Maui’s west-facing beaches are some of the most idyllic in all of Hawai‘i. They receive plenty of sun with very little rain (especially in the summer) and are protected from major swells by other islands, including Kaho‘olawe, Lāna‘i, and Moloka‘i.
Our guide to Maui snorkeling spots begins with recommendations for the best snorkeling spots for families, beginners, and experienced adventurers. We provide a map of the island’s top snorkeling sites, in-depth descriptions of each, some good-to-know local snorkeling tips, and what you need to know about snorkeling tours on Maui.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
- Best snorkeling spots for families, for beginners, and to see turtles, fish and corals.
- Map of snorkeling spots
- Complete list of snorkeling spots
- Snorkeling essentials (tips, safety and rentals)
- Snorkel Tours
Most days, snorkeling in west Maui is a very calm, serene experience, with clear water and a wide variety of fish and wildlife. Those offshore islands also offer snorkeling opportunities, with daily excursions run by local tour operators. Because Maui is less populated than O‘ahu, Maui’s reefs tend to be healthier overall, and there are several protected areas that showcase its underwater world.
Best snorkeling spots on Maui for families and for beginners, and where to see to see turtles, fish, and corals.
What’s the best snorkeling spot on Maui? The answer depends on who you are and what you’re looking for.
A boat trip out of Molokini is a great, half-day experience for families.
Map of snorkeling spots
For help you get oriented, we provide a map of Maui’s top snorkeling spots below. Click on a site for a short summary or scroll down to find more information.
List of our favorite snorkeling spots
You can snorkel anywhere there’s water, rocks, and reef, and as such, many beaches in Maui offer that opportunity. But obviously, some spots are better than others. Below, we break down Maui’s top snorkeling spots, explain what makes them great, and let you know what to expect.
- Honolua Bay
- Mokulē‘ia Bay
- Kahekili Beach Park (Airport Beach)
- ‘Āhihi Kinau
- La Perouse Bay
- Black Rock at Ka‘anapali Beach
- Maluaka Beach (Turtle Town)
- Five Graves
Overview: Honolua Bay is a big-wave surfing destination in the winter, and absolutely un-swimmable during that time. However, summer brings calmer conditions. The bay is part of the Honolua-Mokulē‘ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District, and its coral reefs are home to many types of colorful fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Good to know: Start by the rocks on the left (west end of the bay) and follow them out to Kalaepiha Point. Divers should hit the east side of the bay, where the water is deeper.
mokuleia: Mokulē‘ia Bay is adjacent to Honolua and also part of the Honolua-Mokulē‘ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District. Most people don’t realize that, however, given that Honolua is a more popular name. If you’ve already snorkeled Honolua, or simply want something lesser-known, enter the conservation district from Mokulē‘ia.
Good to know: Mokulē‘ia is also known as “Slaughterhouse Beach.” It was once part of the Honolua Ranch, and some of its slaughterhouse facilities were located on the cliffs surrounding the bay.
Overview: Molokini is a crescent-shaped volcanic crater about two miles off the west coast of Maui, and draws nearly half a million visitors per year to its coral reefs. The boat trip out to the crater is part of the experience, as it provides wonderful views of Maui and the surrounding islands. Unless you have your own boat, Molokini is only accessible via an organized snorkeling tour. There are many options leaving from Lāhainā and Maalaea Harbor, and they all differ in what they offer. Shop around for the best price in relation to the amenities you want on board (lunch, drinks, etc).
Good to know: Before going, read up on Molokini’s volcanic history. The amount of activity out at Molokini takes away some of the natural appeal, but understanding what you’re looking at will help improve the experience.
Kahekili Beach Park (Airport Beach)
Overview: Everything about Kahekili is easy. It has ample parking, a beautiful grassy park at the edge of the sand, restrooms, and gazebos. The snorkeling is no different. The reef sits just beyond the water entrance, so there’s no need for a long swim to start snorkeling. This makes these reefs popular with families, beginner snorkelers, and less-than-strong swimmers, as do the variety of fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles. Shore dives are also popular from Kahekili.
