Maui is Hawaii’s second largest island, covering an area of approximately 727 square miles. It’s “Kahului airport” is located quite centrally, and close to the northern shore. Maui offers a whole lot of beautiful beaches and resorts. If you want to explore the marine life of the Pacific Ocean, Maui has it all.
The Hawaiian islands are famous amongst snorkelers, and offer a great experience for both beginners and experts. In this article we share the best snorkel beaches and what marine life to expect, together with a few excursions that are totally worth your time.
Besides Maui, there are a few other Hawaiian islands that offer fantastic snorkeling as well. The islands Oahu and Kauai could be worth a visit if you plan to do some island hopping. If you’re interested, we have an article about snorkeling in Hanauma Bay (located on the island Oahu), another article about snorkeling in Kauai, and one about snorkeling in Waikiki (on the island Oahu).
Top 9 Snorkel Beaches In Maui
Honolulu Bay can be found in the northwest of the island. If you plan to go snorkeling, there are 2 ways to get there: You either go hiking or you book a boat tour. The boat tour may be your best choice since the scenery is marvelous. You can snorkel directly off the boat and they provide everything you need: Snorkel gear, food, drinks, information, and a friendly staff.
Tip: If they provide full face snorkel masks, make sure to understand their advantages and disadvantages (the link will take you to our discussion).
You can compare this bay with an underwater forest. If you watch the video down below, you’ll understand what we mean by that. Pacific Whale offers a variety of cruises, snorkeling is just one of them. The corals close to the beach are limited, which means you should snorkel out quite a bit to see the best sea life. When snorkeling off a boat, you won’t have to worry about that. You start right in the middle of all the action.
The Hawaiian green sea turtle, also known as “Honu”, is one of the main attractions here. Expect to also see spotted moray eel, butterflyfish, parrotfish, octopus, triggerfish, surgeonfish, goatfish, trumpetfish, sea cucumber, sea urchins, sea stars and many more. Some of the corals to be found are blue rice, cauliflower, finger, lobe, antler, and solid.
Kaanapali Beach (Black Rock)
Situated on the west shore, Kaanapali beach was once named “America’s Best Beach”. It’s three miles of white sandy beaches and clear waters are definitely worth a visit. Hotels and other resorts found their way to this truly amazing location. If you want to combine snorkeling with restaurants and shopping afternoons, this could be your best choice.
Besides snorkeling, which is demonstrated in the video below, consider it as a family friendly destination. Kids can go cliff diving, zip lining, surfing, swimming, you name it. Relax on the beach or explore the underwater civilization with your snorkel gear. Kaanapali Beach offers a whole lot of possibilities to keep everyone entertained.
Snorkeling is a real pleasure here. You’ll come across butterflyfish, trigger fish, sea turtles, needlefish, mackerel, goatfish, hawkfish, surgeonfish, parrotfish, needlefish, tang, and many more. Take a moment to watch the video below and you’ll get the idea. It also provides a good impression of the area. Compared to Honolulu Bay, the ocean floor mainly consists of sand and lava rocks.
If you walk southwards from Kaanapali Beach, you’ll discover Hanakaoo Beach. The two are connected and provide a long shore, 1.5 miles in total. Hanakaoo is less crowded during the week. Many people combine snorkeling with renting a canoe, which is why this beach is also known as “Canoe Beach”.
If the weather is good, and when the ocean is calm, this is a great spot for snorkeling. The ocean floor is partially sandy, which means the water could become a little turbid on windy days.
The locals enjoy this beach quite a bit, especially since it attracts less tourists than some of the other beaches in Maui. The marine life is diverse with a lot of sea turtles, corals and the marine life we previously mentioned.
Kamaole Beach Park
The beach at Kamaole is divided into three parts, also known as “Kam I”, “Kam II” and “Kam III. They are separated by rocks, but you can walk across them if you wish. For snorkeling, locals say that “Kam I” offers the best snorkeling. However, all of the beaches are great since they’re so close to each other.
Sandy beaches, lifeguards, shopping, restaurants, it’s all combined in Kamaole. Definitely great for a family adventure. Usually there is plenty of parking, and finding restrooms with showers is no problem at all. However, from time to time, the water may be a little unpredictable. This could result in a lot of sand whirling around, which could reduce your visibility.
Snorkeling is best if you stay close to the rocks. You’ll find a lot of different fish species and corals here. Expect to see most of the fish we already mentioned, like sea turtles, eel, needlefish, butterflyfish, mackerel, goatfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, hawkfish, trumpetfish, and more. Maybe not the best place for advanced snorkelers, but for beginners and families it can be awesome to stay here.
