Snorkeling Olowalu Beach - Maui
Snorkeling Ololwalu Beach on Maui is great if you know where to swim. This report was written in August, 2010. Olowalu is located on the road between Ma'alaea and Lahaina, right at the 14 mile road marker. This location is often slighted for poor visibility close to shore. That is true. But the farther out you swim, the better it gets. There are hundreds of acres of reef structure extending several hundred yards offshore along a beach that extends over half a mile in length.
Close in, the water is shallow, protected, an excellent place to bring small children. As you swim out the water gets clearer but stays relatively shallow, the fish more abundant and varied. There are a number of channels that allow for fairly easy swimming to the outer part of the reef.
I think that one of the reasons this beach is criticized is that maybe only one person in 50 or 100 who arrive at the beach actually swim out as far as is needed. Many snorkel boats anchor out off Olowalu in the afternoon, and they're there with paying customers day-in and day-out because of the clarity of water and because the reef structure 200-400 yards offshore supports such a variety of fish.
Parking is right off the road, although there are no public facilities. I park almost directly opposite the 14 mile marker. Plenty of Kiawe trees provide shade and protection from the sun; watch out for the Kiawe thorns as you walk under the trees.
After 10 years of snorkeling in Maui from Kapalua to Maluaka Beach and in the Ahihi and La Perouse reserve, Olowalu remains a favorite. I have to swim much farther than at almost every other beach access spot, but I keep coming back - for the variety of fish, for the quiet serenity of the location, for conversations with locals and tourists alike, for the stunning winter sunsets.