The Best Places to Scuba Dive on Maui

The Best Places to Scuba Dive on 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.

Locals on Hawaii’s second largest island frequently tell you “Maui noka oi” (“Maui is the best”). And there are many things that keep people coming back. It’s not as crowded as Oahu, offers a better diversity of diving, majestic migrating humpback whales from November to May, and varied terrain — from the steep slopes of the 10,023-foot Haleakala Crater to the white sands of Kaanapali Beach to the narrow, long, and winding road to Hana.

What You Can See

Hawaiian green sea turtles are in abundance most places you dive, as well as white tip reef sharks, all types of tropical fish, moray eels, and the state fish, a reef triggerfish named Humuhumunukunukuapua, usually just called “Humuhumu.” You can do shore dives from Kaanapali Beach, but boat dives for deeper water are recommended.

What You Can Hear

Rhythmic, haunting humpback whale songs can be heard for several miles underwater. Even if you can’t see them, listen for the male’s beautiful singing during their annual visits when diving or snorkeling. Even about 200 yards away you can feel the sound vibrations reverberate through your body — it’s like getting splashed with a liquid wave of sound.

Water Temperatures

A range of about 70 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit around the island sounds like warm water, but consider that you typically dive for 45 to 60 minutes and that this can be 20 degrees colder than your body. You will get chilly. Wear a shorty wetsuit over a dive skin, as well as a light hood and gloves. No need for a dry suit here. Coldest months to dive are January and February.

Here are the best places to scuba dive in Maui along its 120-mile shoreline.

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Feature photo: Matt Flores

A close-up image of a lionfish swimming in blue water. The fish has distinctive zebra-like stripes of brown and white and long, venomous fin spines that fan out around its body like a mane. The clear water, reminiscent of the best places to scuba dive in Maui, highlights the lionfish's colors and patterns.
Photo: Wai Siew

Airport Beach, Northwest Shore

Between Kaanapali Beach and Kapalua Bay is Airport Beach in the Kahekili Beach Park. With a small private airport on the hill above, this beach provides a covered gazebo, large lawn, an easy place for family gatherings, and a great beach dive. With depths of 20 to 30 feet along the shore and a seabed of 40 feet, visibility can vary because of winds that may kick up daily. Dozens of different colors and species of fish can be seen here, including lionfish, moorish idols, sergeant majors, needlefish, and more. Lots of free parking and public restrooms. in2scubadivingmaui.com

A sea turtle swims gracefully underwater, with sunlight filtering through the surface, illuminating the sandy ocean floor. The turtle's patterned shell and outstretched flippers are prominently visible as it glides through the clear turquoise water—one of the best sights while scuba diving in Maui.
Photo: Ashley Lee

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

About 10 miles north of Lahaina at the Sheraton Maui is the famous Puʻu Kekaʻa . This beginner to intermediate shore dive has been rated as one of the top four beach dives in America. The incoming current circles around the rocks and wall to form a 30-foot-deep natural aquarium thats teeming with sea turtles, hundreds of tropical fish population, reef sharks, and more. Resort courses are offered here, as well as night dives to see different sea life after the sun sets, but beware of strong currents on the surface. Parking is $26 at the Sheraton, but only $2.50 per hour or $20 per day at nearby Whalers Village. shorediving.com

Underwater shot of a sea turtle swimming near the ocean surface in one of the best places to scuba dive, Maui. The water appears clear with shades of blue and green, and some sunlight filters through, creating a tranquil scene. Sky and clouds are visible above the waterline.
Photo: Jakob Owens

Lanai Cathedrals

For bragging rights that youve dived somewhere different, jump on a 45-minute ferry from Lahaina Harbor across the Maui Channel to the private island of Lanai, owned by Larry Ellison of Oracle fame. On its west side, Cathedrals comprises two large caverns that are about 45 to 60-feet deep and frequently mentioned as one of the Top 10 Dive Sites in the World.” These dramatic lava cathedrals offer a 100-foot-long lava tube about 20-feet high, excellent visibility, plus a chance to see turtles, dolphins, octopi, all kinds of colorful fish, eels, and more. Definitely bring a flashlight. Not recommended if youre claustrophobic. lahainadivers.com

Aerial view of a crescent-shaped island surrounded by clear blue ocean waters, perfect for those exploring the best places to scuba dive in Maui. Multiple boats and yachts are anchored near the lush, green shores, while a distant, larger landmass extends on the horizon.
Photo: Farid Askerov

Molokini Crater, South of Kihei

This protected conservation district off the southwestern coast is 3.6 miles from the Kihei boat ramp or about 45 minutes from Maalaea Harbor. Boats leave at 7am when winds and currents are minimal. The crater is 20 to 50 feet deep with excellent visibility up to 150 feet where you may see harmless white tip reef sharks, spotted moray eels, lobsters, and about 250 species of tropical fish. The back side is a sheer drop to much deeper water and usually more sharks. Get there early in the morning to avoid ascending from your dive to see the crescent-shaped area filled with cattlemarans” overflowing mostly with snorkelers. mauidiveshop.com

A serene beach scene shows golden sands stretching along the coastline, with turquoise waters gently lapping at the shore. Scattered beachgoers relax under umbrellas and swim in the sea. Lush green hills loom in the background beneath a partially cloudy sky—one of the best places to scuba dive in Maui.
Photo: Joanna Kozik


Turtle Town Coral Reef, Makena Landing, South Maui

You can look… you can photograph… but dont touch the protected, endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles. Along this stretch of the coast between Nahuna Point and Black Sand Beach, south of Wailea at Makena Landing, you can see over a dozen turtles on one dive, including several at a cleaning station” nicknamed The Car Wash” where wrasse fish and shrimp eat parasites off their shells and faces. Protected from winds, visibility is typically excellent. Other places to view turtles for shore dives are Makena Landing, Maluaka Beach, Keawakapu Beach, Ulua Beach, Kaanapali Beach, and Napili Bay. makenalandingpark.com

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