Guide to Snorkeling at Black Rock in Ka’anapali

Updated Nov 16, 2022

West Maui
Beginner Friendly
Beach Entrance

One of the most iconic backdrops in West Maui is Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach. It splits the two sides of Ka’anapali in half and is located just in front of the Sheraton Maui Resort making it an easy spot to visit when spending a day at the beach.

It’s a popular location to snorkel given how easy it is to access from Ka’anapali Beach and Whalers Village. It offers something for all skill levels with parts that are great for beginners and parts that should only be visited by experienced snorkelers.

If you’re spending the day in this area and want to fit in some snorkeling, Black Rock is a spot to consider. It’s not our favorite spot to snorkel since there’s not much reef and the best spots are only accessible to experienced snorkelers. However, it’s convenient, visibility is typically great, and it has plenty of marine life, including green sea turtles.

If you’re looking for something with more of a reef that is accessible to snorkelers of all skill levels, we’d recommend checking out Kahekili Beach Park (also known as Airport Beach) located by the Westin Villas on the other side of Black Rock.

Should You Book a Snorkel Tour?

Snorkel tours are a great way to try snorkeling with the help of experienced guides. They also allow you to visit locations only accessible by boat and usually make for a fun day because of the added boating experience. If you’re looking for something more than your typical day-at-the-beach snorkeling, a snorkel tour might be for you!

Entering the Water at Black Rock Beach

Entering the Water at Black Rock Beach

The beach entrance at Black Rock makes it easy to enter the water for snorkelers of all skill levels. However, the wave action closest to the rocks can be a bit rough at times, so be sure to put some space between yourself and the rocks when entering the water. I typically like to enter away from the rocks and then swim in closer once the shore is behind me.

Keep in mind that the wave action against the rocks can be rough all around Black Rock. It’s best to always put some distance between you and the rocks, not just when entering the water, or you could get hurt. Be sure to check your surroundings periodically to make sure you haven’t drifted too close to something you could bump into.

Where to Snorkel at Black Rock Beach

Most snorkeling at Black Rock will be done along the rock wall that’s to your right when first entering the water. This is the best spot for beginners as it’s not too far from the beach and isn’t in the open ocean. We’ve seen plenty of reef fish and turtles here, so it’s a perfectly fine spot to check snorkeling off your vacation to-do list.

Since this is a popular snorkel spot, the water here can be crowded. Be sure to watch out for other snorkelers and cliff jumpers as you make your way along the rock wall. As I mentioned earlier, it’s best to keep some distance from the rocks as the wave action can push you into them leading to potential injury. The waves start to really pick up past the spot where people are cliff jumping. If you’re not a strong swimmer, I wouldn’t recommend going any further than that.

Snorkeling Around the Point at Black Rock

The other spot to snorkel at Black Rock is around the point past where people are cliff jumping. Once you make it past the first point, it opens up to a cove that you can explore as well as a second point that’s further out. The water gets deeper beyond the points but the visibility is still great.

This is the area that we would only recommend for experienced snorkelers. The waves and current are a lot stronger here and you’re basically in the open ocean (when not in the cove). Don’t attempt to snorkel in this area if you are not a strong swimmer and don’t try to do it alone. Always snorkel with a buddy, even if you know what you’re doing!

Marine Life at Black Rock Beach

There is a variety of reef fish to see at Black Rock not long after entering the water. You also don’t have to venture far to catch green sea turtles when they are around as they typically like to feed along the rocks. The pictures above were taken not far from the shore!

One of the main fish you will see is the reef triggerfish, also known as the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Hawaii’s state fish. Try saying that ten times fast, chances are you can’t beat our daughter who loves to remind us she’s good at saying it.

Here are some of the fish we saw when we were out there. This isn’t everything you can see, it’s just what we happened to capture on camera that day.

  • Long-nose butterflyfish
  • Moorish Idol
  • Hawaiian Sergeant
  • Bullethead parrotfish
  • Yellow tang
  • Orangespine unicornfish
  • Whitespotted surgeonfish

Ka’anapali Snorkel Tours

Maui Snorkel Tours

If you’re staying near Black Rock in any of the surrounding areas then a snorkel tour departing from Ka’anapali Beach may be for you. We enjoy snorkel tours for a number of reasons. You get to ride on a large catamaran which by itself is a fun experience. The staff is typically friendly and fun to converse with and you usually get food and drinks for the trip back. All in all, it makes for a fun day.

While there aren’t any catamaran tours that take you to Black Rock, there are tours that will take you to some of the best spots in West Maui including one of our favorites pictured above, Honolua Bay. Where you go will typically depend on the weather that day so be sure to check with the tour company to see how conditions will affect your trip if a specific location is important to you.

More About Black Rock Beach

Getting to Black Rock Beach

If you’re staying in West Maui (Lahaina) then Black Rock is only a 10-15 minute drive from most places. If you’re staying in South Maui (Kihei or Wailea), it’ll be around 45-60 minutes. There are plenty of great places to snorkel in South Maui, so if you’re staying there, I wouldn’t go out of my way to snorkel Black Rock unless you plan on spending the day at Ka’anapali Beach.

Parking at Black Rock Beach

Once you arrive in Lahaina, you’ll want to take the Honoapi’ilani Highway to Ka’anapali Parkway and head to either Whalers Village or the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. There is a beach access walkway next to the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel with a small parking lot next to it with a limited number of spots. We typically like to unload there and then wait for 10-15 minutes to see if a spot opens up as it’s the closest place to park by Black Rock.

If you can’t get a spot there, you’ll need to pay for parking at Whalers Village (it can be validated if you dine there). We’d still recommend dropping your party off at the beach access walkway as it’ll make getting your stuff to the beach that much easier.

Facilities at Black Rock Beach

Black Rock is located in Ka’anapali so there are plenty of facilities available to you. The closest facilities are near the restaurant Huihui in front of the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. There you can find outdoor showers to the left and public restrooms in the back (by the Welowelo walkup window).

Are There Places to Eat at Black Rock Beach?

As mentioned above, Black Rock is located in Ka’anapali so there are plenty of food options available. Some of our favorites are Welowelo, Huihui, Hula Grill, Leilani’s, and Monkeypod. Welowelo is our favorite choice for a day at the beach as it’s a walk-up window without a wait. Timing may vary at others and reservations are typically recommended.

Can You Rent Snorkel Gear at Black Rock Beach?

Yes, there are a few kiosks and resorts that rent snorkel gear. If you only plan on snorkeling here then renting at the beach is fine. Otherwise, we’d recommend picking up gear from another provider that rents gear for longer than a day. It’s typically a better value and you’re guaranteed to find the perfect fit.

Is Snorkeling at Black Rock Beach Good for Families?

Black Rock isn’t the most ideal spot to snorkel for families. While the beach is great and offers plenty to do for kids and adults, the water can be rougher than in other spots. A better option for snorkeling with children would be Kahekili Beach Park located just on the other side of Black Rock.

Snorkeling Etiquette, Conservation, and Saftey

It’s important when snorkeling to remember that you’re in the water with other people as well as marine life. Keep an eye on your surroundings to make sure you don’t bump into other people or disturb the environment. The coral is fragile and shouldn’t be touched as well as any of the marine life as it can be harmful to you and them. Green sea turtles are protected and violators can face steep fines if caught. Finally, always wear biodegradable reef-safe sunscreen as it’s now illegal in Maui to wear anything else that might damage the coral reef.

As for safety, never snorkel alone! The waves can be rough at Black Rock, especially the further out you go. It’s always best to play it safe and snorkel with a buddy.

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