Snorkeling on Maui!

There used to be an advertisement for a Hawaiian snorkel gear shop that said, "If you don't go in the water you might as well be in Cleveburg." Truer words were never spoken. But what beaches, where? Read on for Maui snorkel details!

Snorkeling on Maui!

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on October 24, 2000

Snorkeling is not difficult or strenuous, and anyone uncomfortable with their swimming ability can rent a boogie board to hold onto for security. You don't need to get into deep water, either. One of our favorite family stories: We're at Airport Beach getting our gear together, when a guy with a mask and snorkel on his head walks past us. The guy gets to thigh deep water, bends over and puts his face in the water. Seconds later, he snaps it back up, turns to his group and shouts, 'Hey!!! There's fish here!' Then he has to clarify for them, 'TROPICAL fish!!!!'

Don't let this happen to you! Pay attention to the entries I'm going to give you and you'll see all the fish you need! You want sea turtles? We've found them in a lot of places, but find them regularly at two places: Black Rock - Airport Beach side and Honolua Bay. I find snorkeling on a good day to be just as if someone with a huge tropical fish tank is allowing me the privilege of floating around and mingling with their fish. ${QuickSuggestions} Offshore conditions and on shore weather can turn water so murky from sand churn that you can't see much. Clouds can block the sun, cutting back on underwater colors and contrasts. Surface wave action can move you up and down until you're almost seasick. When you get a good snorkel day, use it.

Mornings are usually best; winds pick up through the afternoon, so snorkel in the morning and sail in the afternoon. While face down in the water you're susceptible to serious sunburn. Don't worry about fashion - wear a colored tee shirt because the tropical sun will burn through a wet white one. And be sure to sunscreen all exposed areas. There is nothing worse than the discomfort and embarrassment of the dreaded 'snorkel butt.' Most of the time we haven't used flippers. If you have all day and are a strong swimmer, they don't add much. However, there are barren places you need to pass through to get to good fish viewing areas and with flippers you'll minimize your time in these 'no fish' zones. ${BestWay} You'll need to rent a car to get anywhere on Maui.


Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on May 9, 2001

Your accomodations on Maui depend on your expectations, your party and the amount of time you are planning to stay.

Lower key and lower price? I suggest Papakea - which is now part of the Aston group. This is where I''ve stayed my last three trips. The facility is up the shore from Embassy Suiters in Honokawai. Papakea is a set of buildings structured to give two individual courtyards, each with a pool, putting green and koi pond. The units range from one bedroom condo-types to two bedrooms plus a loft. All have kitchens, washers and dryers. The units have a mix of owners and rental arrangements. Some are owned and operated by Papakea, others are condos rented by individual owners and still others are owned by small local management companies.

I arranged for our stays through Maui Resort Management and it has always worked out well. If you want luxury and expect to never leave the resort grounds this is NOT the place for you. OK - now to your party.... if there are two of you on a romantic honeymoon: go Grand Wailea. If there''s a family involved, go to Papakea or Sheraton Maui.

If you are staying for a couple of weeks, go Papakea.

Lower Honoapiilani Road
Maui, Hawaii

Grand Wailea

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on May 9, 2001

Your accomodations on Maui depend on your expectations, your party and the amount of time you are planning to stay. If you are expecting glamour, plush accomdations and a setting that you will not want to leave consider the Grand Wailea in south Maui. Lush grounds, fantastic facilities... the beach is a bit weak in comparison to others, but Ulua beach is a short walk up a paved path. There''s good snorkeling at Ulua. Many beginning SCUBA groups use it because of its
facilities (showers, rest rooms) and easy to get to coral offshore. You can usually spot sea turtles while
snorkeling if you know where to look. Ask people with gear if they spotted any. This hotel is too expensive
for me, but if you were splurging and planned on a short stay it would work. It would also work if you were
independently wealthy....

