Headed to Hawaii and looking for the best places to snorkel in Maui? Today, I’ll be sharing all of my favorite spots to go snorkeling in Maui, including popular places for beginners as well as hidden gems many first-time visitors don’t know of! Plus loads of very important safety info.
Swimming in crystal-clear waters. Tropical fish as colorful as they get. Rainbow coral along the seafloor. Hawaiian green sea turtles! Chances to spot larger animals like spinner dolphins and octopi and maybe even humpback whales. Those are just a few reasons that make snorkeling in Maui an absolute dream come true.
And I can’t get enough!
Ever since moving to California, we’ve been to Hawaii more times than we can count. Meaning I’ve gone snorkeling in Maui oh so many times! I’m sharing all my insider tips and tricks to ensure you have the best possible Maui snorkel experience!
Check out the snorkeling tours I recommend as well — some of Maui’s best snorkeling spots are only accessible via boat!
Without further ado, here are my absolute favorite places to snorkel in Maui, including spots perfect for first-timers as well as sites meant for seasoned underwater explorers.
But before we get into the best places to snorkel in Maui, there’s a lot of other important info I need to share with you first!
Essential Info About Maui Snorkeling
Best Time to Go Snorkeling in Maui
The best time of year to go snorkeling in Maui is during the summer months, from May through September. The water will be comfortably warm, the waves are minimal (although always confirm beforehand!), and there’ll be less wind.
Not visiting in summer? Don’t fret! It’s always a good time to go snorkeling in Maui! We’ve been to Maui in all four seasons, and loved snorkeling each and every time!
Regardless of when you visit, I always recommend snorkeling in the morning, as the waters are the calmest. And whatever you do, always snorkel in daylight hours – NEVER at dawn, dusk, or at night.
What to Pack for Snorkeling in Maui
You honestly don’t need much to go snorkeling in Maui (just throw on a bathing suit and mask and snorkel), but come prepared with some extra essentials and you’ll be way more comfortable.
- Mask and Snorkel: While snorkeling tours in Maui typically provide the necessary equipment, you’re always better off with your own. Planning to do some snorkeling off the shore? You’ll probably save some cash by bringing your own mask and snorkel.
- Snorkel defog spray: You can always use your own spit to defog your mask (true story — just swish it around and then dunk your mask into the water), but there’s also snorkel spray for that! Tours will have spray for you, but worth it to get your own if you’re snorkeling off shore.
- Rash guard: Prone to getting sunburned? A rash guard is the way to go! Make sure to buy one that’s UPF 30 or higher. Here’s a great rashguard for women (with a built in bra and bottoms) and one for men as well.
- Non-slip bathing suit: Snorkeling is not the time to wear your itsy-bitsy bikini – you want something that can withstand some waves and hauling yourself back onto a boat (with a ladder of course). Plus, the last thing you wanna worry about while swimming with all the fish is an unfortunate nip-slip! I typically wear a one piece or a top that has more coverage. Save your other bathing suits for the pool!
- Fast dry towel: 100% necessary afterwards! Especially if it’s a bit windy.
- Underwater camera: All my underwater photography tips and gear here. I’d check out an underwater phone case too if you don’t wanna make an investment in an underwater camera or GoPro.
- Bonine: If you’re taking a snorkeling tour in Maui and are prone to getting seasick, take some Bonine to combat the nausea on the boat. It doesn’t make you drowsy and it’s recommended to take the night beforehand and the morning of your boat tour.
- Hat/s: The sun is strong here! I recommend bringing along a hat that won’t fly off your head while hanging out on the catamaran. Fun trucker hats are great for that!
- A waterproof kindle or other e-reader for reading on the boat (I’d be worried a physical book may accidentally get wet!)
- Reusable water bottle: better for the environment and a must to stay hydrated.
- Reef Safe sunscreen (always use when in the water, as other sunscreen is harmful to marine life): We love ThinkSport (make sure the bottles are less than 3.4 ounces if you’re bringing them in your carryon)! Don’t forget about SLP lip balm as well!
- Portable battery charger: Charge your phone on the go (even on the boat!) and never run out of a charge.
