Maui, Hawaii has some of the most rugged, most alluring ocean scenery in the world. And some of the most active ocean wildlife.
The last time we were in Maui, we saw whales, dolphins and schools of fish swimming just off shore, crabs crawling over the lava rocks, and turtles out sunning on the beach.
The best way to view Maui’s majestic ocean creatures, though, is to get out into the water with them.
So, grab your snorkel and hit one of these best Maui snorkeling spots.
West Maui Snorkeling
Some of the best snorkeling in Maui is actually found not too far from its major resort areas.
Kaanapali Beach Snorkeling
Maui’s westernmost resorts are clustered around Kaanapali Beach. This means Kaanapali Beach is filled pretty much all day everyday with tourists swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, and otherwise having a beach-going good time.
That doesn’t mean you can’t snorkel there. Most resorts have snorkel sets available to rent, so you can suit up and head straight out into the water.
As previously stated, though, Kaanapali Beach is busy. You’ll see people on everything from bodyboards to kayaks. That can make it a little intimidating to dive under the water and lose track of your surroundings.
To avoid some people, and potentially a concussion from an errant surfboard, skip Kaanapali and head a little north or south instead.
Black Rock Beach Snorkeling
You don’t have to go far from Kaanapali’s resorts to find one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui’s west side. Just up the coast from Kaanapali Beach, an area of the beach that has become known as Black Rock Beach is a snorkeler’s (and fishes) paradise.
The lava rock that gives the beach its name provides an element of protection from western Maui’s churning sea, while keeping surfers and watercrafts largely at a distance.
Cliff divers are the main people you’ll have to contend with at Black Rock. Just keep close to the lava rock wall to stay out of their dive zone. It’s where the fish are anyway.
Snorkeling at Black Rock Beach is done along both sides of the lava promontory that juts into the sea. Some people follow the wall all the way around.
Water depth goes up to 25 feet, and the currents at the tip of the promontory can be powerful. So, use caution.
The visibility at Black Rock is typically good in the morning. The fewer people who are out, the better you’ll be able to see. So, try getting up with the sun when less people from Kaanapali’s resorts have made it out of bed.
You’ve gone north of Kaanapali. Now, let’s head south.
Hanakao‘o Park borders the southern end of Kaanapali Beach, but somehow manages to stay largely tourist-free.
Though not as well protected as Black Rock, the water tends to be calm at Hanakao‘o Park (calmer than the waters at Kaanapali, at least) and the visibility is often quite good.
Water depth ranges from roughly 5 to 10 feet, and the coral is greater in quantity and more pronounced than it is near Black Rock.
There is also a lifeguard tower at this public beach, which might provide some peace of mind if you’re new to snorkeling or snorkeling with kids.
Like Kaanapali, though, this beach does attract kayakers and paddleboarders, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for shadows from above.
Lahaina Snorkeling – Baby Beach
Not all of Maui’s west side is for the tourists. Lahaina is one of the island’s biggest towns, and Lahaina’s Baby Beach is one of the most popular beaches with the locals.
Baby Beach is also a good beach for tourists with younger families, because it is protected from the wider ocean. This creates a shallow swimming area without big waves.
And what protects Baby Beach, you may ask?
An extensive reef. Which means great snorkeling.
It also means crowded snorkeling, especially on weekends. But if you’re looking for a calm, safe body of water with no swimmers, paddleboarders or kayakers (the water’s not deep enough), you can’t do better on Maui’s west side.
Lahaina Snorkeling – Wahikuli Wayside Park
For a more rugged snorkeling experience in Lahaina, head north to Wahikuli Wayside Park, perhaps the most underrated snorkeling spot on Maui’s west side.
The northern boundary of this park meets the southern boundary of Hanakao‘o Park, and where they meet is a reef that fish and turtles flock to in droves.
Paddleboarders and kayakers do set out from this park, but the lack of a sandy beach keeps swimmers mostly away.
Just head north out of the launch zone, and you’ll have plenty of room (and reef) to explore on your own.
If you’re staying in Kapalua instead of Kaanapali, congratulations!, you have the easiest access to the best snorkeling spots on the west side of Maui.
Kapalua Beach is protected by two reefs, one to the north and one to the south. These reefs keep the wind at bay and the waters calm.
The reefs also attract plenty of sea life and have some of the most colorful and abundant coral on the island.
To snorkel at Kapalua Bay, just head north or south to a reef from the beach.
Honolua Bay Snorkeling
If you’re a competent snorkeler (no newbies here), get thee to Honolua Bay.
Arguably (we’re arguing it) the best snorkeling in western Maui, Honolua Bay is also the western snorkeling spot on this list that takes the most effort to get to and is the least busy because of it.
