Hawaii Notebook 3: 5 best snorkeling beaches on Maui


Third in a series of blog posts about Hawaii.

Plenty of bays and lagoons, off-shore reefs, lava rocks and sea life make snorkeling on the Hawaiian island of Maui a real treat. Here’s a list of the five best beaches to snorkel:

1. Ka’anapali Beach

Ka’anapali Beach is one of Maui’s longest beaches (three miles) and most popular beaches. Located in West Maui,  it once was a retreat for Hawaiian royalty.  There are many resorts along the beach, but you can easily find spots that aren’t crowded. On the north end of the beach is Black Rock, a renowned snorkeling destination. You also can check out smaller Kahekili Beach, an extension of Kaanapali Beach separated by lava rock and a hotel. Named for Maui’s last king, Kahekili Beach offers good snorkeling, but watch for strong currents.

2. Napili Bay

Napili Bay faces a resort area, it’s not as busy as the Kaanapali Beach area. Napili is good for snorkeling when n the surf isn’t rough. Sea turtles (honu) often visit reefs just off the bay shore.

The sheltered cove of Napili Bay on the northwestern part of Maui offers good snorkeling. (Thomas Baca from Pixabay)

3. Honoloa Bay

For those who don’t mind a bit of a drive and adventure, head to under-the-radar Honoloa Bay. Pros: Because Honoloa Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District that bars fishing, there always is plenty of sea life and coral if you swim out a bit from the beach. The left side of the beach is best for snorkeling. Cons: The shore is very rocky and narrow, so it’s not a place to lie and read a book. The shallow water is murky. Parking is farther away and can be difficult. There’s no sign for the beach; look for mile marker 32 off Honoapi’ilani Highway and cars parked along the side of the road at an S curve just after Slaughterhouse Beach. Walk along a marked path to the bay.

Honoloa Bay is a snorkeling only spot due to its narrow, rocky shore. (Rusty Gage from Pixabay)

4. Kapalua Bay Beach

Along a protected bay in northwestern Maui near the historic whaling port of Lahaina, Kapalua Beach (in the featured photo by me at top) is a great place for young kids to snorkel. The tide pools, lava rock and sea creatures and two offshore reefs make for some fun snorkeling. Two sea turtles played in the shallows when I visited. During the winter, you may see whales in deeper waters.

Sea turtle
This was one of two sea turtles that swam very close to the shore of Kapalua Bay Beach. (Sheryl Jean)

5. Keawakapu Beach, Ulua Beach and Polo Beach

I’m cheating here by combining three beaches in Wailea in South Maui, but starting with Keawakapu and traveling south, each beach is less two miles from the previous one. They all have great snorkeling and bathrooms and showers (at the south end of Keawakapu Beach).

Go to the southern end of Keawakapu Beach, which is just under a mile long, to snorkel amid patches of reef. Quarter-mile Ulua Beach offers easy snorkeling at its rocky north end. Warning: Parking at Ulua can fill up early. Two sandy crescents make up Polo Beach, which faces the Polo Beach Club and the Fairmont Kea Lani hotel. When the waves are small, snorkel around the rocky point at the north end of the beach.

I also recently wrote about new tourist restrictions in Hawaii, including Maui, and Maui’s best snorkeling beaches.