Asking about where to snorkel in Maui is kind of like asking where to find good pasta in Italy. The answer: it’s tough to go wrong just about anywhere.
With its year-round great weather, azure blue waters and awesome biodiversity of marine life, the Valley Isle is both a fantastic vacation site and an incredible island to really experience some quality snorkeling.
Plus, with its more laid-back, bohemian vibe (instead of its more upbeat and cosmopolitan Hawaiian island neighbor of Oahu, which is still great in its own right), you’ll be able to unwind and harmonize with nature both in and out of the water. This makes for some great snorkeling, and I’m all about it.
There are tons of snorkel spots on Maui. It’s great to have options, but it can also be difficult to narrow it down and best choose where to snorkel in Maui to maximize your time.
So, I’ve narrowed it down. These are my picks for the the most unique, interesting and generally awesome choices for where to snorkel in Maui. Makai! (To the sea!)
1. Molokini Crater
Do you want to snorkel in a dormant volcano crater? Yeah, me too.
Molokini Crater is located a couple of miles off of the southwest coast of Maui and provides one of the most unique snorkeling experiences on the whole island.
This partially-submerged volcanic crater creates an interesting crescent islet with a steep drop-off inside that’s home to tons of species of tropical fish (keep an eye out for a Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the Hawaii state fish!) and many larger marine animals like manta rays, seals or even the occasional whale shark or humpback whale.
With the unique topography and geology of the area comes what might be the clearest snorkeling water in all of Hawaii. It’s really incredible how crystal clear the water is, and in-water visibility is typically 100-200 feet (which is insanely high). You’ll be able to see a lot!
You’ll need to grab a tour guide for Molokini Crater since it’s only accessible by boat and a tour guide’s knowledge of where the best spots are will always prove to be invaluable here. Also, make sure to take an early morning tour since afternoons tend to get more windy and choppy.
My favorite full tour to Molokini is with Redline Rafting because they do an excellent job overall, and they use a different type of boat that moves quicker through the water so you end up getting to the Crater before almost everyone else (which is awesome). Plus, they stop at Turtle Town (my next recommended spot) on the way back. If you’re looking for a quicker focused tour of the crater, the same excellent tour company does a shorter 2-hour tour to Molokini as well.
2. Turtle Town at Maluaka Beach
One of my consistently-favorite experiences that I make sure to prioritize when I’m figuring out where to snorkel in Maui is snorkeling alongside groups of Honu and Honu’ea, which are Hawaiian green sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. There’s just something about their calm and sage energy that’s so enjoyable.
But, since these sea turtles are endangered species, they’re not always the easiest to find. That’s definitely not the case at the aptly name Turtle Town, though. If you want to swim with the Honu when deciding where to snorkel in Maui, this spot is for you.
Sea turtles have returned in healthy numbers (thanks to the Endangered Species Act) to a stretch of coastline between Black Sand Beach and Nahuna Point in southwest Maui with a very easy-to-access snorkel spot at Maluaka Beach.
Maluaka Beach is typically less crowded than a lot of other beaches around Maui, which is a huge plus. And, when you’re not snorkeling, it has amazing soft sand and is an awesome spot for relaxing and playing on the beach.
To find the turtles, launch into the water from the south end of the beach near the rock outcropping (keep a safe distance from the rocks themselves) and you’ll quickly find a reef as you head south a little. The Honu love this reef, and you’ll almost certainly find plenty of turtles to swim with.
The waters off of Maluaka Beach are usually pretty chill, especially in the morning. But, since it’s a rockier area and you’ll be straying from the beach a bit when exploring the reef, it’s best to be a very solid snorkeler here.
My favorite snorkel tour for Turtle Town is still with Redline Rafting because they hit up both Molokini Crater and Turtle Town (maybe the best snorkeling two-for-one in Maui). If you’ve already seen Molokini, Paddle On! Maui’s tour is a blast because it combines stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) with snorkeling at Turtle Town.
[Google Maps Link to Maluaka Beach]
3. Ahihi Kina’u Natural Area Reserve
I absolutely love ocean nature preserves and snorkel them whenever possible. There’s nothing like being a part of healthy marine ecosystems, even if just for a couple of hours.
