Maui snorkeling is exceptional. We have snorkeled almost every spot on Maui (and the other Hawaiian Islands) and love its abundance of Green Sea Turtles and free beach access, among other things. Yes, bleaching events in the last few years have killed corals, Cauliflower Corals in particular, but overall Maui has the best snorkeling of all the main Hawaiian Islands.
So, where are the best snorkel beaches and what boat trips are fun? Really, the better spots are from easy to access beaches, all along the west shore of the island. These areas have healthy living coral reefs that are home to an abundance of tropical fish to watch. There are also some great boat tours available, including trips the popular Molokini crater.
Click on each location below, for a full review, details and pictures to help you decide on a beach to explore. Also don't miss the video, pictures, overview of what you can expect, and the Maui snorkeling beaches map, farther down the page.
Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook - The sample locations below are just a few from our popular eBook guide. You get:
Poolenalena Beach - See a turtle cleaning station at this great Maui snorkeling spot.
Kapalua Beach - Good north shore snorkeling from a gorgeous beach.
Kahekili Beach Park - Easy close access to good snorkeling.
Honolua Bay - A big sheltered bay way up north busy with happy snorkelers.
Black Rock - The place to swim with fish at well-known Kaanapali Beach.
Wailea Beach - A popular resort beach with a good snorkeling area.
Molokini - When snorkeling inside this sunken volcanic crater island a few miles offshore, you can see down fifty feet because of amazing water clarity. There are numerous companies that offer trips to Molokini.
Lanai - This Hawaiian Island is about eight miles west of Maui. There are many boat tours that do snorkel trips out to Lanai from Maui.
First, watch our Maui snorkeling video for a sample of what you could see. It is from many trips and different locations around the island.
1. Abundant Beach Access & Snorkeling Opportunities
Maui is great because nearly all the best snorkeling spots are accessible from the beach. That is so nice because unlike many other places in the world, you don’t have to pay for boats to take you out, and you don’t need to go on their schedule (and you can’t get canceled on because not enough people show up).
There are so many good snorkeling spots on Maui that you will never lack for checking out a new spot on your vacation. There is the offshore submerged volcanic caldera called Molokini mentioned above that makes for a fun boat trip, as well as the option to take a boat trip to nearby Lanai.
2. Oodles of Turtles
Beautiful, graceful, Green Sea Turtles abound in Maui, and it seems like we keep seeing more every trip. We have seen more turtles in Maui than on any other Hawaiian Island and it just gets better with every trip. On our latest trip we snorkeled with 121 turtles in two weeks, meeting them at nearly every spot. And often in Maui you get to see them in families, gracefully gliding through the water, resting tucked under coral heads, and artfully navigating around rocks in waves and surge.
3. Beautiful Hard Corals
While Maui does not have the soft corals you see other places in the world, it has the healthiest hard corals you can find in the main islands of Hawaii. They are a colorful background for a fun snorkeling adventure. It is true that there were coral bleaching events in Hawaii in 2014 and 2015 that killed a lot of corals, but some areas of Maui still boast some beautiful corals.
4. Stunning Tropical Fish
Maui does not lack for colorful and inquisitive fish to snorkel with.
5. Perfect Water Depths for Snorkelers
The majority of the snorkeling spots on Maui offer perfect depths for a snorkeler. Not too deep, or shallow, providing both interesting bottoms, and close enough shallows to really check things out. We have seen more octopus on Maui because of these ideal depths than any other Hawaiian Island.
Be forewarned, the snorkeling on Maui is a bit different than many places around the world (that we have visited at least).
It Is Exposed
This island differs from other snorkel destinations in the world because many of the best spots are not located in protected coves and bays. In fact most of them are 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 snorkel locations are on the drier west side of the island, as you can see in the Maui snorkeling 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, rarely in the afternoon.
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.
Generally we think the snorkeling is best in the summer months in Maui, but there are exceptions to this. Read more details about the snorkeling conditions on our When to Snorkel Hawaii page, including air and water temperatures, swell, wind, rain, hurricane season, and tourist high seasons.
Water temperatures in Maui vary a bit from winter to summer. You can find a chart of monthly average water temperatures in Maui on this page. We prefer to visit when the temps are near 80°F.
Good snorkeling depends on low winds and no waves. The wind on Maui is fairly predictable, meaning it is almost always windy. You can find a wind forecast for Honolua Bay here and Wailea and Makena here. Once the day heats up, the wind can turn to onshore winds particularly in South Maui, so as mentioned above it is best to snorkel in the morning. Waves, also known as swell or surf, need to be low for snorkeling. You can see a swell forecast for Makena here and for Honolua Bay here.
Choose your daily snorkeling spot according to the wind and swell forecasts above, but please note these websites were created for the folks who want high winds (wind and kite surfers) and high swells (surfers). As a snorkeler you want low winds and low swell.
Rainy season in Hawaii is between October and April and hurricane season goes from June to November, both of which affect snorkeling conditions. Hurricanes and tropical storms affect the islands primarily in July, August, and September. Plan your trip as you will and consider trip insurance if traveling in hurricane season.
It is a good idea to figure out what snorkeling spots you are most interested in before you book your hotel, so that you are staying near them. It will cut down on your driving time. On our Maui snorkeling accommodations page we give some tips on how to decide.
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