Good to know: Kahekili is also called “airport beach” because it used to kinda-sorta be an airport. Before the runway was built up north in Kapalua, Kahekili was the only place to land a plane on Maui’s west side.
Overview: Olowalu is sometimes referred to in the media as “Coral Gardens” or “Turtle Reef” – not to be confused with the aforementioned “Turtle Town.” It is blessed with an easy entry, shallow water, and calm conditions, making it a wonderful spot for beginners. The reef does go farther out into deep water, however, so more advanced snorkelers can also enjoy exploring this spot.
Good to know: On the surface, Olowalu looks like a small, simple beach along the road. But it has a long, storied history attached to it, both in ancient Hawai‘i as well as the sugar cane era, which you can read about here.
Overview: ‘Āhihi Kinau is a Natural Reserve Area managed by the State of Hawai‘i. Here, dolphins, sea turtles, and monk seals are often seen, and since most of it is protected from boating or fishing, there’s a healthy fish population as well. You can expect to see butterfish, trigger fish, parrot fish, surgeon fish, moorish idol, needle fish, and more.
Good to know: Start at Kanahena Beach and spend some time exploring ‘Āhihi Bay. The reef beings immediately upon the water entry in many areas, so take care not to step on any sharp rocks or damage the reef. There is a $5 entry fee for non-residents that goes to future preservation of the area.
La Perouse Bay
Overview: If you travel south from ‘Āhihi Kinau, the road will eventually dead end into La Perouse Bay. Though it’s not part of the preserve, it features similar terrain to ‘Āhihi Bay, with a jagged lava rock coast. It requires a swim to get out into the deep water, where schools of fish live amongst large coral heads. It is not recommended for beginners.
Good to know: La Perouse Bay was formed by the 1790 eruption of Haleakalā. The coast line is undeveloped and well-preserved, with several hiking trails to explore. It can get very hot in this area, as there is little shade, so be sure to drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen.
Black Rock at Ka‘anapali Beach
Overview: Located at the far north end of Ka‘anapali Beach, Black Rock is just what it sounds like – a large black outcropping that juts out into the ocean like a small peninsula. The water is typically calm and it’s easily accessible from shore, the black rock providing a nice contrast to the colorful fish. The snorkeling isn’t extensive here (no deep water), but those staying on Ka‘anapali Beach will appreciate its convenience.
Good to know: Hang around Black Rock at sunset. Each night, a man lights torches and dives off into the water, reenacting a feat once performed by Maui’s King Kahekili.
Maluaka Beach (Turtle Town)
Overview: Maluaka and the surrounding area, aka Turtle Town, is an area south of Wailea where Hawaiian green sea turtles are often spotted in the water. While the name is great for marketing, beware of setting too high of expectations – remember, turtles are natural, free creatures and may or may not be present. That said, the area is frequented by them, so if you’re keen on seeing one, it’s a good place to try.
Good to know: Maluaka is usually very calm, good for swimming and all-day hangouts. Like most beaches in this area, much of the best snorkeling is found along the lava-rock coast that juts out at the end of Maluaka. Follow the coast as close as conditions allow.
Overview: Five Graves refers to a mostly rocky shoreline along Makena Drive south of Wailea. Though often associated with Chang’s Beach (snorkelers can enter here, too), Five Graves has its own parking lot farther south. It’s recommended for experts only, with sharp rocks, deep waters, and rougher-than-usual conditions. That said, it’s a very rewarding spot, with large schools of fish, massive rocks, coral reefs, and a large population of sea turtles.
Good to know: Many snorkeling tours stop offshore in the area of Five Graves, where there are many outer reefs. If you’re looking to snorkel farther off shore, join a tour that frequents these waters. Scuba divers also love this area for its underwater caves. If interested, contact a local dive shop.
Snorkeling Essentials (Maui Edition)
Maui is one of the most reliable snorkeling destinations in Hawai‘i thanks to its calm western and southern shores. Still, one needs to be properly prepared when snorkeling. Below, you will find a collection of tips to help you get the most from your adventure.
