The Honolua Bay Guide: How to Visit Maui’s Best Snorkel Spot!

Honolua Bay, Maui's best snorkeling spot blog cover photo.  Text overlaying an image of Honolua Bay taken from the viewpoint, showing clear azure waters and the shallow reef.

Honolua Bay is a marine-conservation area at the northern tip of West Maui and is considered the best snorkeling destination on the entire island. The crystal clear waters reveal thriving coral gardens that are visible from even great distances.

Even if you have no interest in exploring the underwater world of the bay, it is worth stopping at the viewpoints nearby. Honolua Bay is a beautiful sight to behold any time of day when the sun is out and is considered one of the best places in Maui for photographing sunset.

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Honolua Bay Photo Gallery

As breathtaking as it is from the surface, there is a reason Honolua Bay is considered a world-class snorkeling destination in Maui.

These photos showcase its incredible natural beauty from above and below the tropical-blue water.

Panoramic photo showing the lush scenery, rocky shoreline, and clear waters of the Honolua Bay snorkeling spot.

Overview

SERVICES

  • Nearest Town: Kapalua
  • Parking? Small parking lot at northern entry and streetside parking.
  • Public Bathrooms? Portapotties at parking lot.
  • Picnic Benches? No.
  • Showers? No.
  • Grills? No.
  • Lifeguard? No.

DESCRIPTION

Honolua Bay is a small cove in West Maui that is world renown as a premier snorkeling destination and a popular surf spot – although not at the same time! When the ocean is calm, snorkeling prevails, but when the swell is up you can expect to see plenty of surfers here.

It is a Marine Life Conservation Area that protects the myriad of aquatic creatures and coral gardens that call it home. With fishing being illegal here, the fish population is thriving and you will encounter huge schools of vibrant, tropical fish, as well as turtles.

Make sure you pack your beach shoes and snorkel gear! The beach has no sand but is comprised instead of bulbous rocks.

In other words, there is little incentive for visiting without a snorkel, mask, and fins. With that said, there are two viewpoints that provide spectacular vistas for admiring the clear, turquoise water and lush greenery of West Maui.

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.

How to Get to Honolua Bay Maui

With Navigation: Using Google Maps, set your GPS to “Honolua Bay Access Trail” and look for street parking nearby (it can be very busy).

General Directions: Drive north along the Honoapiilani Hwy past the town of Kapalua. Just after turnoffs for Slaughterhouse Beach, you will find a large parking area for the first Honolua Bay Lookout. The first access trail is 0.2-miles further, and the second is another 0.4 miles beyond this.

Google Map view showing the Honolua Bay access trail and public parking.
Parking is available all along the road with a 0.6-mile trail leading to the beach.

You will find roadside parking along the Honoapiilani Hwy, as well as a small lot at the second (northern) access trail. Alternatively, you can park in the lookout parking if you prefer the ease of it and don’t mind the extra quarter-mile of walking.

When to Visit Honolua Bay Maui

If you are visiting Honolua Bay with snorkeling in mind, the best time to visit is in the morning and early afternoon, when the water is typically calm, on a clear sunny day.

Having overhead light makes a notable difference in your underwater visibility, especially when filming or photographing.

Sunset is also a great time to visit. The view from the 2nd overlook provides an elevated and obstructed westward view with a beautiful foreground.

Honolua Bay Snorkeling Tours

Snorkelers are seen from above in this photo showing the coral gardens and clear water of Honolua Bay, Maui.

As perhaps the best snorkeling spot on Maui, Honolua Bay is a popular place for snorkeling tours. It is worth noting that many tours do not list their exact snorkel locations as they will choose the destination dependent on weather and ocean conditions. Below are some of the top-rated snorkel tours to Honolua Bay:

  • Honolua Bay Snorkel Sail from Lahaina5/5 ⭐
    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 ⭐
    Explore 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.
  • West Maui: Snorkel & Performance Sail with Lunch: 4.8/5 ⭐
    Departing from Lahaina, you’ll stop at two local favorite snorkel spots such as Olowalu, Honolua, and Mokuleia Bay, depending on where the best conditions are for the day. Enjoy breakfast and lunch onboard, as well as all refreshments including local beer, wine, and Mai Tais.

In addition to snorkeling tours, the below tours also include visiting Honolua Bay:

  • Discovery Flight over Maui: 5/5 ⭐
    For those that are looking for a truly unique, once-in-a-lifetime memory, this private scenic flight for up to three people is well worth considering. The 90-minute flight will have you soaring over Honolua Bay, as well as many other iconic sights on the island.
  • Private Maui Tour: 5/5 ⭐
    If you prefer to let someone else do the organizing, this private day tour is perfect. It’s fully customizable and can include multiple stops, including Honolua Bay.

Honolua-Mokuleia Bay FAQs

How long is the hike to Honolua Bay? Can you walk to the beach?

The Honolua Bay access trail to the beach is 0.6-miles each way (1.2-miles roundtrip). You do not need a boat to access the cove.

A view of the rocky beach at Honolua-Mokuleia.
What is Honolua Bay known for?

Honolua Bay is considered the premier destination for snorkeling on the island of Maui.

Snorkelers swim over the incredible coral reef at Honolua Bay.
Is Honolua Bay safe for snorkeling? Are there sharks?

Generally speaking, Honolua Bay is a very safe and enjoyable place for snorkeling. Shark attacks are incredibly rare, but have occurred as recently as 2020. However, it is worth noting this happened to a surfer, not a swimmer within the cove.

What will you see snorkeling in Honolua Bay? Are there turtles?

Green sea turtles are the most exciting aquatic creature most snorkelers will encounter in Honolua Bay. In addition to the local “honu”, you are likely to encounter a variety of tropical fish, urchins, octopus, and an incredible coral garden. The truly fortunate may even be visited by spinner dolphins.

A snorkeler swims up to a green sea turtle in the coral garden at Honolua Bay.
Do you need to book a tour to snorkel in Honolua Bay?

While many people prefer the ease of arranging a snorkel tour, the beach is publicly accessible with no permits, tours, or tickets required. Free public parking is found by the trail access point and a 0.6-mile is all that is required to get from the road to shore.

Snorkeling with a turtle in Hawaii

Other Relevant Maui Guides

A swimmer walking the shore of Red Sand Beach, Maui.
Don’t miss any hidden gems during your visit!! Check out our 5-7 Day Maui Itinerary for all the best stops.

Before you go, you may want to skim some of the titles for other relevant Maui guides below to ensure you do not miss any epic beaches, sunset destinations, or noteworthy things to do during your visit to the Valley Isle!

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