🤿 25 Best Spots for Snorkeling in Maui + Tips & Maps (2024)

Best snorkeling in Maui blog cover image.  Text overlaying an aerial view of Olowalu Reef in Maui.

With crystal clear water, thriving coral gardens, and a plethora of marine life, the experiences you will have when snorkeling in Maui are among the best you’ll find anywhere in the world.

Oh, and nearly all of them are free to visit!

We have been to literally every beach and taken every snorkel tour on Maui throughout several trips with the goal of creating comprehensive travel guides to the island.

In this guide, I will present what I consider to be the best spots for snorkeling in Maui. In addition, I have provided helpful tips for beginners and first-time visitors, safety information, and the highest-rated tours for those spots that require them.

Underwater photography of a green sea turtle taken off the shore of Kaulahao Beach.

🐢 Snorkeling in Maui: Overview

Our interactive map below includes all of the best Maui snorkeling spots.

I recommend bookmarking this page or saving the map so that you can access it whenever you need.

Map of the best snorkeling in Maui
Click here or on the image above to open the map in a new tab.

The top 25 best snorkeling spots on Maui are:

  1. Molokini Crater
  2. Honolua Bay
  3. Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach)
  4. Olowalu Reef
  5. Coral Gardens
  6. Napili Bay
  7. Ulua & Mokapu Beach
  8. Black Rock (Ka’anapali Beach)
  9. Ahihi Bay
  10. Five Caves & Makena Landing
  11. Kapalua Bay
  12. Slaughterhouse Bay (Mokulē‘ia Bay)
  13. La Perouse
  14. Po’olenalena Beach (Chang’s Beach)
  15. Oneuli Beach (Black Sand Beach)
  16. Keawakapu Beach
  17. Polo Beach
  18. Charley Young Beach
  19. Kamaole Beach Park
  20. Little Beach (Makena Beach)
  21. Kahekili (Airport Beach)
  22. Mala Wharf
  23. DT Fleming Beach
  24. Wahikuli Wayside Park
  25. Canoe Beach (Hanakao’o Park)

In this guide, you will learn more about each of these amazing Maui snorkel locations, including where to find them, important tips, equipment requirements, tour options, and more.

🏆 Top 10 Best Maui Snorkel Spots

One of the best snorkel spots in Maui; Honolua Bay photographed from the lookout on our most recent trip to Maui.
This photo makes it easy to see why Honolua Bay is one of the top Maui snorkel spots.

At no cost to you, we receive a small amount for any bookings made using the links below.

Of all the Hawaiian islands, Maui has the best snorkeling. There are more sheltered coves and beach access points than any other island, and the water is crystal clear.

While you can snorkel anywhere with water and your gear, some places are certainly better than others!

The regions known as South Maui and West Maui offer the best beaches to snorkel from as they are on the leeward (dry) side and are sheltered from the tradewinds. Here, you’ll find calmer waters, better visibility, and an array of colorful marine life.

Conversely, most beaches on the eastern coast are not well suited for snorkeling. Strong currents and poor visibility make swimming and snorkeling difficult at the best of times and dangerous at the worst of them.

Maui Snorkel Tours

🌋 1. Molokini Crater

*By tour only*

An aerial view of snorkeling boats at Molokini Crater, Maui

Molokini Crater is not just considered one of the best snorkel spots in Maui but one of the best snorkeling destinations in the world!

As a protected marine reserve, the conditions are pristine and the reef is abundant with underwater life. While snorkeling, you can spot manta rays, sharks, turtles, and an array of tropical fish that inhabit the coral reef.

As the crater is located a fair distance off the south shore of Maui, a boat tour is required for this underwater adventure!

⚠️ Snorkeling Tip: As this is one of the most popular tours in Maui, tours fill up weeks in advance. Be sure to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment.


🐟 2. Honolua Bay

Nearest Town?Kapalua
Parking?Small parking lot at northern entry + streetside
Public Bathrooms?Portapotties in parking lot
Lifeguard?No
Sophie and a handful of snorkelers swim in the crystal clear water of Honolua Bay, the best Maui snorkeling place.

