Table of Contents
- The 11 Best Snorkel Spots on Maui (+7 crucial tips)
- Map of the best snorkeling spots on Maui
- West Maui Snorkeling Spots:
- South Maui Snorkeling Spots:
- Boat only snorkeling spots:
- Best snorkeling for families
- Best snorkeling for beginners
- Best snorkeling for sea turtles
- Where to rent snorkeling gear on Maui
- 7 Important Maui Snorkeling Tips
- Maui vs Big Island: Beach Vacation or Adventure (you decide)
- Haleakala Sunrise Guided Tour Permits Included
- Surf Lessons With Maui Wave Riders Kihei
The 11 Best Snorkel Spots on Maui (+7 crucial tips)
Maui is one of the best, if not the best, Hawaiian islands for snorkeling. If you’re planning a trip, there is plenty to see underwater. But you won’t find good snorkeling just anywhere on the island. These are the 11 best snorkeling spots to find fish, coral, turtles, and (if you’re lucky) dolphins.
Map of the best snorkeling spots on Maui
Before we jump into the details, this map will help you get a quick view of where these 11 best spots are located. For detailed information on each, keep scrolling down.
West Maui Snorkeling Spots:
1. Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay is arguably the best snorkeling spot on the west side of Maui. It’s a marine life conservation district, which means fishing in the bay is restricted. That allows for fish to grow and reproduce without threat and makes for excellent snorkeling spots.
At Honolua Bay you can expect to see a wide variety of fish, eels, and turtles without having to swim too far from shore. In fact, sticking to the rockier sides is often one of the best bets for seeing the most sea life.
Honolua Bay is one of the more difficult spots to access. There is no official parking lot and there are limited parking spots along the road. From the street parking you’ll need to walk 5 minutes to the rocky cove. While it may take a little longer to get to and there’s not a great place to sit out and enjoy a sandy beach, the underwater views more than make up for it.
2. Kapalua Bay
Just south of Honolua Bay is another bay that has excellent snorkeling: Kapalua Bay. Here you’ll find a small crescent shaped, golden sand beach, set amongst luxury rental properties. Kapalua Bay is a great place to enjoy the day both in the water and out. This is a semi-protected cove, so you’ll frequently find that the water here is calm and easy to enjoy. You’ll find a good amount of coral and fish, just offshore and the location is even frequented semi-regularly by sea turtles.
Out of the water you have a great, sandy beach, restrooms, showers, and equipment rental right on the beach. If you need a break from the sand, you can head up on the Kapalua Coastal Trail for a scenic view along the coast. And while there’s no food options on the beach, there are a number of restaurants and stores nearby where you can pick up everything you need.
You can read more about Kapalua Bay, the amenities, and tips for enjoying your full experience there.
3. Napili Bay
Napili Bay is just south of Kapalua and is a gem on the west side of Maui. Here you’ll find a larger bay than Kapalua with a beautiful sandy beach and few waves. Like Kapalua, the bay remains mostly protected by a reef (other than on days with high surf and strong currents) and it is a popular spot for families to enjoy the small waves and underwater sea life. In the summer, you can usually find small waves in the bay, making it an ideal place for swimmers of all ages to enjoy.
At Napili Bay you’ll be able to see a variety of fish, especially concentrated near the sides of the bay. And along the south side, you’ll often find turtles swimming. If you’re watching the sunset at Napili, you can see them bobbing their heads up and down along the shore. And in the winter, you can often spot whales from this spot. They don’t come into the bay, but you’ll be able to see them further offshore.
As far as amenities, there are limited options. There is a public parking area near the Napili Shores Hotel (just north of the hotel parking lot). The parking area doesn’t have many spaces, but there is additional street parking along Lower Honoapiilani Road.
There are two restaurants at Napili Bay: the famous Gazebo restaurant on the south side and the Sea House restaurant on the northern side. Neither offers casual beach snacks, but they’re a great place to go for a meal. There is just one restroom located near the Sea House restaurant.
4. Black Rock
If you are staying in Ka’anapali, you’re just steps from one of the best snorkeling spots on the island. Black Rock offers excellent snorkeling along the rock, if you can beat the crowds out there. Located at the north end of Ka’anapali Beach, Black Rock is an easy snorkel location with plenty of fish (and often turtles!) just steps from the shore.
Ka’anapali Beach is one of the most famous beaches on Maui, with 3 miles of soft sand and turquoise blue water. Along Ka’anapali Beach you’ll find numerous large hotels and condo complexes, making this one of the most crowded beaches on this list. Head into the water and swim along the rocks, taking care to avoid any jumpers from the top of the rock.
