By John – (Northern California)
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.
Comments Moved From Previous System
Galen & Nicole – Aug 25, 2010 – Great Tip!
Great tip on Olowalu John. We have skipped it in the past because of the reports of low visibility, and because of lack of time. But we will try it out on our next trip (just a few days away). And we will make sure and swim far enough out to get into the clear waters you describe, and report when we get back.
Galen & Nicole – Nov 24, 2012 – Sorry This Response Took So Long!
Well, we did snorkel Olowalu/Mile Marker 14 on our last trip to Maui and swam far out like John suggested. The coral reef really was diverse and alive once you got a ways out there. We got all the way out to the drop-off in one channel, swam along the edge until we found another one we could follow back to the beach.
He is right that the visibility gets better the farther you get out, but in our experience, it was not crystal clear. Also, we really saw very few fish for all the time we spent out there, but the reef might be worth the swim. If you want to read our complete description of snorkeling Olowalu, it is in our Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook.
Patty – Apr 30, 2013 – Snorkeling Olowalu a Must!
So I found this website and read the other comments and decided to check it out. The beach was great! The access to the water was sandy and calm. Once we got out pretty far, it was not perfectly clear, but the snorkeling was very good. Be careful on your route because you could find yourself over very shallow reefs. I learned that the hard way and skinned my knee. The very best part about our time at this snorkel spot was we encountered a seal who was very friendly and curious. He hung around us for a minute or so.
Thanks for the recommendation.
Carol & Tom – Jan 29, 2017 – Olowalu
We call it Best 14 on our GPS – you rarely are disappointed. Entry is easy, long channels to swim out. Harder to find your way back in. I have seen turtles and morays quite close to shore. I think we’ve had snorkelers here 50 times and only once got bounced around by the surge. Coral close in is covered with algae but farther out it’s gorgeous. And acres of it – you’ll never do the same trip twice. Be sure to go to Leodas for lunch – about a mile north.
Nicole & Galen – Jan 29, 2017 – Not Our Experience in August 2016
Thanks for your comment Carol and Tom, but that was not our experience when we visited again in August. The corals farther out are mostly dead now too due to a bleaching event the previous summer. But we did see some more fish than we had on past visits and we did see three turtles. This update will be reflected in the upcoming second edition of our eBook.
Update: We have released our second edition of the Maui eBook linked to above and it has a full description of the snorkeling you can find there. In our experience you can find many better snorkeling spots on the island.