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Snorkeling

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West Maui

South Maui

Rentals

Snorkel and Dive Websites

Creatures of the Sea

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it's always ourselves we find in the sea - ee cummings

 

A Few Rules to Snorkel By

Don't snorkel alone.

It's easier to put your fins on once you are waist deep in the water - and if you are floating when you put your fins on, it is easier to keep sand out of your fins.

Baby shampoo is great for de-fogging your mask. Smear a little on the lens then gently rinse off.

Watch the waves at all times.

Stand only in sandy areas. Do not stand on the reef. You will kill the tiny sea creatures.

The rocky areas are covered with a thin layer of living organisms, including young corals. This is the reef. These living things are very delicate, so simply touching them can cause harm. Avoid contact with the reef.

Where to Snorkel & When

When the Kona winds are blowing from the south, causing a South swell, it is best to snorkel at the West Maui locations.

When the Trade winds, are blowing from the northeast, causing a  North swell, the South Maui locations are best for snorkeling.


 

 WEST MAUI - beaches are listed from North to South

 
Honolu'a Bay


 

Honolu'a may well be the best Maui snorkeling spot on a good day. A good day here is when there have been no recent North swells or rain. If there has been a recent rain in the area, the run-off enters at the mouth of the bay and ruins the otherwise great visibility. There are coral formations on each side of the bay and lots of colorful fish. The chance of spotting a few turtles here is excellent. This is a marine reserve so you are not allowed to take anything but pictures. You can enter to the left of the boat ramp, where the shore is made of dark grey powdery sand where an intermit stream flows into the bay.  The flow of the stream in addition to the darker sand makes the water near the shore quite murky. If you swim out a ways the sand becomes white in color and the water clears up. Or you can swim out to the right (it’s a ways) or walk along the rocks to the right hand (north) side of the shore before entering.  Take it easy and go slowly - the rocks can be slippery. You’ll save yourself the swim. Most of Honolua’s coral is concentrated on the right hand side of the bay, therefore, so are the fish.

Location: North of Napili on Hwy. 30, about 1/2 mile past mile marker 32 as you go inland around the bay. You will see a dirt road and metal gate down in a wash. Park where you can and walk around the gate, through a canopy of trees along a dirt road to the water. Be sure to park off the road. If you are not completely outside of the white line, you may get ticketed. Do not leave valuables in your car.
Facilities: none
Beach: Large, smooth rock
Experience Level: Beginner to  advanced

C&J:  This is one of our favorite spots - both sides of the bay are very interesting and have a lot to offer.

 

 

Mokule'ia Bay

 

Mokule'ia Bay, also known as "Slaughter House" to surfers, is a good place to snorkel. The snorkeling isn't quite as good as Honolu'a, but if there are some in your group that want to just hang out on the beach, this would be a good compromise. If you are an experienced swimmer, you could snorkel around the northern point to Honolu'a. There are coral formations on each side of the bay and lots of colorful fish. The chance of spotting a few turtles here is good. This is a marine reserve so you are not allowed to take anything but pictures.

Location: North of Napili on Hwy. 30, at mile marker 32, you will see the top of a green hand rail at the top of the cliff . Park where you can and walk down the concrete stairway to the beach. Be sure to park off the road. If you are not completely outside of the white fog line, you may get ticketed. Do not leave valuables in your car.
Facilities: None
Beach: Beautiful, sandy beach
Experience Level: Beginner to advanced

C&J: We enter the water on the left if there is much surf and snorkel to the right. We’ve seen octopus, turtles, eels, lots of fish. It’s one of our favorite spots. If you are daring, you can swim around the point and into Honolu'a Bay.

 

 

Kapalua Bay

 

Kapalua Bay, known as the prettiest beach on Maui is also a good snorkeling spot. The best snorkeling is on the north side of the bay. Unless you are very experienced, you should stay within the bay due to the potential for strong currents outside.

Location: On Hwy. 30, at the Napili Plaza, turn toward the ocean on Napilihau Street. When Napilihau Street "T's" at Lower Honoapi'ilani Road, turn right. Drive almost a mile to Napili Kai Beach Club and turn toward the ocean at the Shoreline Access sign. Park in the lot and walk through the tunnel to the beach. The best snorkel access is on the north side of the bay.
Facilities: Showers, change rooms, restrooms
Beach: Beautiful, sandy beach
Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate

C&J: Beautiful little beach, good fish to the left and coral heads to the right. Can be a little murky.

   
 

 

Kahekili/Airport Beach

 

Kahekili Beach Park, also known as Airport Beach, is a nice place to spend the day with the family. Great facilities and lots of reef to snorkel. The calm water and easy access make it a popular spot for scuba instruction.

