Maui snorkeling is exceptional. We have snorkeled this beautiful Hawaiian island extensively and just love it for it's abundance of Green Sea Turtles and free beach access.
When you start searching for Maui snorkeling information, you might think that you have to pay for a boat tour to find the best snorkeling, like out to Molokini. Yes, this little off shore volcano island is worth snorkeling. But what's great about Maui is that it has oodles of lesser known snorkel locations that are even better, and that are accessible from shore for free (no boat trip fees).
Getting in the water here is not without some challenges though, because it is a windy island, crowded, and many beaches are exposed. But it is so worth persevering, and finding those wonderful, less busy spots. You will snorkel with more Green Sea Turtles than any of the other major Hawaiian Islands. Really. You can hardly step into the water without seeing one. And because Maui still has areas of fantastic, living coral reefs, it does not lack for tropical fish to watch.
Click on each location below, for full details and pictures. Our best snorkeling in Maui page explains how we choose our favorite spots. Also don't miss the movie, pictures and more about what you can expect further down the page.
Honolua Bay - This large protected bay is popular for snorkeling. You can access it by boat tour or, after a long drive up north, from a rocky shore. Just make sure you read where to swim, because low visibility near shore is a problem.
Black Rock - Probably the second most iconic and well known snorkel site on Maui, it is accessed from Kaanapali Beach. Black Rock is a great place to see fish, but it has some safety hazards you should be aware of.
Wailea Beach - This is the house beach for the Grand Wailea & Four Seasons resorts, so it is popular. But there are much better snorkeling spots nearby.
Kapalua Beach - This gorgeous, popular beach can offer great snorkeling, but read our swimming directions, because some parts of it are not so great, and some are amazing.
Poolenalena Beach - This place is a marvel, and represents the best of Maui, snorkeling around rocky exposed points, over vast coral fields, with tons of turtles and fish.
Kahekili Beach Park - This site has excellent depths for snorkelers and the snorkeling grounds parallel the beach, so everything is easy to find.
Molokini - This sunken volcanic crater island is reached by boat tour, a few miles offshore. So what's all the fuss about? Amazing water clarity. You snorkel inside the crescent of the crater, and as the ocean bottom drops away, you can see down fifty feet or more. There are some nice corals along the rocky edge and along the floor. And you have a good chance of seeing a small reef shark down deeper. But, the fish quantities and varieties have never impressed us here. And it is always crowded with boats and snorkelers. If you don't mind crowds and more of a party scene, definitely give it a try.
Our very popular Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook contains detailed descriptions and pictures for 39 of our favorite locations. Within it's 200 pages you also get a color picture fish guide, many equipment tips, and some potentially life saving tips about ocean safety. For the best possible Maui snorkeling experience you will want this guide.
First, explore Maui snorkeling by watching our movie. It is from many trips and different locations around the island.
1. Beach Access
Not having to take a snorkel boat is a wonderful thing. When you can just walk into the water everything is done on your own time and schedule, and there is no expense involved. The fact that the free snorkeling is off some of the most beautiful beaches in the world doesn't hurt either.
2. Oodles Of Turtles
Beautiful, graceful, Green Sea Turtles abound in Maui, and it seems like we keep seeing more every trip. On one recent trip we snorkeled twenty four locations and saw turtles at twenty three. No kidding! And at most spots we see not just one, but many, slowly cruising around or taking a break, tucked under some coral.
3. Beautiful Hard Corals
You have to know where to find them, but on Maui there are some amazing fields of healthy coral, and some fantastic tall coral heads.
4. Oh yeah, stunning tropical fish too!
Maui does not lack for colorful and inquisitive fish to snorkel with.
5. Perfect Water Depths For Snorkelers
For a snorkeler, this is pretty important, and the Maui snorkeling water depths won't disappoint.
Be forewarned, the snorkeling on Maui is a bit different than many locations around the world (that we have visited at least). There are a few factors that influence the type of snorkeling on Maui.
It Is Exposed
Maui differs from many snorkeling destinations in the world because much of best snorkeling is not located in protected coves and bays. In fact most of the best snorkeling is around the rocky points between beaches. And basically that means that you are swimming in more open and exposed ocean conditions. There are some exceptions.
It Is Windy!
Maui experiences some of the stronger trade winds in the islands. Generally the trade winds blow out of the east, and for that reason most of the snorkeling is on the drier west side of the island (see the map above). The winds start to pick up in the morning, and by noon the winds are generally blowing hard enough that we don't enjoy snorkeling in it. So we always go snorkeling in the mornings on Maui.
It Is Busy
Maui sees a lot of snorkeling traffic. And like many places, this traffic has a hard impact on the environment. There are a few very popular snorkel beaches on Maui that get most of the traffic. The good thing is since most people don't know where the better opportunities are, they are often uncrowded.
Plan For An Easy Trip
It is a good idea to figure out what snorkeling spots you are most interested in before you book your hotel. On our Maui snorkeling accommodations page we give some tips on how to decide. And visiting the right time of year for the best snorkeling conditions can help. Check out our When To Snorkel Hawaii page.
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