- Tote bag: Plastic bags are banned in Maui, so bring your own for everything you’ll need at the beach or your Maui snorkeling tour! I love this collapsible reusable tote bag that hardly takes up any room in your suitcase.
How to Protect Marine Life and Coral
Snorkeling in the beautiful turquoise waters of Maui comes with a lot of responsibility. Due to Maui’s fragile ecosystem and crazy amounts of over-tourism, we need to be sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the ocean waters and all the marine life found inside.
PLEASE keep wildlife WILD. NEVER attempt to chase/touch/pet/feed ANY wild animal. This can potentially do harm to these beloved creatures, and possibly cause unnecessary distress.
A few other important tips:
Wear reef-safe sunscreen: Chemicals in regular sunscreens can wash off our bodies and harm coral (including coral bleaching) and other marine life (like causing tumors on turtles which is oh so sad).
Because of this, you need to wear reef-safe sunscreen, which is made from minerals (like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) as the active ingredients instead of harmful chemicals.
Since October 2022, you’re not even allowed to bring non-mineral sunscreens into Maui! If your sunscreen contains the chemicals oxybenzone and/or octinoxate do NOT bring those into Maui or Hawaii in general. They’re known to harm the coral reef and local fish.
Leave those regular sunscreens at home to use when you’re not swimming in the ocean.
Never touch any sea life, and never step on any coral: Touching sea turtles (honu) are actually illegal, and can even result in a hefty fine (which I 100% endorse!).
And steer clear of stepping on coral – they’re fragile, living creatures and stepping on them or even kicking them can damage or kill them.
Leave no trace: This goes without saying, but never leave garbage on the beach, always cut up plastics and rope (which can get tangled up around animals and/or get stuck around the necks of sea turtles), and always keep wrappers secure in your bag so they don’t accidentally end up in the ocean.
Shy away from plastic straws and other unnecessary plastic when on the island (it’ll most likely end up in the ocean eventually). If you buy a pack of drinks (whether it be POG juice, beers, etc), always make sure to cut up that silly plastic holding all the drinks together. Thank you.
Don’t take anything with you: Leave the shells, rocks, sand, and coral you find behind. I used to take home shells, but now I know better and just take photos of them instead.
Avoid feeding the fish: Feeding fish (or any other marine animal for that matter) disrupts the delicate balance of the fragile ecosystem and changes the normal behavior of the sea life. Plus, adding food to the water changes the nutrient levels which can then in turn damage the coral reefs by increasing the amount of harmful algae.
I despise when companies do this to attract more fish for their customers — not cool at all. I highly recommend you investigate, do your due diligence, and ask questions before signing up for a snorkel tour.
Best Maui Snorkeling Tours
While you can totally go snorkeling in Maui right off the coast, in order to swim and snorkel in the clearest waters, you’ll need to get further ashore. This means taking a boat!
Thankfully, there’s a whole slew of Maui snorkeling tours to choose from. Here’s some recommended favorites:
Turtle Town and Molokini Snorkeling Tour: This is probably the most sought after snorkeling tour in all of Maui. Why? Because it visits two of Maui’s best snorkeling spots on the same day – the underwater paradise of Molokini and the most epic spot for sea turtles, Turtle Town. If you only have time for one snorkel tour in Maui, make it this one. 100%.
Afternoon Snorkel to Coral Gardens: Don’t have all day? Don’t fret! This snorkel tour leaves in the afternoon, meaning you can either wake up late or get in another activity beforehand. It visits either Coral Gardens or Molokini (whichever has better conditions that day), and you get to chillax on a 55-foot catamaran.
Underwater Submarine Adventure: Did someone say SUBMARINE? Yup – you don’t even need to get your hair wet to see all the underwater life. You’ll visit coral reefs, learn about Hawaii’s underwater world from a naturalist, and get up close to a replica shipwreck brimming with marine wildlife while staying warm and dry! This is still on my Hawaii bucket list, because how cool would it be to spend the morning in a SUBMARINE?!
Turtle Town Snorkel and Kayak Tour: Kayakers, this is for you! An expert guide will take you on a 2-mile kayaking adventure through Makena Bay to see green sea turtles, tropical fish, and other marine wildlife endemic to Hawaii. It’s also very common to see manta rays and dolphins, and if you’re extra lucky, a Hawaiian monk seal!
