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Maui Diving Secrets

Maui’s sugar-soft white sand and crystal clear blue-green waters make it one of the best snorkeling spots in the world. The waters are rich in marine life and many of the best reefs are easily accessible from shore. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a cruise to Molokini Crater, an underwater sanctuary just three miles off the south coast of Maui, which regularly has visibility of more than 100 feet.

Before you strap on your fins and slip 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’ve never scuba dived before, it’s a fun and easy activity that anyone, regardless of age, can do. You can bring your own gear or rent snorkel gear from one of the many dive shops found on Maui. If you’re staying in a tourist area, chances are you’ll find a Maui snorkel supply store just a few hundred feet from your room.

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

In addition to basic equipment, most snorkel rentals include a waterproof fish ID card and a bottle of anti-fog fluid. Simply spray or rub the liquid on the inside of your mask before getting in the water, and it will prevent your mask from fogging up. If a commercially prepared liquid is not available, spitting into the mask will accomplish the same goals.

Try on your Maui snorkel gear 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 pointing up, or you’ll end up with a mouth full of water. If you get water in your snorkel or dive in to get a better look at the exciting fish life near the bottom, just give it a good whack when you come back to the surface. That should purge most of the water from your snorkel.

Getting into the swell can be tricky with the tips on, and many beginners find it next to impossible. If you strap on your fins while you’re still on the beach, walk back into the swell until you’re deep enough to turn and swim. This will prevent the waves from knocking you over. Otherwise, just do a short swim with the fins in hand and place them in the water. Many fins are slip on making them very easy to put on and take off while swimming.

If you’re not a strong swimmer, wear a life jacket to increase buoyancy. Types designed for water skiing are lightweight and not bulky. Another great way to easily stay afloat is to bring along a swimming noodle. Just tuck it under your arms and voila – it will provide you with a smooth float without getting in your way.

Finally, for a really up close and personal Maui snorkeling experience, bring along something to feed the fish. Some people like to use frozen peas, but you can also buy commercially made fish food in a biodegradable bag at the snorkel shop. Two sticks are usually around $4.

However, a word of caution. Fish will swarm around you, so be ready for the popularity of your marine life. Once they’ve eaten all the food, they may even follow you around for more. Feeding them in Honalua Bay is not recommended, where the fish have become so used to human food that they have started to be downright pushy about it. These little beggars may even take a gentle bite out of you trying to get a snack out of you.

Snorkeling beaches in Maui

The wide variety of beaches and corals create perfect Maui snorkeling spots along the west and south sides of the island. Most of them are ideal for beginners, and many spots are shallow enough to allow your feet to touch. For the best conditions, snorkel when the sun shines brightly – it lights up the colors of the fish and coral. On the west side of Maui, it’s best to snorkel before the afternoon winds start to pick up and affect your visibility. Also, the water can be cloudy when there’s a big swell or for a few days after a big storm, so try to start your Maui snorkeling adventure when the weather is clear.


The stretch of white sand that makes up Ka’anapali is probably one of Maui’s best-known beaches. It is a prime spot for diving, especially along Black Rock. This lava jetty extends 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 the occasional octopus. The beach is lined with resorts and shops so there are plenty of facilities and ample parking. Ka’anapali provides you with a memorable Maui snorkeling experience.

honalua bay

Located on the northwest coast of Maui, Honalua Bay is just outside the beautiful town of Kapalua. It’s normally pretty calm, but it can get very rough if there’s a big swell. Swim to the right side of the bay for a better view of the underwater life. Honalua Bay has a rocky shoreline rather than a sandy beach, so water shoes are beneficial.

Access is not so easy here – you have to park along the road and follow a path to the beach. However, the effort is well worth it as Honalua Bay has one of the highest concentrations of fish of any Maui dive site.


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

coral gardens

This Maui dive site is located just a half mile north of the tunnel on the road that leads from Kahului to Lahaina. The reef is very far from the beach, so it is only recommended for advanced swimmers, unless you are diving from a boat. This is a great place to see many of Maui’s famous green sea turtles.

La Perouse Bay

La Perouse Bay is located south of the town of Wailea, on the southwestern tip of Maui. This is a very private area for swimming and snorkeling, and it is not unusual to find that you have the place to yourself. The water tends to be cooler off the southern shores of Maui, and summer can produce large southerly swells. You should be able to see lots of fish and you will have a great view of Molokini crater. Just remember to exercise caution and good water safety habits when enjoying this remote Maui dive area.

Molokini Crater

The most famous snorkeling spot on Maui, Molokini Crater can only be reached by boat. Once you arrive, you can explore the waters inside the ancient cone of a long dormant volcano and enjoy the crystal clear 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 looking down at the bottom of the ocean.

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

If you’ve never scuba dived before, Maui is the perfect place to try it for the first time. For those who are seasoned professionals, snorkeling on Maui never gets old. It just gets better every time.

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