Tucked away in a small cove in West Maui, crystal clear waters and thriving coral gardens are abundant at Honolua Bay.

We have personally snorkeled every spot on this list and found Honolua Bay the best spot in terms of water clarity.

As a Marine Life Conservation Area, the bay is protected by law. As a result, a myriad of aquatic creatures thrive in these waters. We encountered huge schools of vibrant, tropical fish, as well as honu (Hawaiian for green sea turtles).

Snorkeling tours at Honolua Bay are a popular option for visitors short on time and equipment. However, the park is public and can be accessed without permits or tours.

Snorkel Tip: Take a tour for a much easier way to get directly to the best snorkel areas at Honolua Bay.

DISCOVER EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW:
COMPLETE GUIDE TO HONOLUA BAY


🐢 3. Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach)

Nearest Town?Wailea
Parking?Yes
Public Bathrooms?Yes
Lifeguard?Yes
Looking back at Maluaka Beach while swimming in the ocean.

Rather than one specific location, Turtle Town is a stretch of the coastline in the Makena region that extends from Nahuna Point to Oneuli Black Sand Beach.

The aptly named Turtle Town is home to a large population of Hawaiian green sea turtles. We encountered dozens over the course of one afternoon.

Maluaka Beach is considered the best spot for snorkeling in Turtle Town. Keep in mind that turtles are wild animals; sightings are not guaranteed, but they are seen here more often than not.

You will often see boats around this region as it is a popular place for snorkel tours. However, it is easily accessed from the shore. If you’re already planning a snorkel tour to Molokini Crater (which I highly recommend), it will also likely include a stop at Turtle Town.

⚠️ Snorkeling Tip: For the best chance of seeing turtles, head to the lava rocks along the south end of the beach.


🪢 4. Olowalu Reef

Nearest Town?Lahaina
Parking?Roadside
Public Bathrooms?No
Lifeguard?No
An aerial view showing Olowalu Reef that we captured with a drone, Olowalu is one of the best Maui snorkel spots.
Aerial photo of Olowalu reef captured by drone.

Just one glance at our drone photo of Olowalu above, and you’ll immediately see why this beach made our top 5 snorkel locations on Maui!

Olowalu Reef, also known as Turtle Reef, encompasses over 100 acres of some of the oldest reef structures in the Hawaiian Islands.

The unique reef that thrives here is an immaculate coral garden, teeming with all sorts of aquatic life and large coral heads that are hundreds of years old.

There is also a manta ray cleaning station and black tip reef shark nursery nearby, with frequent turtle sightings as well. In other words, this is an excellent place to spot an array of marine animals.

The shallow water, calm conditions, and easy entry make it a great spot for beginners to learn how to snorkel as well!

A drone photo by Adam Marland showing Hwy 30 running parallel to the immaculate coral gardens of Olowalu Reef on Maui.
An aerial view of Hwy 30 and the stunning coral gardens of Olowalu reef.

Tours of Olowalu Reef

You do not need a tour to snorkel at Olowalu. This is one of the reasons it is amongst our favorite spots; anyone can just drive up, park, and hit the water!

For those who prefer having a guide, there are some great Olowalu snorkel tours, many of which included kayaking. These can provide a better experience as you will have the expertise of a local captain to learn on.

Olowalu provides the only major reef protected from the tradewinds, so it’s one of the few places that’s good for snorkeling in Maui in the afternoon.

⚠️ Snorkeling Tip: The reef is very shallow, meaning you can’t snorkel here at low tide. Make sure you check tide times prior to visiting.


🐠 5. Coral Gardens

*By tour only*

An underwater image by Sophie Marland with of a pair of triggerfish, captured while snorkeling in Hawaii.

Located off the West Maui coast and accessible only by boat, Coral Gardens is a true underwater treasure trove. Here, you will find crystal-clear water with visibility reaching 40 feet and an abundance of marine life.

As is the case with much of Hawaii’s landscapes, Coral Gardens was formed through volcanic activity. Over 500,000 years ago, lava from the Mauna Kahalawai crater flowed into the ocean, creating lava fingers.

Today, these volcanic formations provide the ideal environment for aquatic life to thrive!