Location: North end of Ka'anapali, on Hwy. 30, just north of mile marker 25, turn toward the ocean on Pu'ukolii Road.
Facilities: Lots of parking, showers, change rooms, restrooms, large covered picnic areas, barbecues and pay phones
Beach: Nice, sandy beach
Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate

C&J:  Make your way through/over the reef barrier at the water's edge and you will find good snorkeling beyond. If the tide is low, it's tricky to get through the reef.

 

 

Black Rock

 

Black Rock is like a wall dive for snorkelers. A lava outcropping with coral attached. Swim from the South end up to the north and back again. If there is no ocean swell, this can be a very clear snorkel. One usually sees turtles along the way and an occasional tako (octopus). If surf is high there can be a current.

Location: On Hwy. 30 in Ka'anapali turn toward the ocean on Ka'anapali Parkway. Look for the free beach access parking. If it's full, you'll have to park at Whaler's Village parking. If you decide to eat or buy something at the mall, you can have your ticket validated.
Facilities: Lots of parking (some free some not - see above), showers, change rooms, restrooms, pay phones, shops and restaurants.
Beach: Beautiful, sandy beach
Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate

C&J: Great snorkeling. The fish are used to being fed and will come begging.

 

 

Olowalu

Acres of coral reef. You could spend the whole day here and not see it all. If it's a little murky at first don't get discouraged - just go further out. This area stays shallow for a long way out. Follow the sand channels until you are deep enough not to scrape your belly on the coral. This location is also a good choice in the afternoon as it more protected from the trades.

Location: On Hwy. 30 at mile marker 14, about 10 miles south of Lahaina. See mile marker post on the mountain side of the road. Be careful not to park in soft sand!
Facilities: None
Beach: Narrow sandy beach
Experience Level: Beginner to advanced

C&J: We tried this once and it was VERY murky and very shallow. If you go out further, it may clear up.

   

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SOUTH MAUI- beaches are listed from North to South - we have not spent much time snorkeling in South Maui.

   
Kamaole  Beaches

 

 

 

Kamaole Beaches 1, 2, and 3 are stretches of sandy beaches along South Kihei Road. Each beach is bordered by rocky points. These points are the best snorkeling. Great family beaches with plenty of stores and restaurants close by.

Location: On South Kihei Road in Kihei
Facilities: Showers, change rooms, restrooms, lifeguards, phones, park facilities
Beach: Nice, sandy beach
Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate

C&J: Haven’t heard any good reports on this one.

 

 

Ulua/Mokapu

 

 

Mokapu and Ulua are two beaches separated by a nice little snorkel point. This is a nice place for the family, especially if you are staying in the Wailea area. Parking lot may be full if you are not there early or later in the afternoon.

Location: In Wailea between the Renaissance and Outrigger hotels. See the sign on Wailea Alanui and turn toward the water
Facilities: Showers, change rooms, restrooms,
Beach: Nice, sandy beach on either side of snorkel area
Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate

   

Polo Beach

 

 

Polo Beach is by the Kea Lani Hotel. This is a pretty sand beach with the best snorkeling area to the right. Nice coral formations and plenty of fish.

Location: Between Wailea and Makena in front of the Kea Lani Hotel. Take Kaukahi (the road on the south side of the hotel) toward the ocean and turn right at the bottom of the hill, following the beach access signs.
Facilities: Showers, change rooms, restrooms.
Beach: Nice sandy beach
Experience Level: Beginner to intermediate

 

 

 

Malu'aka Beach / Turtle Town

 

 

 

 

Turtle Town Maui is the long stretch of coastline in between Nahuna Point and Black Sand Beach in the southern district of Makena. Without the strong trade winds, the sea remains relatively calm and undisturbed. Walk south down the beach until you get to the rocks at the end of the sand.  The coral reef begins here.  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. Snorkel south you’ll be snorkeling along the 16th green of the Makena South golf course and in one of the best places to find Hawaiian green sea turtles in Maui. It is bordered on the south by Puu Olai cinder cone and historic Keawala'i Congregational Church. Along Makena Alanui, look for the SHORELINE ACCESS sign near the hotel, turn right, and head down to the shore. 

When the waves are crashing on to the beach stay out of the water. There can be strong currents several hundred yards out from the beach, don't get caught in them (or the next stop is Fiji).

There have been break-ins at the parking lots but generally this is a safe beach. There is an occasional security patrol.

 Location: 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. The entrance to the beach is at the end of Makena Road about 100 meters south of the parking lot.  The parking lot is small and stalls are limited. It’s not a well known beach so you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding parking. If in doubt, go in the morning.  Ocean conditions will be better in the morning anyway.

 -Located directly in front of the Westin Maui Prince Resort. There are two public parking lots one for each end of this beach both of which are really hidden. For the main parking lot at the South end there is not even a sign, except something like a dead end. I get the feeling no one wants any body to know about this place. The turnoff for the parking lot is just before the Maui Fish Tacos Stand. The North Lot is across the street from Keawala`i Church (1832).

