Maluaka Beach is without doubt the most popular snorkeling spot that is accessible from the Maui coast. It can be reached from the beach or during a boat snorkeling tour, and you are practically guaranteed to see green sea turtles in the relatively well-preserved coral landscapes with their wealth of fish.

How to get there?

There are two ways to get to the snorkeling spot. Many tour guides organise half-day boat trips, but it is also possible to reach the area from Maluaka beach. The areas to explore are practically the same (the boats are moored at some distance from the shore), and if your aim is to see the turtles, either option is worth considering. From the beach, you will need to swim your way to the areas visited by turtles, about 200 yards away.

Snorkeling with Hawaiian sea turtles in Turtle's Town, Maui

From Kahului or Makena, head south until you reach route 31 in Kihei. From there, continue south for about 10 miles. The spot is across from the Maui Makena Beach and Golf Resort, which is well signposted. As ever in Hawaii, the hotel complexes on the beach are required to provide parking facilities and free access for visitors. Once parked, you can continue on foot, following the signs to the beach, about 100 yards further on.

Turtle Town Maui snorkeling map

Water entrance

The snorkeling area begins at the southern tip of the beach, along the bar of black rocks to your left as you are facing the ocean. Enter the water from the sandy beach, near this area.

Exploration

The snorkeling area extends for a length of 300 yards and a width of 100 yards along the rocky coast, beginning at the edge of the beach.

From the first few yards, the sand gives way to rock (↕3-7ft/1-2m), then coral, which quickly become denser (↕7-14ft/2-4m). Several species of sea urchins, including the highly colorful slate pencil urchins, cover the sea bed. The reef (mainly made up of porous coral beds) is the home of butterflyfish, wrasses, Moorish idols and hawkfish.

Coral reef at Turtles Town, Maui

If you move a little further away from the beach, you will find the best area for seeing green turtles (↕10-16ft/3-5m). They are fairly inactive at this spot, and many of them rest on the sea bed, often between the rocks. But if you wait a little, you will see them swimming up to the surface to breathe. In this area, you will come across impressive shoals of thousands of goatfish, and smaller shoals of surgeonfish.

Snorkeling with Hawaiian sea turtles in Turtle's Town, Maui

Since the spot is popular (in the area furthest away from the beach) with excursion boats and divers, you should stay alert and make your presence visible. Because of the sand on the sea bed, visibility can be lower when the sea is turbulent.

Restaurants and accommodation

The Maui Makena Beach and Golf Resort has the only restaurant and accommodation facilities on site, but prices are high. Otherwise, you can take a picnic. Sanitary facilities (with showers, toilets and drinking water) are provided for visitors on the southern part of the beach.

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaMakena State Park
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceEasy, from a sandy beach
  • Potential DangersUsual precautions
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree (or snorkeling tour price)
  • Restaurants nearbyYes
  • Public toilets & showersYes

MAP Spot

Sea turtle watching in Hawaii

snorkeling-turtle

Sea turtles are a very familiar sight on many snorkeling spots in Hawaii, especially in Turtle Town. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:

  1. Do not attempt to touch or ride sea turtles
  2. Stay at a distance (6 to 10ft) from sea turtles
  3. Do not chase a turtle swimming away
  4. Avoid sudden movement and allow sea turtles plenty of space when they come up to the surface to breathe

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.