This small reserve, on the south-west coast of Maui, covers lava flows and surrounding sea beds. Fishing is forbidden, and the site is rich in fish. Its rich, colourful coral beds, visited by hundreds of tang swimming through the crystal-clear waters, make it one of the finest snorkeling spots in Maui.

How to get there?

From Kahului or Makena, head south until you reach route 31 in Kihei. From there, continue south for about 12 miles (20km). The spot is a few hundred yards after the entrance to the reserve (Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve), which is well signposted. Park in the fenced car park which you will see on your right, and where some portacabins have been set up. Once parked, you can continue on foot along the small rocky path to the beach, about a hundred yards lower down. Feel free to combine your visit to this spot with a trip to Maluaka (Turtle Town), less than 2.5 miles (4km) away.

Hawaiian cleaner wrasse at Ahihi Kinau, Maui

Water entrance

Once you reach the sea, you will find yourself facing a small bay with generally calm waters. You enter the water from a short promontory of black rocks that can be clearly seen from the beach. Only enter the water where the sign with a yellow fish is located. Sit down on the rocks and jump into the water, taking care not to hurt yourself. Make a mental note of this spot to make it easier to get out of the water later (often acrobatically).

Ahihi Kinau is a protected area. Do not wear any chemical based sunscreen. Only use zinc oxide or titanium oxide sunscreens, or better still, wear a rashguard shirt.

Ahihi Kinau Maui snorkeling map

Exploration

The snorkeling area extends for a width of 200 yards along the beach. As soon as you are in the water, you will find the water level is high (↕7-14ft/2-4m).

In all the snorkeling area, you will see impressive coral formations. Multi-coloured coral (acropora, etc.) cover the often abrupt volcanic rocks. Everywhere, sea urchins (including the spectacular red pencil urchins) have made a home in the crevices.

Ahihi Kinau coral reef snorkeling

Swim across the area following one of the many shoals of yellow tang and Indo-Pacific sergeants slipping through the rocks. Among the most colourful species in this spot, you are likely to come across Hawaiian cleaner wrasse, several species of butterflyfish and green birdmouth wrasse, with their characteristic “beak”. You may see some green sea turtles, but to increase your chances, you should opt for Turtle Town, a stone’s throw away.

Ornate butterflyfish at Ahihi Kinau, Maui

Although relatively isolated, this spot is very popular at certain times of year. The volcanic rocks are very sharp, so avoid putting your hands or feet on them, and stay away from the rocks altogether if the sea is rough.

Restaurants and accommodation

Ahihi Kinau is a natural site and has no restaurants. Take along at least some snacks and drinks.



 

  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaAhihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceA little complicated, from lava rocks
  • Potential DangersShark attack on a snorkeler in 2015
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersMedium
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

Sea turtle watching in Hawaii

snorkeling-turtle

Sea turtles are a very familiar sight on many snorkeling spots in Hawaii, including Ahihi Kinau. 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

If you love snorkeling with sea turtle, Turtle Town is by far the best spot to encounter them in Maui.

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.