Snorkel sites here are listed from north to south, starting at the northwest corner of the island.
On the west side of the island, just north of Kapalua, Honolua Bay (Between mile markers 32 and 33 on Rte. 30, dirt road to left.), Marine Life Conservation District has a superb reef for snorkeling. When conditions are calm, it’s one of the island’s best spots with tons of fish and colorful corals to observe. The coral formations on the right side of the bay are particularly dramatic and feature pink, aqua, and orange varieties. Take care entering the water, there’s no beach and the rocks and concrete ramp can be slippery. The northeast corner of this windward-facing bay periodically gets hammered by big waves in winter and high-profile surf contests are held here. Avoid the bay then, and after a heavy rain (you’ll know because Honolua stream will be running across the access path).
Just minutes south of Honolua, dependable Kapalua Bay (From Rte. 30, turn onto Kapalua Pl., and walk through tunnel.) beckons. As beautiful above the water as it is below, Kapalua is exceptionally calm, even when other spots get testy. Needle and butterfly fish dart just past the sandy beach, which is why it’s sometimes crowded. Sand can be particularly hot here, watch your toes!
Black Rock (In front of Ka’anapali Sheraton Maui, Ka’anapali Pkwy.), at the northernmost tip of Ka’anapali Beach, is tops for snorkelers of any skill. Its a very easy walk in entry accessible in from of the Sheraton Hotel. Beginners can stick close to shore and still see lots of activity and ocean life. Advanced snorkelers can swim beyond the sand to the tip of Black Rock, or Keka’a Point, to see larger fish and eagle rays.
Along Honoapi’ilani Highway (Route 30): Hanakao’o Beach Park (Near mile marker 23 on Rte. 30.) At depths of 5 and 10 feet, you can see a variety of corals, especially as you head south toward Waihikuli Wayside Park. Farther down the highway, the shallow coral reef at Olowalu (South of Olowalu General Store on Rte. 30, at mile marker 14.) is good for a quick underwater tour, though the best spot is a ways out, at depths of 25 feet or more. Closer to shore, the visibility can be hit or miss, but if you’re willing to venture out about 50 yards, you’ll have easy access to an expansive coral reef with abundant fish life — no boat required. Except for during a South swell, this area is calm and good for families with small children; turtles are plentiful. Boats sometimes stop nearby (they refer to this site as “Coral Gardens”) on their return trip from Molokini.
Excellent snorkeling is found down the coastline through Kihei, Wailea and Makena. The best spots are along the rocky fringes of Wailea’s beaches, Mokapu,Ulua, Wailea, and Polo, off Wailea Alanui Rd. Find one of the public parking lots sandwiched between Wailea’s luxury resorts, and enjoy these beaches’ sandy entries, calm waters with relatively good visibility, and variety of fish species. Of the four beaches, Ulua has the best reef. You can glimpse a box-shape pufferfish here, and listen to snapping shrimp and parrot fish nibbling on coral.
At the very southernmost tip of paved road in South Maui lies ‘Ahihi-Kina’u Natural Area Reserve (La Pérouse Bay). A ranger is stationed at the parking lot to assist visitors. It’s difficult terrain and sometimes crowded, but if you make use of the rangers’ suggestions (stay on marked paths, wear sturdy shoes to hike in and out), you can experience some of the reserve’s outstanding treasures, such as the sheltered cove known as the “fishpond.” Be sure to bring water, this is a hot and unforgiving wilderness.
If you’re squeamish about using someone else’s gear, pick up your own. Costco and Longs have better prices than ABC stores and dive shops have superior equipment. If you would rather rent, here are two local shops that rent gear:
Maui Dive Shop. Ask these guys for weather info before heading out, they’ll give you the latest information on conditions. 1455 S. Kihei Rd., Kihei. 808/873-3388.
Snorkel Bob’s. If you need gear, Snorkel Bob’s will rent you a mask, fins, and a snorkel, and throw in a carrying bag, map, and snorkel tips. Avoid the circle masks and go for the split-level, it’s worth the extra cash. There is a Snorkel Bob’s in the shops by the club house for the Old Blue golf course right by the condo.
*Always use caution when snorkelling. Do not snorkel alone. Do not snorkel after a storm when the water is murky, the risk of shark encounter is higher in these conditions.
Unlike many surf spots in California and elsewhere, Hawaii has added dangers like strong riptides and heavy reef. It’s essential to have the right information to have fun and avoid potentially dangerous situations in the water. Always check weather forecasts and beach conditions prior to heading out.
Maui boasts more beginner surf breaks than any other Hawaiian Island. However, one needs to respect and understand the ocean to keep surfing activities fun and safe. As such, most beginners will want some lessons prior to venturing out on their own.
There are many good surf companies in Maui to choose from. If you prefer to stay close to home in Kihei, you can visit Maui Wave Riders or the Surf Shack for board rentals, reef bootie rentals and rash guard rentals and lessons. Maui Wave Riders also has a location in Lahaina if that is your preferred surf spot.
Maui Wave Riders: Lahaina on Prison Street, Phone:808-661-0003, or in Kihei on Kihei Road across from Kalama Park. Phone: 808-875-4761
Surf Shack: 2960 S Kihei Rd. #3, Kihei, Phone: 808-875-0006
Intermediate & Advanced
For details on the good spots to surf in Maui, click here.
*Remember safety should always be your first priority. If you doubt, don’t paddle out!