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Marvelous Molokini is one of Hawaii’s most beloved snorkel spots. Uniquely situated in a collapsed volcanic caldera that has been partially engulfed by the sea, this underwater “coralcopia” of delight is a treat for snorkelers from beginner to advanced.
The uninhabited islet is located just 2.5 miles off the southern tip of Maui and is only accessible by boat or speed raft. Several Molokini tour companies on Maui leave the Ma’alaea Harbor twice daily for excursions. Early morning snorkeling when it’s the calmest is recommended.
You will enter the water from your tour boat.
Just below the water, at a depth range of 12 feet to 25 feet (4m to 8m), the reef is teeming with aquatic life. Molokini has special features that make it “the perfect snorkeling spot,” like incredible visibility (usually about 100 feet but given perfect conditions, up to 150 feet) and calm waters.
It’s a large area of 23 acres which is crescent-shaped. It’s the shape that protects these waters from the strong inter-island currents, large ocean waves, and powerful winds, making it calmer, and safer, than most other snorkeling areas around Maui.
Many colorful species of tangs, damsels, parrotfish, goatfish, coral and sea urchins are common on the reef, as well as black triggerfish and Hawaiian sergeant, often spotted in large groups surrounding snorkelers just below the surface.
And, of course, the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa or “humuhumu” (reef triggerfish, Hawaii’s national fish) has been known to make an appearance as well. Who knows? You might see a green sea turtle or a small whitetip reef shark.
Also, definitely don’t be surprised to see a pod of spinner dolphins riding the waves off the bow of the ship. And, if it’s the right time of year (November to May), whales can sometimes be seen frolicking in the distance, enjoying the warm Hawaiian waters with their babies.
The backside of Molokini offers a 300-foot sheer drop into the deep blue. There is a current that runs up the side of it called “the elevator” which is accessed from several feet below and pushes the diver up and away from the rocks. (It’s deep, so only scuba divers can partake safely).
If conditions are right, and time allows, your captain might show you the backside so that you can get an idea of how deep and serious the current is here.
Be sure to choose a ship with a great menu, adequate bathrooms, and freshwater rinse off… because there are no other accommodations or restaurants on Molokini, other than the one onboard your vessel.
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.
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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.
Reef drop off and sandy beds with sea turtles
Free shore access
Marine reserve with a fringing reef and many fish
Shallow reef with a good variety of fish
Free shore access
Sheltered bay with coral reefs, colorful fish and sea turtles
Sheltered bay with coral and reef fish
Night snorkeling with manta rays