There is as much to see in the sea as there is on land in Maui. That’s why snorkeling when you visit Maui needs to be on the top of your to-do list. But if you don’t regularly spend much time in the ocean you might be concerned with safety. 

What are the safest places to snorkel in Maui? If you’re worried about currents, you’ll find the safest snorkel spots in sheltered bays or shallow reefs like Napili Bay, Ahihi Cove, and Ulua beach. If you’re worried about shark safety, how you snorkel is more important than where.

As frequent snorkelers, we have you covered with the best tips to keep you safe while snorkeling in Maui. 

Calmest Beaches in Maui for Snorkeling

There is no way anyone can predict the ocean from day to day or guarantee with absolute certainty that water will be calm for your snorkeling days. That said, if you’re on the hunt for calm water on Maui for snorkeling, your best bet is to stick to sheltered bays. You’ll find a number of these along West and South Maui.

As a general rule, you’ll find the calmest seas in the morning. On the west and south side of Maui, you’ll get afternoon tradewinds that can make the sea choppier even on a calm day. If you’re in search of calm water, plan for a morning snorkel trip.

As a bonus, early morning snorkelers usually get the best parking spots.

Snorkeling in West Maui:

West Maui is home to some of the best surfing on the island. While great for surfers, that means there are waves that can make your search for calm waters a little more challenging. That said, there are two great snorkeling bays that can have calm water if you time it right. 

As a general rule, head to these spots early in the day and don’t get in the water if you don’t feel comfortable. 

Napili Bay: this crescent-shaped beach on west Maui offers a sheltered bay that is protected by a reef. While water outside the bay can become choppy and more difficult to swim in, you can avoid large waves by swimming in this protected cove.

There is plenty of sea life to see — stick to the edges of the bay and near the reef and you’ll have the opportunity to see plenty of fish, turtles, and other sea life. 

Kapalua Bay: just a bit further up the road from Napili Bay is Kapalua Bay. This is another protected cove in West Maui. The water is often calm in the morning and it’s one of the best snorkel spots on the island.

Yes, you could swim with a turtle just a few yards offshore. 

Snorkeling in South Maui:

Your options for calm water continue as you head down the coast to south Maui. Behind the beautiful resorts are some calm waters that you can venture into confidently.

Some spots you’ll want to explore are: 

Ahihi cove: You’ll find this spot just south of Makena in the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve. There’s a short walk to get you to the water, which can be a calm spot with plenty of sea creatures for you to see.

A word of caution, if there are surfers, it’s best to steer clear of this spot. The water can be very calm, but when there are surfers out it’s a good indication that the water isn’t quite right for a beginner snorkeler. 

Kamaole beaches: If you feel safest under the watchful eye of a professional lifeguard, the Kamaole beaches in Kihei are a great option.

The beach is broken up into three pieces: Kamaole (or Kam) I, II, and III. All beaches have snorkeling options, but kick over to the rocky areas to get the best chance to see sea life. 

safe place to snorkel with a lifeguard in Maui

Kamaole beaches in Kihei are a great place to snorkel under the watchful eye of lifeguards.

Ulua Beach: You’ll find Ulua beach in front of the Elua Village Condos in Wailea. While there are no lifeguards on duty at this beach, the waters are often calm and the reef is shallow, meaning you won’t have to head out into deep waters to see fish. Because it’s shallow there may be less to see, but you’ll still enjoy some time swimming along with fish. 

The calmest beach in Maui?

If you’re not concerned with snorkeling and you just want to dip into the warm pacific ocean without worrying about waves, undertow, and currents, there are some great options. 

Baby Beach Lahaina: located on the north end of Lahaina, baby beach is a calm shallow sandy area of the ocean. Protected by a long exposed reef, this shallow area will allow you to experience wading and swimming in the ocean wave-free. 

Baby Beach Paia: located on Baldwin beach, this area can be a little less calm than Lahaina’s Baby Beach because the area is prone to more wind, but on most visits, you’ll find it an extremely tranquil place to swim. 

Launiupoko Tide Pools: Visit Launiupoko at the right time and you’ll be able to wade into the shallow tide pools right from the beach. Launiupoko offers a smaller area to swim and explore, compared to the two baby beaches, but during the summer months, you’ll have a front-row seat to one of the best surf spots on the island. 

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Daily snorkel updates

If you want to get updates sent directly to you while you’re here on Maui, sign up for the daily snorkel reports from The Snorkel Store. These reports cover the main 3 snorkeling zones on the island: south Maui, west Maui (near Ka’anapali), and upper west Maui (near Kapalua). It will tell you what beaches are windy or have big waves and where you’ll have the best luck seeing turtles. 

Most Dangerous Spots to Swim and Snorkel on Maui

Whole those bays are generally thought to have the calmest waters for your snorkeling experience, are there any places you should absolutely avoid?

If you’re not a strong swimmer (and even if you are), you’ll want to steer clear of swimming at Big Beach in Makena.

This beach is well known for a dangerous shore break that is present year-round (which is why it has been nicknamed “breakneck beach”).

Maui officials have posted numerous signs encouraging swimmers to steer clear of the dangerous shore break here. Heed their advice and skip swimming at Big Beach. 

dangerous beach to snorkel Makena beach

Makena Beach is a beautiful beach to visit but be cautious when swimming.

Shark safety when snorkeling in Maui

If sharks are scaring you away from snorkeling in Maui, keep this in mind: Hawaii has more than 9 million visitors each year. Since 1995 there have been 120 shark attacks, with five of them fatal.

The odds are in your favor that you’ll be able to swim and snorkel safely here. 

If you really want to know more about when and where shark attacks occur, Hawaii makes a record of all incidents available to the public. If you read the incident list, you’ll see that there’s not one spot where all the shark attacks occur. 

If you want to do your best to snorkel safely and reduce your chances of meeting a shark while out enjoying the water, Hawaii publishes safety guidelines

Hawaii shark safety tips:

  1. Don’t go off alone. Swim and snorkel with other people.
  2. Avoid swimming at dawn or dusk. Before you think you’re always safe in the middle of the day, it’s noted that tiger shark attacks can happen anytime during the day.
  3. Don’t enter the water if you’re bleeding — even a little bit. They can detect the smallest amount of blood and will come to investigate. 
  4. Avoid murky water, harbor entrances, stream mouths, channels, or steep dropoffs. Sharks like to hang out in places like this. 
  5. Don’t wear high contrast clothing or jewelry. This will get their attention and draw them in. 
  6. Don’t splash excessively. The splashing could attract sharks.
  7. Don’t go in the water if a shark has been spotted (obviously). 
  8. If fish or turtles begin acting erratically, it’s best to leave the water. They might feel the presence of a shark nearby.
  9. Be cautious if there are dolphins present — some larger sharks view them as food.
  10. Don’t swim near people who are fishing. Why swim near shark bait? 
  11. When in doubt, stick to beaches with lifeguards and follow their instructions. 

Bottom line

Snorkeling on Maui can be fun for nearly everyone, but by choosing the right spots and taking reasonable precautions, you can have an even better time. And, as always, trust your instincts and wear reef-safe sunscreen!


Erica Gellerman

Erica Gellerman

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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