Honolua Bay Snorkeling: Tours and Tips for Snorkeling in Paradise

Updated Mar 13, 2024 ,

Honolua Bay Aerial View

Honolua Bay is one of our favorite places to snorkel in all of Maui. It’s a beautiful location with abundant marine life compared to other spots, including green sea turtles and large schools of fish. Maybe we’ve been lucky, but the snorkeling here always seems amazing.

If that sounds good to you, there are two ways you can snorkel here:

  • Honolua Bay Snorkeling Tours – For those not keen on hiking, a handful of boat tours in West Maui visit Honolua Bay, including our favorite, operated by Gemini Sailing Charters. It’s convenient, providing easy accessibility, snorkel gear, food, and drinks.
  • Hike and Snorkel – For those who want to snorkel on their own, Honolua Bay can be reached via the Honolua Bay Access Trail, a short and easy trek through a lush rainforest jungle. It’s a fun hike in a unique location.

Whether you decide to book a snorkel tour or try the hike to the bay, it’s worth a visit if you are looking for some seriously good snorkeling in Maui. In this post, we’ll cover both options to help you decide which is for you. Let’s dive in!

Honolua Bay Snorkeling Tours

Since Honolua Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui, several tours are available to take you there for an unforgettable snorkeling adventure. Booking a tour is a great option if you don’t want to worry about gear, are looking for expert advice, or want to enjoy a fun boat ride.

Many tours offer food and adult beverages when you finish in the water. On the boat ride, you can spot pods of dolphins, and if you’re visiting during whale season, you could be lucky enough to see whales playing in the water!

Depending on the weather, some tours may stop at a different location since Honolua Bay faces north and is susceptible to large swells. So, there’s a chance you might not stop here. But if tours aren’t stopping here, you probably don’t want to hike in to snorkel either.

Gemini’s Afternoon Snorkel Tour

We have tried Gemini’s tour with family and friends several times, and it’s always a hit. Gemini’s Afternoon Snorkel Tour is ideal for those who prefer a leisurely start to the day and do not want to wake up very early. We especially love the delectable hot buffet lunch and refreshing beverages post-snorkeling, which add a delightful touch to the adventure. Plus, they provide quality snorkeling gear, floatation devices, small gear for kids, and the crew is super friendly!

Sea Maui’s West Maui Snorkel Tour

Sea Maui’s half-day snorkel tour from Ka’anapali Beach is another tour we recommend, especially for those staying close to the beaches near Ka’anapali. With a seasoned captain on board, the tour promises a delightful journey to Honolua Bay, with a chance to see dolphins or whales in season. They provide snorkel gear and other amenities for your convenience. You’ll also be treated to complimentary breakfast, lunch, and drinks aboard the vessel.

Honolua Bay Snorkeling Guide

Honolua Bay Snorkel Tour

Nestled at the northern tip of West Maui, Honolua Bay is a Marine Life Conservation District and one of Maui’s top snorkeling destinations. Even though it’s more remote than other snorkel spots in West Maui, you don’t have to book a boat tour to snorkel at Honolua Bay. Refer to our guide below if you’re interested in snorkeling here on your own.

Getting to Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay Access Trail Trees

Honolua Bay is located off the Honoapiilani Highway just north of Kapalua in West Maui. Once there, the bay can be reached via a short and easy trek on the Honolua Bay Access Trail. It’s a delightful hike, winding through a canopy of trees before reaching the bay’s rocky shores.

Along the way, you’ll come across interesting sights, including cheerful and vibrant wild chickens. As you emerge from the trail, the breathtaking vista of Honolua Bay reveals itself, inviting you to explore its crystal-clear waters and vibrant marine life.

Entering the Water at Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay Shoreline

After a leisurely 15—to 20-minute hike, the shores of Honolua Bay come into view. Though its rocky terrain isn’t the greatest for sunbathing on beach towels, plenty of people spend time here. If you’re planning to hang out for a while, we recommend bringing beach chairs.

When the waters are calm, the place is full of people snorkeling. However, during periods of high surf (especially the winter months), the water won’t look as calm as the picture above. So, use your best judgment before entering the water.

