Some of Maui’s most beautiful scenes are in the sea. Sure, the mountains are breathtaking and the waterfalls are amazing, but there’s something magical about seeing coral reefs teeming with marine life, almost like small cities underwater, with their own intricate systems. Hawai’i’s magnificent biodiversity shines under the ocean’s surface, and one of the best ways to witness it is by snorkeling.
Ready to slip into some fins? Wait, we have to decide where to go first! Start with this list of the absolute best places to snorkel in Maui:
1. Molokini Crater
The deep cobalt-blue water in the Molokini Crater sets the stage for an unforgettable snorkeling adventure three miles off the shores of Maui. The crater was once a bomb site but has since been restored, and now features colorful corals, fish, and other marine life.
Snorkeling here is one of the most popular activities on Maui; boats bring hundreds of people at a time. If that’s not your thing and you prefer a more intimate and laid-back experience, consider booking with Alii Nui, which has a maximum of 60 people per boat.
Other great options for snorkeling in Molokini Crater are:
- Molokini and Turtle Town Snorkel with Deli Lunch
- Afternoon Snorkel to Coral Gardens or Molokini Crater
- 5-Hour Snorkel with optional SNUBA in Molokini Crater
2. Turtle Town
Many snorkeling excursions to Molokini Crater offer a stop at Turtle Town, because it’s also offshore and the two places are close together. You can visit Turtle Town on its own, however.
This epic snorkeling destination gets its name from the abundance of green sea turtles that you’ll find there. You also might be able to spot parrotfish, Hawaiian state fish, yellow tang, Achilles tang, sergeant majors, and saddleback wrasse swimming around the vibrant corals. Make sure to give the animals plenty of space in their habitat!
One awesome way to experience snorkeling at Turtle Town is to kayak there from the shore, which you can do on this Turtle Town kayak and snorkel tour.
3. Napili Bay
Napili Bay is capped on both ends by rocky shores, with a soft sand beach in the middle. On any given day, you’ll see plenty of people enjoying the mild waves: bodysurfing, swimming, paddleboarding, and of course snorkeling. The best spot to snorkel here is on the left side of the bay (when facing the sea), where you’ll find a small reef under the surface.
This is another snorkeling spot that is only recommended if the conditions are right. When the waves are too strong, visibility is not ideal and it can be dangerous. However, the water here is generally calm and shallow, and you’ll be able to see plenty of colorful fish up close.
4. Wailea Beach
If you’re a strong swimming and don’t mind spending some time looking for marine life, Wailea Beach is a great place to snorkel. As it is also quite popular, it has plenty of places to rent snorkeling gear.
There’s little visibility on the shore, so you’ll have to venture out to the right or left of the beach, following the coral reef, to find fish, turtles, and other sea life. There might also be charter boats bringing people to see turtles, so follow those for a good shot at also seeing them.
If you want to try something different, you can try a guided sea scooter tour!
5. Honolua Bay
You’ll reach the gorgeous Honolua Bay after walking along a peaceful path through the forest. Once you get there, you’ll notice that this isn’t the typical sandy Hawaiian beach you had in mind, given its smooth rocks and absence of sand.
On either side of the bay there are coral reefs that are a dream to check out by snorkeling. Here you’ll be able to see butterflyfish, peacock groupers, yellow tang, and potentially some octopus and manta rays.
Keep in mind, though, that Honolua Bay is only safe to snorkel when the tide is low and the water is calm. Check the snorkeling conditions before you go, and don’t swim out to the reef if the waves are too rough. After all, you will have to swim out from the shore to get to either of the reefs.
If you don’t want to venture out to the reef by swimming there, you can also go by boat or on a tour, like this Honolua Bay snorkel and sail tour.
6. Kapalua Bay
The lava rock formations on either end of Kapalua Bay are thriving with marine life, making this an excellent snorkeling spot. If you go early in the morning, you might be able to see some sea turtles on the left side of the cove. However, the far end of the right side has the best reef, and you’ll see more fish there. Look out for needlefish, parrotfish, and butterflyfish, among many others.
Consider this tour of West Maui that includes snorkeling at Kapalua Bay and hiking nearby.
7. Ho’okipa Beach
If you decide to drive the Road to Hana, you’ll find Ho’okipa Beach at mile marker 9. This is a peaceful place to enjoy an afternoon relaxing on the sand, but it’s also a stellar snorkeling location. Ho’okipa is known for having an abundance of Hawaiian green sea turtles, which like to spend time near the shore.
Since the waves can get pretty big here, make sure to be aware of the conditions before you head out to snorkel. It’s a great spot on a calm day, but it can be dangerous if the water is rough.
8. Hanakao’o (Canoe Beach)
On the west side of Maui lies Hanakao’o Beach, or Canoe Beach as locals call it. You’ll see lots of outrigger canoes on the shore, which is how it got its nickname. It’s a great place to swim, hang out on the shore, and of course snorkel. To the left of the beach is where sea turtles are spotted most frequently, but almost anywhere you swim out to will have abundant fish and plant life to see.
9. Ka’anapali Beach
This is one of the most popular snorkeling spots on Maui, and you’ll see why when you go. The coral reef is near Black Rock, where you can actually hear whales singing underwater during humpback whale season because of the lava formations that allow the sound to bounce off.
At the reef, you’ll likely run into huge schools of goatfish and other colorful fish. There’s even a chance you’ll see blacktip reef sharks (who are harmless), spotted eagle rays, or green sea turtles. There are also spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins that frequent the area.
A great option for snorkeling at Ka’anapali Beach is this half-day snorkel adventure.
10. Mokuleia Bay
This breathtaking bay is an awesome place to snorkel most of the year. Avoid doing so in the winter, as the sea conditions can be too choppy to be able to swim safely. Considering that you’ll have to swim out about 30-40 feet before you see anything, rough waves are less than ideal.
The best place in Mokuleia Bay to spot marine life is the right side of the bay. There you have the chance to see sea turtles, rays, parrotfish, needlefish, and more.
The beach at Mokuleia Bay is a bit more rugged than other touristy spots on Maui, which can be a huge plus if you want to snorkel somewhere that is more secluded.
Travel Responsibly in Hawai’i
When in Hawai’i, there are special considerations to keep in mind, including leave-no-trace principles that should be applied every time you enjoy the great outdoors:
- Never touch, approach, or chase wildlife, This includes turtles and dolphins.
- Reduce or eliminate your reliance on plastic, as Hawai’i has stopped recycling it.
- Only wear reef-safe sunscreen. Hawai’i’s reefs have been significantly damaged due to sunscreen.
- Always respect signage asking you to keep away from cultural sites, even if other people are disrespecting it.
- Keep in mind that you are a guest, and follow all local health guidelines and rules.
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While tourism is not ideal for many destinations, it’s also a reality that it isn’t going anywhere. We totally agree that it is important that tourism to Hawai’i be responsible, so we’ve always been here to provide info that helps people experience it as responsibly as possible. People will always be looking for this kind of information, so we aim to be the first resource they will see, one that encourages them to enjoy Hawai’i ethically.
If snorkeling is high on your list of things to do in Hawai’i, consider also checking out the Big Island’s snorkeling spots as well.
What are you most excited to see under the sea in Maui?