Snorkeling Poolenalena Beach – Turtles and Healthy Coral Reef

Maui, Hawaii

Snorkeling Poolenalena Beach is a joy. This long beautiful sandy beach has three separate snorkel spots full of turtles and healthy coral reef. Poolenalena is in Makena in South Maui.

Note: This page is a sample from our popular Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook available here.

Snorkeling Poolenalena Beach
The left end rocky point of Poolenalena Beach, is a great snorkeling area.

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There are two different public accesses for snorkeling Poolenalena Beach. The south location, where the best snorkel spot is, has a small parking lot, and you access the beach by walking a short path through the Makena Surf resort property. The north lot, for Po’olenalena Beach Park, is much bigger and closer to the beach.

Like most spots on Maui, snorkeling Poolenalena Beach is best done in the morning before the winds pick up, which they almost always do by noon.

We took the picture below one time when we flew in. The rocky point to the right of the big central beach is the best of the two snorkel spots described here. The tiny beach around that point to the right is Chang’s Beach.

Aerial view of Poolenalena Beach with Chang's Beach.
School of chromis over a coral head at Poolenalena

Water Entrance When Snorkeling Poolenalena

No matter which rocky point you choose to snorkel, this sandy beach offers the easy entrance you would expect. There are some large rocks popping out of the beach on the left end, but they are easily avoidable. So, walk out in your bare feet until you’re ready to float and put your fins on.

Where to Snorkel

The three spots for snorkeling Poolenalena are the rocky points. There is one past the left end, one in the middle of the beach (just north of the northern access) and one is a climb over the rocks and a walk down the beach to the right end. This third one is better accessed from Palauea Beach to the north which is described in our Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook (see link above).

Turtle cleaning station at Poolenalena Beach

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Snorkeler with turtles at Poolenalena  Beach

Left End

At the left end of Po’olenalena the snorkeling is around the big rocky point. In fact you can snorkel all the way around to Chang’s Beach. The swimming distance from beach to beach is about 900 feet.

This is a great snorkeling spot. It sometimes has low visibility next to shore, so swim out a little way and it usually gets better. Then you are treated to a variety of corals in interesting spur and groove reef formations that are fun to explore, and some fish.

The depths range from 5-25 feet, which makes it that much more interesting. We always have a great time watching the turtle cleaning station. They hang around and let the tangs eat the algae off their shells. We saw a total of seven turtles our last time snorkeling Poolenalena. As you get farther around toward Chang’s Beach you will come along a vertical wall that is about 40 feet deep, with caves, corals, and fish.

Watch for surge when snorkeling Poolenalena on this rocky point. You also need to keep an eye out for the many tour boats that frequent this area now. We think this increase in visitors has decreased the fish numbers here.

Middle rocky point at Poolenalena Beach
The middle rocky point of Poolenalena Beach.
Sea turtle resting under coral at Poolenalena

Middle Rocky Point

What looks like the right end of the beach is actually a rocky point in the middle of the beach. You are pretty much next to this point when you walk down to the beach from the northern parking area.

The snorkeling around this point is good. It looks like a small snorkeling area, but the coral reef juts out over 400 feet offshore. There is some shallow topography of patches and spurs. The coral health is decent and the reef is dense, more so on the left side of the point than the right, looking from the beach. There are some fish to see, but not a lot. But we did see six turtles here. The depth over most of this snorkeling Poolenalena area was eight feet. This point can sometimes have wavier conditions than the ones nearby, which also lowers visibility, so watch the conditions.

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What We Saw While Snorkeling Poolenalena Beach

In addition to the many turtles we saw while snorkeling Poolenalena, we also saw many urchins in the reef. Fish numbers were decent and the corals were healthy and dense.


A Stripebelly Puffer over a sandy bottom at Poolenalena
  • Barracuda, Great
  • Boxfish, Spotted
  • Butterflyfish: Fourspot, Milletseed, Ornate, Raccoon, Saddleback, Teardrop, Threadfin
  • Chromis, Blackfin – schools
  • Chub
  • Cornetfish
  • Damselfish, Blue-Eye
  • Dascyllus, Hawaiian
  • Eel: Whitemouth Moray, Yellowmargin Moray
  • Filefish, Barred
  • Goatfish: Manybar, Yellowfin – large schools, Yellowstripe
  • Grouper, Peacock
  • Hawkfish, Arc-Eye
  • Lizardfish, Clearfin
  • Moorish Idol
  • Parrotfish, Stareye
  • Porcupinefish, Spotted
  • Puffer, Stripebelly
  • Sergeant: Blackspot, Hawaiian
  • Tang: Convict, Lavender, Sailfin, Yellow
  • Toby, Hawaiian Whitespotted
  • Trevally, Bluefin
  • Triggerfish: Black, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Pinktail
  • Trumpetfish
  • Unicornfish: Bluespine, Orangespine, Paletail
  • Wrasse: Christmas, Saddle
Healthy Rice Coral and a Trumpetfish at Poolenalena


  • Antler
  • Blue Rice
  • Branching Rice
  • Cauliflower
  • Finger
  • Lobe
  • Mound
  • Rice

Other Creatures:

  • Oyster, Black Lipped Pearl
  • Sea Star: Crown of Thorns, Green Linckia
  • Turtle – many
  • Urchin: Banded, Blue-Black, Collector, Pale Rock-Boring, Red Slate Pencil
  • Zoanthid, Pillow
Coral wall dotted with Red Pencil Urchins at Poolenalena

Driving Directions From Kihei

1. Head south on S. Kihei Rd. Toward the end of the road, there is an intersection where you will veer left onto Okolani Dr.

2. Go 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 through the intersection with Kaukahi St., the road you are on is now called Makena Alanui Rd.

4. You will see Wailea Golf Club Dr. on your left and Makena Rd. on your right and shortly after that you can turn into the northern and the larger of the two parking lots. This lot has a sign that says it’s Po’olenalena Beach Park. There is a very short walk to the beach.

Sign and entrance for the north parking lot at Poolenalena Beach
Northern parking lot entrance for Poolenalena Beach Park.

5. If you continue south on Makena Alanui Rd. there is a parking lot roadside at the Makena Surf Condos that allows public access through the property to the south end of the beach. It is marked with a blue shoreline access sign with the number 104 on it. Behind a signed gate there is a public cement path that you follow down to the beach.

Shoreline Access 104 at Makena Surf Condos for Poolenalena Beach
South parking lot entrance at Makena Surf Condos for snorkeling Poolenalena Beach
South parking lot entrance for Poolenalena Beach
Gate from the south parking lot at Makena Surf Condos to Poolenalena Beach.
Path to Poolenalena Beach


There is a shower near the beach at the south entrance and some porta-potties in the northern parking lot.

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