Where to Snorkel at Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay Snorkeling

While many people snorkel along the shore, the best snorkeling is found if you venture deeper into the bay. Visibility significantly improves the further you go. However, venturing further requires swimming, and flotation or flippers are highly recommended.

We like to snorkel on the right side of the bay (if you’re facing the ocean). Here, shallow waters burst with coral and marine life, offering ideal conditions for snorkelers of all levels. Meanwhile, the left side, which boasts deeper waters, is more suitable for diving. If you’re unsure, there’s usually a tour nearby, so your best bet is to follow their lead.

Marine Life at Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay’s underwater realm is teeming with vibrant coral gardens and a large variety of marine life. From schools of colorful fish to graceful Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, snorkeling in Honolua Bay offers some of the most spectacular underwater sights we’ve seen in Maui.

With Honolua Bay’s protected status as a Marine Life Conservation District, fishing is illegal, allowing it to boast a thriving underwater ecosystem. In addition to encountering fish and turtles, you’ll occasionally spot rays and octopus in the crystal-clear waters.

Honolua Bay Snorkeling FAQs

Honolua Bay Aerial View

Snorkeling Honolua Bay is an incredible experience. It’s ideal for families, groups of friends, or even solo adventurers. Read our Honolua Bay Snorkeling FAQs below for more tips.

Best Time of Year to Snorkel at Honolua Bay?

The best time of year to snorkel at Honolua Bay is during the summer months when the bay is calmer. Honolua Bay faces north and is subject to the large swells the winter months can bring. It’s not impossible to snorkel here outside the summer months, but the conditions may vary. Check the Maui Snorkel Report or ask at a local snorkel shop before heading out to be sure.

Best Time of Day to Snorkel at Honolua Bay?

For the most rewarding snorkeling experience at Honolua Bay, aim for morning or early afternoon visits on clear, sunny days. During these times, visibility tends to be optimal, allowing you to enjoy the stunning underwater landscapes and vibrant marine life. When it’s cloudy or windy, visibility isn’t as great, and the waves can be significantly more challenging.

Is Honolua Bay Good for Young Children?

Booking snorkeling tours designed for families is recommended for those with young children to ensure safety and convenience. Due to the hike and swim required, it’s advisable to avoid independent visits with kids. Guided Honolua Bay snorkeling tours offer support and guidance, making the experience safer, enjoyable, and more manageable for families with young children.

Does it Cost Anything to Visit Honolua Bay?

No, visiting Honolua Bay doesn’t incur any fees. However, there’s a donation box available. If you have extra cash to spare, it’s a thoughtful gesture. Your donation supports the conservation efforts and maintenance of this pristine natural area.

What to Know Before You Snorkel

Honolua Bay Signs

Only Wear Reef Safe Sunscreen

Snorkelers must only wear reef-safe sunscreen to safeguard Honolua Bay’s delicate marine ecosystem. Conventional sunscreens contain ingredients that can harm the coral reefs. Opting for reef-safe alternatives ensures protection from harmful UV rays without compromising marine life. It aligns with responsible tourism practices, safeguarding the bay’s natural beauty.

Do Not Touch Anything

Protecting Honolua Bay’s delicate ecosystem also requires refraining from touching corals and marine life while snorkeling. Even gentle interactions can harm fragile organisms and disrupt their habitat. Touching turtles, in particular, is strictly prohibited and may result in significant fines. Help preserve the bay’s biodiversity and natural balance by maintaining a respectful distance and observing marine life from afar during your snorkeling adventure.

Respect the Environment

Respecting Honolua Bay’s fragile environment is crucial to its preservation. Therefore, during your visit, ensure you pick up trash and leave no trace of your presence to maintain the bay’s pristine beauty. Also, stay on marked trails if you plan on hiking to prevent damage to fragile ecosystems and preserve native habitats.

Justin and Katie Busa

Meet the Authors

Aloha! We’re Justin and Katie, the owners of Maui Hideaway. We’ve been visiting Hawaii together with our family for 20 years and would love to share the experience of the islands with you. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay or just some vacation advice, we’re here to help!

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