On our recent journey, we explored the entire island, from Kapalua to Hana, in pursuit of the best beaches to snorkel in Maui. We assumed that the best beaches to snorkel at were situated on the south and west sides of the island due to the presence of calmer waters in those areas. Also, we knew that the north and east sides, facing the open ocean, tend to have rougher surf conditions due to exposure to trade winds and swells. With this awareness, we were optimistic about discovering a couple of hidden gems, and indeed, we succeeded!
For the most part areas like Lahaina and Ka’anapali on the leeward or west side are known for their gentle waves, making them ideal for activities such as swimming and snorkeling. In contrast, notable surfing spots, like Ho’okipa Beach Park, are situated on the north shore, attracting experienced surfers, and gnarly waves.
We’ll begin our exploration of the best beaches to snorkel in Maui from the North Shore and move in a counterclockwise direction. While there is no bad time of year to visit Maui, keep in mind that ocean conditions can vary, and it’s advisable to check local conditions and seek guidance from local authorities or experienced individuals, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Best Beaches to Snorkel in Maui
Before we delve into the details, if you’re seeking the top two best snorkeling spots in Maui—Molokini Crater and Turtle Town are your go-to destinations.
- Molokini Crater: This crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic caldera located off Maui’s southwestern coast is spectacular. It’s renowned for its crystal-clear waters and diverse marine life. Snorkelers reach Molokini by boat—we recommend this ½-day tour on a rigid inflatable boat (RIB). It gets to Molikini fast with enough time to see Turtle Town afterward, and the tour comes with lunch and is one of the best things to do in Maui. Finally, it departs from Ma’alaea Harbor.
- Turtle Town: In Maui, “Turtle Town” is not an officially designated area but rather an informal expression used to refer to the area near Maluaka Beach where green sea turtles are commonly observed. Snorkelers will need to swim a couple of hundred yards off the beach in deep water so it’s only suggested for strong swimmers or on the tour listed above—we saw two large green sea turtles when we went!
💰 Budget Tip: To experience the finest snorkeling beaches in Maui, having a rental car is essential, despite the island’s reputation for steep car rental prices. It’s crucial to secure the best rates and choose trustworthy travel search engines, which is why we consistently compare prices on Discover Cars and Skyscanner.
Honolua Bay stands as an iconic and picturesque bay nestled along Maui’s northwestern coast in Hawaii. The bay is distinguished by thriving coral reefs, creating an ideal environment for a multitude of marine species. With its crystalline waters and abundant marine life, Honolua Bay is a favored spot for snorkelers and divers. Moreover, it’s easily one of the best beaches to snorkel in Maui.
Exploring the bay underwater allows for encounters with vibrant coral formations and a variety of fish. Access to Honolua Bay may involve a brief trek through a wooded area. Visitors are advised to be mindful of parking conditions and to uphold responsible practices to preserve the delicate marine ecosystem.
Slaughterhouse Beach, also recognized as Mokule’ia Bay graces the northwest coast—its allure lies in its picturesque setting with pristine waters, golden sands, and a backdrop of verdant landscapes. Also, the underwater environment at Slaughterhouse Beach beckons snorkelers to explore its marine life and vibrant coral formations, benefitting from excellent visibility.
The name “Slaughterhouse Beach” carries historical significance, harking back to a time when a cattle processing facility, or slaughterhouse, was situated nearby. Despite the absence of such facilities today, the name endures. Access to the beach involves navigating a short trail from the parking area to the shore. While the trail is relatively brief, it incorporates steps and uneven terrain.
Kapalua Bay Beach
Kapalua Bay Beach stands as a renowned coastal gem—its allure lies in its natural splendor, crescent-shaped coastline, featuring golden sands, clear turquoise waters, and a gracefully curved shoreline bordered by tropical greenery and palm trees. The beach is well-known for providing excellent snorkeling opportunities.
The presence of a coral reef in the bay fosters a diverse marine habitat, making it an ideal location for snorkelers of varying skill levels. Access to Kapalua Bay Beach is convenient, with nearby parking facilities. The beach is situated within the Kapalua Resort area, featuring upscale accommodations, golf courses, and dining options.
