Napili Bay Snorkeling Guide

Updated Dec 11, 2022 ,

Napili Bay
West Maui
Beginner Friendly
Beach Entrance

Napili Bay is a beautiful cove on Maui’s west side with a crescent-shaped beach and some of the best snorkeling on this side of the island. The water is usually calm and the reef is abundant making it a great place for beginners looking for an exceptional snorkeling experience. It’s also considered one of the best places on this part of the island to spot a green sea turtle.

We’ve visited most of the beaches on Maui’s west side and all agree that Napili Bay is one of the best. Not only is it one of the best snorkel spots, but it’s also one of the best beaches in general. The vibe is secluded and tropical with quaint condos and palm trees dotting the coastline. It’s a unique spot unlike any other on the island and only rivaled by neighboring Kapalua Bay in our opinion.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything there is to know about snorkeling at Napili Bay including where to snorkel, what you’ll see, and more. Let’s dive in!

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 Napili Bay

Napili Bay

The beach entrance at Napili Bay makes entering the water easy for snorkelers of all skill levels. However, the entrance is not gradual and gets deep quickly so you’ll need to start swimming sooner than later after entering the water.

That isn’t necessarily an issue, just something to keep in mind. You’ll definitely want to make sure you bring flippers and possibly a flotation device to help with the swim. The good snorkeling isn’t far but it’s far enough that it can tire you out quickly without assistance.

The water is usually calm here since Napili Bay is a naturally protected cove. However, during times of large swells, especially during the winter months, the water can be rough. Be sure to check the conditions before venturing out to be sure it’s safe to swim.

Where to Snorkel at Napili Bay

Napili Bay

Similar to snorkeling at Kapalua Bay, the best places to snorkel at Napili Bay are on either side of the bay. The left side of the bay has more reefs but can be murky when it’s windy. Snorkeling the right side of the bay can be done by following the rocks along the edge.

Both sides of the bay are home to an abundance of marine life. However, the left side of the bay is where you are more likely to spot a green sea turtle as a number of them live in Honokeana Bay just around the left point.

There’s also a reef that runs across the middle of the bay from side to side. We typically like to start at one end of the bay and make our way across to the other side while snorkeling the reef in the middle. That’ll give you the best view of everything the bay has to offer. Just be careful as some of the reefs can be shallow making them easy to bump into if you’re not paying attention.

When snorkeling Napili Bay it might be tempting to snorkel around the points to either Honokeana Cove on the left or Kapalua Bay on the right. While that can be done by experienced snorkelers, I don’t recommend it for most people. Once you leave the bay you’re in the open ocean exposed to stronger waves and currents that can lead to injury or worse.

Marine Life at Napili Bay

Napili Bay’s abundance of reefs means that you’ll be guaranteed to see a variety of marine life while snorkeling on either side of the bay. The sides of the bay are where you’ll find the most marine life but there’s still plenty to see along the reef in the middle.

Reef fish that you’ll see in Napili Bay common to Maui and the Hawaiian islands include butterflyfish, parrotfish, cornetfish, Moorish idols, tangs, triggerfish, and more. I’ve also heard of others seeing octopuses and rays here but didn’t see any the day we were out there.

As mentioned above, Napili Bay is also a great place to spot green sea turtles as a number live next door at Honokeana Bay and swim over to feed on the reefs. If you plan on snorkeling for more than a few minutes, you’re likely to see one but it’s not guaranteed.

Napili Bay Snorkel Tours

Maui Snorkel Tours

There aren’t any snorkel tours that we’re aware of that visit Napili Bay. However, many commercial tour companies offer tours to other nearby snorkel spots in West Maui. One of our favorites (pictured above) is the Honolua Bay marine life conservation district.

Booking a tour isn’t totally necessary but it can add to the experience, especially for beginners looking for a little extra help. It’s also a lot of fun riding on a large catamaran and most tours include food and drinks for the trip back.

More About Napili Bay

Getting to Napili Bay

Napili Bay is around 10-20 minutes from most places in West Maui (Lahaina) and 45-60 minutes from most places in South Maui (Kihei or Wailea). The main road you’ll take to get there once in West Maui is Honoapi’ilani Road. You’ll take that all the way up the west side to Napilihau Street and then hang a right onto Lower Honoapi’ilani Road.

There are a number of beach access walkways between the condos at Napili Bay that you’ll want to park near. Once you’re on Lower Honoapi’ilani Road, keep an eye out for either Napili Place or Hui Drive as those are two places where you can access the beach.

Parking at Napili Bay

Parking at Napili Bay

One of the only drawbacks of Napili Bay is the parking. Unless you’re staying in a condo, there really isn’t any parking besides street parking. You can park at the Kapalua Bay parking lot on Bay Club Drive next door but it’s a further walk than some of the street parking.

Your best bet for street parking if you can find a spot is Hui Drive or Napili Place as they’re off the main road and have beach access points. If you can’t park there, the next best spot is parking on the main road, Lower Honoapi’ilani. You can also park in the lot for the Sea House restaurant located on Napili Bay but only if you’re dining there.

Facilities at Napili Bay

When we visited Napili Bay to snorkel, we didn’t find any public restrooms. However, I’ve seen it mentioned a few times by others that there is one next to the Sea House restaurant. We did find a beach shower to wash the sand off when we were done but that’s about it.

Are There Places to Eat at Napili Bay?

Sea House Napili Bay

Yes! There are two outstanding restaurants on Napili Bay that are worth checking out if you have the time. The first is the Sea House serving island-style cuisine and tropical cocktails. Unlike the other restaurant, this one is located directly on the beach. The second restaurant is The Gazebo located on the point between Napili Bay and Honokeana Bay. You may have heard of this one before because everyone talks about their breakfast.

Can You Rent Snorkel Gear at Napili Bay?

You can’t rent snorkel gear directly on Napili Bay beach like you can on some of the other resort beaches in Maui. However, there is a Snorkel Bob’s located in Napili Village on Lower Honoapi’ilani Road. Unless you’re only planning on snorkeling for one day, I’d rent gear closer to where you’re staying for the entire trip. It’s typically a better value than renting for a single day if you plan on snorkeling more than once.

Is Snorkeling at Napili Bay Good for Families?

Napili Bay is a great snorkel spot for beginners which also makes it a great spot for families. However, the swim out to the best spots to snorkel is a little far in my opinion, so it might not be the best spot for younger children that aren’t strong swimmers.

If that’s a concern for you, I’d consider checking out Kahekili Beach Park instead. The reef there is spectacular and really close to shore. Otherwise, Napili Bay offers some of the best snorkeling for families and is a great beach to relax and play on once you’re done.

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! Even in a protected cove like Napili Bay, you’re still in the ocean and anything can happen. It’s always best to play it safe and snorkel with a buddy.

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