Amongst the large coral heads, we spotted all manner of tropical fish, including triggerfish, butterflyfish, angelfish, and parrotfish.

We were fortunate enough to see a sea turtle as well, but we were not lucky enough to spot any of the endangered Hawaiian monk seals that frequent the area.


🌊 6. Napili Bay

Nearest Town?Napili
Parking?Napili Kai Beach Resort + Streetside
Public Bathrooms?Yes
Lifeguard?No
The golden sand, clear water, and swaying palm trees seen in this photo of Napili Bay Beach show why it is considered one of the best spots for snorkeling in Maui.

Napili Bay is one of the most beautiful snorkel beaches on Maui. The bay is well protected with generally calm, shallow waters, making it a good place for beginner snorkelers and families.

There is not as much coral here as some of the other snorkel spots. However, the rocky outcroppings at either end of the bay provide a home for ample marine life, and the visibility is excellent.

This was not the most interesting place we snorkeled on Maui, but the beach is marvelous and makes for a fun afternoon overall.

⚠️ Snorkeling tip: Snorkeling is not recommended here in the winter months when the surf is high.


🏖 7. Ulua & Mokapu Beach

Nearest Town?Wailea
Parking?Yes
Public Bathrooms?Yes
Lifeguard?No
A photo of Mokapu Beach in the fading light to end a fun day of snorkeling on Maui.

The golden sands of Ulua and Mokapu Beach are separated by a rocky reef formation that stretches out from the shore.

It is along this reef that you will find the greatest density of marine life, with humuhumunukunukuapua’a (reef triggerfish and the Hawaii state fish), butterflyfish, surgeonfish, and large schools of goatfish all choosing to hang out here!

The easy beach entry and generally calm water make it a great place for practicing your snorkel skills if you are still learning.

Deep down at the second reef is a turtle cleaning station. Here, turtles congregate to have their shells cleaned by small fish known as cleaner wrasse, so it’s not uncommon to see turtles coming and going!

⚠️ Snorkel tip: Start at the north end of Ulua Beach and snorkel all the way around the reef to reach Mokapu, then either swim or walk back.

🏖 FIND OUT MORE:
COMPLETE GUIDE TO MOKAPU BEACH


🏝 8. Black Rock (Ka’anapali Beach)

Nearest Town?Ka’anapali
Parking?Yes
Public Bathrooms?No
Lifeguard?No
Our view looking out towards Black Rock from Kaanapali Beach.

Encompassing over 3 miles of white sand, it’s easy to see why Ka’anapali Beach was once named America’s Best Beach.

At the northern end of this impressive beach is Black Rock – a rocky outcrop that is a haven for tropical fish and sea turtles.

Be sure to practice proper caution when snorkeling here, and do not venture beyond “the point,” as the current can become strong beyond the sheltered bay.

You will be snorkeling mostly over sand, following an underwater lava rock ledge teeming with brightly colored fish. The water clarity here is typically excellent, particularly further away from shore, and it is a great place for spotting turtles.

⚠️ Snorkel tip: Black Rock is a famous cliff-jumping location. Be aware of people jumping here, and avoid swimming beneath them!


📸 9. Ahihi Bay

Nearest Town?Wailea
Parking?Yes
Public Bathrooms?Yes
Lifeguard?No
Our photo of the black sand beach at Ahihi Bay (ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve) in Maui.

Ahihi Bay is part of the protected ʻĀhihi-Kīnaʻu Natural Area Reserve. While the beach itself may not be impressive, the underwater world here is one of outrageous beauty.

Much of the reserve is closed to snorkelers. A total of 2.1% of the Maui coastline is protected at Ahihi Bay so that native marine life can live without human disturbance.

However, the area that remains open hosts the most diverse and abundant reef in the reserve!

Snorkeling access is available at Kanahena Beach and ‘Āhihi Cove. The best entry points are clearly signposted with a brown sign that has a yellow butterfly fish on it.

Dolphins are often seen here, as well as sea turtles and monk seals, but we only saw fish on our visit.

