The Best Places to Go Snorkeling in Maui

The Best Places to Go Snorkeling in Maui

Picture of Gil Zeimer

Gil Zeimer

Gil took a resort course on Grand Cayman in 1981 and has been hooked on diving ever since. He received his PADI certification in 1985 in a reservoir south of Dallas. He’s explored three oceans — from Australia to Micronesia, four Hawaiian Islands, Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, California’s Monterey and Channel Islands, Florida’s Keys, Walt Disney World’s Living Seas Exhibit, three Bahamas Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Little Cayman Island, and Aruba.

With water temperatures between about 70 to 84 degrees around the island, you can just walk into the water on any of Maui’s 120 miles of shoreline along its white, yellow, red, or black sand beaches. Look for those that have coral heads that attract fish for the best snorkeling, but be cautious around the coral. When you go snorkeling in Maui, if you’re not wearing fins for swimming or snorkeling, wear water shoes to protect your feet.

Due to the warm water temperature, you won’t need too much cover. A long-sleeve dive skin or a shorty wetsuit for a bit of extra warmth works great, or a rash guard or t-shirt to prevent sunburn both on top of the water and on land.

When snorkeling, you’ll see lots of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles almost anywhere you snorkel here and dozens of varieties of tropical fish like the “Humuhumu” state fish. 

Here are the best places to go snorkeling on Maui.

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Photo: Wai Siew

Airport Beach, Northwest Shore

Between Kaanapali Beach and Kapalua Bay, on the northwest side of Maui, you’ll find a local favorite for kids and families to go snorkeling in Maui. Airport Beach in the Kahekili Beach Park looks out on a great place to snorkel. With depths of 20 to 30 feet along the shore, visibility can vary because strong winds can kick up at any time. Here, you can see dozens of different colors and species of fish, such as lionfish, moorish idols, sergeant majors, needlefish, and more. Lots of free parking and public restrooms.

Photo: Jacopo Werther

Puʻu Kekaʻa (Black Rock), Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali Beach

About 10 miles north of Lahaina at the famous Puʻu Kekaʻa (Black Rock), you’ll find a 30-foot-deep natural aquarium that is home to about a dozen Hawaii Green Sea Turtles, as well as hundreds of tropical fish population, reef sharks, and other stuff to see. Currents can be strong here, so be careful if you’re not an accomplished snorkeler and swimmer. Parking costs $26 at the Sheraton, but only $2.50 per hour, or $20 per day at nearby Whaler’s Village.

Photo: Henrik Dreisler

Humpback Whale Watching & Snorkeling Tours, Lahaina

While you can’t actually snorkel with humpbacks, you can be in the water near them, hear their beautiful rhythmic songs, and if you’re lucky, feel their sound vibrations reverberate through your bodies. You may also see turtles, moray eels, tropical fish, and more, just like all the other snorkeling spots on Maui. This is a seasonal adventure, typically between December and April annually.

Photo: Pooja Rathod

Kapalua Beach, Northwest Shore

With a tranquil, sandy beach in a protected cove, you can swim to the right and along the rocky point where the corals are most abundant to attract the fish. Walk to the north end of the beach and snorkel along the rocky edge — there will be less sand there so the water visibility will be better and there will be much more fish. The farther out towards the northern point you swim, the clearer the water will get. Expect to see anything from parrot fish, damsel fish, jacks, cornet fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates.

Photo: Farid Askerov

Molokini Crater, South of Kihei

One of the prime spots for all of Hawaii is at Molokini Crater, which is 3.6 miles from the Kihei boat ramp or 45 minutes from Maalaea Harbor. Visibility is great – up to 150 feet — inside the curve of a crescent-shaped environment. Boats leave at 7 a.m. when winds, waves, and currents are minimal so you can see up to 250 species of tropical reef fish, all types of coral, plus lobsters, moral eels, turtles, and especially white tip reef sharks. The earlier you get out here, the more you can enjoy serene snorkeling before all the other boats arrive (typically up to a dozen per day).

Poolenalena Beach, Makena Landing, South Maui

With three places to snorkel from one sandy beach in the southern part of the island, this is yet another great site in the mornings before the afternoon trade winds kick up. The beach offers access to the left side, the middle rocky point, and the right side over some rocks. In the northern parking lot, there are some portable toilets, while the south entrance has a shower.

Photo: Joanna Kozik

Turtle Town Coral Reef, Makena Landing, South Maui

Look, but don’t touch or hassle the endangered Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. Between Nahuna Point and Black Sand Beach, south of Wailea at Makena Landing, snorkelers can witness an unusual phenomenon: a “cleaning station” nicknamed “The Car Wash” where wrasse fish and shrimp eat parasites off turtles’ shells and faces who line up to be groomed. Visibility is typically excellent because this site is protected from winds.

Photo: Alan Rodriguez

Wailea Beach, South Maui

Home to the Four Seasons Wailea Bay and Grand Wailea Resort, you’ll find this popular sandy resort beach with pretty good snorkeling past the right side with a better coral reef. Each resort rents snorkeling equipment, but watch out for kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and boogie boards when you’re in the water. As with most beaches in Maui, mornings are best for seeing turtles and tropical fish, while afternoons can be very windy. Parking is available at public areas, with showers, restrooms, barbecue area, and picnic table.

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