Sheraton Maui

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on May 9, 2001

Your accomodations on Maui depend on your expectations, your party and the amount of time you are planning to stay. If you want a nice hotel in a nice place but are less hung up on luxury, I suggest the Sheraton Maui at Kaanapali. Don''t get me wrong, it''s very plush - the Sheraton Maui was recently redone - but it can''t compete with the Grand Wailea and other luxury resorts on south Maui. It sits on Black Rock at one end of Kaanapali Beach in a great location for using the beach during the day and strolling down past other hotels to Whalers Village shopping and dining in the evening. At sundown there''s a torch lighting ceremony at Black Rock - watch it from the Kaanapali Beach shore. It''s well-located for being surrounded by activity. Kaanapali is the closest that Maui comes to a Waikiki-type atmosphere... and I don''t mean that in a negative way. I mean that there are strollers along the shore, a paved beach walk, places to stop for meals or drinks, shows you can sometimes see but always hear from the walk... it''s a nice place to spend a tropical evening.
Sheraton Maui
144 Kapplinail Drive
Maui, Hawaii

Kaanapali Beach

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on May 9, 2001

Kaanapali is normally a gentle beach with nice sand, plenty of sun and Lahaina in the distance. The sorkling is weak, but its good for playing in the waves and people watching. If you do ant to snorkel, head over to the Black Rock end.

Now for the editorial - PLEASE watch out for a rogue wave if swimming at Kaanapali. On a day when there wasn't much wave action I was out a bit more than waist deep with my two year old daughter. I saw what looked like a bigger than normal wave coming and only realized how much bigger when I saw it how much it rocked and lifted a catamaran anchored a little offshore. I picked up my daughter and tried to get into shore but the wave was just too strong... It crashed over my, knocked me to the ground... when I hit bottom I lost my grip on my daughter and she got pulled away. I got to my feet and looked around - couldn't see her. Thank God, as the water receeded after the wave she was being pulled and rolled along the bottom and just was lucky enough to bump into my leg I grabbed her and pulled her out. We never saw a wave that big earler that day or later - just the one. We've been back many times through the years and never saw a fluke wave like that again. PLEASE remember that this isn't Disney World, its the real world and bad things can happen. Have fun but be careful!

Ka'anapali Beach
Ka'anapali, Western Shore Of Maui
Maui, Hawaii, 96761
(808) 667-5900

Honolua Bay

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on October 27, 2000


Starting in Lahaina, drive north on route 30 - the Honoapiilani Highway - past Napili and Kapalua. After Kapalua the road moves closer to the shore and starts to wind back and forth. At the top of a rise, there's a small roadside parking area next to a chain link fence. This is Slaughterhouse Beach (or Mokuleia Bay), which is described in its own note. - A lot of beaches go by more than one name. We use the most common one. Keep driving. The road winds, then drops down into a broad curve with solid greenery of tropical plants on both sides. There will be cars parked by the side of the road and a dirt road off to your left. The road is gated, with a sign: ‘No Trespassing - Maui Land and Pineapple Company.’ As my son says, this must be Hawaiian for ‘Come on in! All are welcome!’ Park and walk on in. If you don't mind a slightly longer walk, drive a little further. There's more parking by the side of the road further up. Here, look for a path on the left side of the road.

It's a nice short walk through a tropical forest and across a dry (at least when we've been there!) streambed. Watch out though: This is another of the three most commonly noted spots for car breaks on the island.

The beach is rocky.

Best way into the water is to follow the old boat launch ramp down into the sand. There is good reef to explore on both the right and left sides without much in the middle but it's a way out to the reef, so don't get discouraged.

Turtles? We got 'em! If I had to take someone out to see a sea turtle, and had only one day - I'd head here. Go over to the left side at least three quarters of the way out. If you're patient and keep your eyes open you have a real good chance of seeing a one. The water is deep enough here and there are a lot of gaps and cracks between the rocks that give the turtles plenty of comfortable places to hide.

This reef looked in trouble in 1997, particularly on the right side, because of the traffic this place gets. A lot of Lahaina boats come here with snorkel tours because it's protected - there can be a BIG difference between conditions in this bay and Slaughterhouse Beach, just on the other side of the point to the left. Deterioration comes from people standing on the coral to adjust their masks or rest, kicking the coral with their flippers and from private boats dropping anchor on top of the coral. Inside two years I could notice a difference in some outcrops on the right side.