Lahaina to Lanai Dolphin Watch and Snorkeling: Once you’ve done some snorkeling in Maui, it’s time to discover another island! Head off on a catamaran cruise to Lanai and snorkel with the amazing marine life of the reef gardens. Look out for spinner dolphins on the way – I saw tons when I did this tour!
Turtle Town Snorkel and Whale Watching Cruise: Visiting between November and April? Booking a combo whale watching cruise and turtle town snorkel is the way to go. Two epic experiences in one day! And it’s a really good value, too. Not only will you see nenue (lowfin chubs), goatfish, octopus, black durgon, and frogfish, but you’ll learn about the fascinating behavior of humpback whales and their place in Hawaii as well!
Safety When Snorkeling in Maui
Snorkeling in Maui is a real treat – BUT you need to do your part in order to stay safe. This is the open ocean we’re talking about – there’s rip currents, strong waves, potentially harsh winds, and of course marine life!
Before heading into the water, make sure conditions are safe – and if you aren’t sure, ASK!
- Tides and rip currents are real: Always pay attention to posted signs and never enter the water should it not be safe. The current ocean conditions are posted for a reason (as well as any recent shark sightings)! Pay attention. Rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water — they can bring you far out to sea and it’ll be extremely hard to make it back to shore.
- Know your limits: While many tours provide life jackets or flotation noodles, it’s advisable to be able to swim when snorkeling in Maui. Some snorkeling spots are better for beginners, while others are more intense and should be left for experienced swimmers/snorkelers only. Before wading into any body of water, know (or ask) about the conditions.
- Always snorkel with a buddy: This goes without saying, but never snorkel alone! In case of an accident, you always want some support with you!
- Never snorkel before sunrise or after sunset: You should only snorkel during daylight hours, for a myriad of reasons. At night, you’re more likely to encounter a shark, underwater visibility decreases, and help/assistance is limited (if you unfortunately find yourself in danger).
- Be aware of sharks: Yes, there are sharks here in Maui. They’re most commonly found further out to sea, but can congregate near the shore at dawn and dusk. Another reason to only snorkel during daylight hours!
- Snorkel close to shore/stay with your group: More accidents occur further out or when you leave your snorkel group. Guided boat trip tours know where to safely snorkel.
- Never snorkel in murky, brown, or brackish waters: Not only will you have a much harder time seeing the wildlife, but sharks are known to be attracted to the nutrients found in these waters. Stay away! Visibility will be best in clearer waters anyways.
Other FAQs About Snorkeling in Maui
Why are all the fish swimming away from me/why don’t I see many fish? Fish are scared of us humans — we’re so much larger than them and kinda look like prey. Whenever you make sudden movements, you scare away all the fish! Stay calm and swim slowly – you’re bound to see more marine life.
Mimic the flow of the ocean — you never want to panic, show stress, or flap your arms/legs in an erratic manner. Move slowly and gently, and you’ll have the best chance to see all the fish and other sea life.
How to see sea turtles? Some are disappointed and unsuccessful when on the lookout for turtles. It’s important to know that the turtles hide in caves or under big rocks, and sometimes just sit in the sand on the bottom. Basically, they’re not always visible at first, and you must wait patiently for them to come up for air (which they need to do since they don’t breathe underwater).
Look all around you: below, in front, behind, etc… you never know when they’ll come up and surprise you. Feast your eyes on the seafloor too much, and you may see a shark (which may be a good or bad thing depending on your anxiety levels…)
Can you touch sea turtles? NOPE! Note that it’s ILLEGAL to touch a honu; these Hawaiian green sea turtles are federally protected and it’s harmful (and ILLEGAL) to touch, feed, or harass them.
No one likes a fine on vacation! Just don’t do it. For the sake of the sea turtles, keep your distance as much as possible.
When can you see whales in Maui? Whales migrate south and can be seen off the coast of Maui between November and May, but peak whale watching season is January through March. You may get lucky and see a whale or two as early as October, but don’t count on it.
Marine Life You’ll See While Snorkeling in Maui
Thanks to the fact that Maui was formed by volcanic eruptions, sea life thrives around its shores.
