Surfers at Honolua Bay, famous winter surfing spot in Maui

Honolua Bay, Maui, HI: Best Snorkeling, Surfing & More – 2024

Like this article? Share it with your friends!

Snorkeling and surfing high on your Maui bucket list?

Honolua Bay offers some of the best snorkeling, surfing and scuba diving in all of Hawaii!

Honolua Bay is a stunning, crescent-shaped bay ringed by steep cliffs, on the northwest side of Maui, a few miles north from the tourist towns of Kapalua, Ka’anapali and Lahaina.

Best of all, Honolua Bay, Maui, is part of the Honlolua-Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District, and the marine life is protected from fishing.

Small wonder Honolua Bay is teeming with colorful tropical fish species, and many of the fish grow to much larger sizes and bigger populations.

In the coral reefs at Honolua Bay, some of the most extensive in Maui, you can even spot some of the larger marine life including the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles, manta rays, moray eels and octopus.

Extensive coral reefs at Honolua Bay, Maui, HI, one of the best Maui snorkeling spots
Extensive coral reefs at Honolua Bay, Maui, HI, one of the best Maui snorkeling spots

Experienced surfer vacationing in Maui in winter? Honolua Bay surf beckons!

With towering waves that break offshore due to the natural, fringing coral reefs, Honolua Bay is a surfer’s paradise, and a mecca for professional surfers from all over the world!

Not an experienced surfer? You can drive up and find a parking spot on the cliffside highway, and admire the grace of the professional surfers from your vantage point as they conquer the giant waves!

Excited? Let us help you plan your visit to Honolua Bay, and all that you can see and do here!

Hey, by the way! Snorkeling is probably at the top of your Maui itinerary — check out our guides to the best tours to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, two of the top snorkel spots on Maui!

Lush tropical vegetation along the Honolua Bay Access Trail, a rainforest jungle trail
Lush tropical vegetation along the Honolua Bay Access Trail, a rainforest jungle trail

Some links on this page may be affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. For more details, refer to our disclosure.

Honolua Bay Directions

Honolua Bay is located on the northwest corner of Maui, on the northern outskirts of Kapalua, and about 15-30 minutes from Kaanapali and Lahaina.

Take Honoapillani Highway (Highway 30) north past Kapalua. You will cross Slaughterhouse Beach on the left and the pretty Kapalua Golf Plantation Course on the right.

The Honolua Bay Lookout point comes first, and we stopped here to take some photos of the beautiful bay below. You get panoramic views of the clear blue ocean waters.

Honolua Bay along the Honoapiilani Highway, northwest corner of Maui, HI
Honolua Bay along the Honoapiilani Highway, northwest corner of Maui, HI

Continue along Honoapillani Highway and start looking for a parking spot as you near mile marker 32.

Honolua Bay is to your left, and reachable through the Honolua Bay Access Trail, a short trail down to the bay.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Honolua Bay Parking

Honolua Bay parking is a real hassle, especially during peak season.

A tiny, 5-car dirt parking lot is available past the mile marker 33, just beyond the one-lane bridge. We had no luck finding an empty spot here, and we reached here early – around 9:00 am in the morning.

Honolua Bay along the Honoapiilani Highway in the west of Maui, HI
Honolua Bay along the Honoapiilani Highway in the west of Maui, HI

We parked along the road, like most people, but make sure you are completely on the shoulder, and not blocking any traffic.

Honolua Bay Map

The Honolua Bay map below shows the location of Honolua Bay, and the main attractions nearby.

Honolua Bay Access Trail

Honolua Bay Access Trail takes you from the small pullout parking lot to the beach, a roughly 1/2 mile easy hike through a lush, rainforest jungle.

Honolua Bay Access Trail, a tropical, rainforest path from the highway to Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay Access Trail, a tropical, rainforest path from the highway to Honolua Bay

Note, if you parked further up on Honoapiilani Highway, closer to Honolua Farms Kitchen, there is a second, though longer, Honolua Bay Access Trail, just across from the side road to the farmhouse.

Both trails lead down to Honolua Bay, and take 15-30 minutes.

The trail is beautiful – imagine yourself transported to a Jurassic Park movie set: vine and moss covered trees, towering rainforest canopy, ferns and dense ground cover forming a green carpet, and a lush understory!

