Who Needs a Boat? The Best Snorkeling Beaches on Maui (with Directions)
Snorkeling is one of the most popular things to do in Maui, and honestly I think Maui has the best snorkeling overall between all of the islands. Besides spectacular spots like Molokini that can only be reached by boat, Maui has a ton of beaches with good snorkeling. So whether you just can’t get enough snorkeling and want to experience more besides your boat tour, or whether you don’t want to commit to an expensive snorkeling tour and want to try your luck off the beach instead, there are plenty of options.
Best Snorkeling Beaches in Maui
If you’re dead set on experiencing “Turtle Town” but you’re not going out on a boat, the best place to access the area is from the shore of Maluaka Beach. This is the beach that the Makena Beach Resort sits on and it’s often overlooked because it’s not accessed from the main road through Wailea and Makena. If you’re driving south, turn right onto Makena road (you’ll see signs for the landing) and continue on until you see a parking lot. The beach access is actually a few hundred feet past the parking lot. Once on the beach, enter the water and snorkel south towards the rocks and reefs.
Napili Bay is a great place for beginner snorkelers. Entering from the sandy beach, the reefs start in relatively shallow water and it’s not uncommon to spot sea turtles here. This is actually a great place to spot turtles without even getting in the water. If you stand on the rocks, you can watch them surface. These rock formations also create great tide pools for exploring during low tide.
Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach
Ka’anapali Beach (West Maui) is home to many of the island’s big beach resorts so what’s better than walking out your front door and snorkeling? The far north end of the beach (in front of the Sheraton) is home to Black Rock (Maui’s famed rock that people often jump off of into the water). While the waves can get pretty big at Ka’anapali Beach, they’re usually much smaller down at Black Rock and even if they look intimidating, once you swim out past the break it’s usually quite calm. Also, keep an eye out as it’s not uncommon to spot sea turtles in this area.
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Ahihi Kinau Nature Reserve
This nature reserve is one of my favorite spots in Maui. If you drive south from Wailea through Makena, the road eventually opens up so that you’re literally driving right by the water, passing the most inviting little coves with clear water, golden sand, and plenty of lava and coral formations. If you’re an inexperienced snorkeler, or you have small children, this is an ideal spot to get in the water. It’s super shallow and very protected from the ocean. It’s more like swimming in a manmade lagoon but tropical fish, and even the occasional sea turtle, are very prevalent here. The only tricky part is parking. You’ll have to squeeze off the road somewhere (watch the signs!) but once you find a spot, you’ll be snorkeling just a dozen or so feet from your car!
Ulua is a great place to snorkel when the conditions are right. The reef is great and you can expect to see plenty of tropical fish (it’s a very popular scuba spot), but the best part about snorkeling at Ulua is the beach! Once you find it (located between the Marriot and Andaz in Wailea), there’s plenty of parking, not many crowds, and a BEAUTIFUL stretch of beach. If you’re traveling with a party that’s split between snorkelers and non-snorkelers, this is a good spot.
Olowalu is a general area south of Lahaina (where Leoda’s Pie Shop is located!) where there’s a great stretch of snorkeling spots right off the highway. Once you come out of the tunnel and you’re headed towards Lahaina you’ll find almost one continuous stretch of beaches right next to the road. Pull off anywhere you see a few cars parked, as it’s likely a good spot. The water is very calm, warm, and shallow and it’s a great spot for beginner snorkelers. It’s also super convenient.
Right next to Napili Bay, Kapalua is also a great spot for snorkeling. It’s very protected with relatively calm waters. While there’s a good reef and plenty to see, a big draw of Kapalua is that it’s an all around great beach. If you have non-snorkelers in tow, they won’t be bored. There’s also a beach stand where you can rent gear, or even try paddleboarding lessons.
Honolua Bay is a spot that many Maui snorkeling tours will stop at by boat, but you can also reach it by land. It’s north of Kapalua and the entrance is just past the overlook. You’ll park somewhere along the highway and then hike down to the beach through the most amazing forest. Honolua Bay is pure Maui, meaning it has a rugged magic to it. And many wild chickens. Once you make it down to the beach (all rocks), you’ll have to swim quite a ways to get to the best snorkeling (to the left and right sides of the bay). If there’s a catamaran anchored in the bay, that will give you an indication of where the snorkeling is good.
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Where to Rent Snorkeling Gear on Maui
Snorkeling excursions will supply you with gear (mask, snorkel, and fins) but you’ll need to bring sunscreen and a towel.
If you’re interested in buying a set, Costco usually has pretty nice sets at a reasonable price. But if you buy a set, please take it back home with you. Snorkeling gear isn’t the kind of thing that most visitors like to pass along. Leaving boogie boards, chairs, umbrellas, etc. is usually welcomed at condos and by people staying at resorts. But nobody wants your used snorkel gear so if you leave it behind there’s a good chance it will end up in the landfill.
If you’re looking to rent gear for the duration of your trip, try Boss Frog or Snorkel Bob’s. They have several locations on the island and will include a mesh bag for your gear. Their rentals usually start as cheap as a couple of dollars a day, but they have more high end options too if you’re a more experienced snorkeler/diver (better quality than what you can buy at Costco/Walmart/Target).
If you’re staying at a resort, most will rent gear by the hour or half hour and some include it in their resort fee. This is a good option if you’re staying at a beach where the snorkeling is good like the Andaz Maui or Sheraton.
Want to read more? Don’t miss some of my most popular (and favorite) posts about Maui: my Maui favorites, the best Maui itinerary, how many days to spend on Maui, Maui vs Kauai, where to see turtles on Maui, my favorite road to Hana itinerary, guide for sunrise at Haleakala National Park, how to bike down Maui’s volcano, my review of the Maui Pineapple Tour, 20 of the best adventure activities on Maui, 5 Maui day trips, and the best things to do on a Maui honeymoon.
More posts about where to stay on Maui: Trying to figure out where to stay on Maui? I’ve written a ton of posts that will help. I’d start with my 15 favorite resorts and hotels on Maui. Also, you’re going to want to decide between staying on the south side or the west side so this post about Wailea vs Ka’anapali is golden. Read about my favorite luxury resorts, boutique hotels, honeymoon resorts, family friendly resorts, and condos (many under $100/night!). If you’ve narrowed down the area of the island you want to stay, but need help picking a specific hotel, read these posts about where to stay in Wailea, Kihei, Ka’anapali, Lahaina and Kapalua, and Hana. And if you just want more details (more! More! more!), read my reviews of staying at the Four Seasons and the Fairmont Kea Lani.
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