What are the best snorkel spots on Maui?

Jul 1, 2022 | General Information

Maui has snorkel spots all around the island. There are plenty of places where you will find both fish and coral formations. What you may not find so easily is good access to your snorkel location, and a safe place to snorkel. There are a couple of generalities we could make regarding snorkeling on Maui. One is that you could snorkel on the windward sides of the island or on the leeward sides of the island. A second is that you can snorkel from the shore or you could snorkel from a boat on the outer side of the reef. If you are a novice snorkeler, the simple truth is that it is easier to snorkel from the leeward coasts and in most cases it is easier to snorkel off a boat.

Here are the reasons: Quite simply, the windward sides of the island are usually rougher and somewhat more dangerous. You often have to deal with waves and choppy seas and as a result the visibility is not always good. The same could be said regarding entry from the shore. You will often have to deal with waves in an attempt to get out and also, quite frequently you will have a shallow reef to swim over. That being said, neither generalization is always true. There are locations, and days that can be found on the windward side where you will find good snorkeling, and there will be places that you can enter from the shoreline and find good snorkeling. The conditions found in these areas are generally best suited for experienced snorkelers and swimmers. Since we deal primarily with visitors to the island who have little experience with snorkeling, we like to error on the side of caution and point you in the direction that would be the most comfortable for you. For visitors to the island, who are not used to snorkeling, you should be going out on the leeward coasts and you should be snorkeling off a boat that is designed to take snorkelers to great snorkeling areas and have a captain and crew to assist you. So, what are these areas you can go to on a boat that would provide great snorkeling on Maui? Here’s the simple list:

Molokini Island.
This is our most popular spot for snorkeling from any of our charters. The majority of the boats that will take you there will be leaving from Maalaea Harbor and some will be leaving from the Kihei Boat ramp, and a very few will depart from the shore of Wailea. To visit Molokini you will want to depart in the morning hours before the trade winds come up. This usually means departing between 7 and 8 AM. You could generally expect to be coming back to the harbor about 5 hours later. Many of these boats will also visit the next snorkel destination on their Molokini adventure, ‘Turtle Town’.

Turtle Town.
This is a snorkel location that is actually a series of snorkel spots generally located off the coast of Makena in South Maui. This is an area that is rich in coral gardens, fish and of course, turtles. There is plenty to see off this coastline and most of the boats that visit Molokini will take you to a second snorkel somewhere along ‘turtle town’ to see the turtles. This is also a magnificent area to view by kayak and we have a number of kayak companies that will take you precisely to this area.

Coral Gardens.
This location is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Maalaea Harbor and is nestled along side the cliffs which barricade the area known as the ‘Pali’ between west and central Maui. This location is generally quite sheltered from the wind and the water is very flat and peaceful. This is a great spot to see turtles, fish and coral formations and is generally the site of the afternoon 3 hour snorkel trips that depart from Maalaea.

La Perouse Bay and the Kanaio Coast.
On the southern most coast of Maui that faces the Big Island is an area that was the last known volcanic eruption on Maui. This was estimated to have been about the year 1790. This eruption created the area known as La Perouse Bay as well as its surrounding area known as the Kanaio Coast. This is a great spot to see coral formations and this is also an area that is often frequented by dolphins. Because the coastline is very rocky, there is very little sand in the water and consequently it it generally has amazing visibility.

Olowalu and 1000 Peaks.
Almost equidistant between the harbors of Maalaea and Lahaina is a coastline that has two very beautiful areas of coral formations and an abundance of fish. These areas of Olowalu and 1000 Peaks are favorites of the Kayak companies. They are less visited by the touring boats but are a favorite alternate location when stiff trade winds drive boats from visiting Molokini or areas north of Lahaina.

Honolua Bay.
One of the most beautiful locations for snorkeling on Maui is Honolua Bay in the Kapalua area of West Maui. This bay is a protected marine reserve and has some amazingly large and colorful coral heads. Marine life of all varieties are found there and turtles are generally seen as well. This is an area that is seasonal for snorkeling. The winter months see giant surf here and it is the location of major surf competitions. You will want to be snorkeling here in the late spring, summer and early fall months.

Lanai Coast.
The last major snorkel location on Maui is actually not on Maui at all. It is along the coastline of the neighboring island of Lanai. This coast is easily reached from the town of Lahaina or the beach at Kaanapali and the eight mile crossing takes perhaps 45 minutes. The coastline here boasts the largest continuous reef in the state of Hawaii and its wide expanses lend itself to a sense of remoteness and your boat is often the only boat within the area of coastline it decides to moor.