If you are planning a vacation to the Hawaiian Islands you need to go snorkeling in Maui. It features some of the best snorkeling and diving sites in the world. In fact, Maui has been rated the number one island for snorkeling in Hawaii. This island features crystal clear waters and an abundance of sea life under the surface of the water.
Be sure to come prepared with your own gear on this trip as you will likely be spending a lot of time in the water. Choose the best snorkel will help you to ensure that you can dive below the water’s surface in order to follow the many marine animals you will see. From turtles and stingrays to caves and reef sharks these tropical waters have nearly endless areas to explore.
For the size of the island, you will be amazed by the amount of quality dive and snorkel spots you will find. While it is hard to narrow the list down to the best ones, some stand out much more than others. Don’t forget your underwater camera as you take a look at our top snorkel sights in Maui.
Quick Answer: 10 Best Snorkeling Spots in Maui
1. Molokini Crater
This is one of the rarest dive sites in the world. It is only one of three known volcanic calderas on Earth. During World War II the crater was used as target practice. Bullets and shrapnel can still be seen on the slopes above the water line.
This is the only designated Marine Sanctuary site in all of Hawaii meaning the site is protected. Boats attach to anchored lines so they don’t drop their anchor onto the coral while hunting, fishing and even interacting with the wildlife is prohibited. All of these rules are in place to keep this site pristine.
This crater is approximately 2.5 miles off the coast of Maui meaning you will need to charter a boat or go in a group to this dive spot. But you will not be disappointed. Visibility hovers around 150 feet and offers great views of the steep cliffs, coral, and marine life. This crater features over 200 species of fish and even includes a whale shark that is known to feed on the plankton in the area.
There are many dive sites spread over this crater. In fact, there are 8 main designated sites ranging from shallows which are great for beginners to depths of 130 feet – perfect for free diving. No matter what your experience level is Molokini Crater has the perfect dive spot for you. Each dive site has unique sites. At “The Back Side” you can see everything from blacktip reef sharks, Manta Rays, and even spinner dolphins.
2. Turtle Town
If you are looking to swim with turtles this is the place you want to be. This is a stretch of beach between Najuna Point and Black Sand beach. Turtle Town (aka. Maluaka Beach) is a place is known to have calm, crystal blue waters that are perfect for snorkeling. You will see everything from reef fish to the large green sea turtles it has been named after.
Pro Tip: To find the turtles walk to where the beach turns to rock – this is where the coral starts. Not only is this where the turtles hang out, but also other reef fish.
The bottom has a gradual slope that makes this an ideal place to snorkel. You don’t even have to swim to the depths to find the turtles. They like to eat and play in the shallow warm water. Don’t be fooled, these green turtles often have a brown shell that looks like rocks so keep your eyes peeled.
What makes this place great is that on top of seeing turtles you will be swimming with a wide variety of fish that call these reefs home. You will see everything from squirrelfish to eels and everything in between.
The white sand beach has showers and restrooms for you to get changed and rinse off. If you get hungry there is a concession stand that has cold drinks and snacks. You will also be swimming beside the Makena South golf course making this have a picturesque view no matter where you look.
3. Coral Gardens
The Coral Gardens are best reached by boat but are accessible from the mainland. You can rent scooters which you can park along the shore allowing you to come and go when you please. We recommend bringing snacks and drinks as this is a semi-remote spot that doesn’t offer showers or a convenience bar. But that is the appeal of Coral Gardens. It wows you with the reefs and sights rather than the amenities.
This snorkeling spot is off a shore that doesn’t feature many white sandy beaches making it ideal if you are looking for a private experience. The rocky shore extends into the water creating caves and passageways that are just waiting to be explored. You will feel safe snorkeling here as you are in a pretty calm area.
You will find the waters are crystal clear and calm making this perfect for snorkeling. This area is relatively shallow which allows the light to illuminate everything below the surface making visibility nearly unlimited.
If you decide to travel here by boat you may be graced with humpback whales, spinner dolphins and even hear whale song underwater. You won’t be disappointed diving from the shore either. This spot is excellent no matter where you enter from. You can expect depths up to 12 feet with a relatively sandy entrance.
You will find the waters are crystal clear and calm making this perfect for snorkeling. This area is relatively shallow which allows the light to illuminate everything below the surface making visibility nearly unlimited. When you’re in the water you can see everything from angelfish to octopus, crabs and even moray eels.
