Snorkeling at the Coral Gardens
Where are the Coral Gardens
First things first - how do you get to the Coral Gardens? This location, which is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui, is located on the west coast of Maui about half way up the island on Highway 30. There is parking just north of the cliffs and you can enter from this parking area. You may have to swim south a little bit to access the prime snorkeling areas in front of the cliffs.
What can you expect to see at Coral Gardens?
Lots. This is an incredible snorkeling location that is protected by its natural surroundings. The most popular inhabitants among visiting snorkelers are the Hawaiian green sea turtles, but there are many more interesting creatures to see. These include, but are not limited to, parrot fish butterfly fish, trigger fish, crabs, eels, and octopi. We cannot guarantee you will see all of them, but there's a good chance you can see most as they are all common inhabitants of the area.
As the name suggests, the most unique part of this snorkeling location are the coral formations. Although they are incredibly beautiful on their own, these coral promote a high density of marine life, as all the nooks and crannies provide a perfect hiding area for many types of sea creatures. Additionally, the coral here stretches quite far and is very abundant, so there are tons of areas to explore.
What are the beach and water conditions like?
The Coral Gardens is in a great spot for snorkeling conditions. The water conditions are excellent and known to be quite reliable, mainly because the cliffs provide shelter from the wind that can compromise other snorkeling areas.
Additionally, the water depth can be considered shallow to medium, depending on how far you go. The slope is gentle, so you can find the depths that you prefer most. This combination of shallow depths and protection from cliffs promotes great clarity/vision underwater, allowing you to get the most out of your snorkeling experience!
The beach, on the other hand, isn't as marvelous. It's not really the type of spot you would go to simply relax, catch some rays, and play some games on the beach. The beach itself is very small and is mostly rocky outcroppings.
If you're heading to Coral Gardens purely for the snorkeling, then the beach isn't really a concern to begin with, just keep in mind that if you want to prioritize other beach activities as well, that you may want to save Coral Gardens for another day.
Is there anything else to be aware of at Coral Gardens?
One really important aspect to note about Coral Gardens is that there is a decent swim required from where you put in to where the prime snorkeling area is. Therefore, if you consider yourself a weak swimmer or have any hesitation about swimming to the area, then we recommend checking out a different location in Maui (let's remember, there are truly lots of amazing spots on the island!).
One way to work around the swimming issue is to go by boat. That way you can cut out the swimming and dive directly in from the boat. However, not many people have their own boat that they can just rip out to the Coral Gardens. Please see below for more information on snorkeling tours of the Coral Gardens location.
Generally speaking, we often recommend being over-prepared. That is, plan for the location to be a little more remote than you expect. Bring plenty of water and snacks, as you may not be able to find anything close enough that you would consider convenient.
There are some portable toilets on site, so you're not in a completely remote location; however, last we heard the showers weren't working. If you're arriving by boat (or boat tour), this won't be a problem, but if you are driving there and swimming out to the prime spots, just be aware that there isn't too much around.
Getting to the Coral Gardens by Boat Tour
A boat tour is the best way to get to the Coral Gardens, especially if you have any hesitation about your skill level with swimming or snorkeling. Please check out the information below for options for getting to the Coral Gardens by boat.
FOUR WINDS II
Offer morning and afternoon trips, but when the weather permits they tend to head out to Molokini Crater. Afternoon is when you're most likely to reach Coral Gardens.
Departs from Ma'Alaea Harbor, Slip #80 (11 Maalaea Boat Harbor Rd., Wailuku, HI 96793)
Daily departures at 7am and 1pm. Average trip duration = 5 hours (morning) or 3.5 hours (afternoon).
Morning Cost: $98/adult, $68/child (3-12), free for infants
Afternoon Cost: $45/adult, $33/child (3-12), free for infants
*Note on cost: Check their website as they often offer deals for online bookings.
All snorkeling equipment included, options for add-ons like cameras, video, etc.
Lots of options for food and drinks. More of this is included in the morning package, but can also be purchased in the afternoon.
Email: [email protected]
PRIDE OF MAUI
Coral Gardens is offered during the afternoon snorkel tour (1:30-5pm) - may prioritize Molokini Crater
Afternoon tour is available from April to December
Cost: $52.95/adult, $41.05/child, and free for infants. **$10 discount when booking online!
Includes all snorkeling equipment (prescription mask available upon request), BBQ lunch, open bar, etc.
Email: Fill out form at https://www.prideofmaui.com/contact/
Great snorkel tour, but not guaranteed to see the Coral Gardens. Molokini Crater is first destination, second destination is chosen based on the conditions that particular day (Coral Gardens is one of 7 locations).
Maalaea Harbor, Slip #55 (11 Maalaea Boat Harbor Rd. Wailuku, HI 96793 )
Best to call ahead and ask about chances of going to Coral Gardens during a particular time of year.
Tour runs from 7am-12:30pm
Cost: $120/adult, $90/child, free for infants. ***Save $10 by booking online!
Includes all snorkeling equipment, instruction, BBQ lunch, snacks, open bar, etc.
Email: [email protected]
Overall, we definitely recommend checking out Coral Gardens if you are a strong swimmer or are entering the prime snorkeling area by boat. If you aren't arriving by boat and have any hesitations about swimming, please consider a different snorkeling location for now, as there are lots in Maui.