Maui offers tons of incredible experiences to enjoy, from adventurous hikes and whale-watching excursions to lively luaus and delicious culinary experiences. But if there is one thing you have to do while visiting Hawaii — it’s snorkeling!

Hawaii has some of the best snorkeling in the world, and out of all the Hawaiian Islands — Maui offers arguably the best (and most!) spots for snorkeling. From calm, shallow waters in protected bays teeming with tropical fish to offshore destinations that are perfect for spotting sea turtles, manta rays, and even dolphins and whales in the distance — there are tons of unique snorkeling experiences to be had on the island of Maui.

Fortunately, you don’t have to search far to find the best snorkeling spots in Maui — they are scattered all across the island’s west and south coasts. Choose any of the spots from the list below for an incredible snorkeling experience!

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Map of the Best Snorkeling Spots in Maui

The best snorkeling spots in Maui are concentrated on the island’s west and south coasts. You can read more about each snorkeling destination below — the list starts with the northernmost destination and ends in the south.

Best Snorkeling Spots in Maui – West Maui

1. Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay is not a beach you’d typically want to go for sunbathing — the shore is somewhat rocky, there’s an agricultural property nearby that can sometimes be smelly, and the water directly offshore is often murky. However, if you’re willing to work a bit, Honolua Bay deserves a spot on your Maui itinerary, offering some of the very best snorkeling and scuba diving on the island. 

The bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District, meaning fishing or any other activity that would remove wildlife is strictly prohibited. Accordingly, you’re usually guaranteed to see thousands of tropical fish, colorful coral, and even cute sea turtles underwater. You must swim quite a bit offshore from the beach for the best visibility, but you’ll be rewarded with crystal-clear water teeming with wildlife. 

You’ll need to hike about 0.3 miles (one-way) along a flat trail that weaves through the rainforest to access the beachfront. Luckily, there’s plenty of parking at the trailhead. As you might imagine, for a beach that you have to hike to, there are no facilities to speak of, including showers, bathrooms, lifeguards, or a place to rent snorkeling equipment — so be sure to bring your own gear! 

Recommended by Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

An orange fish swimming in a coral reef under the water in Honolua Bay, one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui
Photo Courtesy of Jessica of Uprooted Traveler

2. Mokuleʻia Beach (Slaughterhouse Beach)

Despite its less-than-attractive name, Slaughterhouse Beach is one of the best beaches in Maui to go snorkeling. Slaughterhouse Beach is located in Mokule’ia Bay, just between Fleming Beach and Honolua Bay.  

The beach is stunning, and the array of tropical sea life you can discover always brings locals and some “in the know” tourists. If you have five days in Maui, add this to your snorkeling bucket list! 

You can expect to see the state fish of Hawaii, Humuhumunuhunhuapu’a, among other tropical fish. On top of that, green sea turtles are often spotted here. Admittedly, there are 87 steps to climb down before you get to the beach — but the views you will be greeted with are well worth it.

Snorkeling here is family-friendly, especially during low tide, where you can walk out to parts of the rocks. Parking is available on the nearby street, but due to its popularity, you will want to get there as early as possible to secure your spot. Unfortunately, you can’t rent snorkeling gear and must bring your own. 

Another thing to remember before visiting is that this is a Marine Life Conservation District, so you should pack a garbage bag if you bring anything you may need to dispose of. The area should be kept as clean as possible. You also can’t bring corals, shells, and sands home from this area.

Recommended by Samantha of Find Love and Travel

A sea turtle on top of a rock under the water at Slaughterhouse Beach in Maui
Photo Courtesy of Samantha of Find Love and Travel

3. Kapalua Bay

One of the very best snorkeling spots in Maui is Kapalua Bay Beach. Not only is this one of the most beautiful beach spots in Maui, but its calm waters and crescent-shaped beach make it ideal for a perfect beach and snorkel day. The calm and clear waters and onsite changing room and bathroom make it very kid-friendly, which is why Kapalua Bay Beach is not just one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui, but it’s also one the best things to do on Maui with kids of all ages.

Kapalua Bay Beach is one of the best places to see so much of Maui’s famed marine life since it is a protected bay with a shallow reef. From the resident green sea turtle to the famous humuhumunukunukuapua’a (a triggerfish known as Hawaii’s state fish), often spotted here, you will see plenty of colorful fish and coral.

