With 120 miles (193 km) of coastline, Maui is the second-largest island in Hawaii. It’s one of the most popular islands in the archipelago too, particularly with those keen to explore the region’s rich marine life. It’s one of the best places to go snorkelling in Hawaii, with around 30 world-class spots dotted along the coastline. The best snorkel spots sit on the west coast of the island, which is more sheltered from the winds and swells. With so many to choose from, we’ve cherry-picked the seven best places for snorkeling in Maui.
The Best Places for Snorkeling in Maui
1. Kapalua Bay
Kapalua Bay is teeming with wildlife, and you don’t have to travel far to get up close to it. Situated high up on the west coast, bookended by two coral reefs, the bay is sheltered most of the time, which makes for perfect snorkeling conditions. You can snorkel around the whole 200-metre wide bay, but the best bits are near the coral areas at either end.
To the north, you’ll find the prettiest, best-preserved corals, as well as sailfin tangs, parrotfish, butterflyfish, wrasses and moray eels. On a calm day, you might bump into some green sea turtles too. It’s one of the easiest snorkel spots to access on the island and the beach is also kitted out with restrooms, restaurants and snorkel rental shops.
2. Turtle Town
As the name implies, Turtle Town is famous for its high population of Hawaiian green sea turtles – and Maluaka Beach is the best place to spot them. To reach it, you’ll either need to swim out around 150 metres (492-feet) or take a half-day boat trip to the best turtle spot. The water here is crystal clear, calm and bright blue, bursting with coral, sea urchins and colourful red pencil urchins, butterflyfish, wrasse and moorish idols. The turtles are the real show-stealer though.
3. Black Rock Beach
Black Rock Beach is renowned as one of the best patches for practising your cliff diving, but it’s also a great spot for snorkelling. It’s situated at the end of Kaanapali Beach, widely considered one of the best beaches in the world too. The water around Black Rock ranges from 8–25 feet (2.5–7.5 metres) deep, over sand and an underwater lava rock ledge. Visibility is best in the deep end. You’ll spot turtles hanging out at the ledge, as well as butterflyfish, parrotfish, hawk fish, crustaceans and snapper. Make sure you keep checking in on how far you’re swimming out though as rip currents are notorious.
4. Ulua and Mokapu
If you’re a first-timer or less confident in the water, Ulua and Mokapu Beaches are a great place to start. Located north of Wailea Beach and south of Keawakapu Beach, they offer easy beach access to a world-class snorkel spot. The two beaches are connected, separated only by a rocky reef formation that is brimming with coral and marine life. You can either have fun paddling around here or snorkel out to depths of about 30 feet (9 metres). Head out to the second reef to catch sight of the turtle cleaning station; on a good day, you can see the turtles from the surface. Ulua is a little more crowded and more popular with local scuba and snorkel schools.
5. Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay is a snorkelers paradise. It means ‘two harbours’ in Hawaiin, which refers to its former life as a demi-port. Today it’s part of the Marine Life Conservation District, recognized as an area of cultural, historical, and environmental significance. Fshing here is strictly prohibited – all the more for you to see. You’re guaranteed to see lots of vibrant fish, turtles and coral but you’ve got to work for it as the shallow waters are quite murky. Avoid this spot if it’s windy though, as the swells are huge.
Accessible only by boat, Molokini is a 23-acre crescent-shaped crater caused by an eruption 230,000 years ago. On a clear day, you can see an impressive 150-feet (45 metres) visibility. The humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Hawaii’s state fish, lives here, as well as moray eels, octopus and reef sharks. Experts say there are close to 250 species of fish and 38 species of coral inside the crater – enough to keep you occupied for days! For the best chance of spotting humpback whales, head here between December and April. It’s best to head there in the morning, as the winds (and crowds) pick up later in the day.
As well as being a marine preserve, Molokini is also a protected seabird sanctuary. The Wedge-Tailed Shearwater and the Bulwer’s Petrel both nest here.
7. Lan’ai Island
If you’re after peace and quiet, hotfoot to Lan’ai Island. You’ll need to take a ferry or snorkel boat here, but it’s well with the effort. People regularly report snorkeling with a huge community of spinner dolphins that live along the shores of the island. If you’re travelling during whale season, you’re in a prime position for spotting humpbacks too. Hulope Bay is the best place to get acquainted with the water if you’re a beginner, with a variety of colourful fish to see darting about close to the shore. Beaches in North Lanai like Polihua Beach and Kaiolohia (Shipwreck Beach) are best suited to more practised snorkelers since there are strong currents here.