Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities on Maui and for a good reason! Maui boasts over 120 miles of coastline and 30 miles of beaches accessible to beginners and experienced snorkelers alike. The warm water and great weather make Maui a top spot for catching a variety of ocean life including the ever-popular green sea turtle and on some days, dolphins!
You can snorkel at many of Maui’s beaches without a guide, however, some of the best spots are only accessible by boat and are worth booking a tour for the experience. In this guide, we’ll cover both snorkel tours and snorkel spots should you choose to go out on your own.
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West Maui Snorkel Tours
Depart from Lahaina Harbor on Ocean Spirit’s luxury sailing catamaran for a 5-hour family-friendly snorkel tour that includes breakfast, lunch, and adult beverages. Honolua Bay is a Marine Life Conservation District with no fishing allowed making the ocean life abundant and diverse. This is one of our favorite places to snorkel!
Take a trip across the Auʻau Channel to the island of Lana’i and snorkel at remote locations such as Shark Fin Rock and Manele Bay. Known as the Pineapple Island, Lana’i provides stunning views of cliffs up to 300 feet high and great visibility for snorkeling. This tour is operated by the crew of the Quicksilver catamaran and includes food and drinks.
This half-day snorkel tour departs from Ka’anapali Beach and will take you to some of the best snorkel spots on Maui’s west side. The captain of the Sea Maui catamaran will determine the best spots to snorkel based on the day’s weather conditions. Food and drinks are included.
A kayak and snorkel tour is perfect for those travelers seeking a little more adventure. This tour will take you to Olowalu, also known as Turtle Reef and Coral Gardens, a great place to spot green sea turtles and a variety of ocean life. Olowalu is known as one of the best snorkel spots on Maui that always delivers the best conditions for snorkeling.
West Maui Snorkel Spots
Black Rock at Ka‘anapali Beach
Black Rock is located at the north end of Ka’anapali Beach and offers calm water conditions and easy access from the shore in front of the Sheraton Resort & Spa. The fish can typically be found close to Black Rock and a little cove that you can swim to around the point. If you have enough energy after snorkeling, another popular activity at Black Rock is cliff jumping off the 30-foot rock!
Kapalua Bay Beach
Kapalua Bay is a sheltered cove with typically calm water and ocean life close to shore making it easy to snorkel for beginners. The best places to snorkel are the lava rock outcroppings on the sides of the bay as the center of the bay is sandy and can have limited visibility if it’s windy. The beach at Kapalua Bay is also a popular place to relax in the sun when you’ve finished snorkeling.
Napili Bay Beach
Located south of Kapalua, Napili Bay is another naturally protected bay with typically calm water. However, on days with larger waves, visibility can be low. Like Kapalua Bay, the best spots to snorkel are along the sides of the bay with the left side better than the right. It’s common to spot a green sea turtle here, especially at sunrise or sunset.
Kahekili Beach Park
Also known as Airport Beach for the airport that used to be located here, Kahekili Beach Park is easy to snorkel and a great place for families. The reef extends in all directions just off the shore, so you don’t need to swim far to see the ocean life. Just be careful of the dark spots when you enter the water as that’s coral that can be easily damaged if you step on it.
South Maui Snorkel Tours
Snorkel at two of Maui’s most famous snorkel spots, Molokini Crater and Turtle Town! Molokini is a crescent-shaped islet and a protected marine conservation area only accessible by boat. The waters are crystal clear, the fish are abundant, and the reef is beautiful. After your trip to Molokini, you’ll stop at Turtle Town, another pristine location near Makena on Maui’s south shore.
Kayak and snorkel on a guided tour to 2-3 South Maui snorkel spots including the world-famous Turtle Town. If you’re looking for a guaranteed green sea turtle sighting, this is the tour for you! Turtle Town consists of many underwater lava formations that are home to a wide variety of tropical fish and other ocean life.
South Maui Snorkel Spots
Wailea Beach is a popular beach in front of two resorts and one of the best places in South Maui for families to enjoy a day of snorkeling and relaxing in the sun. The snorkeling here is good with the best spot being the right end of the beach. To access the best snorkeling here, swim around the point until you are facing the condos along the shore.
Maluaka Beach is located south of Wailea and is in the area known by many as Turtle Town because of its abundant population of green sea turtles. This is a great place to have a good chance of spotting green sea turtles but remember, it’s not guaranteed. The best place to spot them is near the lava rocks at the end of the beach.
Ulua and Mokapu Beaches
Ulua and Mokapu beaches are another option for family-friendly snorkeling just north of Wailea Beach. They are both included here because they are only separated by a rocky reef where all of the coral and ocean life can be found. The water is usually calm and access from the beach is easy, making Ulua and Mokapu beaches an excellent spot for beginners.
Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve
Ahihi-Kinau is a designated Natural Area Reserve located south of Wailea with waters that are protected from boats and fishing. That makes it a fantastic place to spot an abundant variety of ocean life as the waters are undisturbed. Pay close attention to the signs showing where to enter the water as this is an advanced snorkel spot and shouldn’t be visited by beginners.
Maui Snorkel Tips
Should You Book a Snorkel Tour?
You don’t need to book a tour to snorkel on Maui but doing so comes with added benefits. A snorkel tour will provide you with instruction, high-quality gear, an experienced guide, and in some cases, access to areas only accessible by boat. Additionally, some tours offer breakfast, lunch, and adult beverages for your trip back to Maui when you’re done in the water.
Should You Rent or Buy Snorkel Gear?
While buying snorkel gear is an option and can be cheaper in some cases, renting snorkel gear will ensure you are receiving the highest quality gear with the best fit. The best places to rent from in Maui are Boss Frogs or Snorkel Bob’s with multiple locations on the island. Some beaches such as Ka’anapali Beach offer snorkel rentals, however, it’s generally cheaper to rent from one of the shops mentioned if you’re planning on snorkeling for more than one day.
What to Wear Snorkeling?
Aside from your swimsuit (of course!), you may also want to consider a rashguard to protect your upper body from the sun and your flotation device should you choose to use one. Additionally, don’t forget to apply sunscreen and be sure that it’s reef safe. The state of Hawaii has banned sunscreens with chemicals that can be harmful to the coral reef.
The Best Time to Snorkel
You can snorkel any time the sun is shining but mornings are typically the best time as the wind and waves are usually calmer and the fish are more active.
Respect the Ecosystem
Maui’s coral reefs are a living ecosystem made up of millions of tiny animals. Standing on or touching the coral reef can easily damage it. Additionally, don’t touch the wildlife, especially green sea turtles as they are protected and you could receive a huge fine for doing so. Do your part to help preserve Maui’s coral reef and ocean wildlife when snorkeling.
Have Fun but Be Safe!
Snorkeling is a lot of fun but you also need to remember to be safe! Pay attention to any posted warning signs and always snorkel with a buddy. The ocean is powerful and can carry you away if you’re not paying attention, so always be aware of your surroundings and be careful of sharp rocks. Have fun!
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