13 Best West Maui Snorkel Spots Near Lahaina and Kaanapali

Updated Nov 29, 2023 ,

Honolua Bay Fish

Are you looking for the best West Maui snorkel spots near Lahaina and Ka'anapali? If so, you’re in luck! We love snorkeling (and West Maui) and have visited every spot in this post.

To help you decide, we’ve split the West Maui snorkel spots into three categories. Whether you prefer guided snorkel tours, family-friendly spots, or thrilling adventures off the beaten path, Lahaina and Ka'anapali have it all. Here’s a breakdown of the types of spots you can visit:

We’ve curated a list of the 13 best West Maui snorkel spots for every type of snorkeler. So, pack your gear, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to explore the crystal-clear waters of West Maui.

Best For Snorkel Tours

Honolua Bay Snorkel Tours

Snorkel tours are a lot of fun. In addition to the main event (snorkeling, duh!), you’ll be treated to an epic boat ride, delicious food, and on some tours, adult beverages when you’re done. You’ll also be provided with high-quality gear, expert advice, and help, if necessary, from the crew.

If you’re lucky, you’ll also have a chance to see a pod of up to 100 spinner dolphins playing in the water while on the way to your destination. Depending on the time of year, snorkel tours will also double as whale watching tours, as the humpbacks are abundant during the winter.

Finally, some of the best snorkel spots in all of Maui are only accessible by boat (or easier to get to by boat). If you’re looking for the best West Maui snorkel spots, a tour might be for you.

Learn More: Check out our post on Maui snorkel tours.

Honolua Bay

We love snorkeling at Honolua Bay so much we’ve taken multiple tours there (Gemini is our favorite). Whenever someone new is on island with us, we bring them to Honolua Bay. It’s one of the closest tour spots in West Maui, with crystal-clear waters and a thriving coral reef.

Honolua Bay is a Marine Life Conservation District and a true gem on West Maui’s coastline. It’s protected, so there’s no fishing, allowing the ecosystem to thrive. Here, you’ll have the chance to swim alongside schools of colorful fish and, often, green sea turtles.

You can snorkel at Honolua Bay without booking a snorkel tour. However, it entails a short hike followed by a decent swim to reach the area with coral. Your best choice is to unwind and enjoy a boat ride that will transport you directly to the finest snorkel spots in the area.

Best Tours: Gemini Sailing Charters, Sea Maui

Olowalu Beach (Coral Gardens)

Olowalu Beach is another one of our favorite spots because it’s so easy to access. It’s located ten minutes south of Lahaina in West Maui and gets the name Coral Gardens because of the over 100 acres of coral reef found off the shore. It’s a great location to book a kayak snorkel tour because of the massive amount of area to explore.

Within the Coral Gardens, a remarkable assortment of marine life thrives. Alongside a vibrant array of tropical fish, snorkelers may encounter a turtle cleaning station, manta ray cleaning station, eels, octopuses, and even blacktip reef sharks.

It’s possible to snorkel here without booking a tour, as the coral starts right off the beach. However, booking a tour will make it easier to find the best snorkel spots since the reef is so expansive.

Best Tours: South Pacific Kayaks, Ohana Ocean Adventures

Lanai Island

Lanai is one of the three outer islands visible from Maui. It’s known for being remote and secluded, with dramatic cliffs and vibrant reefs. Lanai is less crowded than other snorkel spots due to its remote location, making it a great option for a snorkel tour if you want to escape the crowds.

Given Lanai’s location, the boat ride is longer than other snorkel tours. Some people have complained that you spend more time on the boat than in the water. However, during whale season, that’s actually a plus. You’ll also have a chance to spot a pod of spinner dolphins playing in the water. The boat ride offers just as much excitement as the snorkeling.

If you book a snorkel tour to Lanai, you’ll be taken to different locations based on the day’s conditions. Shark Fin Cove and Manele Bay are popular spots that tours visit often.

Best Tours: Pacific Whale Foundation, Trilogy Excursions

Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater is a small crescent-shaped volcanic crater that you can see off the coast of South Maui near the island of Kaho‘olawe. Its waters are calm and protected, making it an ideal snorkel spot to see some of the 250 species of fish found in the area.

Despite hearing mixed reviews about snorkeling at Molokini Crater, mentioning issues like poor water clarity and overcrowding, I was pleasantly surprised during our visit. The water turned out to be incredibly clear, with visibility reaching an impressive 150 feet! There was also ample space to explore, and you didn’t have to swim far to encounter an array of fish.