Snorkeling in Maui will give you the opportunity to see unique marine life that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Manta and Eagle Rays are a favorite site for visitors, and they’re not exactly afraid of gliding by snorkelers!
Another unique species I’m sure you’re dying to see are Honus, which are Hawaiian green sea turtles endemic to Hawaii that weigh over 200 pounds! Back in the 70s, these gentle giants were extremely endangered, but thanks to conservation efforts, they’re back and thriving near the shores of Maui and other Hawaiian islands. You can easily spot them at certain places while snorkeling, but they’re also known to show up right at the beach.
Moray eels are another favorite of mine. They may look a bit scary and intimidating, but they’re actually harmless as long as they don’t feel harassed (they’re best watched from a safe distance).
As for tropical fish, it’d be impossible to list all the species you may see while snorkeling in Maui. Some interesting ones include Bigfin Squid (you’re most likely to spot them in Honolua Bay), Striped Belly Puffer Fish, and the Humuhumunukunukuāpua’a (yup, that’s the name!), which is Hawaii’s official fish.
Best Places to Snorkel in Maui
Finally — what you probably came here for! All the best Maui snorkeling spots!
1. Molokini Crater
Molokini Crater is easily the #1 snorkeling spot in Maui, and one of the most unique you’ll find on the island! It’s actually the first place I ever snorkeled in Maui, way back in 2013 before we even moved to the West Coast.
What makes it so special?! The fact that the water around the crater is so clear that spotting animals is super easy! The visiblity is spectacular of up to 150 feet – no wonder all the guidebooks urge visitors to check it out!
It’s not your typical snorkel spot – Molokini Crater is actually a teeny tiny volcanic island shaped like a crescent moon, about 3 miles off the southwest coast of Maui. How was it created?! By a volcanic eruption that happened some 230,000 years ago! Whoa!
Over 250 different species of fish endemic to the region live here, not to mention other marine life such as manta rays, whitetip reef sharks, and white spotted puffers. Morrey eels are rather common here as well, although difficult to spot since they spend their time hiding out in the reef and blend in quite nicely.
Expect to see some pink tail durgons, black triggerfish, red pencil urchins (so cool), yellow tangs, 4-spot butterflyfish, and cornetfish, as well as a kaleidoscope of coral along the ocean’s bottom.
What’s best? Because the animals around Molokini are so used to humans, they’re not very skittish and getting close to them is very easy! But remember — for the safety of the animals and yours as well, keep your distance!
Molokini Crater can only be reached by boat, which means you’ll need to schedule at least half a day for the adventure. Once you get there, though, you’ll be guaranteed snorkeling like you never have before. Thankfully, there’s daily tours available to Molokini that also stop at a few other snorkeling spots in Maui.
When booking a Molokini Crater snorkel tour, it’s important to look at the approximate hotel pick up time. The water is at its calmest in the early morning, so book a tour that aims to get you into the water as soon as possible (with pick-ups between 6-7am).
Come too late and the waters will be a bit choppy and you’ll be snorkeling with hundreds of other tour-goers. Not the worst thing in the world (it’ll still be pretty!), but worth the early morning wake up call for sure!
2. Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach)
You haven’t officially been snorkeling in Maui until you spot your first turtle!
Swimming with sea turtles is such a magical experience, and something I could do every single day and still be ridiculously giddy. And Maluaka (Turtle Town) is easily the best snorkeling spot to find sea turtles in Maui.
Made up of lava formations that were created hundreds of thousands of years ago by underwater volcanoes, Turtle Town, as its name suggests, is one of the best places to go snorkeling in Maui. Especially if you want to see Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Known as “Honus”, these turtles are only found in Hawaii. Back in the 1970s, they were incredibly endangered — but these days, they’ve made quite a comeback thanks to protective laws and conservation efforts. Seeing them swim about is a truly heartwarming experience!
Turtle Town is actually just a nickname for all the spots along the Makena or Wailea coast, due to common turtle sightings. A real place with the original name of Turtle Town? It had to be too good to be true. And it was. But I did see turtles (quite a few) — so I guess the fake name shouldn’t really matter.