You don’t have to go far to see some of the bay’s notable residents, as the coral begins in the shallow waters right off the beach. Just walk in and start snorkeling to see a range of tropical fish, eels, and an assortment of coral. Please note it is against Hawaiian law to go within ten feet of sea turtles or to harass or touch any marine life, and be careful not to touch or bump into the coral.

You should bring your own snorkel gear, but a site onsite rents floaties and snorkel sets if you forget yours. However, they often run out, so bringing your own is best. The beach is also ideally suited for sunbathing, though you will want to bring food, water, and towels. There are several hotels near Kapalua Bay, and one of the best places to eat in Maui, Merriman’s, right beside the beach.

Parking is available, but it fills up quickly, so it is best to arrive early. There is no doubt that Kapalua Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui, where you can see a lot of Maui’s underwater world, and it should be on your Maui itinerary.

Recommended by Keri of Bon Voyage With Kids

Kapalua Bay Beach in Maui with golden sand and blue waves crashing onto the shore with palm trees in the background.

4. Napili Bay

If you plan to explore the west side of Maui Island, you’ll have plenty of snorkeling venues to choose from. One of the most underrated places to snorkel is Napili Bay. Napili Bay is very tranquil. Most visitors tend to be locals, even though there are condos and other places to stay nearby.

You’ll get a perfect sandy beach and entry into Napili with calm waters to swim and snorkel around the reef area, located just offshore and filled with turtles, tropical fish, and other underwater life to check out. Napili Bay is less crowded than the other beaches in the Kapalua or Ka’anapali beach area, which is ideal to avoid crowds.

Bathrooms, showers, and restaurants surround the bay area, or you can pack a nice meal and find a perfect spot on the beach or under a shady tree to enjoy the fantastic views. Parking is definitely tricky since only street parking is available on most days. The trick is to come here earlier in the morning or later in the day when most of the day trippers have left from spending the day at this fantastic beach area.

Recommended by Noel of This Hawaii Life

The blue ocean water at Napili Bay in Maui, with a girl sitting in the golden sand and looking out at the water.

5. Black Rock Beach

Located right in front of the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa — one of the best places to stay in Maui — is Black Rock Beach. Black Rock Beach is easily one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui. During our trip to Maui, we visited multiple snorkeling spots, and this one was our favorite by far — we went back multiple times because the snorkeling was so good!

Black Rock Beach is just north of Ka’anapali Beach, so it is pretty easy to reach if you are staying at any of the resorts in Ka’anapali. We walked from the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa so we wouldn’t have to worry about parking, and it was a 20–25 minute walk. There are a few free parking lots near Black Rock Beach, but they do fill up quickly. If you’re driving, you will want to plan on parking in the paid parking garage at Whaler’s Village. You can get your ticket validated by stopping for lunch or dinner here after a day of snorkeling — some of the best spots to eat are Monkeypod Kitchen and Lelani’s on the Beach.

Once you arrive at Black Rock Beach, you will see a stretch of golden sand and a black rock that reaches into the ocean — hence the name of the beach. While the black rock is a popular spot for cliff diving, it also attracts an abundance of marine life — making it one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui!

We saw a ton of marine life in the crystal-clear water, including several sea turtles, tropical fish, eels, and even a barracuda that swam right past my leg. There are tons of crevices in the black rock filled with coral reefs that are fun to explore. The water is shallow enough near the shore but gets deep quickly, making it easy to swim around and see the beautiful underwater life that is teeming beneath the surface. We even heard (and saw!) dolphins swimming about a hundred feet in the distance when we were snorkeling here!

Only experienced swimmers should attempt snorkeling at Black Rock Beach. The strong undercurrents can sweep you away from the shore easily. Always snorkel with a buddy, and if conditions feel unsafe — stay on the shore. There are no lifeguards stationed at Black Rock Beach. There are also no public restrooms. I recommend using the restroom before and after snorkeling at Whaler’s Village. However, for confident swimmers, snorkeling at Black Rock Beach is easily one of the best things to do in Ka’anapali and, arguably, one of the best things to do in Maui!

Recommended by Brittany of Travel by Brit

A black rock sitting on a golden sand beach and jutting out into the water at Black Rock Beach, one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui.

6. Oluwalu Beach

Oluwalu is a popular surfing and snorkeling beach on the road to Lahaina. A fabulous spot to see coral, turtles, and fish of all shapes and sizes, Oluwalu is far less touristy than many other beaches on the island. Avoid snorkeling if the waves are big enough to surf. In those conditions, visibility is low, and it can be dangerous. For these reasons, Oluwalu is best suited for adults and confident swimmers rather than families. 

