Welcome to our Maui snorkeling guide! 🙂
Snorkeling in Maui is widely regarded as the very best in Hawaii.
With over 30 miles worth of award winning beaches. This island paradise is home to richly diverse sea life, healthy coral reefs and exciting underwater lava rock formations.
With plenty of opportunities to spot green sea turtles and even migrating humpback whales, Maui’s pristine beaches have something for everyone.
A true snorkelers paradise, Maui snorkeling is some of the best in the world, and you can tick off a few of your bucket list snorkeling items here.
In this guide we’ll delve into which Maui beaches offer the best snorkeling, including some lesser known gems that are away from the crowds!
Lets dive into the best snorkeling Maui has to offer!
Top 10 – Best Snorkeling In Maui
Atop of most lists as the best maui snorkeling spot is Molokini Crater.
In fact, Molokini Crater is often touted as of one of the most unique (& popular) snorkel locations in entire the world, and a true bucket list spot for any snorkeler
This crescent shaped volcanic crater is estimated to be around 230,000 years old, and is renowned for having some of the very best snorkeling conditions.
The crystal clear water clarity here can often allow snorkelers and divers exceptional underwater visibility of up to 150 feet!
Sitting about 3 miles off the southwest coast of Maui, Molokini Crater is only accessible via boat.
There are plenty of boat tours to choose from, but we would recommend going on one of the boat tours which leaves in the morning in order to enjoy the most favorable snorkeling conditions.
Molokini Crater is one of Maui’s marine life conservation districts, and it is also a protected sea bird sanctuary.
That means the marine life here is abundant and diverse, with up to 250 species of fish and 38 different types of coral to be seen!
Snorkeling isn’t the only popular activity here as well, Molokini crater is also known as one of the best scuba diving spots in the world.
Honolua Bay sits on the North West side of Maui, and resides in yet another of Maui’s marine life conservation districts
(Clearly there’s a theme to the locations making our list of best maui snorkeling spots!)
The bay is sheltered from the wind on both sides by tall rocky cliffs, and so it enjoys calm waters and excellent snorkel conditions much of the time.
The water visibility at the shoreline isn’t the best mainly due to the stream which runs down into Honolua bay, but it becomes much clearer once you swim out a little bit.
This is where you will have the chance to see an abundance of reef fish, and possibly even a green sea turtle or two!
The ‘beach’ here is probably not the typical Maui beach that you had in mind – It’s very rocky, and not the kind of beach to lay back on and sun yourself on!
But as you’ll probably be enjoying the amazing snorkeling at Honolua Bay more than anything else, this surely won’t be an issue.
This maui snorkel spot is also popular amongst surfers, especially in the winter months, and provides some of the best surfing on the island.
Black Rock (Ka’anapali Beach)
Kaanapali beach, aka Black rock beach, is one of the best beaches in maui not only for snorkeling, but a whole host of other fun activities too.
This award winning 3 mile long, picture perfect beach is often ranked as one of the best beaches in the entire world.
As well as being one of the most beautiful beaches, Kaanapali beach is also one of best snorkeling spots in maui, and certainly one of the most popular as well.
With plenty of shops, dining, exciting nightlife, and swanky resorts in the area you can quite easily spend a fun filled day (or vacation) around black rock beach.
When it comes snorkeling Kaanapali beach, most of the fish reside around black rock itself (the rocky peninsula which sits just in front of the Sheraton hotel).
Whilst snorkeling black rock you can expect to see plenty of different fish, such as butterflyfish, wrasse, tang, triggerfish, Humuhumunukunukuapuaa (and many more!) as well as a few corals.
There can be quite strong currents at black rock at times, especially as you swim out and around the point, so exercise caution in this area and use your better judgement.
On the North west side of Maui sits Kapalua Bay. Another award winning beach and perfect snorkeling spot.
This small crescent shaped bay is well protected on either side making Kapalua bay one of the best snorkeling beaches in maui for beginners and children to enjoy.
The well protected and therefore calm waters of Kapalua bay make for excellent underwater exploration for snorkelers of all ages and abilities, and a perfect location for learning how to snorkel
The snorkeling here is best on the far left and right sides of the bay, just along the rocks. Snorkelers here should be on the lookout for octopus and crustaceans which like to hide amongst the rocks.
Other marine life which call Kapalua bay home are the Hawaii State Fish Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, boxfish, scorpionfish, cornetfish, wrasse, tang and many more!
The visibility here gets better the farther you go out, as does the coral and marine life, but stick within Kapalua bay itself as the currents once you drift outside of the bay can become very strong.
Napili Bay is located on north west maui, and is between Kapahu and Kapalua Bay
Napili Bay is also close to many other interesting attractions as well. With plenty of Restaurants, museums, nightlife, world class golf resorts and shopping nearby around the Napili/Kapalua Bay area for you to explore.
Napili Bay is the perfect setting for relaxation. This quiet beach offers peaceful tranquility throughout the day, leading into a stunning sunset with views including Lanai and Molokai in the evening.
The far right side of the beach is quite sheltered, and good for beginner snorkelers and children. The far left (and more rocky) side of the bay has interesting snorkeling too with plenty of reef fish.
Be careful of the rocks as the water can be a little choppier here!
Napili Bay is a great place to spot green sea turtles, even when just strolling along the beach! Other marine life in adundance at this maui snorkel spot are
Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach)
Turtle town is located on Maui’s Southern coast. Not far from Makena Beach & Golf Resort, and just between Nahuna point and black sand beach.
Turtle town is accessed from Maluaka beach via boat tour out to the coral reef which is just off shore.
Some boat tours to Molokini Crater will include a stop at turtle town, allowing you to snorkel two of Maui’s most famous snorkel spots within a single day!
Turtle town is, you guessed it, the best maui snorkeling spot for green sea turtles!
South Maui’s Maluaka Beach is nestled right in front of the Haleakala mountain, which protects the beach perfectly from incoming trade winds, allowing the ocean here to stay relatively peaceful and calm, and thus perfect for snorkeling.
Turtles gather to have their shells cleaned by surgeonfish
As well as lots of Green Sea Turtles, you can also expect to see cornetfish, damselfish, goatfish, triggerfish, octopi and of course, many more! There are also some pretty spectacular underwater coral formations.
There’s plenty to see and do at this popular maui snorkel spot.
Wailea Beach sits just outside the Grand Wailea Resort and the Four Seasons, therefore the beach is very popular with hotel guests and can get pretty busy at times.
The resorts rent out kayaks and paddle boards too, so it is important to be vigilant whilst you are snorkeling at Wailea beach to avoid a nasty collision!
The snorkeling at Wailea is pretty good – You can see a decent amount of fish here, although the water clarity close to the shoreline isn’t the great.
In order to reach the reef and get a glimpse of the best stuff, you’ll probably need to do a fair bit of swimming, but you’ll be rewarded for this with pretty cool looking rock formations, some healthy reef and maybe even some sea turtles.
Head to the right side of the beach for the best snorkeling, (the left side doesn’t have as good visibility). There are a lot more fish over on the right side of the beach too.
There are patches of coral reef about 30 yards out from the shoreline, and that is where you will find most of the sea life congregating – this includes surgeonfish, butterflyfish, moorish idol, boxfish and many more!
You can even swim over to Ulua beach from Wailea – But this is a fairly lengthy swim so is better left to advanced swimmers (and you’ll definitely want to have your snorkel fins on!)
Ahihi Kinau Reserve
Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve is located just past Makena, on the southern coast of Maui
It’s a small bay which begins with shallow water that gradually gets deeper, and is a really popular snorkel spot for beginners to explore.
Along with Kapalua Bay, this is one of the best snorkeling spots on maui for beginners, and it has the additional benefit of plenty of marine life to see.
Now Ahihi bay is not your typical sand beach – it’s a very rocky bay. But the reason it’s so good for beginners is that you don’t have to swim out far at all before you’ll see fish hiding in and amongst the rocks.
Being within a Marine Life Conservation District, this little bay packs a punch in terms of the amount of diverse marine life that resides here.
With lots of fish and plenty of colorful coral growing amongst the lava rock, whilst snorkeling Ahihi bay you can expect to see tang, wrasse, butterflyfish, eels, spotted eagle rays and still many more.
There is a $5 non-resident fee per car to visit Ahihi kinau Natural Area Reverse, but this money goes into maintaining and preserving the bay, so is well worth supporting!
Just be careful of the sharp/slippery rocks here. It would be advisable to wear a good pair of water shoes here to help protect your feet from sharp rocks, and to prevent slipping over.
Mokuleia Bay (Slaughterhouse Beach)
Don’t be put off by the nickname! Quite simply, Mokuleia bay is called Slaughterhouse beach because there used to be one on the cliff overlooking the beach.
This west Maui gem was designated a marine life conservation district all the way back in 1978, so has benefited from the significant amount of time it has been a protected area.