There's no longer any growth on the tops of some, but the growth remains on the sides where the water depth exceeds five or six feet. Some reminded me of a monk's head, with the top completely bald surrounded by hair all round the sides. However, for some reason in 2000 it was looking a little better. Despite this discouraging slant, it's a great snorkel spot although we saw as many as five boats here at a time. Can you imaging the disappointment for people who pay to sail to a secluded tropical bay for a private snorkel adventure and see people like us hanging out on the shore and swimming around?

You can walk around on the left side to the point, but its further than it looks, there's some climbing involved and be sure to wear something on your feet! Those rocks are SHARP!

It is possible to snorkel around the left point from Honaloa to Slaughterhouse Beach. It was a long haul when we did it because the wave conditions changed considerably once we made the turn into Slaughterhouse. Honaloa had small waves with good visibility; Slaughterhouse had BIG waves and no visibility except in the deeps.

Slaughterhouse Beach (Mokulea Bay)

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on October 28, 2000

Where? Take Highway 30 - Honoapiilana Highway - north out of Lahaina. Just past Kapalua, the road winds along maybe 50 feet above the water. Look for parking for about 20 cars next to the fence. It used to be a lot more fun to get here. There was one of these 'No Trespassing - Maui Land and Pineapple' signs that we so enjoy walking past, then a walk down a steep path to the beach. Now they've legitimized this beach. The No Trespassing sign is gone and the path has been replace by a concrete stairway. It's much safer to get down, but much less adventurous!

This is a small sandy beach good for body surfing and boogie boarding as well as snorkeling. Some years the beach is sandy, in other years big winter storms pull all the sand out leaving behind only rocks. Snorkel on either the left or right; the middle is empty. Waves can make the snorkeling tough. Surfing competitions are held here during the winter. If the conditions are at all difficult, get back in the car and go up to Honoloa Bay.

Airport Beach

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on October 28, 2000

Where? Go north on Route 30 from Lahaina. Turn left at the stoplight after the main Kaanapali entrance. Turning right gets you to the start of the Sugar Train. This beach is correctly called Kahekili Beach.

Airport Beach is very popular with introductory SCUBA dives and it's easy to see why: convenient parking, rest rooms, fresh water showers and plenty of fish close to shore. That's why it's good for you as a snorkeler. Look out from shore: to the left is Lanai, to the right Molokai. The reef is right there in front of the beach pavillion. It extends a good way up to your right, just off the undeveloped land, but fades out quickly to the left, toward Black Rock. Because the current pulls toward Black Rock, you might like to walk up the beach to the right and drift back to the developed beach.

There are lots of colorful fish close to shore, in the rock and dead coral. They're easy to see in knee deep water as long as there isn't a lot of sand churn. Go out a little deeper to see colorful live coral. If you want a place to swim with sand, no coral, move toward Black Rock.

Sharks? Well, yes.... but they may be dolphins....

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Foxboro Marmot on November 2, 2000

It's important to read the local newspapers. During our trip to Maui last August, we learned that certain beaches were closed for a few days because of shark sightings off shore. They were D.T. Fleming Beach in west Maui and Baldwin Beach, near the Kahului Airport. Since then, I've been wary of a deserted Hawaiian beach we could have all to ourselves and currently prefer a beach with people on it. There was one shark bite incident - a windsurfer got bit about a quarter mile off shore at Hookipa, the famous windsurfing beach near Paia. These things seem to go in phases.

General consensus is a snorkeler usually is (1) in shallow enough water, (2) close enough to shore and (3) part of a larger group. These factors insure we will never come close to being shark food. I'd be fine for a half hour, then keep wanting to look around to see if anything was approaching. One unsettling thing: occasionally there will be a pod of dolphins out there. They're fine if you're on shore and have some time to figure out what you're looking at. The dorsal fins cut through the water, then suddenly one or more dolphins will jump up and splash back down. They'll disappear for a bit, then one will break the surface and spin around. Generally, they're not all that close to shore, but you can tell there's some big animals out there. If you have someone from your group in the water when you first spot the fins, it can be pretty exciting. Your brain tries to override those scenes from 'Jaws' that automatically start running through your mind while you attempt to figure out what you're really seeing….

© LP 2000-2009