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Mala Wharf in Maui

Maui scuba diving site called Mala Wharf, seen from the ocean's surface.

Best Scuba Dive in Lahaina

Mala Wharf in Lahaina is the best scuba dive that Maui offers. It’s the best boat dive site and the best shore dive. But, this dive site only got that way when the existing pier from the early 1920s collided with Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Maui is home to some great dive sites, but few offer a history like this former commercial and military harbor in the heart of Lahaina. You might also hear Mala Wharf called Mala Pier or simply Mala.

Mala Wharf as a dive site offers adventure for every scuba diving skill level because the depth of the sandy bottom ranges from 10 to just 30 feet. The shallow nature of Mala makes it excellent for snorkelers too. Ask your dive instructor about this spot when you feel ready to see the resident White Tip Reef Sharks alongside a Hawaiian Green Turtle cleaning station!

The location is slightly off Maui’s beaten tourist path, yet easy to find because it sits immediately south of the concrete canal next to the Lahaina Cannery Mall. As you drive your car towards the boat ramp one of the first things you will notice are the restrooms and showers on the left side. Parking for scuba divers is behind the restrooms in the adjacent dirt lot. Put on your scuba gear in the parking lot and walk in your scuba gear to the beach entry on the south side of the pier.

A Short History of Mala Wharf

US Navy sailors walking down the street near Mala Wharf in the 1930s.

US Navy sailors walking down the street near Mala Wharf in Lahaina, Maui during the 1930s.

The original concrete pier was built in 1922, featuring steel reinforcements to disembark steamship passengers and load goods from commercial vessels. But, shortly after construction, the companies using the pier found Mala Wharf to be entirely inadequate for the job of servicing large steamships. However, this logistical error would not spell the end of Mala Wharf as a commercial harbor, as smaller vessels began using the sturdy structure to shuttle passengers, pineapples, and agricultural freight. At its height in the 1930s, Mala Wharf served a couple of essential functions in Lahaina. It famously became a small harbor for Humpback whale hunters and during World War Two got used by Navy sailors on their way to and from leave in Lahaina town.

When Hurricane Iniki wrought tremendous havoc around Maui in early September 1992, with winds peaking at 150 mph, everything forever changed about Mala Wharf. Strong waves, 30-foot surf, and powerful gusts sent most of Mala Wharf to the sandy bottom. The resulting destruction spelled the end for Mala Wharf’s commercial use in Lahaina.

The collapsed concrete pilings now serve as an excellent home for sharks, turtles, and colorful fish to thrive amongst the corals. You can arrange a scuba diving tour with Banyan Tree Divers Maui to experience these incredible underwater animals. You can see what has become of Mala Wharf while marveling at some of Maui’s most colorful corals and fish in Hawaii. Not to mention finding elusive frogfish!

Ask any scuba diver in Maui and they will assure you that Mala Wharf in Lahaina offers the best scuba diving on the island! You can reach the dive site by boat, but you do not need a boat, so Mala Wharf got famous as a shore diving site. Here scuba divers park in the dirt lot behind the public restrooms and walk to the beach looking to enter the ocean on the left side or south side of the pier. You walk along the pier keeping as close to the structure as possible and waiting until you are standing at least chest-deep in water before putting on your scuba fins.

Unless it’s raining and the adjacent river produces substantial runoff, you can safely enter the water along the left side of the pier and kick out to the dive site. Once you get near the end of the existing pier structure, be sure to look out for boat traffic. Mala is a popular spot with often numerous snorkeling boats and catamarans looking to find a spot in the mooring field.

If you get lost trying to find this dive site, remember that Mala Wharf sits immediately south of the concrete canal near the Lahaina Cannery Mall, aka the area around Safeway.

The Hawaiian islands are undoubtedly an enchanted place on Earth. In Hawaii, you will find active volcanoes, snow-capped mountain peaks, and an underwater playground that can forever live on in your dreams. So when you are ready for the best scuba diving in Maui, book online with our Maui dive service.