⚠️ Snorkel tip: The reef begins close to the shore at Kanahena Beach so be careful on entry to not step on any sharp rocks or damage the reef.


🐚 10. Five Caves & Makena Landing

Nearest Town?Wailea
Parking?Yes
Public Bathrooms?Yes (at Makena Landing Park)
Lifeguard?No
A turtle comes up for air in front of a snorkeler at Makena Landing in Maui

Just south of Chang’s Beach, Five Caves is a top snorkel spot in Maui for more experienced snorkelers.

It is known as Nahuna Point, as well as Five Graves, due to its proximity to a graveyard. It is the most northerly part of the coastal region known as “Turtle Town”.

Accessing this snorkel site can be tricky due to its rocky shoreline, and it is only recommended for advanced snorkelers.

For those that manage to reach the beach, it is a rewarding place with a large population of sea turtles, huge schools of fish, and even the occasional eagle ray!

While Five Caves is a (mostly) rocky shoreline and recommended only for advanced snorkelers, Makena Landing to the south can be enjoyed from the shore by beginner snorkelers.

The underwater caves here provide a popular place for scuba divers but are too deep for most snorkelers to reach safely.


🏝 15 Best Beaches for Snorkeling in Maui

Rounding out the list of the Top 25 best Maui snorkel spots is a collection of beach-access sites you can swim from directly.

These spots will not typically have as much underwater life and interest, but they make for lovely beach days and are worth knowing about if you find yourself nearby.

All of these destinations are free to the public and require nothing more than strapping on a mask and then wading straight into the water!

  1. Kapalua Bay
  2. Slaughterhouse Bay (Mokulē‘ia Bay)
  3. La Perouse
  4. Po’olenalena Beach (Chang’s Beach)
  5. Oneuli Beach (Black Sand Beach)
  6. Keawakapu Beach
  7. Polo Beach
  8. Charley Young Beach
  9. Kamaole Beach Park
  10. Little Beach (Makena Beach)
  11. Kahekili (Airport Beach)
  12. Mala Wharf
  13. DT Fleming Beach
  14. Wahikuli Wayside Park
  15. Canoe Beach (Hanakao’o Park)

🐠 7 Helpful Tips When Snorkeling in Maui

Disclosure: At no cost to you, we receive a small amount for any purchases made using the links below.

Before we get into the best places to go, we recommend you first read the following tips for snorkeling in Maui to ensure the best possible experience.

These are lessons we have learned over the course of several visits to Maui and the other Hawaiian islands.

Our goal is to help you save money, maximize your experience, and keep you safe while also protecting the fragile oceanic environment!


🤿 1. Bring Your Own Snorkel Gear

Travel blogger Sophie Marland collects her snorkel gear from the back of our van in Hawaii.
Save time and money by bringing your own snorkel gear to Maui.

Unless you’re only planning on snorkeling with a tour, we highly recommend bringing your own snorkel gear. This will save you time and money while also ensuring your equipment is the proper size and quality.

Renting gear in Maui can add up quickly, with rates averaging $20 daily and $50 weekly for mediocre-quality gear.

These costs can sometimes exceed $100 per week at some beach kiosks!

Additionally, bringing your own gear ensures you’ll have the flexibility to go snorkeling whenever you like without having to worry about picking up or dropping off rentals.


☀️ 2. Only Use Reef-Safe Sunscreen

We Dream of Travel writer Sophie Marland is photographed applying reef-safe sunscreen on a beach in Hawaii.
Make sure you use reef-safe sunscreen.

According to the NPS, an estimated 4,000-6,000 tons of sunscreen pollute our reefs every year, with popular visitor spots being the most concentrated!

Hawaii is the first state to mandate the sale of reef-safe sunscreen.

However, many “reef-safe” sunscreens still use harmful chemicals. Always check the ingredients prior to purchasing, and look for mineral sunscreens.

We recommend this one by Stream2Sea.

You can also reduce the amount of sunscreen you use by wearing a long-sleeve rashguard to protect you.


🪢 3. Protect the Reef

Underwater photo of a pair of butterfly fish we saaw while snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park on the Big Island Hawaii.

Coral reefs are extremely important. They provide a home to millions of different species while also protecting coastlines from storms and erosion.

