A Guide to the Best Snorkeling in Maui

If you’re planning on taking a trip somewhere tropical and are looking for things to do, chances are you have come across snorkeling as an option. If you’re taking a trip to Maui, then you should definitelyconsider snorkeling.

Maui has huge number of snorkeling destinations, each with their own strengths and limitations. This is an advantage to the tourist, as you are not restricted to one location; however, this can also make it difficult to decide where to go and what is actually a good deal.

Below, we provide some reviews of the best snorkeling destinations in Maui in hopes this will help you enjoy your time as much as possible!

Molokini Crater

The Molokini Crater, located off the SouthWest shore of Maui, is an incredibly unique snorkeling destination. The scenery alone is worth the trip; however, one of the most advantageous aspects of this destination is the safety. The west coast of Maui is generally considered to have the safest waters, and you are even more protected from swell and currents within the crater itself.

Although most common snorkeling destinations in Maui are considered safe, the Molokini Crater offers an additional level of security, which can help reduce any stress that you probably don’t want to experience during a vacation.

In terms of marine life, there is lots to see in the crater. With approximately 250 species of fish and other marine life, you will be sure to see some cool stuff, especially since the marine life has now become accustomed to visitors. Another underrated aspect of these waters is the visibility, where guides have claimed you can see up to 150 feet.

Since Molokini Crater is located off the coast of Maui, you will need to get there by boat. That being said, the remoteness of the crater does not mean it’s only meant for advanced snorkelers, or those seeking extreme conditions. This is an excellent snorkeling spot for all levels of experience.

Boats usually depart from four locations on the west coast of Maui: 1) Maalaea, 2) Makena, 3) Lahaina, and 4) Kinei. Although Makena is the closest to the crater, the most popular departure location is Maalaea.

Overall, the Molokini Crater is considered by many to offer the best snorkeling in Maui, and given the typical water conditions, marine life, and unique scenery, we definitely recommend this Maui snorkeling destination. For more detailed information on Molokini Crater, please click here.

Five Caves

This is another very unique snorkeling spot in Maui. Caves are cool enough on land, but under water is a completely different world. There are lots of turtles that reside in and around the area, so there’s a very high chance you will be able to spot some, as well some other cool creatures.

If you’re looking for an area that offers much more than snorkeling, you might want to consider somewhere else. The entrance to Five Caves is fairly rocky with a little bit of beach, but not the type that families might enjoy, especially with the absence of any facilities.

Five Caves is located in Kihei, which is one of the departure spots for the Molokini Crater. A little tricky to find, there can be more exploration involved.

If you’re on the West coast and are heading South, you would take South Kihei Rd and turn right onto Alanui. Then, keep an eye out for Makena Rd and take a right. There will be two dirt parking areas and a trail nearby. Take the trail towards the ocean and the small inlet is where you can find Five Caves.

As cool as this spot is, it’s not for everyone. There tends to be bigger surf here, which can make the caves difficult to get in and out of. Therefore, given the lack of beach and facilities combined with the more troublesome surf, this snorkeling destination is only recommended for advanced snorkelers.

For more detailed information about Five Caves, please click here

Polo Beach

Located in front of the Kea Lani Resort on the west coast of Maui just north of Five Caves, this is a more welcoming snorkeling destination for large groups or families.

The snorkeling here is a little hit or miss, mainly because the beach is less protected than others, and therefore some days the water can be a little murky. That being said, there is lots of coral and colorful fish to see, so it’s still a solid spot, especially on the more clear days.

If you’re not convinced that you want to spend a lot of time snorkeling, but are looking for a place that has lots available (including snorkeling) for a group or your family, this is an advantage here.

A big sandy beach means you can spend a lengthy amount of time relaxing here, and facilities are abundant. For example, not only do they have restrooms and showers, but there are also picnic tables and grills for BBQ. This is a great compromise between exploring unknown terrain while still being close enough to civilization.

Another well-rounded aspect of this beach is the surf. The waves can get big enough that you can boogie board and have fun in the water, but nothing too big to limit anyone, including kids, from going in and having some fun. Additionally, the beach is rarely crowded, which does lead to a higher chance of potentially much-needed relaxation.

For more detailed information about Polo Beach, please click here

Coral Gardens

If you’re top priority by far is seeing a variety of plant and animal marine life, this is the spot. Coral Gardens is, like most good snorkeling spots in Maui, on the west coast.

This snorkeling destination is often recommended for advanced snorkelers, but this is mainly because it is located a little further off shore and can be difficult to access if you are not a strong swimmer.

For beginner-intermediate snorkelers, this is definitely a do-able spot if you are diving in from a boat. That being said, if you are at all hesitant, we highly recommend practicing caution and try out a different location more suitable for beginners.

Coral Gardens boasts a stacked roster of marine life. Perhaps the most popular among visitors are the Hawaiian green sea turtles, as well as the abundance of colorful fish. Of course, the name suggests another strength of this location: the coral. All natural formations, there is a massive canopy of detailed coral housing a ton of marine life.

In terms of water conditions, this Coral Gardens should be considered a solid bet. It’s a naturally protected bay, which allows for clear and calm waters. The depth is low-medium and the slope from the shoreline is quite gradual. This not only allows for a variety of skill levels, but also leads to some of the best visibility underwater.

For more information about the Coral Gardens, including snorkeling tours and gear rentals, please click here

Ahihi Kinau Reserve

The Ahihi Kinau Reserve is a marine life conservation area located on the southwest tip of Maui. Although it’s known to become windy during the day sometimes, it usually offers excellent conditions in the morning.

This snorkeling destination should only be chosen if you are intending to make snorkeling a priority. The beach is pretty much non-existent. Instead, the shoreline is covered with lava rock and coral, which isn’t the best chill-zone. However, there is a positive trade-off, as many types of marine life enjoy the nooks and crannies provided by the rock formations.

Given the size of the area, abundance of marine life, generally good water conditions, and a water depth that increases very gradually, the Ahihi Kinau Reserve has been listed as a great spot to take your time and hone your snorkeling skills. If you are a more advanced snorkeler, no problem, you will be sure to have a great time as well!

One thing to note, as this is a protected area, it is necessary that you avoid altering any of the natural landscape. It should go without saying that this means no fishing. Additionally, if you decide to check out this awesome spot, be more mindful of stepping on coral. Lots of people forget that it is in fact living and is an extremely important part of the ecosystem.

Information and Tips about Snorkeling in Maui

People often do various activities on different coasts of the island, as swells, marine life, and weather can all vary depending where you go. Generally speaking, a lot of people like to snorkel on the West side of the island since that’s where the water is the safest.

That being said, there are snorkel spots all over the island, just make sure to check the expected conditions for the time of year that you are going. For example, jellyfish tend to crowd the waters a few times a year on the southern and eastern water portions of the Hawaiian Islands, sometimes even box jellyfish.

One question people always ask is if they need to be worried about sharks. Shark attacks have happened, so it is possible, but if you follow the safety guidelines of the local beach there shouldn’t be a problem. One very typical guideline that you may see a lot is to avoid swimming offshore during dusk, dawn, and overnight.

You may be itching to get a picture in the water with gorgeous natural lighting provided by the sunrise or sunset (I know I was), so if you feel this urge please ask yourself whether or not it’s worth it. Any safety guidelines you see on signs, provided by a guide, or that you hear the locals talk about, should all be taken very seriously. They are easy to follow and will help ensure you have a stress-free blast on your trip.