Visiting the best snorkeling Maui beaches allows you to discover Hawaii’s pure beauty under the sea. Maui has been voted as “The best island in the world” by the Condé Nast Travel Magazine for 10 years thanks to the scenarios landscape and untouched nature. With this travel guide, we give tips for ocean-lovers where to go to discover the island’s underwater wonder.
Table of Contents
When to visit the best snorkeling Maui beaches?
Snorkeling is a popular activity on all Hawaiian islands thanks to the vibrant marine life. Each island features good beaches to snorkel -famous snorkel spots are the Kealakekua Bay on Big Island as well as Kaiona Beach Park on Oahu- but Maui is extremely rich if it comes to beaches and bays!
Where is Maui?
Maui, part of the State of Hawaii, is the second largest Hawaiian island. Only the Big Island is bigger than Maui. Maui’s greatest north-south dimension is 42 km (26 miles) and it is 77 km (48 miles) wide east to west. Maui is situated in the North Pacific Ocean, 3780 km (2340 miles) west of San Francisco. The coastline is 200 km long (120 miles) with over 50 km (30 miles) of beaches. On this wonderful long coastline snorkelers at all levels will find their favorite spots among the best snorkeling Maui beaches.
Maui is a tropical island with a mild year-round climate, but there are many areas on the island with their own microclimates. The coldest months are December and January with the average temperature 18-24 °C (65-75°F). The hottest summer months are August and September, avg temperature is 25-32 °C (77-88 °F). The most rainfall hits the north, northeast shores due to the wind, showers are very common here. The south and southwest areas are relatively dry. Thanks to this unique climate, the flora is various with cactus bunch grass and tropical creepers, bamboo forests, eucalyptus parks, and even pines.
Due to the microclimates and various weather conditions, pack different clothes with yourself if you visit Maui. Pack not only swimsuits but also waterproof and windproof jacket. Since Hawaii banned toxic chemical sunblock products in order to preserve the reefs, make sure to take coral safe sunscreen with you!
10 Best snorkeling Maui beaches
The best snorkeling Maui beaches are located on the south and on the western parts of the island. The reason is simple, these part of Maui is protected from wind. The Hawaiian “trade winds” are blowing from the northeast, so the water on south and west stays calm and clear.
The shallow and clear water makes Kapalua Beach one of the most celebrated of the best snorkeling Maui beaches. This beach is the safest year-round swimming and snorkeling spot on Maui. Kapalua Bay is a perfect place for novice snorkelers and kids. The bay is “C shaped”, protected by two reefs. Easy water access thanks to the sandy sea bottom. Because of the sandy shore, the visibility could be bad if it is windy or there are waves, but if you snorkel along the rocky edge, the water is more clear. In the shallow water and around the reef you will see different tropical fish species here like butterflyfish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, damsel- and triggerfish, boxfish, scorpionfish, Hawaiian State fish, as well as other interesting crustaceans and invertebrates.
The Napili beach is located on the northwestern coast, between two rocky points. This is a popular beach and can be busy durin the day. best time to visit the beach in the mornings or late afternoons to avoid the busiest midday hours. Napili is perfect for active holidaymakers, not only snorkeling but also paddle boarding and surfing is excellent here. The winter months are perfect for surfers who find here perfect waves. Napili is a snorkeling spot for advanced snorkelers because the water gets deep quickly. The reasons why Napili Beach must be on the best snorkeling Maui beaches list is that Hawaiian Monk Seals are often seen here.
Black Rock (Kaanapali Beach)
The Black Rock is a snorkeling spot situated at the north end of Kaanapali Beach. The soft powdery sand, clear water, and romantic sunsets give the place a very special atmosphere. According to travel magazines, the Kaanapali Beach has been voted as one of the best beaches in the world so no wonder why it has to be on the best snorkeling Maui beaches top list. In spite of the many Maui hotels around you don’t need to worry about the crowd. The beach is approx 5 km long (3 miles) so it seems not too busy. At the Black Rock, the water is shallow, average depth is 2-8 m (8-26 feet). The visibility is usually good, the shore is sandy. You can often see turtles here as well as eagle rays and of course different tropical fish species.
Tons of turtles, colorful fish and sleeping sharks, shall I continue? Five Caves is also known as Five Graves because there was a burial site on the shore and five gravestones were placed near the parking area. The entry is easy, there are a lot of things to see underwater, this interesting site is a must-visit spot on the best snorkeling Maui beaches list! In the caves you can spot sleeping reef sharks and often manta rays, moray eels, eagle rays and frogfish visit the place. Five Caves is recommended for advanced snorkelers! Best is to sign up for a guided snorkel tour to find the caves.
