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Top 6 Maui Snorkeling Spots

Maui snorkel map listing 27 spots to visit.

Maui features the most vibrant and accessible coastlines in the Hawaiian Islands. You can visit almost any Maui beach to snorkel with Hawaiian Green Turtles. So we picked our top 6 Maui snorkeling spots to share with you, but only around Lahaina. Why only West Maui? While there are several beautiful South Maui sites, like the famous Molokini crater or Ahihi Bay, Banyan Tree Divers Maui recommends snorkeling near Lahaina and Kaanapali. Read on for the inside scoop!

The Best Snorkeling Near Lahaina, Hawaii

Maui snorkeling at Kapalua Bay Beach.#1 Kapalua Bay, Maui

Nestled between the Montage Kapalua Bay Resort and Merriman’s Kapalua restaurant, Kapalua Bay remains one of West Maui’s most tranquil settings. That is when the horseshoe-shaped beach isn’t jam-packed on a sunny, calm day. The beach is small but features excellent snorkeling on either side of the bay. The size of Kapalua Bay spreads out the swimmers and snorkelers quite nicely!

Kapalua Bay’s small public parking lot sits between Napili Kai Resort and Merriman’s. You will find public restrooms available as well as two outdoor showers. Don’t attempt to park here if you arrive past 9 am because this parking lot will already be filled. There is overflow parking along the main road, but it can be a tight fit. Take care your car does not block any part of the street and park legally. Alternatively, you can park across the street and walk in. Drive just past the entrance to Kapalua Bay and then turn right into the parking lot. It’s not a bad walk.

If you visit during Merriman’s open hours, take advantage of their complimentary valet parking, stop in for a drink and appetizer at the bar, and enjoy a late afternoon Maui snorkeling adventure!

What Can I See at Kapalua Bay?

Turtles are frequently seen at this site. They like to rest in the safety of the bay. Sometimes a resident white-tip reef shark rests in about 3 feet of water. This is close to shore, but try not to be nervous or afraid! Reef sharks are more fearful of people so we can relax around them. White-tip reef sharks mainly feed on small fish, meaning snorkelers are not included in their daily menu!

As you traverse the bay, you can also see juvenile spotted moray eels, and when lucky, a resident dragon moray eel sometimes pops his head out of the coral. A rare sight indeed!

Ocean Safety Precautions

This Maui snorkeling spot has an easy entry and exit, which helps anyone who is not already comfortable swimming in the ocean. But, the coral reef starts reasonably quickly as you swim away from shore. The coral is shallow. DO NOT STAND ON THE CORAL!! Not only is it razor sharp and potentially harmful to you, but coral is alive, and you will kill it by standing on it. This unfortunate behavior is one of the things we see from ill-informed tourists that makes our blood boil. Don’t be one of them.

Sometimes you will see waves breaking offshore in the middle of Kapalua Bay, especially during Maui’s winter months. If you can see large waves, then more often than not visibility underwater is heavily reduced. Those waves run over a shallow coral and lava rock plateau. That is not where you want to be snorkeling unless you want to go for a washing machine ride.

Like any snorkeling site, do not get in the ocean if you are not a strong swimmer. Our dive team has rescued a panicked snorkeler at Kapalua Bay who barely knew how to swim. If you are not a strong swimmer, use a flotation device!

 

#2 Honolua Bay, MauiMaui snorkeling in clear water at Honolua Bay.

Honolua Bay, without a doubt, grades as one of the best Maui snorkeling spots! Located just before mile marker 33 in West Maui, you will first notice parking along the guard rails on the left side of the road. To park here you need to eventually turn your vehicle around and park along the side of the road. The main entrance is further down the road. You will see a fruit stand and a couple of public port-o-toilets. Honolua Bay has a beautifully enchanting forest jungle. The path through the forest to this snorkel spot feels breathtaking and worth taking the time to explore. The sunlight coming through the trees at Honolua Bay creates excellent photography opportunities.

