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Best Snorkeling Spots in Maui

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Discover the undersea world of Maui snorkeling, adding an undersea dimension to your unforgettable island adventures. Of all the things to do in Maui, one of the most popular activities is, definitely, snorkeling. And for good reason...There are 120 miles of coastline and over 30 miles of beaches that make Maui snorkeling the perfect activity for the entire family. The best Maui snorkeling beaches are to be found on South and West facing shores hidden from the trade winds by the Maui Mountains so the water stays clear and calm. It is so easy to snorkel on Maui, featuring a plethora of wonderful spots where you can wade into the water with the face mask and look down to see tropical fish. Planning a visit to Maui, don’t forget to check Hawaii packages offered by the major travel agencies: Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia, leading providers of discounted travel deals. Only they will provide you with the lowest possible airfare as well as hugely discounted accommodation rates from the best luxury and budget hotels.

Below are the best Maui snorkeling spots:

Molokini, famous for the clearest water in all of Hawaii

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A tiny island about 3 miles off the Southwest coast of Maui, Molokini is considered one of the best snorkel locations in Hawaii, which is teeming with marine life. This sunken crater sits like a crescent moon falling from the sky, almost midway between Maui and Kahoolawe. The islet in the shape of quarter-moon serves as fortress providing protection from waves and powerful currents. This marine life and bird conservation district can be reached only by boat and shelters about 250 species of tropical fish, some of which are found nowhere else on earth. Usually the water here is crystal clear and provides up to 100 feet visibility. There you can come across green sea turtles, monk seals, eagle rays and sharks, not to mention rainbow-colored fish and fascinating lava formations. There have even been sightings of humpback whales, whale sharks, manta rays, and Hawaiian monk seals visiting the crater.

There is no fishing in the marine sanctuary surrounding the island and it is actually off-limits to humans, but snorkelers are welcome to explore rich underwater world of Molokini to their heart’s content. There, in the center, is a lush reef area with excellent visibility. Another favorite destination is a Turtle Tower that houses a large colony of green sea turtles. Because of it’s pristine off shore location, Molokini boasts some of the clearest water in Hawaii.

Molokini is a perfect spot to snorkel with the whole family as the old volcano walls protect the inner crater from ocean swells. Most of the great snorkeling is up next to the shoreline where it’s shallow. The shallow water allows sunlight to reach the bottom, growing lots of coral for fish to make their homes.

Honolua Bay, known for rich diversity of marine life

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Honolua Bay, surrounded by high rocky cliffs on both sides protecting from the wind, is a Marine Life Conservation District. It is located on the North Western end of Maui. No fishing of any kind is allowed here because of great density and diversity of its rare sea life.

In the center of the beach lies an old cement boat ramp dividing the shoreline in two. To the left of the boat ramp, the shore is made of dark grey sand which makes the water near the shore quite murky. But if you just swim a little farther out the sand becomes white in color and the water clears up. To the right, the shoreline is rather rocky, with small boulders. The middle of the bay is flat with white sand, the center being about 15 to 20 feet deep.

To have the best snorkeling here you should walk along the rocks to the right hand side of the shore before entering the water. Be careful as the rocks can be slippery. Most of Honolua’s coral is concentrated on the right hand side of the bay, and so are the fish.

Here you are likely to run into: butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, moorish idol, tang, wrasse, box fish, flag tails, cardinal fish, squirrel fish, soldier fish, big eyes, chub, trigger fish, the former Hawaii State Fish Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, goat fish, snapper, peacock bass, hawk fish, jacks, mullet, turtles, eels, and invertebrates.

The beach doesn’t feature any facilities like bathrooms, or showers. There is no life guard as well. Remember to bring your own food and drinks because there are no stores nearby.

Kapalua Bay, calm and sheltered, perfect for snorkeling

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Sheltered on the North West side of Maui, the picturesque Kapalua Bay is protected by two reefs that extend out on both ends forming a C-shaped cove making it ideal for snorkeling.

The tranquil blue water of the bay and soft white sand makes it a perfect place for beginner snorkeling and to take the kids with. Getting into the water couldn’t be easier. The ocean will literally be a few feet from your beach towel. Though the beach is rather popular, it does retain an un-crowded look and feel.

