Maui, maybe the best Hawaiian Island for snorkeling

There are between 20 and 30 good snorkeling spots in Maui, all located along the west coast of the island, more sheltered from the wind and swells. Most of them are freely accessible from shore.

Two areas in particular concentrate almost all of the local snorkel sites: the coasts of the western part of the island, between Lahaina and Kapalua, and the coastline which stretches from Kihei to Wailea, south of Kahului.

Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay is the most popular spot in western Maui. The bay can be snorkeled from the shore, or from boat tours.

In the northwest of the island, the Kapalua region is home to some of Hawaii’s most beautiful spots. Here, several coves with crystal clear waters follow one another along the coast. Most of them are edged by coral reefs.

Honolua Bay, Kapalua Bay and Napili Bay are the most famous in the area, but it is also possible to snorkel Mokuleia Bay, Honokahua Bay (from DT Fleming Park), and Honokeana Bay.

A few miles further south, you’ll reach Kahekili Beach (aka “Airport Beach”), then Black Rock, just north of Kaanapali Beach. The latter is known for its seabed, very full of fish.

Turkey moray eel
Kapalua Bay boasts a vibrant marine life – here, a turkey moray encountered in the rocky bed of the bay.

If you are staying in Lahaina, you’ll find decent snorkeling at Baby Beach, just north of the town. The coast here is bordered by a small, shallow lagoon, the perfect place if you are snorkeling for the first time.

Canoe Beach and Wahikuli State Park (about 2 miles north of the port), as well as Puamana Beach Park and Lainiupoko Beach Park (south of town), are other options around Lahaina. Their underwater life does not, however, equal that of the spots around Kapalua.

Green sea turtle in Turtle Town
A green sea turtle lays at the surface of the ocean in Turtle Town. This spot is considered the best in Maui for turtle watching.

In the south of the island, the coast of Kihei and Makena is also home to awesome snorkeling spots. The most famous of these is undoubtedly Turtle Town, where you can swim with green sea turtles.

You can go encounter them from the beach, or during boat trips, which is the only safe way to reach the areas located far from shore.

While turtles are easy to see in Turtle Town, they are also very common in most other spots on this part of the coast. Poolenalena Beach, Wailea Beach and Big Beach are particularly famous for spotting “honu”, the Hawaiian name for the green sea turtle.

Coral reef in Ahihi Kinau
Ahihi Kinau‘s coral reef, protected by a marine preserve.

A few miles further south, near the southern tip of Maui, the coast is shaped by lava flows from the Haleakala volcano. On this jagged and mineral coastline, you can get in the water on two great spots located in an entirely natural setting: The Ahihi Kinau marine reserve and, 1.4 miles further south, La Perouse Bay.

If most of Maui’s spots are accessible from the shore, you’ll need to book a boat trip to explore Molokini, off Wailea. This ancient volcanic crater, partly submerged and very photogenic, is one of the emblematic sites of the island.

Molokini Crater
Molokini crater, bordered in its inner side by coral reefs, is the #1 boat tour destination in Maui.

You will find many boat tours to take you to Molokini. This tour is however more for the beauty of the site, because the coral reefs sheltered by the crater are not more spectacular than on some other spots of the coast.

Maui is particularly famous for turtles watching, many of which finding refuge near the coast of the island. You can see green sea turtles on many spots, especially in the Wailea region. Maui’s reefs, rich in fish, are among the most spectacular and best-preserved in the archipelago.

They are inhabited by a great diversity of colorful fish, such as the yellow tang, the yellow longnose butterflyfish, the Moorish Idol, the reef triggerfish (the fish of the state of Hawaii), and the ornate butterflyfish. Many red pencil urchins, very colorful, also live on the reef.

Hawaiian cleaner wrasse
Hawaii is a remote archipelago, where many endemic species, such as the Hawaiian cleaner wrasse, are found – photographed in Ahihi Kinau.

When to go snorkeling Maui?

There are two main seasons in Hawaii. The summer, from May to October, is the warmest, driest and sunniest season (with an average of 80°F/26.5°C, and maximum temperatures of 85°F/29.5°C). This is the hurricane season, but they are rare in the North Pacific.

In winter, from November to April, the weather is wetter and more changeable (intermittent tropical rains and sunny spells), and the air is cooler (an average of 75°F/24°C, with maximum temperatures of 78°F/25.5°C).

As so often in tropical islands, the windward coast of Maui (the west) is dryer and more sheltered. Most of the snorkeling spots are concentrated there. On the North Shore, especially in Honolua Bay, the wind and the swell makes snorkeling unsafe some days. The water temperature can fall to 73°F/23°C in winter, and reach a peak of 84°F/29°C at the heart of the summer (June to September).

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Variable, high waves in some areas
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