as well as the vibrant marine life that lives there. As you swim farther out, the water gets a lot clearer.
Some of the exotic fish species you can expect to see on your snorkeling adventures include the Moorish idol, wrasse, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, scorpionfish, hawkfish, porcupine fish, goatfish, damselfish, parrotfish, and lots more. This is one of those places that look like they’re straight off a page in a magazine.
Kaanapali Beach is on the western shore of Maui. It’s a three-mile-long, picturesque strip of white sand and has been dubbed one of the world’s top tropical beach destinations by several travel publications.
The most prominent snorkeling spot in Kaanapali is the famous Black Rock – a rocky peninsula surrounded by crystal-clear, blue waters. The seemingly endless stretch of white sand and the breathtaking ocean view makes this one of the most picture-perfect places on Valley Isle.
To be clear, the Black Rock section of Kaanapali Beach is where you want to go snorkeling. While the rest of the beach is certainly stunning, Black Rock is where the fish reside. The water there starts at about eight-feet deep and gradually descends to more than 25 feet.
You’ll be snorkeling mostly over the sand as you follow the ledge of the underwater lava rock. Visibility here is excellent even in the deeper portions of the Black Rock – a great option if you’re only just learning how to snorkel. Keep an eye out for the turtles that like to hang out along the ledge.
Some of the fish species you can expect to see while snorkeling here includes the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, mackerel, hawkfish, porcupine fish, goatfish, boxfish, tang, Moorish idol, damselfish, parrotfish, and lots more.
Ahihi Kinau Snorkeling
This is a Natural Reserve area located just past Makena on the southern coast of Maui. Since the area has been marked a Marine Life Conservation District, fishing of any kind is prohibited here. What makes Ahihi Kinau the best snorkeling in Maui is the fact the coastline is mainly made up of coral intermixed with lava rock.
Lava rock is a snorkeler’s dream since all the abrupt contours of the ocean floor form the perfect hiding spot for exotic marine life. The best part is – you don’t have to swim too far out to find the fish. Most of this vibrant aquatic life has made a home in the shallow zones.
The water at Ahihi Kinau is clearest in the morning before the windy conditions in the afternoon get the better of it. Some of the aquatic life you can expect to see while you’re out snorkeling include the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, turtles, needlefish, hawkfish, jacks, goatfish, chub, squirrelfish, surgeonfish, and lots more.
All in all, if you’re crazy about marine life, this is where you want to be.
Honolua Bay Snorkeling
Last but certainly not least on our top locations for the best snorkeling in Maui is Honolua Bay. We must say, the sheer diversity of the aquatic life here is unmatched. The area is also a Marine Life Conservation District, which means all forms of fishing are prohibited here.
Honolua Bay is located on the northwest end of Maui and is surrounded by high rocky cliffs on both ends. These act as windbreakers, effectively keeping the water calm and clear.
There’s no surf break in all of Hawaii that comes as close to perfect as the wave here. Whether or not you’re a surfer, it’s something you’ll want to see.
As far as snorkeling goes, you’ll want to walk (carefully) along the rocks on the northern side of the shore, as opposed to jumping in at the sandy center of the bay. That’s where you’ll find all the fish. The farther away you are from the sand, the better the visibility will be.
Some of the fish you can expect to find here are the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, mullet, jacks, hawkfish, peacock bass, goatfish, soldierfish, cardinalfish, butterflyfish, and lots more. Look out for turtles too!
Dream Destinations for a Lifetime of Memories
All in all, if a magical snorkeling experience is what you’re after, Maui is where you want to be. Make these exotic getaways top on your list when planning your next vacation spot. The memories you’ll make there will last a lifetime.
Don’t forget to bring your underwater scooter with you. That way, you can get around as the dolphins do.