The center of the bay is very sandy so the water will be slightly cloudy there, especially if it’s windy. The best snorkeling spot here is along the rocky edge at the North end of the beach. There is less sand there so the water visibility is much better and there is usually much more fish. The depth along the Northern edge is about 10 feet or less, so you will be able to enjoy an up close view of the reef. And the farther you swim, the clearer the water will get.

Here’s just some of the fish that can be seen in Kapalua Bay: butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, moorish idol, tang, wrasse, box fish, perch, chub, trigger fish, the former Hawaii State Fish Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, goat fish, porcupine fish, hawk fish, scorpion fish, jacks, cornet fish, crustaceans, and invertebrates.

Beach facilities include public showers, restrooms and the parking lot. There are no concession stands on the beach so you’ll need to bring your snacks and drinks with you. There is also no lifeguard on duty.

Maluaka or Makena Beach - the place where untamed South Maui begins

At Makena Beach the bay is filled with clouds of tropical fish, and on weekdays the waters are virtually empty. Maluaka, also called Makena Beach, with it’s huge territory of 1,800 acres, is a place where untamed South Maui begins. Crystal clear waters of Makena Bay offer a perfect spot for aquatic adventures with phenomenal snorkeling, kayaking and bodysurfing. The beaches are nothing short of glorious. This place is remarkable of its gorgeous beauty. Especially notable are the views of Molokini Crater, a picturesque offshore islet, and Kahoolawe. The beach is fringed with magnificent palms and grainy sand is sparkling in the bright sun, surrounded by two black lava points.

Maluaka Beach is just South of Wailea at the end of Makena Road. The entrance is off of the main street so most visitors drive past without even knowing it’s there. Located at the end of the road and being far, far away from anything else on the island, you might feel as if you were at the very edge of the Earth.

One of the beauties of Maluaka is the variety of activities for which the beach is suited. Maluaka is protected from Hawaii trade winds by the mountain of Haleakala, so the sea remains relatively calm and undisturbed. The calm water makes for great swimming and snorkeling is easy and relaxed.

To find the turtles, you should walk South down the beach until you get to the rocks at the end of the sand, where the coral reef begins. This is where you’ll find the fish and, of course, the turtles. The reef has a gentle slope so you’ll be able to find any swimming depth that’s comfortable for you.

Kaanapali Beach - Black Rock, rated one of the top beaches in the world

Rated one of the best beaches in the world by numerous travel publications such as Condé Nast magazine, Black Rock is the prominent rocky peninsula and just fantastic snorkeling spot at the North end of Kaanapali Beach. Here the prominent craggy cliff at the Sheraton Maui Hotel doesn’t just end when it plunges into the water. Underwater, the sheer wall continues creating one of the best snorkeling areas where such kinds of fish as butterfly fish, parrot fish, damsel fish, surgeon fish, tang, wrasse, box fish, cardinal fish, perch, chub, goat fish, snapper, porcupine fish, hawk fish, jacks, mackerel, cornet fish, needle fish as well as turtles cruise along the sandy bottom.

Kaanapali Beach, which is probably the most breathtaking beach on the Valley Isle, is a 3 mile long stretch of white sand located on the Western shore of Maui, and lined by some of the best hotels, including Sheraton Maui Resort and The Westin Maui. The combination of great ocean conditions and the seemingly endless soft powdery sand, literally the best on Maui, makes snorkeling at Black Rock truly enjoyable. Then add a collection of exquisite restaurants and shops called Whaler's Village about half-way down, fringed with the tiki torches turning Kaanapali Beach at sunset into one of the most romantic places on the island, and you will get a readymade recipe for the ultimate beach experience.

The water around Black Rock starts at about 8 feet deep and gradually gets up to about 25 feet as you head around the point. The visibility is good even in the deeper parts around the point. Keep an eye out for the turtles that frequent the overhangs along the ledge.

There is a public parking lot located at ground level at the Sheraton Maui Resort, the last hotel located at the North end of Kaanapali Parkway and the closest to Black Rock. The number of stalls is very limited, so if you want to park for free in the public stalls at the Sheraton, you’ll have to get there in the morning. If none of the stalls at the Sheraton are vacant, you can always park at Whaler’s Village, in the center of Kaanapali Beach, although it will be a longer walk to the Black Rock point. There are showers located all along the beach walk but no public restrooms, and no lifeguard on duty.