It’s literally crazy how incredibly close the sea turtles came near me. In more instances than one, I had to swim away in fear that I would accidentally touch its fin or shell (a huge no-no in Hawaii). These “fly-by”‘s left me breathless, instantly hoping to see more Honu’s in my near future. Spoiler alert – I did!
Every time I was about to get out of the water, another turtle swam right by me. I was literally the last one in the water, and my husband had to persuade me to come join everyone back on the boat. I could have stayed out there for hours watching the honu’s, anxiously awaiting the arrival of another.
If you haven’t been swimming with turtles before, the experience will leave you breathless, I promise. Just don’t forget to breathe through the snorkel, haha.
Like Molokini, plenty of tours take visitors snorkeling at Turtle Town, including this combo Molokini and Turtle Town tour. If you’re visiting during the winter and wanna do some whale watching as well (HIGHLY recommended), there are combo tours Turtle Town and whale watching tours!
3. Ho’okipa Beach Park
This spot is for all my turtle lovers. Come at sunset — you won’t be disappointed.
If you don’t wanna book a boat tour (or simply can’t find time on your Maui itinerary), head over to Ho’okipa Beach Park! You’ll find an insane amount of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles resting right here on the sands at sunset. YOU DON’T EVEN NEED TO GET WET TO SEE THEM!
Walk to the far end of the beach (towards the right past all the rocks covered in slimy green algea), and they’ll be right there! I swear we spotted at least 20 on our last visit. Look closely – at first glance they’ll look like rocks, haha. They tend to congregate here and start heading to the shore (from the water) around sunset.
As noted above, PLEASE keep your distance and don’t approach the turtles. Follow all posted signs.
It’s illegal to touch a honu (sea turtle), and you need to stay the necessary 10 feet away from them. Take a zoom lens if you want closer photos.
There’s also guards here at times as well. Trust me – it’s taken super seriously since so many people break the rules. Don’t be one of them. This is their land and water – protect them and respect nature.
Fun fact: “ho’okipa” translates into “place of welcoming comfort”, and it seems turtles took the name quite seriously! These little friends have made Ho’okipa Beach Park one of the favorite hangout spots around the island, and a simple snorkeling session just off the beach will almost guarantee you’ll get to swim amid dozens of them.
While you can snorkel here depending on the tide (only at low tide), it’s far from the best place to snorkel in Maui. Why? Because there’s loads of rocks on the shore/under the water. If you do decide to snorkel here, be extremely careful – the rocks and coral aren’t in very deep water, so it can be pretty difficult to navigate water that shallow. Visiting at high tide? Stay out of the water and plan to watch the surfers and turtles instead.
My recommendation, bring a mask, hang close to shore, and simply pop your head into the water from time to time. You may get lucky and a turtle may very well swim right up to you while wading in the water. There’s also an overlook above where the turtles go to rest – this is a great place to see them afar!
4. Black Rock at Kaanapali Beach
The snorkeling at Black Rock in Kaanapali (right in front of the Sheraton and Kaanapali Beach Hotel) is A++, so you don’t need to go super far to swim around with the fish and turtles! Mornings tend to be easier since the waves and tradewinds aren’t as high yet.
Black Rock is located at Ka’anapali Beach, with picture perfect warm white sand and gorgeous views. This is the Maui you’re thinking of. Even though it does get quite busy, you’ll never really have trouble finding a space to snorkel because it’s a pretty big place.
Ka’anapali is a pretty popular beach in Maui, but Black Rock itself is located at the very end of the beach on the north hand side. In Hawaiian, the name of Black Rock is “Pu’u Keka’a”, which translates into “rolling hill”, and it’s considered a historical area and a sacred spot because it’s believed that souls leap into eternity from the top of the hill.
Snorkeling-wise, Black Rock is an excellent spot to find plenty of different fish and a bit of coral on the rock wall. As a warning, currents can get strong here at certain times of the day, so make sure the water is calm before you go in.
Note that the beach can be somewhat crowded and you’ll be sharing the waters with lots of other beach goers. Because of this, the water can appear a bit dark and dirty (from everyone kicking the sand on the ocean floor below). I always attempt to stray away from people, but never too far as I feel safer when others are around.
5. Napili Bay
Even though it’s quite popular and does tend to get packed during the high season, Napili Bay is another wonderful place to go snorkeling in Maui if you want to stay on the island rather than take a tour.