Facilities: Showers and restrooms at the far south end of the beach.  Also shower located in the parking lot. There is a concession stand on the grounds of the Westin Maui Prince Hotel.
Beach: Sandy
Experience Level: Beginning to advanced

   

Five Caves / Five Graves

One of Maui's best snorkel or scuba spots. Abundant marine life including many turtles. Not for beginners due to the swimming distance. Many caves and "swim-thrus" for advanced scuba divers. Visibility is sometimes poor after rain or south swells.

Location: South of Wailea on Wailea Alanui, turn toward the ocean on Makena Rd, just south of the Makena Surf Condos. In about 1/4 mile, you will see some dirt parking on both sides of the road and a small graveyard between the parking and the ocean. Follow the trail to the sea and look for an inlet for entry.
Facilities: None
Beach: None
Experience Level: Intermediate to advanced

 

 

Ahihi Keanau Reserve

 

Snorkeling at it's best. Anywhere along this reserve you feel comfortable entering the water is great. Ahihi Bay itself is a great place to get used to your gear if you are new or rusty at snorkeling. After you get comfortable in the water swim to the right (north) and snorkel in front of the first rocky point with the house on it.  Many turtles frequent this point. Head out of the bay for some of the best snorkeling on the island

Location: South of Wailea and all of the hotels, after the road narrows and follows the coast closely, you will begin to see Ahihi Keanau Reserve signs. Ahihi Bay is an obvious bay within the reserve.
Facilities: None. There is no parking lot so you're going to have to park along the street.  Be sure you get there early to make sure you find a parking spot near the cove. 
Beach: Rocky to none
Experience Level: Beginner to advanced

   
La Perouse

To the North is the reserve and the best snorkeling. This is an excellent place to snorkel if it isn't too windy. There is a pod of dolphins that frequents the area - usually in the early morning hours. If you are lucky they will swim with you!

 Location: Past Ahihi Reserve, this is end of the road unless you have 4-wheel drive and a lot of clearance.
Facilities: None
Beach: Rocky to none
Experience Level: Intermediate to advanced

 

 

Molokini Crater

Geologically, Molokini is a volcanic cinder cone that has eroded over the ages. Now the island is a Marine Life Conservation District Seabird Sanctuary, and a world-class dive location. Located 3 miles off the shores of Maui, it is famous for having incredibly clear water with visibility exceeding 100 feet almost every day. You will enjoy thousands of brightly colored tropical fish and it is possible to see monk seals, whale sharks, manta rays, spotted eagle rays and harmless white tip sharks.

Location: 3 miles off the coast - boats only - boats usually leave from Ma'alaea harbor
Facilities: Whatever is on the boat
Beach: None
Experience Level: Beginner to advanced

C&J: We found it rather barren with way too many inexperienced people in a very small area. You are very limited as to where the boat captain will let you snorkel. Others have told us the same. If you just have to do a trip, find one that goes to Turtle Town.

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Snorkel Rentals

Snorkel Bob - Rent bare basic snorkel sets for around $9/day or $35/week
                     Locations: Lahaina, Napili, Kahana, Ka'anapali, North Kihei, South Kihei
 
Boss Frog -    Rent bare basic snorkel sets for $9/week or upgrade for $20/week
                     Locations: Lahaina, Napili, North Kihei, South Kihei

 

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Snorkel & Dive Websites

Hawaii Snorkeling Guide

Maui Snorkel Spots

Boss Frog Snorkel Map

Maui Dive Shop

Lahaina Divers

Hawaiian Fish

Current Maui Weather and Tide Conditions

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Creatures of the Sea
 
  Name   Hawaiian Name
 

Triggerfish - Hawaii's official state fish

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a - means "fish that grunts like a pig"

 

Longnose Butterflyfish

Lauwiliwilinukunukuoi'oi - means "sharp beak like the leaf of the wiliwili tree.

 

 

Milletseed Butterflyfish

Lauwiliwili

 

Teardrop Butterflyfish

Kikakapu

 

Raccoon Butterflyfish

Kikakapu

 

Bluestripe Butterflyfish - found only in Hawaii

Kikakapu

 

Ornate Butterflyfish

Kikakapu

 

Threadfin Butterflyfish

Kikakapu

 

Four Spot Butterflyfish

Lauhau

 

Spotted Boxfish

Moa

 

Domino Damselfish

Alo'ilo'i

  Sidespot Goatfish Moano
 

Yellowfin Goat fish

Wekelua

 

Yellow Tang

Lauipala

 

Moorish Idol

Kihikihi

 

Parrot fish

Uhu

 

Trumpet fish

Nunu

 

Snowflake Moray Eel

Puhikapa

 

Scribbled Filefish

Loulu

 

Puffer Fish

O'opuhue

 

Humpback Whale

Kohola, palaoa

 

Green Sea Turtle

Honu

 

Hawksbill Turtle

Honu
 

Octopus

He'e

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For all at last returns to the sea -- to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end - Rachel Carson

 

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