Understand that while corals can look like rocks, they are actually an animal and are very fragile.

Be careful when snorkeling to never touch or step on coral!

Not only can it be broken easily, but touching it damages its protective layer and exposes the coral to pathogens.


🚯 4. Follow Leave No Trace Principles

The underwater ecosystems you’ll encounter while snorkeling in Maui are very delicate.

By following leave-no-trace principles and being respectful of the environment, we can help keep the beauty of the oceans intact for generations to come.

Be respectful to wildlife and do not touch any animals. Marine life is particularly susceptible to the germs humans carry, and even a gentle touch can do a lot of damage.


👯 5. Stay Safe with the Buddy System

An underwater selfie of Adam and Sophie Marland snorkeling in Hawaii.
Underwater selfie of us snorkeling in Hawaii (Adam left, Sophie right).

While snorkeling in Maui is relatively safe, there are always risks when swimming in the ocean.

You can minimize these risks with the following steps:

  • Always check current conditions, including weather, warning flags, and currents.
  • Know your own limits.
  • Only snorkel with a buddy (or consider booking a tour).
  • Use a life vest if you’re not a confident swimmer.
  • Stay close to shore.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Do not use full-face masks (these create a CO2 buildup, which can cause you to become disoriented or even lose consciousness).
  • Only snorkel during daylight hours.

⌚️ 6. Choose the Right Time of Day to Snorkel

Underwater photo of travel blogger Sophie Marland snorkeling with a green sea turtle in Hawaii.

While it is possible to snorkel on Maui throughout the day, some times are definitely better than others.

The best time of day to snorkel in Maui is in the morning, about 1-2 hours after sunrise.

This means that for the best chance of good visibility and calm water, you will want to head to the beach early. Typically, there will be less wind and, therefore, better water conditions in the morning.

If you get there too early, however, the sun will not yet be sufficiently overhead to provide valuable light. This is why it is best to wait for a couple of hours beyond sunrise.

Avoid snorkeling after heavy rain or during high winds. Recent rainfall and inclement weather will reduce the water clarity and can be a sign of dangerous currents.


📸 7. Bring an underwater camera

Underwater image by Sophie of a Hawaii green sea turtle coming up for air.

Surrounded by a rainbow of brightly colored tropical fish, the underwater scenes you’ll encounter while snorkeling on Maui are breathtaking.

These are the moments that will make your Hawaiian vacation so special. Make sure you are able to capture these memories to treasure forever with a reliable underwater camera.

There are many different underwater cameras you can get depending on your skill level and interest in photography.

I recommend the GoPro to almost everyone. We are professional photographers in addition to travel bloggers and find ourselves using this more than our big expensive equipment.

GoPros are small, durable, and much easier to use than most underwater cameras. They are also very reasonably priced.

⛴ Best Maui Snorkeling Tours

A sail boat heading out to sea in Maui

Some of the best snorkeling spots in Maui can only be reached by boat, such as the most famous site of Molokini Crater. Additionally, there are some specific benefits to taking a snorkel tour rather than doing it yourself.

By booking a tour, you will have expert guidance from a local who knows the reefs better than anyone. This means that you’ll go to the best places, which may vary based on the current conditions. You’ll also have a guide to direct you to the most beautiful areas.

Most tours will also include some refreshments, snorkel equipment, and interesting information on the area. During the winter, you may also spot migrating whales from the boat.

The most popular places for Maui snorkel tours include Molokini Crater, Honolua Bay, Turtle Town, Coral Gardens, and Lanai.

Top Rated Maui Snorkel Tours

An over-under image of Sophie free diving beneath our snorkel tour boat in Hawaii.

Below are the top-rated Maui snorkel trips.

It is worth noting that many tours do not list their exact snorkel locations. This is because they will choose the destination on the day based on current weather and ocean conditions.

Each tour has different start times, durations, sites, and inclusions, so make sure you compare them to find one that’s right for you. It is also not uncommon for tours to be fully booked during peak season, so it is worth booking in advance.