Something I love about Napili?! The fact that there’s coral and rocks right under the surface super close to the shore! AND the water is very clear, so you can usually see plenty of fish and other underwater creatures even on the shoreline, especially on the left side of it. The water at Napili is also extra calm, so it is one of the best places to snorkel in Maui for kids and beginners.
Past — don’t leave Napili without having some lunch at the Gazebo Restaurant. Order the white chocolate macadamia nut pancakes, and a large fried rice – two things they’re known for. The portions are huge so I recommend sharing! And make sure to eat after snorkeling — no one likes swimming on a full stomach!
6. Kapalua Bay Beach
Ohh — Kapalua Bay! One of our favorite places to snorkel in Maui! First off, it’s perfect for beginners, and secondly, doesn’t require much effort, haha. Since the crescent-shaped bay is sheltered, snorkeling at Kapalua Bay on the north west side of Maui is easy and calm – there’s hardly any waves!
Many people visit Kapalua Beach in order to sunbathe on its white sandy beaches, but it’s also a wonderful place for a quick snorkeling session. The water is very calm and clear, which makes spotting animals right by the shore a super easy task. You’ll get to see coral, colorful fish, and even a few sea turtles gliding by!
There’s actually two snorkeling spots over here at Kapalua Bay – one on the left side of the beach (for more advanced snorkelers), and one on the right hand side (much easier without many rocks). If you’re a confident swimmer, be on the lookout for octopus, crabs, and trumpet fish towards the left hand side.
Regardless of which side you pick, the further you swim out from shore the more sea life and coral you’ll find. But remember – don’t go too far; trade winds may bring you out further than you’d like so always be aware of where you are in the water.
Local Tip: Don’t waste your time snorkeling in the middle of the bay – it’s mostly sand over here so not many fish hang out (although it’s a great place to practice your freediving skills).
This beach was actually ranked as the best beach in America back in the 90s, and even though the title now belongs to a different one, it’s still absolutely gorgeous. Backed by lucious green lawns and swaying palm trees, we head over everytime we visit Maui. We can’t get enough!
7. Slaughterhouse Beach (Mokuleia Bay)
Located close to Napili, Slaughterhouse Beach (also known as Mokuleia Bay) is another wonderful place to go snorkeling in Maui. Perfect if you’re looking for a bit more solitude and consider yourself a good swimmer and seasoned snorkeler (I wouldn’t recommend it for first-timers, though!)
And no, I have no idea why this spot is called Slaughterhouse Beach, haha.
One of the main reasons Slaughterhouse Beach remains so quiet – you need to walk down a few flights of asphalt steps once you park (in the tiny lot or on the side of the road). Meaning you’ll need to eventually climb back up, ultimately deterring some from visiting!
Hey, I get it – that’s not everyone’s idea of fun on an otherwise relaxing vacation! If you’re able and have the energy, I highly encourage you to make the short trek down. Because it’s one of the best places to snorkel in Maui!
This dramatic cliff-framed beach is made up of caves, tunnels, and drop offs, which provides a very interesting underwater experience.
There are tons of creatures swimming in the bay, so sightings are guaranteed, especially tons of silver fish, sea turtles, zebra moray eels, parrot fish, and if you’re lucky, possibly even white tip reef sharks! Don’t fret – I willingly swam with white tip reef sharks in Bora Bora and they’re perfectly safe if you don’t threaten them.
Psst – super experienced swimmers/snorkelers can even swim around the rocky point of Slaughterhouse Beach and snorkel right into Honolua Bay (coming up next on this list of where to go snorkeling in Maui).
I wouldn’t recommend snorkeling here if it’s your first time as swells can get rough sometimes. If you’re a beginner and really want to snorkel here, make sure to stick to the rocky walls near the shore. Not recommended in winter as the swells can get too large and become unsafe.
8. Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay is a Marine Life Conservation District and fishing is forbidden here, so it’s essentially a paradise filled with a huge diversity of marine life. The water stays super calm (and is sheltered from the wind) due to the high rocky cliffs which surround the bay on both sides.