On the east side of the island you’ll find Kapalua Bay. It’s a very pretty bay with two major reefs: One on your left and one on your right. The water is clear and shallow, which is excellent for beginners. However, always be careful when you snorkel, especially close to the reefs.
Parking is usually not a problem. If it’s full, here’s a tip: Go to the nearby tennis court where you can park your car for 10 dollars the whole day. If you plan a trip with the whole family, Kapalua Bay won’t disappoint you. Your kids could try snorkeling if they’re old enough, or if they like it, but just swimming around and building sand castles could do the trick as well.
At the beach you’ll find restrooms, showers and water fountains. The marine life is similar to what we already mentioned. Sea turtles love the reef on your left side. Make sure to watch the video below to get a better impression of what to expect.
Tip: In case you travel with kids, feel free to read our “Giant Guide For Snorkeling With Kids“.
This is another beautiful beach that’s both fun for a family visit and for underwater exploration. The sea turtles sometimes come close to the shore, however, make sure to keep a 10 feet distance and to never touch them. If you’re traveling with kids that are too young to snorkel, this is a fantastic adventure. They can see the turtles quite clearly directly off te beach.
Maluaka Beach is located in the southwest of Maui. If you watch the video below, you’ll get a better impression of what to expect. It’s really a beautiful beach with usually enough parking lots nearby. There is a bathroom and, if you wish, you can take a shower.
A part of the western shore of Maui goes by the nickname “Turtle Town”. Maluaka Beach is considered to be the best spot within that area to explore these animals. Compared to most other snorkel spots, this little paradise receives a good amount of wind-protection. Therefore, the water is often calmer, especially in the morning. So, if you’re an early bird, this could be a great choice. You can read more about Turtle Town on Hawaii Magazine.
Mokuleia Beach, also known as Slaughterhouse Beach, is located in the northwest of Maui. It’s pretty close to Honolua Bay, so who knows you want to combine the two and make a day trip ut of it.
Surrounded by a rocky scenery, this “hidden” beach with it’s white sand is definitely breathtaking. You access it by following a long starway which is an adventure on it’s own. The waves can be rough on certain days, which is why some people enjoy surfing or bodyboarding here. Snorkeling is fantastic too with a good amount of sea turtles, unicornfish, triggerfish, parrotfish, tang, you name it.
Please note: There are no restrooms or showers here. Make sure to take all your garbage with you in order to keep this beach clean. Locals love it here as well, it’s usually not too crowded. In wintertime the sea may be too wild, so if you can, pay a visit in summer. That’s when the ocean gets a little calmer.
Napili Bay is another lovely shore in the northwest of Maui. You’ll find a pretty white beach surrounded by a whole lot of green scenery. From the water you can see the island Lanai in the background.
This beach is part of a resort that includes condo’s, shops, bathrooms and restaurants. It’s definitely worth a visit if you plan to travel with a family. There’s much to do besides snorkeling. Just like most of Maui’s beaches, sea turtles love this place. Besides all kinds of fish, you’ll come across them frequently.
The water is usually clear with acceptable currents. However, always make sure to check the daily circumstances. Sometimes the waves can increase which can be dangerous, especially for kids. In other words, visit this location when the ocean is peaceful and calm.
The Molokini Crater is a small island located in the southwest of Maui. It’s a few miles off the shore, which means you need to go there by boat. There are a few companies that will take you there. They all seem to be fun, so we would advise you to read a few reviews on TripAdvisor.
With over a thousand species of fish, this is definitely an underwater paradise. It attracts snorkelers from all over the world, so who knows you don’t want to miss out on the fun. Clear water, great visibility, colorful fish, what’s not to like?
Since this is a collapsed volcano, the ocean floor is rocky. Almost no sand or other particles will impact your snorkel experience. Make sure to take pictures and bring an underwater camera if you have one. A truly unique adventure to never forget.
Tip: If you don’t have an underwater camera, or if you’d like a bunch of tips to take some awesome footage, check out our giant guide for snorkeling with a GoPro.
Maui Snorkel Tips
Be aware that on Maui the weather conditions can suddenly change. A beach may seem calm in the morning, whilst after a couple of hours there could be bigger waves. Therefore, be cautious at all times. Beaches with lifeguards will often warn you about his, but abandoned beaches like Mokuleia for example can be dangerous. If it helps, feel free to read our article about snorkeling in the rain.