Molokini Crater and South Maui Coast Adventure from Kihei: 5/5 ⭐

Get an early start and be one of the first to Molokini Crater. Departing at 7am,  this 5-hour tour includes breakfast and lunch. After snorkeling the crystal clear waters of Molokini, you’ll head to ‘Turtle Town,’ stopping on the way to see some recent lava flows at La Perouse Bay.

Honolua Bay Snorkel Sail from Lahaina: 5/5 ⭐

Explore Honolua Bay and one other snorkel spot on this 6-hour tour with a certified marine naturalist. As well as enjoying the incredible aquatic life, indulge in breakfast and a BBQ lunch aboard.

West Maui Half Day Snorkel from Ka’anapali Beach: 5/5 ⭐

Discover two snorkel spots, chosen on the day for the best snorkeling, where you can swim alongside green sea turtles, tropical fish, and vibrant coral reef. This half-day tour includes breakfast and lunch.

Lanai Dolphin Adventure & Snorkel: 5/5 ⭐

Travel to the nearby island of Lanai with a small group of no more than 22 passengers. The 4-hour tour includes snorkeling at 1-2 stops off the coast of Lanai where you may see turtles, octopus, manta rays, and dolphins, as well as tropical fish.

🧳 What to Pack for Snorkeling in Maui

While putting together your packing list for Hawaii, you may want to consider a few key items specifically for snorkeling:

MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING FOR YOUR VACATION:
Printable Hawaii Packing List: Essentials + 25 Overlooked Items

🙋‍♀️ FAQs About Snorkeling in Maui

Use the drop-down list below to find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about snorkeling in Maui.

🤿 Where is the best snorkeling in Maui?

You will find the best snorkeling in Maui along the west coast. The beaches here are more sheltered from the tradewinds and, therefore, have calmer waters with better visibility.

Molokini Crater on Maui is the best snorkel spot in all of Hawaii, but a boat tour is required to get there.

☀️ What month is best for snorkeling Maui?

The summer months from May to September typically provide the best conditions for snorkeling in Maui. It is, however, possible to snorkel on Maui year-round.

🦈 Where is the safest snorkeling on Maui?

The beaches along the west coast are the safest for snorkeling in Maui. The waters on the West Coast are calmer and have better visibility.

Some of Maui’s best places for snorkeling include Napili Bay, Kapalua Bay, Ulua Beach, Mokapu Beach, and Maluaka Beach.

🐢 What is the best snorkeling spot to see turtles on Maui?

The coastline between Nahuna Point and Oneuli Beach is known as “Turtle Town.” This is the best place for snorkeling with turtles in Maui.

🌅 Which side of Maui has the best snorkeling?

The best conditions for snorkeling in Maui can be found on the Leeward side of the island, specifically near Wailea. This side of the island has the calmest waters and best visibility due to its protection from tradewinds.

⌚️ What time should I snorkel in Maui?

Mornings provide the best chance for good visibility, low wind, and calm water on Maui.

Avoid snorkeling after heavy rain or during high winds. During these times, visibility is reduced, and water conditions can be less ideal.

🏊‍♀️ Do I need to know swimming for snorkeling in Maui?

Snorkeling mostly involves floating on the surface, so it is not essential to know how to swim for snorkeling in Maui. However, if you are not a confident swimmer, be sure to stay within your limitations and use a flotation device.

Many snorkel tours will provide lifejackets for you to use.

🌺 More Maui Travel Guides

The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below 🙂

If you have found this guide to Maui’s best snorkeling spots useful, you will also want to check out some of our other guides to the island.

In this list, you will find essential planning guides to help you prepare for your upcoming Hawaiian vacation.

📌 Enjoyed this guide to Snorkeling in Maui? Pin it! 🙂

Photo of author
Written by
Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's “Chief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

4 thoughts on “🤿 25 Best Spots for Snorkeling in Maui + Tips & Maps (2024)”

  1. We are headed to Maui in October so this post was timely. We definitely want to go snorkelling. It is amazing how many different spots there are. And I was glad you said we should bring our own snorkelling gear. On the packing list now! It will be hard to pick just a few spots for our week visit. Good reason to go back!

    Reply

Leave a Comment