Once you reach the water’s edge, you notice that lava rocks border the entry to the site. There is not much of a beach! We recommend you have water shoes or foot protection as you venture on the rocks near the water. One entrance into the ocean is an old boat ramp which can be very slippery, so go slowly.  The best area for snorkeling is along the right side of the bay. The swim out to the coral reef is long, so you must be a strong swimmer or use a flotation device and fins.

What Can I See at Honolua Bay?

Honolua Bay boasts many well-recognized Maui fish, including Yellow Tang, Moorish Idol, butterflyfish, and trumpetfish. Turtle sightings are always possible here but not guaranteed. Look for spiny lobster nestled beneath the coral ledges!

Ocean Safety Precautions

Honolua Bay during the summer months features calm and clear water. But wintertime at this famous Maui snorkeling site brings powerful and dangerous waves. When waves are present, visibility drops heavily so it is not worth putting yourself in danger. If no one else is in the water, the chances are likely that it’s best to remain on the shore and take in the magnificent views.

 

Maui snorkeling in clear water at Black Rock Beach in Kaanapali.

#3 Black Rock Beach, Maui

Black Rock is Kaanapali’s most popular place for snorkeling. Black Rock has a dramatic lava formation!  The Sheraton Resort in Kaanapali sits closest to Black Rock. Here it is believed that the souls of ancient Hawaiians leaped into the afterlife. Underwater this spot has a beautiful coral reef to explore. During Maui’s winter months, you hear Humpback Whale songs while you cruise along the lava formation looking at endemic sea life!

Parking for Kaanapali Beach is in the paid lot at Whaler’s Village. There are complimentary beach parking spots at some of the hotels, but spaces are limited. The only public restrooms are at Whaler’s Village, about a 10-minute walk from this top-rated Maui snorkeling site.

What Can I See at Black Rock?

We tend to see an array of Triggerfish at Black Rock, plus schools of Squirrelfish and Goatfish. Hawaiian Green Turtles are frequent visitors, and if you are fortunate, you can see a Hawaiian monk seal that visits the north side of Black Rock. Spotted eagle rays are a lucky sight as well.

Ocean Safety Precautions

We can’t stress this enough about this particular Maui snorkeling location: snorkel with a buddy! If you plan to venture around the corner to the north side of Black Rock, you MUST be a strong swimmer. Strong ocean currents are frequent once you swim away from the bay’s shelter, and no lifeguards are on duty. When you return to shore, swimming against the ocean’s current makes for a problematic Maui snorkeling experience. Please take care of yourself by knowing and practicing the fundamentals of snorkeling safely!

 

Airport Beach has excellent snorkeling and scuba diving in Maui.

Airport Beach has excellent snorkeling and scuba diving.

#4 Airport Beach, Kahekili Beach Park, Maui

Known locally as Kahekili Beach Park, Airport Beach has great snorkeling and is a famous Maui scuba diving site. What makes Airport Beach extra perfect is that it has a lot of great snorkeling. Airport Beach has an expansive and well-developed reef that extends south and north along the Kaanapali coastline. The beach extends almost as far as the eye can see in either direction. You should enter the ocean in a sandy area, away from where the ground is lava. When you enter hold your fins in one of your hands and wear your mask and snorkel around your neck. Put on your snorkeling fins once you get past the shore break and try to keep your feet up so you do not invite cuts from a lava or coral injury. The coral reef starts almost immediately and extends from shore to a depth of 25 feet. You do not have to venture far from the beach to see the beautiful Maui sea life populating this protected area.

The public beach park has a parking lot and public restrooms. Kahekili Beach Park is a friendly location for visitors, especially if you are not staying at one of the resorts in Kaanapali.

What Can I See at Airport Beach?

Airport Beach has a vast array of special Maui fish, including Picasso triggerfish, ornate butterflyfish, goatfish, and slender trumpetfish. Turtles pass through looking for an algae snack. Scorpionfish can be found here and are a perfect reason not to touch anything! Scorpionfish look exactly like rocks but when you touch one of these fish, their venomous spines will swell your hand up like a baseball mitt.

Ocean Safety Precautions

Kaanapali Beach is a long stretch of beach, and surface currents are often present. Always swim with a buddy at Airport Beach because it is easy to get swept far away from your exit point. Pick a reference onshore so that you always know where you are.