Napili Bay’s appeal lies in its breathtaking natural features, including golden sandy shores, clear turquoise waters, and a picturesque backdrop of lush tropical foliage. Also, the bay offers excellent opportunities for snorkeling. Moreover, its tranquil and transparent waters make it an ideal location for exploring vibrant coral reefs and observing diverse marine life.
The westward-facing orientation of Napili Bay makes it a popular vantage point for witnessing breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. Access to Napili Bay is convenient, with nearby parking facilities. The beach is open to the public, attracting both locals and visitors seeking a laid-back coastal experience.
Kahekili Beach Park
Also known as Airport Beach, Kahekili Beach Park is located in Kaanapali, in the Kaanapali area, which is known for its resort developments, golf courses, and beautiful beaches. Most importantly, the nearshore waters of Kahekili Beach Park offer nice opportunities for snorkeling.
The beach park is named after Chief Kahekili, a historical figure in Hawaiian history who ruled Maui in the late 18th century. Furthermore, there are restrooms, showers, and picnic areas, enhancing the overall visitor experience. Finally, Kahekili Beach Park is easily accessible, with parking available nearby.
Black Rock Beach
Besides Molokini Crater, Black Rock Beach might just be the most unique and best beaches to snorkel in Maui. Recognized as Pu’u Keka’a, the massive rock formation stands as a distinctive and significant location in the Kaanapali area. Furthermore, Pu’u Keka’a, or Black Rock, is a volcanic rock formation extending into the ocean, known for its dark color that contrasts with the surrounding golden sands.
📝 On a side note, we saw Corey Feldman walking down the beach here and he gave us a hang-loose (🤙), as huge “Goonies” fans this was a big deal for us.
The waters surrounding Black Rock are renowned for their clarity, attracting enthusiasts of snorkeling and diving. The underwater realm showcases coral formations and a diverse array of marine life. Black Rock holds cultural significance in Hawaiian history and traditions. It’s believed to be a place where spirits embark on their journey into the afterlife, and it has been a site for traditional Hawaiian cliff diving ceremonies.
Adjacent to the Sheraton Maui Resort, Black Rock is the backdrop for the resort’s nightly Black Rock Cliff Dive Ceremony. This event features a cliff diver lighting torches along the rock before plunging into the ocean. The beach surrounding Black Rock is open to the public, inviting visitors to enjoy sunbathing, swimming, and various water activities.
Wahikuli Wayside Park
Located in Lahaina, Wahikuli Wayside Park is a beachfront park with superb snorkeling—abundant turtles, fish, and vibrant reefs. The location is not heavily crowded, offering a laid-back and serene atmosphere, perfect for a relaxed and enjoyable experience. Equipped with picnic tables and shaded areas, the park provides a pleasant setting for outdoor meals against the backdrop of the ocean.
Kalepolepo Beach Park – Northern Tip of Turtle Town 🐢
Positioned in the town of Kihei, this beach park features a blend of natural beauty and cultural significance. Renowned for its historical importance, the park encompasses the ancient Ko’ie’ie Fishpond, offering insights into traditional Hawaiian aquaculture practices with ongoing restoration efforts.
Kalepolepo Beach Park embraces a sandy beach area along the coastline. Also, it provides a serene environment for beachgoers to bask in the sun and enjoy the coastal ambiance. If you wish to observe turtles while snorkeling, the rock wall serves as a barrier that blocks incoming waves, providing a conducive and effortless environment for your snorkeling experience—it is the northernmost area of Turtle Town.
Kamaole Beach Park I/II/III 🐢
Located in Kihei, Kamaole Beach Park is comprised of three distinct parks known as Kamaole I, Kamaole II, and Kamaole III. All three parks feature sandy beaches, creating picturesque settings for sunbathing, picnics, and various beach activities. The clear and calm waters make these some of the best beach park beaches to snorkel in Maui.
Keawakapu Beach 🐢
Keawakapu Beach is distinguished by its expansive stretch of golden sand, and calm inviting waters that encourage water-based activities. Snorkelers may encounter marine life and vibrant coral formations near the shore.