4. Honolua Bay
If you are looking for a beautiful dive this is it. It features some of the best scenery in and out of the water. Even the drive to this spot is shrouded in beauty. Honolua Bay is in the northwest of Maui.
To get to the best spot entails a short hike which makes this a private spot. You can expect a rocky entrance but the sights are well worth it. This means that there is no lifeguard, bathrooms or concession. We suggest bringing a lunch as there isn’t a place to get food nearby.
Depths extend up to 30 feet and visibility is best during the morning (from 7 – 11 am). The best time to snorkel this site is during the summer months as there can be swells and high surf during other times of the year. If you are into surfing you will have heard about this spot as it’s one of the best-surfing destinations in the world.
This Bay is within a Marine Preserve area which prohibits fishing making this full of marine life. To get the best spot head to the right side of the beach and enter the water off the rocks. The visibility is better and the sand is traded for beautiful coral and rock. You can expect to see everything from barracuda to turtles on top of the regular reef fish.
5. Five Caves (Five Graves)
This is a spot for experienced divers. Five Caves sits just north of Turtle Town and can be entered from the shore or by boat. This is one place that you should consider having a guide as the currents can be tricky and the caves can be hard to locate without knowledge of the area.
There is a high chance of seeing turtles at this spot and if you are lucky you can even see sleeping white tip sharks. Octopus and eels are also relatively common in this area so keep a lookout when exploring.
You will enter the water between lava fingers that make this a scenic dive spot for scuba and snorkeling. The shore is also home to some of the most luxurious homes on the island so you are in for a treat even if you spend most of your time laying on the beach.
This place also has underwater arches and caves that you can swim through. These are pretty deep and are advised only for experienced divers. The water here can reach 30-40 feet which also creates tide pools and currents you may not be familiar with.
6. Black Rock
Snorkeling near black rock is great for swimmers of any experience level. With swarms of marine life swimming all the way to the shore you do not have to swim far in order to gain some incredible views. From sea turtles to impressive coral reefs there is much to see in this area.
Many travelers rave about the snorkeling found here on TripAdvisor with the only complaint being that the beaches oftentimes can get quite crowded. This is largely because of the beaches quality white sand shore and the incredible ease of getting to the beach. Going early to find a spot will allow you to take full advantage of this tropical oasis. The crowds will soon be forgotten as you put your face below the surface and step into your own little world. Colorful fish and many sea urchins bring tourists to this area as there are a plethora of things to see below the water’s surface.
While this area is called black rock, it is not recommended that you swim up to the tip of the rock and certainly not past it. This area opens up to the open sea where there are lots of rip currents. People who swim out to this area have been known to get caught in this current and swept to sea not to be seen again.
7. Napili Bay
Perhaps one of Maui’s most known beaches Napili Bay has some of the best snorkeling you will experience. While you will likely experience some crowds along the beach and may even struggle to find parking, all that will be forgotten the moment you put your face in the water. Heading to the middle of the two sections you will find deeper sand areas where you can practice your freediving skills. A lot of sea turtles hang out in this area too so you will have lots to see.
Napili Bay is incredibly desirable for beginner snorkelers as it is fairly well protected leaving the water calm and still. The reefs along the right side are fairly shallow allowing you to see more without having to free dive below the surface. While shallow you can still expect to see a wide variety of beautiful fish swimming along in this area. The still water found in this area leads way to some excellent visibility in this clear and warm water.
Not just for beginners, those who have some experience with diving should head to the left side of the bay. The water in this area can get quite choppy and leads to a cloudier visibility here you will be able to explore lots of rocky alcoves and stunning reefs. Be sure to always have a safety vest on when heading to these choppy waters.
There are buses that can be taken which will make it so that you don’t have to struggle to find parking. This beach has a freshwater shower located on the beach where you can rinse off before leaving which will make your mask and gear last even longer.
8. Kampala Bay
This beautiful snorkeling spot is a much-loved beach destination. The fine coral sand makes this a great place to spend the whole day snorkeling and soaking up the sun. The crescent-shaped bay is a snorkel treasure where you will find lots to explore.
Although this is quite a popular destination there is a very limited amount of parking available. We recommend coming early in the morning to make sure you can get a spot and soak up the early morning sights.