Snorkel gear rentals
If you plan to use your snorkeling gear more than once, it’s more economical to buy a set at a local store, as cheap as $20 to $30 for a complete set. This way, you don’t have to return your rental gear at the end of the day or operate on a timeline, and, of course, it is yours to keep for future use on other adventures. We highly recommend avoiding full-face masks, as they have been deemed dangerous.
That said, if you’d rather simply rent, there are many places to do so in and around Kīhei, Lāhainā, and Ka‘anapali.
For the best mix of quality and price, try a specialized store like Snorkel Bob’s and Boss Frog’s in Lāhainā or Kīhei. Otherwise, general snorkel gear can be rented from various surf shops and kiosks throughout the island, and often from the activities desk at hotels. Expect to pay between $8 and $15 a day for a mask, snorkel, and fins.
5 Snorkeling tips for Maui
Keep the following 5 local snorkeling tips in mind to stay safe and find the best fish:
1: Go west!
The west coast of Maui – including Kīhei, Lāhainā, and Ka‘anapali – typically enjoys better snorkeling conditions and calmer seas due to its “leeward” position in relation to the trade winds, as well as the protection it receives from offshore islands, like Lāna‘i and Kaho‘olawe. It’s where you’ll find the island’s best snorkeling spots.
2: Go early
The morning is generally a better time to snorkel than the afternoon, when the wind and water are calmer. Check local conditions before entering the water.
3: Dress well
Wear protective water clothing, like a rash guard, when snorkeling. When using sunscreen, be sure it is reef safe (see below).
4: where the fish like to hide
Fish need shelter and food, so the best place to look for them is near coral and the rocks. Be mindful of incoming waves when snorkeling near rocks.
5: stay safe
Watch out for waves, coral, rocks, and sea urchins when entering the water. A sandy strip is the best place to wade in.
Snorkeling safety tips
Whether you are a beginner or have snorkeled before, it’s important to remember the following:
- Be prepared. Use high-quality snorkel gear. Fins, mask, de-fogger and sun protection are a must. A fish ID card helps keep track of what you’re seeing. Booties to protect your feet can help increase comfort.
- Be careful: Never snorkel in high surf conditions unless you have ample experience in the water. If you are a beginner, start in shallow water and only venture farther out after getting comfortable. If you feel anxious, return to shallow water where you can stand.
- Always snorkel with a buddy: Snorkeling with a companion is more fun and much safer. In the event of an emergency, your snorkel partner could save your life. Do not snorkel alone.
- Use your gear properly: Ask the personnel at the rental shop if there is anything you need to know about the gear, be sure to ask how to clear your mask under water (generally: while floating with your feet down and your face up: exhale a burst of air through your mouth to blow the water out).
- Time your snorkeling properly: Generally, the best time to snorkel or dive is in the morning. Water conditions are most clear, the wind is calm, and the fish are more active. Take note of local weather conditions that may suggest otherwise.
- Be respectful and have fun: The reef is a living animal. It may look like plants and rocks, but in reality, it is made up of millions of tiny animals. Only rest on the sandy bottom.
Important: use reef-safe sunscreen
On January 1, 2021, a Hawai‘i law went into effect banning sunscreen from being sold in the state made with oxybenzone and octinoxate, harmful chemicals that studies have shown to be bad for coral and marine ecosystems. Please take note that many sunscreens labeled as “reef safe” still contain one or more of these chemicals. Check the ingredients thoroughly before purchasing, and look for a zinc-based cream.
You can learn more about the importance of keeping these chemicals out of the water in the following video:
One of Maui’s most beloved snorkeling spots is actually located quite far from the coast. Molokini, as described above, is approximately 2.5 miles west of Kīhei. There are also trips across the ‘Au‘au Channel to Lāna‘i, where snorkeling takes place in and around the Manele-Hulopoe Marine Life Conservation District.
Snorkeling boat tours allow you to access these spots, and also provide you with all the gear and instruction you need for a safe, memorable experience. These tours typically last a half day and sometimes, depending on the time of year, combine snorkeling with whale watching (November-April). Some tours offer food and drink as well.
Before booking, consider the type of experience you are looking for. Families may appreciate larger boats with more services, while others may find the small boat experience to be more enriching.
Check out the offerings from companies like: