Snorkeling Wailea Beach is very popular and very busy, being the house beach for two big resorts, the Grand Wailea and the Four Seasons. Unfortunately, we cannot recommend the snorkeling here very highly. The reefs are not particularly healthy, probably because of the traffic.
Note: This page is a sample from our popular Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.
But, it is a beautiful beach and the swimming is nice. These resorts also have many other activities that they rent gear for, like kayaks, paddle boards, boogie boards, etc., which can be dangerous to snorkelers. The rocky points on either end of Wailea Beach (see the picture we got from the airplane below) are very large and do not lend themselves to snorkeling from one beach to the next and walking back, though Polo Beach is to the south and Ulua Beach is to the north.
Being a beautiful sandy beach, Wailea offers easy access for snorkeling. Walk to the end of the beach you choose, walk in barefoot and put your fins on when you are ready.
Of the two choices here, the north has the better snorkeling, though the visibility is often not great. The reef here is much healthier than the south side. After entering and swimming away from the beach, you have to go a decent ways past the first few fingers of coral reef to get into some healthy and nice coral areas.
If you swim around the point until you are facing the condos that are on the shore (photo at right), you will be in the right area.
Avoid hugging the shore, because the corals are much better in slightly deeper water (about 10 feet), and the water clarity is also much better farther out. We did see a couple of turtles here as well. And once again, it is really too long of a swim to go all the way to Ulua Beach. Just turn around before you get tired and snorkel this rocky point from Ulua Beach, too.
One negative to snorkeling Wailea is again that it is a very busy beach. There are some very inexperienced kayakers and surfboard paddlers commonly in the area, and Galen was almost struck twice in one short period by them. Compared to other areas, snorkel this only if you want a better spot than the south side, but if you can, go to one of the much better snorkel spots in south Maui that we recommend in our Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook.
When it comes to a recommendation about snorkeling the rocky point on the south end of Wailea Beach (photo below), we say don’t bother.
This is a very popular beach, and the waters are crowded, but the snorkeling is much lower quality than many other areas that are close by on the south end of Maui. The visibility is often poor, because of all the kicked up sand. There are some live corals, but lots of dead reef too, making this the least healthy in the area (probably because of all the human traffic). We encountered no turtles here (rare for this coast), and there were few fish.
If you are a very strong swimmer, and really want to see some better corals, swim all the way around the point until you are in front of the big tree on the point (photo at right). Here the visibility improves, and the there is a stretch of corals that are much healthier. There are also better fish populations here. But don’t bother swimming much further around because you have to cross a broad sandy area with no reef to get to the next area and it’s too far to easily swim over to Polo Beach.
Most of these creatures we saw on the north end of this beach. In the healthy coral patch on the north end we saw the less common fingercorals, and turtles. Here is what we saw:
1. Head south on S. Kihei Rd. Toward the end of the road, there is an intersection where you need to veer left onto Okolani Dr.
2. Continue to the intersection with Wailea Alanui Dr. and turn right.
3. Follow this through the big intersection with Wailea Iki Dr. near The Shops at Wailea. Keep driving until you pass the Grand Wailea Resort and turn right just after. There is a green sign that says Wailea Beach (top photo) and a blue shoreline access sign with the number 106 (middle photo). If you see the Four Seasons Wailea, you just missed the turn.
4. Follow the road to the public parking areas, a large one under the trees to the right and some spots along the road down to the turnaround.
There are restrooms and a shower you can use here.