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Kapalua Bay, edged by two coral reefs, is one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui’s north shore. The bay is fairly sheltered and most of the time offers a perfect sea for snorkeling. Along the reefs, you can spot a great diversity of fish (including several species of moray eels) and have a good chance of encountering a green sea turtle.
Kapalua Bay is located near the Maui northern tip. Park on Honoapiilani Rd in Napili by Merriman’s Maui, with an easy walk (5 minutes) to the bay. You can also park up at Oneloa Beach and walk 1/2 mile down the trail access to the beach if you want the scenic route.
You can get into the water wherever you want from the sandy beach.
You can snorkel the whole bay, which is only 200m wide. However, the sandy beds in the center of the bay are not very interesting, and we advise you to stay in the coral areas located along the rocky points on either side of the beach.
The northern area (on your right when you are facing the ocean, zone 1 on the map) is the most recommended. The corals are prettier, better preserved, and the sea is also calmer than on the other side (southern area, zone 2 on the map).
Kapalua Bay seabed hosts a varied underwater life, particularly around the coral areas. Nice groups of sailfin tangs, lots of parrotfish, many different butterflyfish, wrasses, and a few different moray eels (stout moray, turkey moray, snowflake moray…) can be seen.
Typically green sea turtles are also to be found resting in the calm waters of the bay.
Stay well in the bay, because there are sometimes currents near its exit. During the winter months, the north shore of Maui may be more exposed to wind and waves, so do not enter the water if the sea is rough.
The Merriman’s Maui overlooks the beach. Other dining options are available nearby, the closest communities for food being Kapalua and Napili, then Kahana.
These snorkeling spots are accessible to beginners and kids. You will enter the water gradually from a beach, or in a less than 3ft. deep area. The sea is generally calm, shallow, with almost no waves or currents. These spots are usually located in marked and/or monitored swimming areas. It is not necessary to swim long distances to discover the sea life.
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.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
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Steep fringing reef with reef fish and sea turtles