Maluaka “Big” Beach
Considered as the Nr among the best snorkeling Maui beaches. Maluka Beach on the south side of the island is home to a big population of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. This golden sandy, wind-protected bay offers easy and relaxing snorkeling. To get to the coral reef you need to swim a bit south. Here you will find various tropical fish and of course the famous Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. Interesting fact is that the Hawaiian Sea Turtles are brown despite their names. The turtles are usually in the shallow water feeding on seagrass.
A marine life conservation area on the northwestern end of Maui. The sea is usually very calm in the Honolua Bay because of the surrounding high cliffs. There is a concrete boat ramp in the middle of the bay. On the left side of the ramp, the shore is dark sandy and the visibility could be bad, but if you swim out from this area the sand will be white and the water will be clear. The right side of the ramp is rocky, be careful because the rocks are slippery! The middle of the bay there is a white sandy shore, the water is 4-6 m deep (13-20 feet). You can see the most corals on the right side of the bay moreover different tropical fish like butterfly fish, parrot fish, surgeon fish, wrasse, damselfish, Hawaii State fish “Humuhumunukunukuapuaa”, hawkfish, jacks, mullets, turtles, eels, cardinal fish, boxfish etc. The wonderful sea life makes Honolua bay one of the best snorkeling Maui beaches. But it is also a popular spot for surfers. People say that the waves are the most perfect here in all of Hawaii. The surfer spot is located out on the right side of the bay, so the waves won’t affect you while snorkeling.
Ulua and Mokapu beaches
Small but sweet little beaches not far from Wailea. The Ulua beach is right next to the Mokapu beach, they are connected by a path so you can visit two best snorkeling Maui beaches at the same time. Easy access to the water, the north end of Ulua Beach is the best for snorkeling. You can start at Ulua and snorkel to right towards the reef of Mokapu. On the shore, you can walk back to Ulua Beach. You find healthy corals, plenty of fish and turtles at Ulua Beach and Mokapu Beach.
If you prefer quiet beaches, the Polo Beach Maui is your place to go! It can be busy in front of the Polo Club Hotel, walk a little bit to enjoy more privacy. Small and clean beach, like a little private paradise. The Polo Beach is between Makena and Wailea. Snorkeling is the best when the sea is calm allowing you to discover underwater caves and arches here. Polo Beach is not safe by windy weather because of low visibility and the possibility of dangerous rip currents.
Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve
The unique landscape of Ahihi makes this one of the most picturesque among the best snorkeling Maui beaches. This marine conservation area is located on the south of Makena. Te Ahihi Kinau is part of Hawaii’s Natural Area Reserve System. The beach is black sandy, there are lava rocks everywhere, in and out of water. Best time for snorkeling in Ahihi Kinai is the morning before the wind starts to pick up. Hundreds of fish, eels, sea creatures and different corals can be observed in the shallow water, between the rocks. Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are also frequent visitors here. This place is perfect for snorkelers at all level including kids.
The Molokini Crater is the most popular of the best snorkeling Maui beaches. This volcanic atoll 5 km (3 miles) off the southwest coast of Maui is a marine life and bird conservation district. The northern part of the rim is underwater, the southern is above giving the Molokini Crater a unique crescent shape. The partially submerged crater is approx 800 m (half a mile) in diameter. This wind-protected snorkeling spot offering safe snorkeling for the whole family. The visibility is great at Molokini at all times ( up to 45 m, 150 feet). The fish and other sea creatures are very friendly because they are comfortable with the presence of snorkelers. You will enjoy the snorkeling among tropical fish and turtles. Often manta rays and white tip sharks can be seen here. On the top of this, sometimes even humpback whales, whale sharks and monks seals visit Molokini Cater. Accessible only by boat, many tour operators offer daily charters.
The Olowalu Reef, an oceanfront area on the west side of the island, is the home to one of Hawaii’s most beautiful reef system. To give you some reasons why we must mention Olowalu as one of the best snorkeling Maui beaches is that this area has the oldest reef systems in the Hawaiian Islands giving home to many turtles and more than 350 manta rays. Even a black tip shark nursery operates here! Female sharks come here every year to give birth in this protected calm-water area. Olowalu is a “turtle cleaning station”, many turtles come here to take a rest on the coral reefs in the shallow water while getting a spa treatment from small fish. The snorkeling places are protected from trade winds, the water is shallow, especially close to the shoreline, perfect for children and for novice snorkelers as well. In the crystal clear water, you can see different types of soft and hard corals, more than 20 species of them are very rare! Snorkeling at Olowalu will go beyond your expectations for sure giving you unforgettable memories! The best is to snorkel Olowalu from boat, because the reef is extremely shallow near the shore.