An additional advantage of snorkeling at Molokini Crater is that most tours also include a second stop at Turtle Town near Kihei. If you’re eager to make the most of your time in the water and explore two different locations, a Molokini snorkel tour might be the ideal choice for you.

Best Tours: Pride of Maui, Calypso Charters

Best For Beginners and Families

Maui Snorkeling

There’s no shortage of easy-to-access West Maui snorkel spots near Lahaina and Ka'anapali for beginners and families. All of these spots have beach entrances with vibrant underwater environments not far from the shoreline, making them perfect for first-time snorkelers.

When we visit any of these beaches, we love being able to hop into the water at any time to snorkel. The reefs here aren’t as nice as some of the snorkel tour spots due to years of damage by unsuspecting tourists. However, they still offer plenty to see, including fish and sea turtles.

If you’re looking for the best West Maui snorkel spots for beginners and families, you can’t go wrong with any of the following locations.

Kahekili Beach Park

Kahekili Beach Park, also known as Airport Beach, is one of the best West Maui snorkel spots for beginners and families. It’s located at the northern end of Ka'anapali, with picnic areas and barbeques. It provides the perfect setting for a delightful day of snorkeling at the beach.

I consider it one of the best because the reef is so healthy for a popular beach spot. It’s dead along the shore, but once you swim a little further out, the reef is deeper, protecting it from damage. You’ll see a lot of scuba diving tours operating here for that very reason.

Although West Maui boasts several snorkel spots with healthy coral, Kahekili Beach Park stands out as one of the most easily accessible. Be sure to arrive early in the morning for the best conditions and a chance at a parking spot without waiting.

Learn More: Kahekili Beach Park Snorkeling Guide

Kapalua Bay

Kapalua Bay is one of our favorite West Maui beaches to visit, period! It is a truly beautiful location comprised of a crescent-shaped beach that also happens to have some great snorkeling with an abundance of marine life not far from the shore.

Being a sheltered cove, the water is often calm, making Kapalua Bay a great snorkel spot for beginners and families. It’s also one of the few snorkel spots on this list where you can rent snorkel gear directly on the beach if you don’t bring your own.

One drawback of Kapalua Bay is the parking. There’s a small lot, but it fills up quickly. If that’s full, there’s another small pay lot next door. If you can’t get a spot at either of those places, you’ll need to park on the street and walk your beach gear into the bay.

Learn More: Kapalua Bay Snorkeling Guide

Napili Bay

Napili Bay is located right next to Kapalua Bay and is another one of our favorite snorkeling beaches to visit because of its beauty. It’s another crescent-shaped beach with quaint condo complexes dotting the shoreline, making it look like something that belongs on a postcard.

Like Kapalua Bay, Napili Bay is a sheltered cove, so the water is often calm and perfect for beginners and families. This is also considered a top snorkel spot to see green sea turtles, as there’s a turtle cleaning station located one bay over at Honokeana Bay, so they visit often.

Another similarity to Kapalua Bay is the parking. It’s not great because there is no parking lot, only street parking. If you don’t want to wait for a spot, it’s best to get here early.

Learn More: Napili Bay Snorkeling Guide

Black Rock Beach (Front Side)

If you’ve seen pictures of West Maui, there’s a chance you’ve seen the iconic Black Rock, located in the middle of the Ka'anapali area. It’s a popular snorkel spot, given how easy it is to access from the beach, and has plenty of marine life, including sea turtles.

When talking about snorkeling here, keep in mind that we’re talking about the front side of Black Rock, which is much safer for beginners and families. It’s possible to snorkel the backside of Black Rock, but that can be dangerous, so it’s included in our section for adventure seekers.

Black Rock is not our favorite West Maui snorkel spot because there’s no reef on the front side, and the waves can be challenging at times. However, it’s easy to access and worth a visit if you’re spending the day at Ka'anapali Beach. If you’re up to it, it’s also a great place to cliff jump!

Learn More: Guide to Snorkeling at Black Rock in Ka’anapali

Baby Beach Lahaina

Baby Beach in Lahaina is aptly named for its gentle waves and shallow shoreline that make it the perfect place for young children to play in the water. The water here is usually very calm, thanks to the protective reef that surrounds the beach, creating a natural barrier.