Ahihi Kinau Reserve, a marine life conservation district

Ahihi Kinau Reserve located on the remote South shore of Maui, beyond Makena, is protecting rich marine life for future generations. Here black, barren lava reefs reach into aquamarine pools full of tropical fish. The best snorkeling on Maui is in this scenic 2,000-are nature preserve on the rugged South coast. It is difficult to reach, but easy to enjoy.

At Ahihi Kinau Reserve the coast line is mostly made up of lava rock intermixed with coral, and lava rock is a major plus when it comes to snorkeling. The abrupt contours of the sea floor make perfect homes and hiding places for diverse aquatic life to flourish. You won’t have to swim far to find the fish either as many of the most beautiful marine life make their homes in the shallows. The water is so calm, that Ahihi Kinau Reserve is a great spot to snorkel with the kids. The water starts at about knee deep gradually getting deeper so snorkelers of all skill levels will find there depth suitable for each skill level.

Although the reserve occupies a large part of the coast line, most people snorkel from the small protected cove which is right next to the road. The most convenient place to enter the water is from the small patch of sand on the right hand corner of this small cove. But if the rocks don’t bother you, the water is so calm that you can easily get in from just about anywhere. But you must be careful not to step on any coral which is a living animal and the foundation of the marine ecosystem.

When you enter the water from the cove, snorkel in front of the first rocky point with the house on it. Many turtles frequent this point, so your chances are great to come across a few.

Ulua Beach, Maui precious gem

One of the most popular beaches of Wailea coastline, Ulua Beach is located right in front of Wailea Elua Village, the lush condominium rental development, which is directly above the beach. With Kahoolowe and Molokini at the backdrop and straight on sunset view, it is no secret why it has been attracting tourists from the whole world. But this is not its only advantage. If you don a mask and hit the water you will understand why the snorkelers favor this place. Ulua Beach has the best easy access snorkeling in Wailea. Snorkelling is excellent on the reef between Ulua and Mokapu Beaches, and a second deeper reef which is about 100 yards offshore provides excellent viewing opportunities for scuba diving. You can often spot green sea turtle at both reefs and humpback whales frequently transit the deeper waters beyond the reefs.

You will have to get up early to secure a parking place at Ulua Beach, but it’s worth it. Not only is it teeming with brilliant tropical fish, but it is also one of the best spots for hearing humpback whales singing while they are passing offshore.

When there is no breeze and the ocean is calm, you can have the best snorkeling here. But during the South swell, you would better avoid this location as the visibility becomes poor. Early morning is the best time for snorkeling. There is also a grassy knoll to have picnic during the breaks. The beach is fine sand and it’s perfect for a lie and warm up too. The best site for snorkeling is a rocky lava outcropping on the right, where fish like to hide. If you are lucky you even can see an octopus swimming in the open among the rocks.

Molokai, the island of unspoiled coastline and untamed wilderness

When the waters are calm, Molokai offers excellent snorkeling, enabling you to see a wide range of butterfly fish, tangs and angelfish. Good snorkeling can be found at many Molokai beaches which are too dangerous for snorkeling in winter, with their big waves and strong currents generated by frequent storms. But in summer the Pacific Ocean turns into a flat lake and the whole West coast of Molokai opens up for fantastic snorkeling. Murphy Beach Park is such a place, with ironwoods that line this white-sand beach and shade the small, quaint park. Swimming is generally safe here, and on calm days, snorkeling is great outside the reef.

The oldest public beach on Molokai, One Alii Beach Park is a thin strip of sand, once reserved for alii, chiefs. Nowadays it draws crowds of families on weekends, but it can be all yours on weekdays. It is a perfect place for swimmers of different ages and abilities. Beach facilities include outdoor showers, restrooms and free parking. The most popular swimming spot of Molokai is definitely Sandy Beach, ideal for families with small kids. The beach is all gold sand protected by a reef, with a great view of Maui and Lanai. The beach doesn't have any facilities – just you, the sun, the sand and the surf.