Best Maui Snorkeling Spots for Every Skill Level

May 6, 2024

If you’re heading to Hawaii and snorkeling is on your itinerary, then Maui is the place to go. However, there’s a good chance you can’t just head to the closest beach.

After all, not every beach on Maui is ideal for snorkeling. Some are simply too crowded with other beachgoers for marine life to be easily visible. Other beaches are meccas for surfers and this means waves which make it tough to snorkel.

So, where should you explore Maui's premier snorkeling destinations? Whether you’re looking for a great snorkeling place for a family excursion, you’re a beginner, or hoping to catch a glimpse of the island’s sea turtles, Maui has the perfect destination for everyone.

Top Snorkeling Places for Families

The south and west sides of Maui have several places that are perfect for family snorkeling excursions. However, two stand out, especially for younger children.

Ulua Beach

This south Maui beach is family-friendly but note there isn’t a lifeguard on duty. There is plenty of available parking and Ulua Beach also has restrooms. The water is typically calm and you can snorkel close to the nearby coral reef without going too far from the beach.

Thanks to the calm clear water, you can easily see the colorful coral making up the reef. Tropical fish commonly dart in and out which is often exciting for little ones. Another advantage is the shade trees lining the back and sides of the sand. You can relax in the shade in between dips in the water.

A quick tip is to get there relatively early since this is a popular beach and is often crowded by mid-morning.

Kapalua Bay

If you’re on the west side of Maui, Kapalua Bay is another family-friendly beach that’s also great for snorkeling.

Parking is rarely a problem and the restrooms have showers. Perfect for washing the salt and sand off before getting back in your vehicle. Like Ulua Beach, lifeguards are rarely on duty. This isn’t a deterrent but it does mean parents need to keep a close watch on their little ones.

The bay is usually extremely calm. Don’t be surprised if you can see fish swimming on the bottom without putting on a snorkeling mask. The reefs are home to several species of tropical fish. Sea turtles even come into the bay, though it’s more common in the summer.

When your family is ready to take a break from snorkeling, spend some time relaxing on the beach. If you’re ready for another adventure, Kapalua Coastal Trail is a short walk away. The trail takes you along the coast and you can see some spectacular ocean views.

If you forget some of your snorkeling equipment, no worries. There’s a rental kiosk on the beach. However, rental prices can be rather high so it’s best to bring everything you’re going to need.

Where to Go if You’re a Beginner

If it’s your first time snorkeling, it’s okay to be a little nervous. Even if you’re only snorkeling in shallow water by a reef, the experience can seem a little overwhelming.

To help keep your nerves calm and enjoy your first snorkeling adventure, it’s best to stick to the beaches and skip ocean excursions. Wait until you have some experience before snorkeling off a boat.

Any family-friendly beach is a great place to try snorkeling. Another fun location, with plenty of amenities, is Kahekili Beach in west Maui. Also known as Airport Beach, the area is slightly less crowded than some other locations. This way, you don’t have to worry about anyone noticing your first-time snorkeling nerves.

The beach offers plenty of parking and restrooms with showers. If you plan on spending several hours at the beach, bring a snack or light lunch. Airport Beach has several covered picnic areas complete with tables. Enjoy the breeze and scenic views and rest up for your next trip into the water.

Best Place for Snorkeling with Sea Turtles

Five species of sea turtles call Maui home throughout the year. However, one species is often at the top of the list. Green sea turtles make appearances on several of Maui’s beaches, coves, and bays. You can also see the turtles year-round so you can plan a snorkeling trip for the spring, summer, fall, or winter.

One of the best places to snorkel with green sea turtles is Honokeana Cove. The area may not be the best option for families with small children. There isn’t a beach or parking lot, so you’ll need to find a parking spot on the street and hike down to the cove.

Don’t be discouraged by the slightly cloudy water. Yes, it’s tough to see the water’s bottom even with a snorkeling mask—however, the cloudy water doesn’t bother the sea turtles. The area is almost always full of these endangered species.

How to Have a Great Maui Snorkeling Excursion

Wherever you decide to go snorkeling on Maui, you want to have a great time and this means picking an area that’s ideal for your group and skill level. The type of marine life you want to see also plays a role in your decision.

However, whether you’re snorkeling on west or south Maui, there are a few key things to remember:

  • Pay attention to surfing and snorkeling reports. You want to have a good idea of what the waves and currents are like before heading out
  • Stick to the sides of the coral reefs if your goal is to see marine life. This is usually where you’ll see fish and turtles darting around.
  • Don’t touch the reef or any marine species. The reefs and most marine life are protected and penalties can be harsh.
  • Always wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. You don’t want a sunburn to ruin your Maui snorkeling trip. Your sunscreen should also be labeled reef-safe. This means it doesn’t contain any ingredients that can harm the delicate coral.

The last tip for having a great Maui snorkeling adventure is to have fun. Don’t go out into the water with a long list of marine species you want to see. Instead, be prepared for what you do get to see.


Urban Splatter

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