The Ahihi Kina’u Natural Area Reserve is a wonderful example of how conservation can create an incredible home for underwater life and a fantastic snorkel spot for us humans. It’s a win-win.
If you’re looking for a snorkel spot when figuring out where to snorkel in Maui with some of the most densely-packed and diverse marine life in all of the Hawaiian islands, Ahihi Kina’u is going to be right up your alley. You’ll find seemingly-countless varieties of tropical fish plus tons of turtles, crustaceans, coral and often even graceful rays and beautiful reef sharks.
There’s a $5 entrance fee (which goes towards upkeep of the reserve), which is well worthwhile. It can get a little crowded later in the day, so go in the morning, which is when the best snorkeling is anyway. The shoreline is often made up of lava rock and fossilized coral, so make sure to bring your water shoes.
Also, as with any marine preserve, make sure to use only reef-safe sunscreen. Hawaii has banned any non-reef-safe sunscreen on all of its islands anyway, but make especially certain that your sunscreen is reef safe in this delicate ecosystem. For info on how to pick the right reef-safe sunscreens, check out our guide, The 2 Best Snorkeling Sunscreens (Reef Safe & Biodegradable).
[Google Maps Link to Ahihi Kina’u Natural Area Reserve]
4. Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach
If you’re looking for easy-access spots when figuring out where to snorkel in Maui that are a little less removed and closer to vacation amenities (boardwalks, hotels, restaurants, etc.), the Black Rock snorkel site at Ka’anapali Beach is probably your best option.
Not only is this large, 3-mile-long beach beautiful in its own right, it also has plenty nearby in terms of hotels, shopping, nightlife, restaurants, etc. Fortunately, this area still takes after Maui’s more chill vibe, so you can still have a great time snorkeling without the nature feeling overshadowed by the more-developed surroundings.
And, Black Rock has awesome nature to offer. Not only does it have your classic Hawaiian tropical fish and sea turtles cruising about, but its one of the most picturesque underwater snorkels on the island. Just the way the coral undulates and intermingles is beautiful.
Currents can sometimes be a little stronger here, so make sure that you’re a strong swimmer and snorkeler, and make sure to always pick your head up to check your position regularly so you don’t get moved too far away from where you want to be. Also, keep a lookout for any cliff jumpers off of the large rock at Ka’anapali’s north end.
[Google Maps Link to Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach]
5. Coral Gardens
We have a soft spot for beautiful coral here at Coral Nomad, and Coral Gardens is where to snorkel in Maui if you do, too.
You’re going to find a ton of beautiful tropical fish like triggerfish, butterflyfish and angelfish along with plenty of turtles and lots of other Hawaiian marine life like octopuses and eels. But, the magnificent coral reef formations really steal the show.
The conditions that allow for coral to really thrive also make for great snorkeling conditions. The area is largely protected by the coastline, and the cliffs along the shore keep the afternoon trade winds from stirring up the water. Visibility is excellent, and the views epic.
Your best bet is to access Coral Gardens by boat, and plenty of local guides include the area on their tours. My favorite is Maui Snorkeling Lani Kai’s tour which heads to Coral Gardens, and they make the afternoon really fun on their 53-foot boat (which somehow also has a water slide).
The Deep Dive
Maui is a fantastic place to snorkel. Beautiful, laid back, warm, and packed with gorgeous coral and marine life. It’s a dream.
Even so, there are five spots that can really make your experience that much more incredible when picking where to snorkel in Maui. If you work into your plans Molokini Crater, Turtle Town, Ahihi Kina’u, Black Rock or Coral Garden, you’ll be a happy snorkeler.
Make sure that you have the right gear to snorkel safely, legally (specifically, with the right type of sunscreen) and epically in Maui, Hawaii:
- The 2 Best Snorkeling Sunscreens (Reef Safe & Biodegradable)
- What Snorkel Gear Should I Buy? The Full Guide to Getting Started Affordably
- The Best Underwater Action Cameras for Snorkeling: GoPro & More
I’m also huge on recommending to friends and family that they have travel insurance that covers snorkeling (most plans don’t) when traveling. Learn more:
- Does Travel Insurance Cover Snorkeling? 3 Critical Realities
- The Best Travel Insurance That Covers Snorkeling & Scuba
You can also explore some of the other best places to snorkel in Hawaii: