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Kapalua Bay, edged by two coral reefs, is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui’s north shore. The bay is fairly sheltered and offers most of the time 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.

Turkey moray at Kapalua Bay
Small moray eels are common in the reef areas (here, a turkey moray eel).

How to get to Kapalua Bay snorkeling spot?

Kapalua Bay is located near 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.

Kapalua Bay snorkeling map, Maui

Water entrance for snorkeling Kapalua Bay

You can get into the water wherever you want from the sandy beach.

Kapalua Bay snorkeling exploration

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).

Red pencil urchin in Kapalua Bay
The red pencil urchin is frequently seen at reef, in the rocky crevices.

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.

Pacific sailfin tang in Kapalua Bay
A Pacific sailfin tang at Kapalua Bay.

Stay well in the bay, because there is sometimes current near its exit. During winter months, the north shore of Maui may be more exposed to wind and waves, so do not enter the water is the sea is rough.

Restaurants and accommodation near Kapalua Bay

The Merriman’s Maui overlooks the beach. Other dining options are available nearby, the closest communities for food being Kapalua and Napili, then Kahana.




 

  • Level required Beginner
  • Maximum depth15ft/5m
  • Water entranceFrom a sandy beach
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyYes

MAP Spot

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.