Unlike these other spots with their ample parking options and immediate access, you have to park in a tiny lot and trek through a bit of forest to get to the bay’s access point. Then, you come out onto rocks instead of a sandy beach.
Wear shoes with good soles, because the rocks at Honolua Bay don’t play.
Once you’re in the water, though, it’s worth it. The fish are plentiful, the people are few, and the reefs are the best the west side has to offer.
South Maui Snorkeling
Snorkeling in South Maui is all about the turtles. Okay, not really. You’ll see plenty of other things too. But the turtles there have made an impression.
The Kihei to Wailea coastline is one of the straightest, least protected coastlines on Maui. This makes it perfect for watching those stunning Hawaiian sunsets, but not so great for snorkeling.
For a little protection from the wind and waves in Kihei, head north to Maalaea Beach, which situates you slightly more in the crescent and calms the waters.
But it’s still not a great snorkel spot.
If you’re looking for the best Maui snorkeling beaches, we recommend skipping Kihei’s coastline all together and heading south to Wailea.
Wailea Snorkeling – Turtle Town
Two words. Turtle Town. It’s not the official name of the place, but it’s the name visitors have dubbed one of the best turtle snorkeling spots on Maui’s south side.
Turtle Town runs along Maluaka Beach south of Wailea and is a favorite spot for green sea turtles as well as multiple other sea creatures, such as moray eels, sting rays, and octopus.
If you are looking for high-quality turtle snorkeling in Maui, and wild underwater scenery, Turtle Town is your best bet.
Maluaka Beach is not well signposted. But if you drive south on Makena Road from Makena Landing Park, you’ll see two parking lots, one on the left side of the road and one you’ll dead-end into.
Maluaka Beach is the beach area that lies between the two.
The best snorkeling is at the south end of the beach, where the coral is most abundant.
Ahihi Keanau Reserve
The value of this snorkeling spot is right in its name. It’s a reserve. Which means protected.
It’s also a little off the beaten path. About 15 minutes south of Wailea by car. So, it’s also less busy.
The protection of this cove, along with a lack of traffic, makes the lava rocks and coral in Ahihi Keanau Reserve some of the most abundant and healthy you’ll see off of Maui’s shores.
You’ll have to park in a dirt parking lot and trek over some lava rocks to get to the water. But the underwater landscape at Ahihi Keanau cannot be beat.
The eastern side of Maui is known for having some of the roughest surf in the Hawaiian islands. This makes it less than ideal for snorkeling.
Hana is also an hours-long drive (when you factor in curves and traffic) from every other populated area of Maui, which makes it hard to arrive early enough for calm waters unless you’re sleeping there.
Still, the coastline near Hana does have some unique sea formations that you might want to see if you take precautions.
Wai‘ānapanapa State Park
Known for its black sand beach, Wai‘ānapanapa State Park is THE place for snorkeling on Maui’s east side.
The black sand lies heavy on the ocean floor, allowing for greater visibility than in most spots in eastern Maui. And the underwater lava formations, the sea arch, and the sea cave offer the sort of landscape snorkelers dream about encountering in the wild.
If you get there early, you’ll find the park and its beach sparsely inhabited. Most of the park’s (and Hana’s) visitors are day trippers from other parts of the island.
Snorkel Rental in Maui
Unless you’re super attached to your own gear, leave your snorkel and mask at home when you visit Maui.
Snorkel rentals are available at every major hotel and plenty of retailers, and most of them rent by the day or the week. So, you won’t have to worry about finding a snorkel when you travel away from the more touristy areas.
For the most convenience, rent from your hotel. Some hotels/resorts even allow guests to turn their snorkels back in each day for cleaning and safekeeping.
For the best prices, rent from an independent store, where you can rent complete snorkel sets for as low as $5/day.
Tips for Snorkeling in Maui
- Don’t go snorkeling when the water is rough. It’s both dangerous and the visibility will be poor.
- Heed wave and weather advisories for the island. Advisories are usually posted at the more popular beaches, but not at every beach in Maui. Check advisories before you go into the water.
- Know your limits. Some of these spots require a bit of a swim to reach the best parts of the reef. Pay attention to how you feel, and don’t swim out further than you can swim back.
- Be aware that you might see things in the water that will spook you, from jellyfish to sharks. Leave them alone, and they will leave you alone.
- Don’t touch Hawaii’s sea turtles. They are an endangered and protected species.
Maui Snorkeling Tours
While you can snorkel in any of these spots on the island of Maui on your own, you may prefer a tour.
If you like a more planned excursion with trained guides, then consider booking a snorkeling tour in Maui.