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Maui Snorkeling Secrets

Maui Snorkeling Secrets

The white, soft-as-sugar sand and crystal clear teal waters of Maui make it one of the greatest places to snorkel in the world. The waters are rich with sea life, and many of the best reefs are easily accessible from shore. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can take a cruise to Molokini Crater, an underwater sanctuary only three miles off the Southern Maui shore, which routinely has visibility in excess of 100 feet.

Before strapping on those fins and gliding out into the warm, clear waters, here are a few things to help you get the most out of your Maui snorkeling experience

Maui Snorkeling Basics

If you have never snorkeled before, it is a fun and easy activity that anyone, regardless of age, can do. You can bring your own gear with you, or rent snorkeling equipment from one of the many dive shops found around Maui. If you are staying in a resort area, chances are you will find a Maui snorkeling supplies store only a few hundred feet from your room.

Snorkeling equipment can be rented for anywhere from $1.50 to $10 per day, depending upon the quality and type of gear you prefer. Upgraded fins, easy breathe snorkels, and optical masks will cost more. For the greatest comfort, rent a silicone mask rather than a rubber one. The material is softer and will form around your face more easily, giving you a better seal.

In addition to the basic equipment, most snorkel rentals include a waterproof fish identification card and a bottle of anti-fog liquid. Just spray or rub the liquid around on the inside of your mask before entering the water, and it will keep your mask from fogging up. If you do not have a commercially prepared liquid available, spitting into the mask will accomplish the same goals.

Try your Maui snorkeling gear on in the pool first to familiarize yourself with the dynamics. Get used to how the fins feel, and practice breathing through your snorkel. Remember to keep the tip pointed upwards, or you’ll end up with a mouthful of water. If you do get water in your snorkel, or you dive down to take a better look at exciting fish life near the bottom, just give a hearty blow when you resurface. That should purge most of the water from your snorkel.

Entering the surf can be tricky with fins on, and many beginners find it almost impossible. If you strap your fins on while you are still on the beach, walk backwards into the surf until you are deep enough to turn and swim. This will keep the waves from knocking you over. Otherwise, just swim out a bit with your fins in hand, and strap them on in the water. Many fins are pull-on, making them very easy to get on and off while you are swimming.

If you are not a strong swimmer, wear a life vest to add buoyancy. The types designed for water skiing are lightweight and are not bulky. Another great way to stay afloat easily is to take along a swimming noodle. Just tuck it under your arms and go – it will provide gentle flotation without getting in your way.

Finally, for a really up-close and personal Maui snorkeling experience, take along something to feed the fish. Some people like to use frozen peas, but you can also purchase a commercially made fish food in a biodegradable pouch at the snorkel shop. Two sticks usually run about $4.

One word of caution, though. The fish will swarm around you, so be prepared for your sea life popularity. Once they have eaten all of the food, they may even follow you, looking for more. Feeding is not recommended in Honalua Bay, where the fish have become so accustomed to human feeding they have begun to get downright pushy about it. These little beggars may even give you a gentle nip trying to coax a snack from you.

The Beaches for Maui Snorkeling

The vast variety of beaches and coral create perfect Maui snorkeling places along the west and south sides of the island. Most of them are great for beginners, and many spots are shallow enough to allow your feet to touch. For the best conditions, snorkel when the sun is shining brightly – it lights up the colors of the fish and the coral. On the west side of Maui, snorkeling is best before the afternoon winds begin to pick up and impact your visibility. In addition, the water can be murky when there is a large swell or for a few days following a big storm, so try to embark on your Maui snorkeling adventure when the weather is good.


The expanse of white sand that makes up Ka’anapali is probably one of the best-known beaches in Maui. It is a prime snorkeling spot, especially along Black Rock. This lava jetty extends out into the ocean at the north end of the beach and is teeming with colorful fish. You may even spy a sea turtle from time to time, or an occasional octopus. The beach is lined with resorts and shopping, so there are plenty of facilities and ample parking. Ka’anapali gives you a memorable Maui snorkeling experience.

Honalua Bay

Situated on the northwest shore of Maui, Honalua Bay is just outside the beautiful village of Kapalua. It is normally fairly calm, but can be very rough if there is a large swell. Swim to the right side of the bay for the best viewing of undersea life. Honalua Bay has a rocky shore rather than a sandy beach, so water shoes are beneficial.

Access is not as easy here – you must park along the road and follow a trail down to the beach. However, the effort is well worth it because Honalua Bay has one of the highest concentrations of fish of any Maui snorkeling spot.


The beaches of Kamaole encompass three separate areas spread throughout the town of Kihei. All of the beaches have grassy parks with plenty of trees, and you can snorkel along the lava outcroppings, which is where the fish seem to prefer to gather. Parking is plentiful, and access to the beaches is easy. You’ll find lots of locals at this Maui snorkeling location.

Coral Gardens

This Maui snorkeling spot is located just one-half mile north of the tunnel on the highway that leads from Kahului to Lahaina. The reef is a long ways from the beach, so it is only recommended for advanced swimmers unless you are snorkeling from a boat. This is a great place to see lots of Maui’s famous green sea turtles.

La Perouse Bay

La Perouse Bay is located south of the village of Wailea, on the southwest tip of Maui. This is a very private area for swimming and snorkeling, and it is not at all unusual to find that you have the place all to yourself. The water tends to be cooler on Maui’s southern shores, and summer can produce some large southern swells. You should be able to see plenty of fish, and you will have a great view of Molokini Crater. Just remember to use some caution and good water safety habits when enjoying this remote Maui snorkeling area.

Molokini Crater

The most famous spot for Maui snorkeling, you can only reach Molokini Crater by boat. Once you arrive, you can explore the waters within the old cone of a long-dormant volcano, and enjoy the pristine waters. The water can be deep under the boats, up to 100 feet in some places. It is so clear that some people experience a sensation of vertigo, similar to what you would feel when looking down from great heights, when they look towards the ocean floor.

In addition to fish and turtles, you may also see monk seals, whale sharks, white-tip sharks, rays, and eels. The abundance of sea life in this underwater sanctuary makes Molokini a must-experience destination for your Maui snorkeling adventures.

If you have never snorkeled before, Maui is the perfect place to try it for the first time. For those who are old pros, Maui snorkeling never gets old. It just gets better every time.