There are no facilities at the beach, so be sure to bring your own snorkeling equipment and refreshments. It’s also highly recommended that you wear water shoes as the shoreline is rocky, and sharp thorns are embedded throughout the sand. Unfortunately, this also means that Oluwalu isn’t ideal for sunbathing. 

Free parking is available along the highway, ideally after Mile Marker 14. However, avoid parking in the sand under the trees, as vehicles can easily get stuck there. 

After a fun day at the beach, drive just a few minutes down the road to grab some shave ice or boiled peanuts (a local speciality) from the Oluwalu General Store. Also nearby is one of the most popular places to eat in Maui — Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop — famous for its key lime pies, red hot dogs, and banana bread. 

Recommended by Kara of Travel Britain Better

Best Snorkeling Spots in Maui – South Maui

7. Ulua Beach

Ulua Beach is a fabulous spot for snorkeling if you stay at any of the Maui resorts in Wailea. The beach is located between Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort – a Concept by Hyatt and Grand Wailea Waldorf Astoria Hotel. However, if you’re driving from another part of the island, there is free public parking near Ulua Beach — we didn’t have any trouble finding a spot in the afternoon when we snorkeled at this beach!

The best place for snorkeling at Ulua Beach is on the right side, near the rocky part of the beach. This is where Ulua Beach meets Mokapu Beach. This part of the beach houses a reef system with colorful tropical fish, including butterflyfish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a (triggerfish), goatfish, and more. If you’re lucky — you might even see a green sea turtle! Some snorkelers have seen eels, octopus, and manta rays here. Though we didn’t see a turtle here, we did see a small eel, which was cool.

This beach is sandy, so it’s a great spot for sunbathing, and getting in and out of the water is relatively easy. There are also restrooms and showers right on the beach, which is convenient as well. If you’re spending any time in South Maui — definitely pay a visit to Ulua Beach, one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui.

Recommended by Brittany of Travel by Brit

A couple of people are in the water at Ulua Beach, one of the best spots for snorkeling in South Maui.

8. Maluaka Beach (Turtle Town)

Maluaka Beach is undoubtedly one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui! This stretch of beach in Maui is popularly called Turtle Town, and yes, that name arose from the fact that you are very likely to see Hawaiian green sea turtles here!

One of the best beaches in South Maui, Maluaka Beach is famous with tour companies that bring boats here and snorkelers wanting to explore from shore. While the south end of the beach is considered the preferred area for snorkeling, you can also snorkel at the north end. You will see many colorful tropical reef fish, such as tangs and butterflyfish, sea urchins, and, of course, turtles. You may have to swim a little farther out, about 200 to 400 feet, to see the turtles.

Maluaka Beach is considered a family-friendly snorkeling spot: the south end is all sand, and the water is easy to enter. Of course, always assess conditions before choosing to enter the ocean.

There are parking lots at the north and south end of Maluaka Beach. The south lot fills up quickly, so plan to arrive early. Maluaka Beach is located near Wailea, where you will find several stores for snorkel gear rentals if you plan to snorkel from shore and don’t bring your own gear!

Recommended by Sam from Travel Hawaii with Us

A turtle swimming in the ocean at Turtle Town, one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui known for Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles.

9. Makena Beach (Big Beach)

Makena Beach, also called Big Beach, is often overlooked as one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui because of the bigger waves, but if you can visit on a calmer day, you’ll be in for a treat!

Less than twenty minutes south of Kihei, this gorgeous golden sand beach is a beautiful place to snorkel with sea turtles and tropical fish. It’s also a big beach (hence the same) with plenty of space to spread out, making it feel way less crowded than the more popular Maui snorkeling spots and beaches.

As mentioned above, the waves can be a little bigger here than the calmer beaches typically popular with snorkelers. With that in mind, only competent swimmers with snorkeling experience should get into the water here. It can also be helpful to check the surf report beforehand to understand what it will be like.

For the best snorkeling, head to the north end of the beach near the cliffs. Of course, you’ll need to be aware of your surroundings and not get too distracted by the majestic sea turtles and vibrant fish to avoid being pushed into the cliffs. 