To reach the bay, you’ll need to head out on a short hike through the forest, which is a beautiful adventure in and of itself! There are two trails available, both of which are pretty flat and equally stunning (you can wear flip flops for the hike). There’s no facilities at the beach, so make sure to bring along anything you may need for the adventure. I don’t recommend bringing beach chairs as there won’t be many places to put them, especially at high tide!
The bay is quite big and the “beach”, which isn’t really a beach at all, is completely made up of rocks and boulders. You’ll be able to see marine life just about anywhere, but the best spots require swimming away from the shore (yes! You can get here independently, but if you’re not a super strong swimmer, you can also book a snorkeling tour to Honolua Bay).
Head over the rocks and into the water slowly – they can be slippery! Local Tip: you’ll find most of the fish on the right side of the bay since that’s where most of the coral is!
Don’t leave the area without seeing the bay from above! The colors of the water are even more stunning and vibrant from a higher vantage point. And thankfully, the views are super easy to find. There’s a bunch of designated viewpoints right off the road — can’t miss them! I make my husband take pictures here every time we visit Maui, haha. It’s one of my favorite spots on the island!
9. Kahekili Beach Park (Airport Beach)
Another of the best spots to snorkel in Maui is Kahekili Beach Park, commonly referred to as “Airport Beach”. Why? Because in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, this spot served as West Maui’s only airport!
There are plenty of amenities and facilities all over the beach, plus easy parking, which also means you don’t need to plan a lot or bring many things along.
What makes Airport Beach a wonderful snorkeling spot in Maui is the fact that there’s a reef right by the coastline, so you don’t need to swim very far in order to spot plenty of marine life. Among the creatures you may get to see are colorful fish, eels, and maybe even a few green sea turtles! Plan to head into the water right in front of the north towers of the Westin Ocean Resort Villas.
Bring a beach chair and umbrella – with all the amenities here you can easily spend all day! There’s public restrooms, fresh water showers, picnic tables, and even grills for public use.
As a bonus, if you happen to be visiting Maui during the winter months (November to March), make sure to keep your eyes out for migrating whales as sightings are very common at this time of the year.
Exhausted your snorkeling in Maui itself? Head on over to Lanai, a lesser-known island located just a short boat ride away! It makes for a great day trip that will also give you the chance to explore a new Hawaiian island – didn’t think you’d be going to another island during your 5 days in Maui, now did you?!
Hulopoʻe Bay is usually the best spot in Lanai for a snorkeling session. The water here is pretty calm and perfect for swimming, not to mention it’s located inside a protected marine preserve and is home to lots of tropical fish, turtles, eels, and more.
On my last trip to Maui, I opted for a guided trip to Lanai and had the time of my life. Not only did they bring us to a spectacular snorkeling spot, but we saw so many spinner dolphins along the way. Such a magical experience — I almost cried!
Getting to Lanai from Maui only takes about 50 minutes on the ferry if you want to do things independently (there are five daily round trips available). However, I recommend booking a tour instead, especially if you’re short on time and don’t wanna rent a car on Lanai for the day.
This guided catamaran tour to Lanai takes you to Lanai on a decked-out catamaran and also gives you access to some hidden spots on the island that aren’t quite as popular among visitors! Plus dolphins!
11. Coral Gardens
Home to the largest reef in Maui at over 100 acres, Coral Gardens is a wonderful spot to snorkel in Maui and even all of Hawaii! A true kaleidoscope of coral on the ocean floor.
Here, you’ll find a plethora of giant coral everywhere you look, some of which are as old as 500 years! The area was created by lava flows in the ocean some half a million years ago, and because of its unique geology, marine life absolutely thrives here.
You’ll spot thousands of different fish species that come in all colors of the rainbow as well as other creatures such as Hawaiian green sea turtles, eels, and octopi. Expect to see Hawaiian tropical fish including angelfish, butterflyfish, triggerfish, and giant parrotfish.
Because Coral Gardens is so big, it caters to beginners as well as seasoned snorkelers in the different areas. The best way to make the most out of your time here is by booking a tour to Coral Gardens, as guides will be able to help you find the best spots to see animals! Most tours leave from the Lahaina and Maalaea Harbors.
So there ya have it – a whole slew of the best spots to go snorkeling in Maui! What underwater marine life are you most excited to see?