We even saw avocado and mango trees, ripe with fruit.

Many pretty junglefowl (wild ancestors of domestic chicken) scurried along the trail in front of us, and a few common mynas above chirped noisily from the trees.

Keep an eye open for junglefowl along the Honolua Bay Access Trail
Keep an eye open for junglefowl along the Honolua Bay Access Trail

Honolua Bay Reservations

Currently, you don’t need any Honolua Bay reservations or permits!

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Honolua Bay Amenities / Facilities

Location: Honoapiilani Highway, Mile Marker 33, Lahaina, HI 96761
Lifeguard: No
Beach Amenities: Porter potties in the parking lot
Food Nearby: Food trucks, farmhouse and in the town of Kapalua
Parking: Small parking lot near mile marker 33, or roadside parking
Directions: From Lahaina, north on Honoapiilani Highway to mile marker 33

Best Things to Do in Honolua Bay

Don’t expect to find golden sandy beaches at Honolua Bay, all you have here are lava rocks (some quite large) and gravel.

Lava rocks and gravel stones on Honolua Bay, Maui, HI
Lava rocks and gravel stones on Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

Vacationing with younger kids or beginning swimmers? Honolua Bay is not your best choice, especially given there are no facilities and no lifeguards.

Check our detailed guide to find the best snorkeling in Lahaina and West Maui suitable for you.

Honolua Bay is most suited for families with older kids, looking primarily for great snorkeling and exciting surfing.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

1. Honolua Bay Snorkeling

Honolua Bay snorkeling was one of our best Maui snorkeling experiences, the tropical fish we saw were amazing and plentiful: colorful schools and much larger fish than what we had previously encountered!

If you stopped at the Honolua Bay Lookout viewpoint, and saw a bunch of catamarans and sailboats down in the bay, you can expect a great snorkeling day!

Honolua Bay snorkeling, one of the best Maui snorkeling spots, with extensive pristine coral reefs
Honolua Bay snorkeling, one of the best Maui snorkeling spots, with extensive pristine coral reefs

While you can snorkel Honolua Bay year round, with the extensive coral reef providing a natural barrier to large waves, the best snorkeling is usually in summer when the water is calmer and early morning when underwater visibility is good.

You need to be aware of a couple of points while snorkeling at Honolua Bay.

First, there is no sandy beach. Instead, what you’ll be faced with are large lava rocks and gravel, so make sure your footwear is appropriate.

To enter the water, use the old boat ramp, which will give you some feet protection and also you won’t step on the fringing coral reef.

Second, most likely, you will have to swim a fair distance to get to the outer coral reefs on your right side. We wore feet flippers and used flotation devices, I suggest you do the same.

You can expect to see all the common and beautiful Hawaiian tropical fish here: yellow tangs, convict tangs, butterflyfish, triggerfish (including the Humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa, Hawaii’s state fish), wrasses, Moorish idols, and goatfish.

To recognize and identify the beautiful fish you’ll see, check out our detailed Hawaiian Fish Snorkeling guide!

What pleasantly surprised us was how plentiful and large they were, most likely a consequence of Honolua Bay being part of the Marine Conservation District.

You can see some rarer fish here, and Hawaiian green sea turtles are also plentiful.

Blackside Hawkfish in Honolua Bay, rich in larger tropical fish
Blackside Hawkfish in Honolua Bay, rich in larger tropical fish

Our teenage kids who ventured further out onto the outer coral reefs saw a manta ray glide past gracefully and a moray eel hiding in the corals.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

2. Honolua Bay Snorkeling Tour

Don’t want to deal with parking hassles? Consider a Honolua Bay snorkeling tour from Lahaina or West Maui.

Snorkelers from a Honolua Bay snorkeling boat tour snorkeling in deserted areas too far for average swimmers
Snorkelers from a Honolua Bay snorkeling boat tour snorkeling in deserted areas too far for average swimmers

Not only do you avoid the hassle of finding a parking spot, you have a much richer snorkeling experience, because the boats take you to spots on Honolua Bay’s outer coral reefs that are often out of swimming reach, and with no one else in the vicinity!

Beginning swimmer worried about snorkeling in the ocean? Many of the boat tours provide flotation belts and vests, making snorkeling accessible to non-swimmers!

