Snorkeling is one of the most popular things to do in Maui. No surprise there! Maui is home to some of the best snorkeling in the world.

snorkeling in Maui

But before you snorkel in Maui, there are some things you should know. From safety tips to the best snorkel spots, here is our comprehensive guide to snorkeling in Maui.

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Where To Snorkel

The best Maui snorkeling spots are on the south and west coasts. The south coast is home to the towns of Kihei, Wailea, and Makena. On the west side, you’ll find great snorkeling in Olowalu, Kaanapali, Napili, and Kapalua. Please be respectful of our local community and stay far away from burn areas on the west side. Please also be mindful as to water quality from runoff from the fires.

where to snorkel Maui

Snorkeling on Maui’s north and east coasts (Paia, Hana, Kahului) is not advised.

These areas are more exposed to the prevailing winds and waves. Ocean conditions are often dangerous, and the visibility is poor. It’s best to stick to the protected waters near South Maui and West Maui.

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Best Snorkel Spots

Ulua Beach, Wailea

Located in front of Wailea Elua Village, Ulua Beach caters to beginners and advanced snorkelers alike. Beginners can snorkel in just a few feet of water. Advanced snorkelers can swim further out along the point. The water here is usually crystal clear, and you’ll likely see schools of fish and sea turtles.

Ulua snorkel


Keawakapu Beach, Kihei

Keawakapu Beach is one of the most beloved beaches in Maui. Snorkeling here is best at the northern point, in front of the Mana Kai. Beginners can stick close to shore, while adept snorkelers can venture further out on the point. Keep your eyes peeled for sea turtles!

Keawakapu snorkel


Wailea Beach, Wailea

The southern point off Wailea Beach offers excellent snorkeling. However, it can get crowded here. You’ll see lots of colorful corals, plus maybe a sea turtle or two. Manta rays are known to cruise through here in the autumn months.

Wailea Beach


Po’olenalena Beach, Makena

Po’olenalena is a snorkeling hidden gem. However, it’s more suitable for advanced snorkelers. The point in front of Makena Surf offers the best snorkeling, with crystal clear waters and a healthy blanket of coral reef.

To get here, you need to swim a short distance from Po’olenalena Beach. Make sure conditions are calm before snorkeling here. Tour boats stop here occasionally, so be aware of your surroundings.

Poolenalena snorkel


Olowalu Beach, Olowalu

Olowalu is home to one of the largest reef systems in Hawaii. The best snorkeling here is found at mile marker 14 on Honoapiilani Highway. You have to swim a ways out to get to the best spots on the reef, so it’s not recommended for beginners. Strong winds are also common in the area. Olowalu is just a short drive from Kihei and most West Maui accommodations.

Olowalu snorkel


Honolua Bay, Kapalua

Honolua Bay is a marine preservation area – and you’ll understand why as soon as you snorkel here. Honolua boasts some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. It’s best to snorkel here in the summer. In the winter, Honolua becomes a world-class surf spot, and snorkeling is no longer an option.

Honolua snorkel

Want more?  See 10 snorkeling spots in Maui waters.

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Snorkel Tours

Snorkel tours are very popular in Maui for several reasons. For one, some of Maui’s best snorkeling spots are only accessible by boat. This includes Molokini Crater, Coral Gardens, and remote reefs off Lanai.

Plus, snorkel tours can be a great option for beginners. Snorkel gear and instruction are often provided, and snorkel groups are usually supervised by crew members.

And lastly, it’s just a great time. Some boats have water slides or diving platforms, and most tours offer lunch and alcoholic beverages (for consumption after you snorkel, of course).

Most snorkel tours visit Molokini, but there are also tours to Coral Gardens, Olowalu, Lanai, and Honolua Bay. There are many different types of boat tours, including luxury sailing catamarans, adventure rafts, and large tour boats.

There are three main departure points for snorkel tours on Maui. The most popular is Maalaea Harbor. Many of the larger tour boats are moored here. Maalaea Harbor is centrally located and a convenient departure point for those staying in south or west Maui.

Kihei Boat Ramp also hosts a small number of tours. Most excursions that depart out of Kihei Boat Ramp are small-group rafting tours. If you’re up for adventure and staying in south Maui, consider a tour out of Kihei Boat Ramp.

A handful of catamaran tours depart from Kaanapali Beach — but keep in mind these tours do not visit Molokini Crater.

Some favorite boat tour companies include Kai Kanani, Redline Rafting, Trilogy, and Pacific Whale Foundation.

Maui snorkeling boats

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Safety Tips

Snorkeling is not a risk-free activity. But we’re not saying that to scare you. If you take all necessary precautions, you should be just fine. Here are our top safety tips.

  • Always snorkel with a buddy.
  • Do not snorkel in brown or murky water. Maui has naturally clear water. If the water is brown, it’s likely from runoff. Runoff can carry bacteria, pesticides, and other yucky stuff. And while sharks aren’t too much of a worry, they are more likely to hunt in brown or murky water. It’s best to wait for a clear day to snorkel.
  • Learn how to identify currents and riptides. And learn what to do if you are caught in one. Maui’s ocean conditions can change rapidly, so it’s best to be prepared.
  • Check weather and wave conditions before entering the ocean. If there are any warnings posted for your area, wait for a better day.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Sometimes, the snorkeling is so great you don’t realize the wind is pushing you far out to sea. Next thing you know, you’ve got a long swim back to shore. Consistently check your surroundings above water while snorkeling so you don’t drift too far from your starting point.
  • Protect your skin. Especially your back. Wearing a long-sleeved rashguard is recommended for sun protection while snorkeling.
  • Avoid alcohol and stay hydrated before snorkeling. Wait until after you’re done snorkeling for that cocktail.

snorkeling buddies

Want more?  See more Maui Snorkeling Tips.

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Wildlife and Reef Etiquette

Hawaii’s coral reefs are a vital part of the ecosystem, and we all must do our best to protect them. On top of that, many marine animals you might encounter while snorkeling are threatened or endangered. Specific laws are in place to protect these animals. It’s important to know what you can and can not do when you encounter them. Here’s what you should know about reefs and wildlife.

  • Do not step on or touch the reef. Doing so can injure or kill corals. Plus, some corals are sharp and can cut you.
  • Use reef-safe sunscreen only. Certain chemicals in sunscreen can harm corals. But here’s the good news: Maui recently outlawed the use and sale of non-reef-safe sunscreens. Any sunscreen you buy on Maui should be reef-safe. Double-check to make sure the active ingredients only contain zinc or titanium oxide.
  • Do not approach, touch, or pursue any marine animal. Particularly turtles, dolphins, and monk seals. It’s highly likely that you’ll encounter a turtle while snorkeling. If you see one, observe it from a respectful distance. Turtles are somewhat curious, and there’s a chance one might approach you on its own. If this happens, don’t attempt to touch it, or worse – ride it. (Yes, that has happened!) You could be looking at a huge fine otherwise.
  • Do not remove anything from the reef — unless it’s trash, of course!


Maui snorkeling tips

We hope this answers some of your questions about snorkeling on Maui. We hope to see you here soon, enjoying our beautiful reefs and beaches. And remember, Ali’i Resorts is your number-one resource for Maui accommodations and excursions!