Big Beach is a bit far from town, and there is nowhere to rent snorkel gear nearby, so be sure to add a snorkel, mask, and fins to your Hawaii packing list!

Recommended by Annie of Your Friend the Nomad

10. Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui. It should be added to any Maui itinerary and is one of the most popular places for snorkeling. Not only is the water gorgeous, but it is teeming with wildlife and usually has good visibility. 

You can see a wide variety of fish and, if you are lucky, even turtles! You will most likely see whales during your journey to and from the crater during whale season. If you visit as part of a tour, you do not have to bring your own snorkel gear, as it is included in the tour. When you start the tour, there is plenty of parking at the dock. 

The only way to get to the Molokini Crater is by boat. Many different tour companies will take you to the Molokini Crater. The Pacific Whale Foundation is one of the best options as they are a non-profit organization that helps to research and protect whales. 

The swimming here is mild, and the tour companies will have plenty of life jackets available for those who want to use them. Thus, it is good for swimmers of all ages and very family-friendly. While there will most likely be a lot of snorkelers at the crater, everyone is very spread out, so there is plenty of room for everyone. You will not be sorry visiting the Molokini Crater. It is one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui!

Recommended by Francesca of Homeroom Travel

A scuba diver swimming past colorful rocks and coral at Molokini Crater in Maui.

Helpful Maui Snorkeling Tips

Regardless of which of the best snorkeling spots in Maui you choose to visit during your vacation to Maui, be sure to keep the following snorkeling tips in mind:

  • Snorkel with a friend. It’s smart to snorkel with a buddy, so you can look out for each other and ensure you’re not getting too far away from the shore. When you’re so immersed in the aquatic life underneath the surface, this can happen more easily than you might think! From personal experience, it was nice to have someone watching my back — my husband was able to direct me away from a barracuda that swam right past my leg!
  • Find the coral reefs. Most marine life (including fish, turtles, and eels) will congregate around coral reefs and do not stray far from them. Coral reefs tend to form on hard structures, like rocks or other submerged objects. That’s why from the shore, you’ll tend to see snorkelers hanging out around the edges of the beach — like at Black Rock Beach, most snorkelers will stay near the rock. That is where the fish will be!
  • Do not touch the marine life. It should go without saying but do not touch the coral reef or sea creatures while you’re snorkeling. Remember, you are visiting their home — not the other way around. Several of the best snorkeling spots in Maui are protected as conservation sites under the federal and state governments, and you can be fined thousands for removing coral from the beaches or touching animals (like sea turtles). Also, please be careful to not step on the coral.
  • Wear sunscreen. When you’re snorkeling at these best snorkeling spots in Maui, you’ll be spending a considerable amount of time in direct sunlight. Be sure to lather up with sunscreen (especially your shoulders, back, and the back of your legs, since this skin will be most exposed to the sun). Also, remember to pack sunscreen that does not contain oxybenzone or octinoxate, as these chemicals are harmful to coral reefs and banned under the Hawaii 104 Reef Act.
  • Bring your own snorkeling equipment. Although many of the best snorkeling spots in Maui have snorkeling gear nearby that is available to rent, it’s much smarter to purchase and pack your own snorkeling gear. It’s worth taking up the extra space in your suitcase — I promise! You will save a ton of money on rentals and have the convenience of being able to snorkel wherever and whenever you want in Maui.
  • Pay attention to the crowds. See a large group of snorkelers congregating in a certain area? It’s probably smart to swim over that way. There is usually something really cool to see, like a sea turtle! While it can be tempting to get close, remember to leave plenty of room between yourself and the sea turtles — ten feet is a good buffer.

Best Maui Snorkeling Tours

Though many of the best snorkeling spots in Maui can be discovered just off the beach without a snorkeling tour, some snorkeling spots, like Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, are best explored on a tour. Many snorkeling tours in Maui also include other fun perks, like a boat ride, kayaking, lunch, and more! Here are some of the best snorkeling tours in Maui:

  • Molokini and Turtle Town Snorkeling Tour — With over 500 reviews and a 4.5/5 rating, this tour by Mahalo Molokini Snorkeling Charters is easily one of the best snorkeling tours on Maui! It includes breakfast, lunch, and snorkeling at two of Maui’s best snorkeling spots — Turtle Town and Molokini Crater. Snorkeling equipment, showers, and restrooms are included.
  • Molokini Snorkel and Performance Sail with Lunch — Depart on a catamaran to Molokini Crater, where you’ll be able to snorkel and swim with tropical fish and other marine life. During the whale-watching season from December to April, you might even see humpback whales on the way! After your snorkeling excursion, you can enjoy a full buffet lunch with drinks, including local beer and wine. Snorkeling equipment is included. This tour from Sail Maui has 4.8/5 stars and more than 150 reviews.
  • Turtle Town Kayak and Snorkel Tour — During this three-hour snorkeling tour in Maui, you will be able to go on a two-mile kayaking tour through Turtle Town, where you can snorkel to encounter the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. You might also have the chance to see manta rays, dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, and even humpback whales during Maui’s whale-watching season. This tour offered by South Pacific Kayaks Maui has 4.7/5 stars with nearly 300 reviews!
  • West Maui Snorkeling & Sailing Day Trip with Lunch — On this snorkeling tour, you will depart from Maalaea Harbor in Maui. You will have the chance to encounter fish and other captivating marine wildlife off the coast of West Maui or along the sparkling cliffs on the coastline of Lāna’i. This five-hour tour by Sail Maui has 200+ reviews and an excellent rating of 4.8/5 stars.

What to Pack for Snorkeling in Maui

Before heading out to one of these best snorkeling spots in Maui, here are a few things you’ll want to bring with you:

  • Snorkeling equipment — Unless you plan to rent snorkeling gear, be sure to bring a snorkeling mask and fins with you to the beach. This snorkeling kit package that includes an anti-fog mask, fins, a dry-top snorkel, and a mesh carrying bag is a fantastic deal. If you snorkel more than one time — it will pay for itself!
  • Swimsuit — Of course, you’ll need to wear a swimsuit while snorkeling at the best snorkeling spots in Maui. Though it’s not essential, many snorkelers prefer wearing a rash guard for extra sun protection.
  • Sunscreen — Wear sunscreen while exploring the best snorkeling spots in Maui, and if you’re spending several hours in the ocean, you should reapply often. Remember to bring sunscreen without oxybenzone or octinoxate. Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Spray is my favorite sunscreen and is compliant with the Hawaii 104 Reef Act.
  • Beach towels — I recommend bringing two beach towels for snorkeling in Maui. You will want to keep one on the beach to sit on (unless you choose to bring a beach chair) and another to dry off with.
  • Water and snacks — Be sure to bring plenty of cold water in an insulated cup, like a Hydro Flask or a Stanley Quencher, to stay hydrated, and some snacks to keep you full while snorkeling.
  • Underwater camera — If you want to capture photos of marine life while snorkeling in Maui — purchase a high-quality waterproof camera, like the GoPro HERO12. This is something I would consider bringing next time. We saw tons of sea turtles and eels that I would have loved to capture on camera!

FAQs – Best Snorkeling Spots in Maui

Which part of Maui has the best snorkeling?

The west side of Maui (Ka’anapali, Lahaina & Kapalua) and the south side of Maui (Wailea-Makena) have the calmest waters and, therefore, the best snorkeling. The gentle waves, protected bays, and abundant marine life make for excellent snorkeling conditions!

Is Molokini Crater worth it?

If you are interested in seeing as much marine life as possible, yes — Molokini Crater is worth it. The crater attracts a diverse array of aquatic animals, including fish, sea turtles, and even whales during whale-watching season (December to April). Some travelers consider the boat ride to Molokini Crater to be an extra expense and prefer to snorkel at one of the popular (and plentiful!) snorkeling spots right off the beach. It’s completely up to you!

Where is the best place to snorkel in Maui for beginners?

Beginner snorkelers in Maui should look for a protected bay right off the beach that offers calm waves, shallow waters, and accessible coral reefs, like those found at Kapalua Bay on the west side of Maui. Kapalua Bay is widely considered one of the best beaches and safest snorkeling spots in Maui for beginners and kids.

Marvel at the Underwater World at the Best Snorkeling Spots in Maui

Regardless of whether you’re staying in the ritzy resorts in Wailea or the family-friendly accommodations in Ka’anapali — you are sure to find one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui nearby. So, while you’re visiting Maui, be sure to check out at least one (or more!) of the best snorkeling spots in Maui. You won’t regret it!

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About the Author

Hi, I'm Brit! I'm a writer from Phoenix, AZ who loves coffee, golden retriever puppies, and obviously, travel! I help ordinary women (like me!) dream, plan, and do extraordinary travel experiences.