Be aware of the jellyfish season. They can sting you which is definitely not a pleasant experience. Ask locals or lifeguards in order to be prepared. You can also consider to bring a jellyfish sting lotion, like “Sting Away” for example. Snorkel rash guards can be of help as well for certain species.
Sea turtles are a lovely sight, however, make sure to never bother them. Don’t touch or chase them, and try not to scare them away. Maintaining a 10 feet distance is advised. They are a protected species in Maui.
Never swim out too far! Make sure to stay close to the shore and the reefs. Beaches like Kapalua, Napili and Kaanapali offer a somewhat “protected” shore, even though there’s access to the ocean. Your safety is never guaranteed, but staying away from outer water is important. There are cases of shark attacks when snorkeling out too far. It’s one of the reasons why people are scared to snorkel, which it’s totally understandable.
Pay attention to beach safety signs. Remember, you’re most likely a tourist. The local lifeguards know the area by much better. So aks them if you have any remaining questions.
Water Shoes And Fins
The ocean floor in Maui is often rocky. If you don’t wear fins, make sure to wear water shoes. Fins can be of great help as well since the currents can suddenly change. They also save your energy.
As we previously discussed, boat tours can provide a great snorkel adventure. Some beaches aren’t easy to access, so avoid hiking or steep stairways if you’re not trained for that. Besides, boat tours usually offer experienced instructors. Every snorkel trip comes with risks, but having experienced people around you is at least something.
Pacific Ocean Wildlife
The Pacific Ocean offers a home to many more species than just fish and sea turtles. It includes humpback whales, monk seals, dolphins, sharks, just to name a few.
From december till april, over 10.000 humpback whales find their way to the comfortable waters of Maui. Sometimes when snorkeling you can actually hear them. If you’re curious about them, consider a whale watching tour. If you dare, one of the kayaking excursion could be fun. But you can just as well go for a boat tour, like for example the one offered by Pride Of Maui. They offer a good amount of excursions and can even take you to the Molokini Crater if you wish.
The Hawaiian Monk Seals are not a very frequent visitor to Maui. Sure, you could spot a few if you’re lucky or if you go on a kayaking adventure. Most of them however prefer the northern Hawaiian shores, like Kauai for example. Monk seals just love the beaches there. Sometimes you don’t even need to snorkel in order to see them, they like the shore a whole lot.
The most common dolphin species in Maui is the “Spinner Dolphin”. If you’re up for a spectacular show, they’re the ones to go and watch. Since dolphins need to breathe above sea level, they are easy to spot and enjoy. However, the spinner dolphin doesn’t just stick out his head, breathe, and that’s it. No, they jump out of the water, spin a couple of times and then dive back into the ocean. They can spin up to seven times. It’s not possible to snorkel with dolphins in Maui, but there are a few boat tours to consider. Pacific Whale is one of them.
We talked about sharks a little earlier, and why it’s so important to never swim out into the ocean. Tiger sharks find comfort in the Maui waters to mate and to raise their young. But here are a few more species of sharks. Even though sharks are rare in shallow waters near the coastline, there are a few cases of shark attacks. Beaches will be closed whenever a shark is sighted, but there never is any guarantee. Many locals have never seen a shark at the beach, but you can never tell. Therefore, always do your own research and ask the lifeguards for more information. Never ignore any warning signs and watch your surroundings. Furthermore, never snorkel alone.
Climate In Maui
Maui offers warm and enjoyable temperatures all year round. The average temperature is around 75°F during winter season. Since it’s located close to the tropical zone, you can say there are only two seasons: A dry and a rainy season.
Typically, the dry season is “summertime” and lasts from april until october. Temperatures don’t really change that much throughout the year. Summer usually has warmer days and snorkeling is more pleasant. Also, the marine life likes it’s share of this season. Warm and sunny days make them leave their shelter and provoke some exploration. If you can, try to visit Maui during this season.
The rainy season lasts from november until march. In other words, expect more rainy days. Still, rain doesn’t necessarily need to have a bad impact on your snorkeling adventure. If the rain is not too bad, and if there is enough sunlight, you’ll be just fine. It’s the currents that affect your snorkeling visibility much more. Currents will make the water more blurry. If you combine that with cloudy days, maybe you want to try snorkeling the next day. Let’s hope for some sunshine!
Whatever season you happen to be in Maui, make sure to simply enjoy it. Every season will usually allow for some great snorkeling, but don’t forget about your holiday experience. Even if it gets dark earlier in the rainy season, why not have some fun on the beach. If it’s not raining, the beach can still be a fun place to hang out. Some snorkel locations have barbecue spots with beautiful sunset views.