Parking here can be challenging if you don’t arrive early. The free beach parking is limited. You can also park in the Whaler’s Village parking lot and shop or eat at the stores providing parking validation.
5. Mala Wharf
This spot never makes the list for top snorkeling spots, but for a more experienced snorkeler, this is a great spot. Mala Wharf is a very popular scuba spot because you can see just about everything here: fish, turtles, and even reef sharks. This spot is located right in Lahaina and used to be a fully functioning pier, until in 1992 hurricane Iniki destroyed most of it.
Mala Wharf is located at the north end of baby beach. There is a decent sized parking lot and a small beach available. Entering the water is easier during high tide. Once in the water, you can find fish and turtles by following along the side of the wharf wreckage out away from the shore.
South Maui Snorkeling Spots:
6. Ulua Beach
This is one of our favorite family friendly south Maui beaches. And, it’s a great snorkeling spot. You’ll find a reef on the north side of Ulua beach, separating Ulua beach from Mokapu beach. The water is generally calm, and it’s a great place to get in and explore, without heading too far from the beach.
The amenities in this area are also helpful. There’s a good size parking lot, though it does fill up early, great bathrooms and showers, and plenty of shade along the trees so you can stay out of the sun if you’re spending hours there.
7. Makena Landing
This small beach is the gateway to excellent snorkeling and diving. It’s not a great spot for beginners as the waves to get out into the water can be a bit rough. But for people who are comfortable in the water, this is a great spot to get in and see some excellent sea life.
Makena Landing is a famous south Maui snorkeling spot because it’s an excellent spot to enter and swim to turtle town or five graves. You’ll often find Turtle Town advertised as a spot that snorkeling boats take you to — but if you’re a strong swimmer, and the conditions are good, you can make it there right from the beach!
Note: the parking lot is very small and there’s not much space on the beach, so this is really a place to get in the water and snorkel and then move on if you want a bigger beach to relax on.
8. Kamaole III
We used to frequent this beach because it’s a great spot for the whole family to enjoy. Only later did we realize that it’s also a good snorkeling spot on the south shore. While most of the bottom of the beach is sandy, when you head to the north side you’ll find a nice reef. Snorkeling among the reef you’ll find fish and possibly even turtles.
This beach park comes with a large parking lot, street parking availability, a huge grassy area, trees for shade, as well as a swingset and picnic tables. These amenities make it easy to spent the entire day here, snorkeling and lounging on the beach.
9. Ahihi Kinau
‘Ahihi-Kina’u is a special area. It’s not just a wonderful place to snorkel, but it’s also a designated Natural Area Reserve that contains 807 acres of marine ecosystems. Reserve waters are closed to any motorized boats and fishing. There is only a small area of Ahihi Bay that is open to public use. Signs will direct you to the best places to enter the bay and to find fish and other wildlife to view.
If you plan to snorkel here, come prepared. There is no place for food or water, so before you leave make sure you bring some with you. Cell phone coverage is hit or miss. And there is little sand to sit on. Most of the coastline is made up of lava rock. Great for snorkeling, not great for laying on the beach.
Boat only snorkeling spots:
Heading out on a snorkeling boat trip is one of the most popular activities on Maui. That’s because there is excellent snorkeling that is difficult to reach from the shore, but easily accessible via boat. Here are two of our favorite boat only snorkeling spots.
10. Molokini Crater
This crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater just a few miles off Maui is one of the most popular snorkeling destinations on the island. At this Marine Life Conservation District, you’ll find more than 250 species of fish!
There are plenty of boat tours available that depart from Lahaina or Maalaea Harbor, but this Kai Kanani sunrise snorkeling tour is our favorite way to experience Molokini Crater. You’re up early, but it’s a great way to beat the crowds out there. Read more about the Kai Kanani Molokini Crater Sunrise Snorkeling Tour and watch a video of our experience.
11. Lana’i Snorkeling
If you’re up for an adventure and a lot of snorkeling, heading out to Lana’i is worth the boat trip. Lana’i is an island located 7 miles off the coast of Maui and it’s most easily reached by boat from Lahaina. Lana’i is one of our favorite snorkeling spots because it’s more difficult to reach, which means fewer people are in the water. There are so many different snorkeling spots to see and a great boat tour can navigate you to the best stops.
