Here in Hawaii there’s a saying; Maui no ka oi! It means Maui is the best, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to snorkeling. The island is known for some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii, with over 30 beaches and bays that are ideal spots for a wide range of skill levels. Beginners can easily learn to snorkel in shallow, calm waters, while experienced snorkelers enjoy drop-offs, swim-throughs, ledges, and overhangs. Visitors of all ages are stoked to experience the underwater world on Maui, and see the beautiful creatures that inhabit it.
Here are some of the Sail Maui crew’s favorite spots!
Top snorkel spots on Maui
1. Molokini Crater
Molokini is a partially-submerged volcanic crater situated about three miles off of Maui’s southwestern coast. It’s renowned for its pristine water. Because the crater is located off shore and is only accessible by boat, it has some of the clearest water in Hawaii with visibility up to 150 feet.
Molokini is also known for its abundance of aquatic life and seabirds. Over 250 species of endemic Hawaiian tropical fish frequent the crater, and numerous seabirds nest on the cliffs of the surrounding atoll. Molokini is a designated marine sanctuary as well as a State Seabird Sanctuary. You won’t find turtles here, but keep your eyes peeled for octopus, eels, manta rays, and even monk seals!
The crater is good for both beginners and advanced snorkelers, and it’s popular for morning snorkel tours before the wind fills in.
2. Turtle Town
Looking to see some sea turtles? Head to the aptly-named Turtle Town, home to a dense population of green Hawaiian sea turtles, who are able to thrive here thanks to protection from the government and the Endangered Species Act. This quaint island community is situated on the southern coastline of Maui, between Nahuna Point and Black Sand Beach.
When in Turtle Town, snorkelers often encounter turtles close-up: the turtles are curious and are known to gently approach visitors. There is more to Turtle Town than just turtles. A variety of other marine life call the area home, as well. The calm wind conditions, clear water, and gentle slope make for an excellent snorkeling experience.
3. Coral Gardens
There are gardens of coral indeed at this site, which is located in the middle of the West Maui shoreline. Here, snorkelers are treated to stunning coral reef formations, brightly-colored tropical fish, and, occasionally, green Hawaiian sea turtles.
The reef truly is spectacular: the water is very clear and you can see black lava fingers, coral sea caves and passageways, and colorful creatures peeking out of every nook and cranny.
Coral Garden’s inhabitants include angelfish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, triggerfish, octopuses, crabs, and moray eels, among others.
The site is great for beginning through advanced snorkelers, though not easily accessible without a boat. It’s most conveniently reached with a tour departing from Maalaea Harbor.
4. Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay, situated about 20 minutes north of Lahaina Town on the northwest shore of Maui, is gorgeous both under- and above-water. Underwater, it features abundant coral reef formations and you can see green sea turtles and sizeable schools of tropical fish.
Above the surface, Honolua Bay is beautiful, and, thanks to the efforts of Maui residents, it remains largely undeveloped. There is a small sandy beach from which you can access the water directly. You can also reach the bay by boat or via a short hike through an enchanting old growth jungle.
The best time to snorkel or scuba dive in the bar is in mid-summer, when the water is calm and flat. The rest of the year, Honolua Bay is filled with Maui’s elite surfers. In fact, Honolua Bay is a world-renowned surf location.
5. Five Caves
Five Caves is a fantastic spot for more experienced snorkelers and scuba divers. Situated just north of Turtle Town, Five Caves is known for its impressive formations and sea life, which include eagle rays, reef sharks, turtles, octopuses, eels, and plenty of fish.
Be sure to swim with a buddy here; it’s also recommended to take a guide, as the ocean conditions can be variable.
6. Napili Bay
Another beautiful bay to check out is Napili Bay, located between Kahana and Kapalua. Snorkelers can see coral reefs, green sea turtles, and shimmering silver needle fish. On land, Napili Bay offers a picturesque beach and stunning sunset views.
There is an activity rental cabana where snorkelers can rent gear, and beginners won’t need much instruction. The best place to snorkel is on the far right of the beach, as it’s more sheltered there.
7. Black Rock
When in West Maui, be sure to visit award-winning Black Rock on popular Ka’anapali Beach. Adventurous tourist seek out black rock to jump off of; but fewer people know that the area is surrounded by a fantastic reef, offering some excellent snorkeling opportunities and a surprisingly large population of Hawaiian green sea turtles.
The water depth starts around eight feet and gradually descends to about 30 feet. The best snorkeling can be found around the lava rock edge. Along with sea turtles you can be sure to spot moorish idol, surgeonfish, snapper, hawk fish, needle fish, jacks, boxfish, Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, and more.
To get to Black Rock, head to the northwestern end of Ka’anapali Beach and look for a black lava rock peninsula near the Sheraton Hotel.
8. Ulua Beach
If you’re looking to escape from the crowds for a bit, head to Ulua Beach, a small, hidden beach in South Maui. Once known as “Kaula’uo Beach,” this spot is a bit hard to find, but it’s worth the effort. It’s accessed from a hidden Wailea Beach road; look for a sign that says “Parking for the Marriot.”
The calm waters are great for snorkeling. You can see Moorish idol, jacks, porcupinefish, needlefish, snapper, surgeonfish, boxfish, parrotfish, and invertebrates—just to name a few.
9. Kapalua Bay
Kapalua Bay is no stranger to awards: it has been named “Best Beach in the World” multiple times and by multiple publications, including Conde Nast Traveler.
Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, but it’s also excellent for snorkeling. It is sheltered in a crescent-shaped cove, making for calm waters. Underwater, you can expect to hang out with scorpionfish, cornet fish, goatfish, jacks, butterflyfish, boxfish, perch, chub, several kinds of invertebrates, and more. We’re also big fans of catching the sunset here, next to a sunset sail with aboard Paragon, we think this beach gets the best view!
10. Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve
One of the most delicate reef zones on Maui is Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve, a small cove that you can find by traveling down the Southern coast of Wailea, past Makena and towards La Perouse Bay. You’ll find tropical fish very close to the coastline here and in the shallowest waters. Common fish found here at Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve are tang, squirrelfish, goatfish, jacks, needlefish, butterflyfish, parrotfish, and sea cucumbers; there are also sea turtles, which you can even spot from the shore sometimes. Stay on the lookout for the Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, as they frequent Maui’s southern coastline and can often be sighted passing by.
As you can see there’s plenty of amazing places on island to jump in the water and enjoy the scenery. We hope you join us for a trip, but wherever you decide to go; stay safe, have fun, and please be respectful of the marine environment and all it’s inhabitants! For tips on reef safe sunscreen for snorkeling check out our other blog here. Happy snorkeling!