The reef at Baby Beach is not as expansive or as vibrant as some other West Maui snorkel spots. Given how shallow the water is, the reef has seen a lot of damage over the years. However, its ease of access, especially for young children, makes it a top spot for families and beginners.

Baby Beach also doesn’t get as crowded as other popular West Maui beaches, making it a great place to spend a day at that beach away from the crowds.

Best For Adventure Seekers

Slaughterhouse Beach

If you’re an adventure seeker looking for off-the-beaten-path snorkel spots in West Maui near Ka'anapali and Lahaina, this section is for you. These spots may not be as convenient as popular tourist destinations, but they’re worth a visit if you’re looking to explore.

All of these spots present some sort of challenge that makes them less ideal for beginners and families with small children. They either require a bit more effort to access or have less favorable conditions in the water that make them unsafe for people who aren’t strong swimmers.

Now that you’ve been warned, let’s dive in! These are our top snorkel spots in West Maui for adventure seekers looking for the best.

Slaughterhouse Beach

Slaughterhouse Beach, located on Mokule’ia Bay, makes the adventure seeker list because of its location and large, often dangerous surf during the winter months. There’s little parking on the side of the road, and it requires a trek down a flight of stairs on the hillside to reach the beach.

The best time to visit Slaughterhouse Beach is during the summer when the tide is low and the waves are calm. When the waves pick up, it can be challenging for even the most experienced swimmers. When it’s low and calm, you’ll have access to the sea caves in this area.

Slaughterhouse Beach is located next to Honolua Bay and is also in a Marine Life Conservation District. If you choose to snorkel here, you’ll be treated to a diverse ecosystem teeming with an abundance of marine life.

Black Rock Beach (Backside)

Kaanapali Black Rock Backside

We talked about snorkeling at the front side of Black Rock. Now let’s talk about the backside. Pictured above, you can see that the backside of Black Rock is less accessible than the front side. It requires a swim around the point to reach, which can be dangerous.

That’s the main thing to consider when choosing to snorkel here. The currents and water can be rough since you’re swimming into the open ocean to reach the backside, so it’s best to go out when the conditions are favorable. You definitely want a pair of flippers for this one.

The back side of Black Rock is home to a diverse array of marine life, making it an excellent snorkel spot. Generally, the visibility is excellent, especially during calm conditions, providing clear views of the underwater world in this area.

Honokeana Bay

Honokeana Bay, located next to Napili Bay, sits on the shore of the Honokeana Cove condominium complex and is considered a top snorkel spot for green sea turtles. There is typically an abundance of them here, feeding on the algae and having their shells cleaned by fish in the area.

This snorkel spot makes the adventure seeker list because of its lack of parking and rocky entrance. There’s no parking lot, so your best bet is street parking which is very limited. Once there, you’ll find a public access point nestled between the condos on the right side of Honokeana Cove.

The rocky entrance at this snorkel spot makes getting in and out of the water a challenge. Conditions can change rapidly, and the surf can be rough during the winter, so be sure to exercise caution and don’t enter if it doesn’t look safe.

Namalu Bay

Last but not least on our list of snorkel spots for adventure seekers is Namalu Bay, located right next to Kapalua Bay. This is actually an alternative spot for some snorkel tours, as you can see pictured above. So you know it’s a worthy contender. It’s also a great spot to cliff jump!

Namalu Bay makes the adventure seeker list due to its location and rocky entrance. If you want to snorkel here, you’ll have to hike your way into the area on an unpaved path and enter the water from the rocks. It’s definitely not for people with mobility issues.

The hiking path can be accessed by taking a small detour on the Kapalua Coastal Trail. If you’re starting at Kapalua Bay, take a left when you reach the unpaved section instead of going right towards Oneloa Beach. If you reach another beach, you went the wrong way.

West Maui Snorkeling Map and FAQs

The snorkel spots you can visit in West Maui are spread out across that side of the island. Most are around a 10-15 minute drive from popular places to stay. To make planning your West Maui snorkeling adventure even easier, we’ve created a handy map highlighting our top spots.

Additionally, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions. Dive into this section for all the essential information you need for an unforgettable snorkeling experience.

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 plan 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 a flotation device to help you in the water. Additionally, don’t forget to apply sunscreen and be sure that it’s reef safe. Maui has banned sunscreens with chemicals that can be harmful to the coral reef.

What’s 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. Additionally, many of the snorkel spots on the northern end of West Maui near Kapalua are better in the summer months because of the large swells on that part of the island during the winter.

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 marine life 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. Have fun!

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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