Turtles, Eagle Rays, Goatfish, Clownfish, Unicornfish, Parrotfish, and Damselfish—all of these creatures are flitting about Maui’s reefs at the moment you read these words. With such a varied and diverse array of marine life—and warm ocean temperatures year round—Maui is an underwater paradise for exploring with mask, fins, and a snorkel (plus, it’s a great activity to do as a couple or with a family). Ocean conditions can vary, however, and not every location will be pristine and beautiful during every day of the year. North shore snorkeling spots are best in the summer and south shores are best in the winter, and it’s wise to avoid snorkeling entirely after a heavy period of rain. On days when the weather is beautiful, however—which is most of the time in Maui—these are the spots where the marine environment can blow you away with its beauty.
Three miles north of Kapalua, this expansive bay is best in summer when the wintertime waves go flat. Schools of reef fish nibble algae off the shells of resting sea turtles, and large schools of akule and ta‘ape can be found swarming the shallow reef. Even the walk to the bay is an adventure, as the shoreline is accessed by a thin hiking trail through a valley that’s dripping in green.
Molokini Crater has the ability to amaze you before even jumping in water. Thanks to the clearest ocean water in Hawaii, you can make out fish swimming 70 feet below while just standing on the deck of a boat. Over 200 different species of fish make their home in this volcanic caldera, and the visibility is over 100 feet on almost every day of the year.
Pu‘u Keka‘a (“Black Rock”)
The entry is easy, the shoreline is sandy, and the shallow depth and proliferation of fish make this Ka‘anapali’s best snorkeling spot. The rock is located in front of the Sheraton, and it’s best to snorkel early in the morning before the afternoon tradewinds pick up. At high tide it’s common to find sea turtles nibbling seaweed off the rocks, and just remember to watch out for cliff jumpers as they leap from the rock overhead!
The rocky headland between Ulua and Mokapu Beach is Wailea’s best spot for snorkeling. The area is popular with scuba dive lessons since it’s shallow and has a sandy entry, and the haunting moans of humpback whales can be heard when snorkeling in winter.
This is a bay where you can bring your children and snorkel together as a family. The cove is mostly protected from the wind, and the sandy entry and shallow depth make it easy for beginning snorkelers. Showers and restrooms make it easy to change clothes, and during the summer months when the bay is calm, expert snorkelers can round the point into neighboring Namalu Bay.