Maluaka Beach is, without doubt, the most popular snorkeling spot that is accessible from the Maui coast. It can be reached from the beach or during a boat snorkeling tour, and you are practically guaranteed to see green sea turtles in the relatively well-preserved coral landscapes with their wealth of fish.
There are two ways to get to the snorkeling spot. Many tour companies on Maui organize half-day boat trips to the spot, but it is also possible to reach it from Maluaka beach. The areas to explore are practically the same (the boats moor a distance from the shore), and if you aim to see the turtles, either option is worth considering. From the beach, you will need to swim your way to the areas visited by turtles, about 200 yards away, making it an option only for experienced snorkelers.
Snorkeling boat tours to Turtle Town can easily be booked everywhere on the island and online. If you want to explore this spot on your own, from Kahului or Makena, head south until you reach route 31 in Kihei. From there, continue south for about 10 miles. The spot is across from the Maui Makena Beach and Golf Resort, which is well signposted. As ever in Hawaii, the hotel complexes on the beach are required to provide parking facilities and free access for visitors. Once parked, you can continue on foot, following the signs to the beach, about 100 yards further on.
If you take a boat tour, you will enter the water directly from the boat. If you snorkel the spot from the shore, the snorkeling area begins at the southern tip of Makena Beach, along the bar of black rocks to your left as you are facing the ocean. Enter the water from the sandy beach, near this area.
The snorkeling area extends for a length of 300 yards and a width of 100 yards along the rocky coast, beginning at the edge of the beach. If you snorkel from the beach, do not go too far (and avoid the boats area) and stay close to the rocks.
From the first few yards, the sand gives way to rock (↕3-7ft/1-2m), then coral, which quickly becomes denser (↕7-14ft/2-4m). Several species of sea urchins, including the highly colorful slate pencil urchins, cover the sea bed. The reef (mainly made up of porous coral beds) is the home of butterflyfish, wrasses, Moorish idols and hawkfish.
A little further away from the beach is the best area for seeing green turtles (↕10-16ft/3-5m). This the area where boats generally drop their guests so that they can enjoy snorkeling with these fascinating creatures. Sea turtles are fairly inactive at this spot, and many of them rest on the sea bed, often between the rocks. But if you wait for a little, you will see them swimming up to the surface to breathe. In this area, you will also come across impressive shoals of thousands of goatfish, and smaller shoals of surgeonfish.
Since the spot is popular with tours boats and snorkelers, you should stay alert and make your presence visible. If you are participating to a tour, follow the instructions of your guide. Because of the sand on the sea bed, visibility can be lower when the sea is turbulent.
The Maui Makena Beach and Golf Resort has the only restaurant and accommodation facilities on site. Otherwise, you can take a picnic. Sanitary facilities (with showers, toilets and drinking water) are provided for visitors on the southern part of the beach. Boat tours generally include drinks and snacks. Check when booking.
Sea turtles are a very familiar sight on many snorkeling spots in Hawaii, especially in Turtle Town. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:
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.
We went a few years ago and randomly stumbled upon Maluaka beach where we found some of the locals collecting and eating sea urchins. We stopped talked to them for while and we mentioned that we had been snorkeling the day before but we were a bit disappointed our tour didn’t take us to Turtle Town. They mentioned that we had just saved ourselves quite a bit of money since we just had to swim out from the beach and around the point and we would see the snorkel boats with tourists if we wanted to do it ourselves. Four of us decided to try it the next morning before our flight and it was a bit unnerving swimming without a guide, trusting the advice of locals, especially when the water dropped off around the point to 40 or 50 feet, but as soon as we got around the point we saw the boats just as the local said we would and had an incredible experience finding our own turtles. It was a pretty cool experience to have to move out of their way as they come up for air and was definitely a highlight of our trip to Maui, but I wouldn’t try it if you were not confident in your ability and map it out before you go. Getting yourself in trouble is not worth saving $100 US.
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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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