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Is Maui Good for Scuba Diving?

Private Maui scuba diver with professional neutral buoyancy control near a sea turtle at Mala Wharf.

You are researching outdoor activities for your next vacation, and your family wants to go to the Hawaiian island of Maui. You have decided to plan a day of scuba diving, but is Maui good for scuba diving? You are currently reading a blog on a Maui dive company website, which means that this answer might be admittedly biased. However, I can describe why Maui is not only good but spectacular for scuba diving.

You can go scuba diving in so many parts of the world. I find the variety of dive site possibilities from one place to another mind-boggling, especially considering that coral reefs cover less than one percent of the earth’s ocean floor. If you were to show me a series of photos from various dive sites worldwide, I might not always know Thailand from the Caribbean, but I would be able to immediately identify Hawaii’s distinctive coral reef ecosystem in any picture. The coral formations around the Hawaiian Islands are so unique that a seasoned diver could pick them out of a lineup. Not to mention that more than 20 percent of Hawaiian reef fishes are found nowhere else in the world.

Maui Scuba Diving Highlights

One great thing about Maui diving is the variety of dive sites to choose from. The Big Island is famous for the manta ray night dive. Oahu is famous for its wreck dives. Kauai benefits from its proximity to offshore dive spots. Maui diving has all of these highlights accessible by boat and shore. The abundance of diving around Maui and Lanaʻi spreads out the dive operators, ensuring that even the most famous dive sites donʻt get too crowded.

Aerial view of Maui's famous Molokini Crater dive site.

Aerial view of Maui’s famous Molokini Crater dive site.

Molokini Crater

Arguably Maui’s most famous dive site is Molokini Crater. This seamount is all that remains from an eruption that possibly occurred 230,000 years ago. The crescent-shaped atoll features a shallow bay and backside wall, reaching depths of 360 feet. Novice divers can swim with large schools of fish within the shallow confines of the crater.

Advanced divers have the opportunity to drift dive along the backside of Molokini. Large schools of Yellow Tang, Moorish Idols, Hawaiian Triggerfish, and Bluefin Trevally make their homes on the inside reef. Look for Black Tip Reef Sharks, eels, and an octopus or two along the back wall.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, Molokini was heavily visited by thousands of people each day. This leads to a decline in fish populations and a loss of habitat, partly due to human interaction with this delicate environment. Try to support small dive operations to lessen the impact.


Mala Wharf, Lahaina Maui scuba divers surfacing under Mala Wharf.

Mala Wharf is hands down the best Maui diving site. The abundance of sea life at this particular location rivals any of the diving sites reached by boat. In 1992, a large wave hit this pier during Hurricane Iniki and collapsed half of the structure. Since then, decades of continued coral growth on the fallen concrete have developed into a stunning artificial reef. The maximum depth is 30 feet.

Large schools of goatfish, a plethora of Green Turtles, and White Tip Reef Sharks have made this shallow dive site their permanent home. Entry is easy during high tide, but waves or low tide can make your entry and exit challenging. It is best to hire a professional PADI guide for this site to ensure your safety and protection for the finite amount of beautiful reef.


First Cathedral LanaiMaui diving with diver inside cavern at First Cathedral on Lanai.

Southeast of Lanaʻi’s Hulopoe Bay sits First Cathedral, a fantastic dive for any diver interested in impressive rock formations. First Cathedral features a large cavern, or lava tube, consisting of tunnels and passageways. A hole in the cavern’s top allows light to penetrate during the day, creating a spotlight on a large rock inside called the Altar. Smaller holes in the cavern walls create almost a stained glass effect, contributing appropriately to the dive site’s name. White Tip Reef Sharks, eels, and squirrelfish can be found inside the cavern, while lucky divers can spot frogfish and nudibranchs around the cavernʻs exterior.

First Cathedral’s maximum depth is about 100 feet making this site accessible to newly certified divers and intermediate divers alike. Open Water certified divers must closely watch their depth so as not to exceed certification depth limits.


Carthaginian Wreck Maui diving exploring the Carthaginian Wreck.

In 1920 the Carthaginian was built in Germany. By 1973 she ended up in Lahaina when the boat was purchased by the Lahaina Restoration Foundation to serve as a symbol of the town’s whaling history. The Carthaginian got purposefully sunk in 2005 to produce an artificial reef for Maui diving expeditions. She now sits in the sand at 97 feet providing a stunning underwater scene for scuba divers with an Advanced certification. You can find Large Trevally and White Tip Reef sharks cruising around her 98-foot-long hull making this particular wreck dive a must for any shipwreck diving enthusiast!

During humpback whale season from December to April, you can hear wonderfully loud whale songs throughout the dive! Since the Carthaginian rests at 100 feet of depth, divers should carefully monitor no-decompression limits and ascend with ample time to fully complete a safety stop.


Manta Rays at Honolua Bay Maui diving with manta ray at Honolua Bay.

On the northwest coast of Maui, a protected bay called Honolua Bay not only features some of the best snorkeling on the island during the summer months, but it is also a reliable place to dive with manta rays. The afternoons bring graceful mantas into the bay’s shallow waters. The long walk through lush forest with equipment to the water’s rocky entrance, coupled with the long surface swim, make this shore dive suitable only to the fittest, most adventurous divers. However, the possible reward is well worth it! Aside from the chance to see Green Turtles, Moorish Idols, and different species of butterflyfish, you could get a visit from a coastal Manta Ray at Honolua Bay!

But we warned that the winter months (December to April) bring large and powerful waves to the area. Scuba diving and snorkeling are not recommended at this location during the winter season, but you can watch excellent surfing!

These are just some examples of the impressive dives that Maui offers for non-certified and experienced scuba divers. You can go make your reservation confidently knowing the island has an enticing dive site for everyone. Contact Banyan Tree Divers Maui to learn more about scuba diving tours for beginner and certified divers. Thank you for reading!