This beach is famous for snorkeling, diving, and swimming. As a result, the water can get crowded from time to time. It is good to look up every once to ensure you don’t collide with other oceangoers.

Like any other swimming location, assess the conditions before you enter the ocean. If in doubt, don’t go out!

 

#5 Olowalu Beach, Mile Marker 14, Maui

Olowalu Beach features one of the oldest and best-developed Maui reef systems. This coral reef is referred to as The Mother Reef. Olowalu is a vast but shallow bay protected from storms and waves which allowed corals the safety to flourish into a massive reef system. 

It’s easy to reach this popular snorkeling spot. When driving south out of Lahaina on Honoapiilani Highway, look for Mile Marker 14 about two minutes past the fruit stand and Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop (great pies and food!).

The narrow beach here is best accessed by safely pulling off the road and parking amongst the trees. There are no restroom facilities, but this idyllic beach is worth a visit. The water is calm, and you can meander in the ocean for ages through reef channels leading to deeper water. The dramatic backdrop of the West Maui mountains creates stunning views from the sea.

What Can I See at Olowalu Beach?

Yellow tang and parrotfish are stars of the show at this site. Large schools of juvenile parrotfish can graze on the coral and remove the overgrowth of algae. This necessary symbiotic relationship keeps the coral healthy and the parrotfish fed. Turtles curl up for naps in the coral ridges, and you might find the occasional White Tip Reef Shark.

Ocean Safety Precautions

This site is VERY shallow in the beginning. It is too easy to get trapped and raked across coral at low tide. If you see exposed coral from the shore, it is probably a good idea not to snorkel until the tide rises. It is best to follow the sandy channels that lead to deeper water and keep aware of your surroundings. As mentioned before, please DO NOT STAND ON CORAL.

 

Maui snorkeling at Napili Bay, one of the best beaches.

#6 Napili Bay, Maui

Napili Bay might be one of the best sunbathing beaches on the west side. The areas with shade are limited, so unless you want to maximize your tan (hopefully applying your reef-safe sunscreen and skipping the sunburn), bring an umbrella or tent. As of 2019, marked parking spots were added to the street leading up to the beach. These new stalls have reduced the parking chaos, though spillover into the street still happens. Like at Kapalua Bay, ensure you don’t block the road with your vehicle and park legally. Napili Bay can get crowded during the day but has a more extensive beach than Kapalua Bay.

The entry to Napili Bay is mostly sandy, making it ideal for beginners. But, unlike some other Maui snorkeling locations, the coral is only located along the sides of the bay. In the middle section, you will only see a flat sandy bottom, which means there is less chance of you stepping on coral and harming it.

Unfortunately, we have seen a decline in the abundance of coral at this particular bay. The Napili Bay and Beach Foundation operates as a nonprofit, taking significant steps toward beach restoration and implementing artificial reef structures to encourage more coral growth. However, all good deeds cost money, so the foundation asks for tax-deductible donations. If you want to contribute to this community effort to keep Napili Bay beautiful for future generations, please consider donating to napilibayfoundation.org.

What Can I See at Napili Bay?

The sandy bottom at Napili Bay Beach features residents like the Peacock Flounder. These unusual fish blend in so well with their environment that spotting them takes a keen eye and a bit of luck. You might also see a Red Octopus or Hawaiian Green Turtle exploring Napili Bay with your mask and snorkel.

Ocean Safety Precautions

Flat calm here means a good snorkeling experience, while any waves often lead to a bad one. We have already talked about this, and the notion still applies!

Final Thought

As scuba divers, we confess to seeking more time underwater than on the surface! However, scuba diving is not for everyone! Snorkeling provides a safe and fun way to experience Maui’s sea life without scuba diving lessons. Once you experience snorkeling near Lahaina, you may gain a closer connection to the underwater world that many land-dwellers never get to feel.

If your Maui snorkeling adventures spark your interest in scuba diving, Banyan Tree Divers Maui offers private snorkeling tours, plus scuba diving lessons, tours, and PADI courses in Lahaina. Call us at (808) 446-6099 to make your reservation or contact us via email.