When snorkeling Mokuleia Bay you’ll want to stick to the right side of the bay and snorkel along the rocky walls – It’s important to be careful here and not to get too close to them if the waves are strong to avoid being swept up against them.
You can (weather/ocean permitting) even swim around the rocky point and into Honulua Bay! Another one of Maui’s best snorkel spots.
Slaughterhouse Bay is generally pretty off limits for snorkelers during the winter months. The winter swell here can be pretty big and the waves rough.
But on it’s good days, you can expect to see turtles, parrotfish, needlefish, triggerfish, tang, wrasse and maybe even some white tip reef sharks.
Located in south Maui is Poolenalena Beach. A long, stunning golden sand beach with scenic views both above and below the water.
The beach extends slowly and gently into the water allowing for a very easy entry and you’ll find three separate spots at this beach which are all great to snorkel, with plenty of healthy coral.
With a turtle cleaning station here you are guaranteed to see several here, but there is so much more to find here too – boxfish, barracuda, parrotfish, triggerfish, porcupine fish, unicorn fish & many more!
What’s also great is that Poolenalena beach is usually very quiet during the week in the early mornings, making it a perfect place to come and explore, and maybe even have the beach all to yourself!
Snorkeling In Maui
Maui, also know as ‘The Valley Isle’ is the second largest of the Hawaiian islands, but don’t be fooled by it’s size – this little island is home to many of the worlds best beaches.
In general, the best snorkeling spots in Maui are mainly found on the west side of the island.
The ocean and winds are much calmer on this side of the island (trade winds blow in from the north east), so west Maui is far more protected from large swells, and has much better water visibility
Snorkeling in Maui is one of the most popular activities, and it provides what is probably the best snorkeling throughout all of Hawaii.
Most of the best snorkeling spots on Maui are accessed, very easily, directly from the shore with an easy gradual beach entry on soft golden sand.
Most of the major hotels and resorts on Maui are also located on the west and south, so it’s most likely that you will have easy access to one of these fabulous snorkeling spots right from, or very close to your doorstep.
As well as being a snorkelers dream, Maui also has some spectacular scuba diving too with plenty of beautiful coral reefs to explore.
Any time of year is a good time to visit Maui, with average temperatures of around 75˚–85˚F.
During the summer months (April to November), Maui is drier and warmer, and during the winter, when the waves pick up is when Maui becomes a prime surfing destination.
The winter season is also whale watching season (Dec to May), where you can watch humpback whales migrate!
The western (leeward) side of Maui is generally drier and less windy than the eastern (windward) side, making west Maui the prime location for all of the best snorkel spots on the island
Best Time for Snorkeling In Maui
Snorkeling in Maui is much better during the summer months. It’s drier and less windy which generally means the visibility underwater will be much clearer.
In winter when the their can be fairly large swells, you will find that a lot of the beaches then become prime real estate for surfers to take over.
As well as being better in the summer, Maui snorkeling is also the best during the mornings. The trade winds can really pick up in the afternoons making ocean conditions rougher during this time, and the visibility not very good.
Marine life Conservation Districts
Marine Life Conservation Districts (MLCDs) were created in Hawaii to help conserve and replenish it’s marine life and resources.
To do this, MLCDs have strict rules in place such as allowing only limited fishing or even prohibiting it entirely.
The Conservation Districts provide marine life with a safe area in which to grow and reproduce, and because of this these areas generally have high populations of healthy and diverse species.
MLCD’s as a result are what allows maui snorkeling spots to be so rich with marine life, and make excellent areas for snorkeling and scuba diving.
In fact, a lot of the time the fish in most MLCDs are fairly tame and will happily swim very close to you!
The Three MLCDs in Maui are:
- Molokini Shoal
Maui offers some of the best snorkeling locations in Hawaii, and while it is one of the most popular activities you can do in Maui, many of the best beaches are quiet enough to enjoy peacefully away from the crowds.
Finally, a couple of useful tips/things you should know when it comes to snorkeling in Hawaii:
- Maui receives thousands of snorkelers, and so in order to best protect the reefs and the marine life in Hawaii wearing reef safe sunscreen is required by law.
- It is also against the law to touch or disturb marine life. Be respectful whilst you are exploring other creatures homes and observe them from a distance.
- The ocean is unpredictable. Especially at certain times of year. Use your better judgement, and if ever in doubt, don’t go out!
Not sure what snorkeling gear you may need? Check out our guide to the best snorkel gear to help you decide!
I hope you enjoyed this maui snorkeling guide 🙂 Why not also check out our Oahu Snorkel Guide too?