It is said that the further out you swim on the northern end of the bay, the more you will see and enjoy. Octopus, crustaceans and even puffer fish can all be spotted along these waters. As you explore the deeper waters be sure to keep an eye on the shoreline as it is easy to get carried away by trade winds. The middle of the bay has a deep sand floor that is a great spot for practicing free dives. Grab your dry snorkel and prepare to head deeper for an exciting sneak peek at what diving is like.
The bay is split into two sections with the right side being referred to as Kapaula. The left side is referred to as Lahaina and is not desirable as the currents and waves are more prominent. If you do decide to check this part out it is advisable to wear a snorkeling vest as the currents can change without warning.
9. Ulua Beach
This beach is named after a Hawaiian fish that frequents this area. Ulua Beach is located on the western part of Maui that hosts many resorts. This means you will be sharing the beach with many guests which can make this one of the busier places to snorkel. But what you trade for business you gain access amenities that other sites lack. This makes it great for the entire family. Be sure to get to the parking lot early as it fills up quickly.
This is a popular dive site for scuba along with snorkeling. You have your pick of the three beaches along a quarter-mile stretch of land to start your journey from. The water here is relatively shallow, reaching depths of 10 feet, making it an excellent place to snorkel. The entrance is a sandy beach that makes for an easy starting point. You will be able to see reef fish ranging from needlefish to porcupinefish.
10. Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve
This is possibly one of the best snorkeling spots in all of Maui. It is situated in a bay with shallow water which makes it great for the entire family. Since this area is a reserve you must be more careful than other areas not to disturb any of the wildlife or reefs. The coast is a mixed bag or rocky and sandy parts.
There is a large fenced parking lot which makes it easy to access the beach. This is where the makeshift bathrooms are set up and you are able to change into your bathing suit. A small rocky path leads to the beach where you will set up your station.
Young kids can have a chance to get in the water without fear. The water ranges in depths but is around 10 feet deep in most parts. With that being said, there is no lifeguard at this beach so keep an eye on your young ones at all times.
Like many other sites, Ahihi Kinau Natural Area Reserve is another great place to have the chance to see the Green Hawaiian Sea Turtles. You are even sometimes able to see them from shore. The snorkeling area features coral formations that are colorful and abundant.
If you are planning to snorkel all day Turtle Town is a short 2.5 mile drive up the road. You can snorkel here part of the day and head into town for a nice lunch before continuing to explore other areas.
11. Honekeana Bay
This is one snorkeling spot you will want a full face snorkel for as there is so much to see, you will appreciate the larger panoramic view. The beauty of this snorkeling spot is that you will feel like you have stumbled upon a private oasis. The white sand of other beaches is replaced with a rocky shoreline that makes this a less popular spot for beachgoers and therefore a hidden paradise. With all the beauty of Hawaii and none of the crowds, Honekeena Bay will quickly become your favorite.
With a 5 star rating on TripAdvisor, it is easy to see how amazing this secret spot is. Due to the rocky shoreline, in this bay, it is best to wear water socks to help keep you protected. The buildup of algae along the rocks attracts many hungry sea turtles so your chances of seeing one are incredibly high. Reviews rave about the number of turtles gathered in this area and the rocky shoreline encourages them to go into incredibly shallow waters.
This is a pristine summertime snorkeling spot. However in the wintertime, between the months of December and March, this area of the island becomes exposed to the northwest swells making the water too choppy for snorkeling. Instead, trade your mask and snorkel in for a surfboard and enjoy some of Hawaii’s famous swells.
Preparing for your snorkeling holiday in Hawaii looks quite similar to preparing for a dive holiday. Bringing your own gear along with you can save you a lot of time and money rather than renting. Oftentimes rental companies charge by the hour which can add up quite fast and restrict your ability to explore the underwater world. For those wanting a fast stress free buy, it will be much easier to go for a snorkel package that will give you all you need to get in the water.
If you are like us, you will likely have a hard time getting out of the water once you get a glimpse of the underwater world. Want to take your experience even farther? The island of Maui is a great place to learn how to scuba dive where you are practically guaranteed to see some amazing marine life such as whale sharks and big sea turtles.
Have you ever visited the island of Maui and found yourself exploring the waters? Let us know your favorite snorkel spot in the comment section below.