Wailea Beach 🐢
Situated in the affluent resort enclave of Wailea, Wailea Beach is renowned for its opulent resorts, golf courses, and immaculate shorelines. The generally calm and clear waters make Wailea Beach suitable for swimming and snorkeling. Snorkelers may have the opportunity to explore the underwater marine life and coral formations. Finally, the beach is part of the Wailea Coastal Walkway, allowing visitors to enjoy views of the ocean and neighboring islands.
Maluaka Beach 🐢
Maluaka Beach, or Makena Beach, is an enchanting and well-frequented beach nestled in the Makena State Park. The tranquil and transparent waters make Maluaka Beach a suitable spot for swimming and snorkeling. As a result, there is ample opportunity to observe vibrant marine life and coral formations along the shoreline.
Known as the city center of Turtle Town, Hawaiian green sea turtles are seen frequently. For this reason, it’s one of the best beaches to snorkel in Maui. Furthermore, the beach provides a unique chance for visitors to observe these gentle creatures in their natural habitat. With historical and cultural significance, the area encourages visitors to embrace a sense of respect for the natural surroundings and adhere to conservation guidelines.
Oneuli Beach – Southern Tip of Turtle Town 🐢
Also referred to as Naupaka Beach, Oneuli Beach is a distinctive dark volcanic sand beach. Situated within Makena State Park, the beach offers opportunities for both swimming and snorkeling. The crystal-clear waters, provide glimpses of marine life and coral formations beneath the surface. Also, it is considered the southernmost area of Turtle Town.
Oneuli Beach is unique in that it presents a picturesque scene with its dark sand contrasting against the turquoise waters. Finally, the surroundings of Oneuli Beach are part of the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve. For this reason, be extra cognizant of respecting the natural environment and adhering to conservation guidelines.
Kaihalulu Beach – Red Sand Beach
Located in Hana, Kaihalulu Beach is most commonly referred to as the Red Sand Beach. Kaihalulu stands out as a one-of-a-kind and visually striking coastal gem on the East Coast. Furthermore, it’s renowned for its remarkable red-colored sand, a natural phenomenon resulting from the volcanic cinder cone, Pu’u Ola’i. The deep red sand, created by the volcanic composition, contributes to a visually stunning landscape.
Kaihalulu Beach is set against a backdrop of sea cliffs and lush greenery, creating a memorable and picturesque scene. Because it is located on the East Coast, and despite its inviting appearance, swimming and snorkeling at Kaihalulu Beach can be risky due to strong currents and rough surf. However, when the waters are calm, this is one of the best beaches to snorkel in Maui. Nevertheless, snorkelers should prioritize safety.
🔞 Kaihalulu Beach has, at times, been associated with clothing-optional practices. Of course, when we visited there was someone nude sunbathing—it totally killed the vibe. Unfortunately, (or fortunately) the water was a bit lumpy so we weren’t able to snorkel anyway.
Hana Bay Beach Park
Nestled in the picturesque town of Hana, the Hana Bay Beach Park offers a tranquil retreat along the eastern shoreline. Snorkeling at this location becomes truly spectacular when the waters are tranquil. Also, visitors can enjoy a variety of recreational amenities—it serves as an ideal spot for picnics, beachcombing, and relaxation. Finally, with potential cultural significance, the park invites visitors to explore and appreciate the local history and traditions associated with Hana, known for its rich cultural heritage.
Waiʻānapanapa State Park
Waiʻānapanapa State Park is located on Maui’s eastern coast near the town of Hana. It’s famed for its unique black sand beach, formed by volcanic activity. The stark contrast of the dark sand against the vivid blue ocean creates a striking visual panorama. Also, Waiʻānapanapa features intriguing lava tubes, freshwater caves and pools, and the notable sea arch known as Hana Arches, contributing to its geological allure.
With a name translating to “glistening fresh water,” the park holds cultural significance in Hawaiian history and folklore. Visitors can partake in various activities such as hiking, exploring coastal trails, swimming at the beach, and picnicking amidst the natural beauty of the surroundings. Once more, when the waters are tranquil on this part of the island, snorkeling can offer a highly satisfying experience.
When exploring the best beaches to snorkel in Maui, if you have any concerns about conditions, make sure to check the most recent information on the safety of swimming or snorkeling from local sources.
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