Snorkeling Basics & Map

Maui has great snorkeling, and with a little know-how you'll be picking great spots to snorkel!

Tip: Snorkel over reef!
The first thing you learn snorkeling is that fish like the reef. Good news: Maui is surrounded with reef! Some areas have more reef than others, but all an experienced snorkeler needs is spotting from the shore with polarized sunglasses and maybe a closeup peek through the ocean surface using Google satellite maps.

View West/South Maui Snorkel Map in a larger map

The maps that can be found at rental shops, guidebooks and the one above are really just meant for beginning snorkelers and newcomers to snorkeling on Maui – these are generally great places to go and you’re certain to see loads of sealife.

If you plan to snorkel a lot, you should rent your gear from snorkel or dive shops found all over the resort areas. It is cheap, and the gear is better than the inexpensive gear you can buy at the big box stores. Boss Frog and Snorkel Bob are the most prevalent – but smaller dive shops are great too! All have knowledgable staff that will fit you properly, and can give you pointers and suggestions for where to snorkel in current conditions.

Ocean Conditions
Ocean conditions can vary from location to location and day to day. Know your limits, observe the ocean before entering, and be aware of conditions. If you are not well experienced a guarded beach or snorkel boat are great options to consider while learning.

Please don’t stand up!

Learn to adjust masks and clear snorkels without standing before you go out over shallow reef. Do your very, very best to never stand while snorkeling. “Just one time” might not sound like a lot, but one step kills many years of coral growth instantly.

The Basics

Here are some beaches that are good to get started on:

West Maui:
Kahekili Beach Park (Best West Maui Beginner – sand beach)
Black Rock (long sand beach)
Honolua Bay (preserve – rock beach)

South Maui:
Keawakapu Beach (long sand beach)
Kamaole Beach Park (all – several long sand beaches)
‘Ahihi Bay (Don’t learn to snorkel first-time here)

I have only included West & South Maui on the following map, as North Shore and Hana snorkeling is for more experienced snorkelers who will have no trouble at all finding plenty of reef 🙂

  1. Where is the best snorkeling in January? From all the research I did, I conclude that Wailea / Makena beaches are best that time of year, with the clearest and calmest waters. I read contradictory things about Kaa’napali and Napili beaches: most say that Napili is much better in summer – the surf might be too high in winter – but different websites have opposite things to say about Kapalua park and Black Rock. Are these ok in the winter, or is the surf too high?

    • Ocean conditions can and do change daily and even hourly. There are general trends for the seasons, but swells and weather do not always follow those rules.

      For winter snorkeling when there is more often a north swell, you want south facing shoreline. Most South Maui beaches face west, and won’t be any better than west facing shores in West Maui.
      South facing snorkel areas on Maui are more primitive, and not really for beginners. They are Olowalu, `Ahihi Bay, and “The Dumps”.

      Beaches in West Maui may be somewhat protected from a northwest swell by the moderating effect of the islands Moloka’i and Lana’i.

      If you want a day at a beautiful beach with great snorkeling in winter, when there is a north swell & no south swell, get on the ferry to Lana’i and spend the day at Hulopo’e Beach.

      Check conditions each day, and be aware that in many areas, especially South Maui, conditions are best earlier in the morning. Check conditions with online surf reports, snorkel rental shops, resort webcams, and most importantly with your own eyes. Always watch the waves and currents for 15-20 minutes before entering the water. Please do not wear any chemical sunscreens. Remember, ***Stand only on sand***. Thank you for protecting the ocean life.

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