You can read more about our favorite snorkeling boat to Lanai and watch a video of our day out on the water. And yes, we were surrounded by a pod of spinner dolphins which was the absolute highlight of the entire trip.
Plus, get 10% off your snorkeling tour with the code: HVG.
Best snorkeling for families
Most of the snorkeling spots listed above are great for families. But if you’re looking for the best family friendly snorkeling spots, we recommend Kapalua on the west side and Ulua Beach on the south side. Both of these beaches can have calm waves (check conditions), a sandy beach, and snorkeling that’s not too far out from the shore.
Related read: the best beaches on Maui for families.
Best snorkeling for beginners
You’re ready to hit the ocean and see some fish. But there’s one problem: you’ve never actually snorkeled before. While snorkeling looks easy, it can be deceptively difficult and dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. The ocean may look calm, but currents, waves can make things challenging, especially if you’re learning how to breathe through a snorkel and swim.
If you want to head out into the water but you’re a beginning snorkeler, we recommend Baby Beach in Lahaina. It’s not the best snorkeling spot on the island, but it’s extremely protected by an offshore reef and it’s shallow. Plus, we’ve been lucky enough to spot turtles and even a monk seal right off shore. (Just make sure you give these protected creatures their space in the water).
Read more about visiting and swimming at Baby Beach in Lahaina.
Best snorkeling for sea turtles
If seeing a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (or honu) is high on your list, head to Honokeana Cove. While this cove doesn’t have the clearest water or a sandy beach, it is full of sea turtles. It’s difficult to not see sea turtles here.
Public access to the cove is down a long path just north of the Honokeana Cove condo complex. There’s no parking lot, so you’ll need to find parking on the street.
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are listed as a threatened species, so you’ll want to be sure you give them appropriate space. It’s recommended that you stay at least 10 feet away from sea turtles.
Where to rent snorkeling gear on Maui
There are so many easy places to rent snorkeling gear on Maui. Our two favorite locations for rentals are The Snorkel Store and Boss Frogs. No matter where you are on the island, you shouldn’t be too far from one of their locations.
Should you buy or rent snorkeling gear?
We recommend renting snorkeling gear when you’re visiting Maui, unless you already own gear that you like and want to travel with. You’ll often find that it’s a better deal to rent the gear and you can rent higher quality gear compared to what you’d purchase at a store like Costco or Target. Plus, you can ask the experts at the snorkel shop to help you find the best fitting gear. And if it isn’t comfortable, you can bring it back to exchange it for another set.
7 Important Maui Snorkeling Tips
- Pay attention to lifeguard flags: The ocean can be unpredictable and snorkeling isn’t as easy as it looks. Make sure you understand the ocean conditions before you go out.
- Sign up for the Snorkel Report: This is our favorite way to get an idea of what the waves and currents look like for the day. This free daily newsletter gives you an easy snapshot of snorkeling conditions on the island.
- Stick to the sides: Fish and turtles love swimming along the coral. And for most places, you’ll find a majority of the coral along the side of the snorkeling location. So almost everywhere, you’ll want to stick to the side, find the coral, and enjoy the sealife.
- Snorkel with a buddy: Safety comes first when out in the ocean. Never snorkel alone and make sure that you and your buddy stick together.
- When in doubt, don’t go out: Big waves and strong currents can make snorkeling dangerous. Additionally, runoff from streams (especially after a storm) are places that you should avoid. If you’re not sure whether you should snorkel in a given location, skip it. It’s not worth it.
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen: It’s important that we do our part to protect the coral reefs that these fish and other animals depend on to live. Keeping chemicals out of the ocean is an important part of that. Make sure you either wear sun protective clothing (instead of sunscreen) or only use reef-safe sunscreen.
- Don’t step on coral: If it’s not sand, don’t step on it! Stepping on coral can degrade or kill the coral. And growing new coral is an incredibly slow process — 1” per year under good conditions. So don’t step on coral — you’ll save yourself from painful cuts and you’ll protect the coral for future generations.
Want to figure out how to fit snorkeling in with all of the other things you want to see on Maui? We have a done for you itinerary that takes you to all of the top snorkeling spots and other things that you’ll want to see in that area. Plus, we include restaurants to enjoy nearby when you’re done snorkeling.
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And if you want even more snorkeling information, we have a video that shares five of these fantastic snorkeling spots:
I'm the co-founder, with my husband Jordan, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I am a planner! I love to plan island-hopping adventures, days out on Maui, and everything in-between. I spend a lot of my time on our SUP and my favorite time of year in Hawai'i is whale season!
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