We had an older gentleman in our tour group who couldn’t swim, and he used a flotation belt around his waist, making him virtually unsinkable. He had a ball snorkeling for the first time!

Here are some of the highly popular, 5-star snorkeling tours from Lahaina and West Maui:

We took the West Maui Half Day Snorkel from Ka’anapali Beach which stopped at Honolua Bay (note, sometimes the captain may take you to other spots depending on the weather).

Octopus in Honolua Bay, larger marine life as you snorkel further off shore
Octopus in Honolua Bay, larger marine life as you snorkel further off shore

We had a wonderful, fun experience with a helpful and entertaining crew. Even saw a pod of spinner dolphins on the way! Our kids spotted an octopus while snorkeling, the highlight of their experience.

>> Check pricing and availability on the West Maui Half Day Snorkel tour now!

3. Surf Honolua Bay

In winter, Honolua Bay is a popular mecca for surfers, and I’ve seen many avid surfers lug their boards and other gear all the way from the parking spots through the jungle trail to Honolua Bay, just to enjoy the waves here!

Surfers in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI, waiting for the right waves to ride
Surfers in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI, waiting for the right waves to ride

With towering waves breaking well off-shore due to the natural, fringing coral reefs, Honolua Bay is just the right thrill for experienced and professional surfers.

Not an experienced surfer? These waves are likely beyond your abilities, but you sure can admire the grace of these surfers from the lookout above with binoculars!

Zoom photo shot of a surfer riding towering waves at Honolua Bay, Maui, HI
Zoom photo shot of a surfer riding towering waves at Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

Note, Honolua Bay surfing is extremely popular when the surf is up, and driving along the highway is a bit tricky, with every inch of parking taken up by avid surfers and an admiring throng of onlookers.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

4. Scuba Dive Honolua Bay at Night

Adventure tourist looking for a unique experience? How about a night scuba diving tour?

Admiring a manta ray while nighttime scuba diving
Admiring a manta ray while nighttime scuba diving

Our older teenage kids took this Maui Night Certified Scuba Diving Tour from Lahaina and came back saying this was their best Maui vacation experience!

Limited to four divers, this small group tour is ideal for exploring a dramatically different, nighttime underwater world where you get to see lobsters, squid, crabs, eels, nudibranchs and octopus.

Two beautiful nudibranchs on the coral in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI
Two beautiful nudibranchs on the coral in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

Our kids had an amazing time under the guidance of an expert dive instructor, and their dive was in Honolua Bay (though you may be taken to other similar venues like Black Rock or Canoe Beach).

Obviously, the dive is restricted to certified scuba divers, and you need to be in good medical and physical condition.

>> Check pricing and availability for the Maui Night Certified Scuba Diving Tour from Lahaina now!

Not yet scuba certified? Consider this popular, 5-star rated Maui Scuba Diving Introductory Lesson from Lahaina.

>> Check pricing and availability for the Maui Scuba Diving Introductory Lesson from Lahaina now!

Note, if you are planning either of these scuba diving tours, make sure to schedule them early in your vacation – you are not permitted to fly within 18 hours after a scuba dive.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

5. Admire the Views from Honolua Bay Lookout

The Honolua Bay Lookout offers panoramic views of the bay and surrounding ocean waters, and a must-stop either on your way to or from Honolua Bay!

anoramic views of Honolua Bay
Panoramic views of Honolua Bay

For the best Honolua Bay photos, aim for the golden hour when the sun is low on the horizon, close to either sunrise or sunset!

The Honolua Bay Lookout has adequate parking, so stopping here should not be a problem.

6. Stay Back to Watch Spectacular Sunsets from Honolua Bay Lookout

Some of the best sunsets on Maui that we’ve seen have been from Honolua Bay Lookout!

Catamaran in Honolua Bay at sunset, Maui, Hawaii
Catamaran in Honolua Bay at sunset, Maui, Hawaii

The sky lights up in spectacular colors as the golden sun slides slowly below the Pacific Ocean waters.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

7. Watch for Whales (in Winter) from Honolua Bay Lookout

Whale watching in winter is one of the best things to do in Maui!

During the winter season, typically from November to March, thousands of Pacific humpback whales end up in the warm waters of Hawaii, after an epic migration from Alaska.

The highest density of whales is in the warm water channels along the west coast of Maui, and you get a great, grandstand view from Honolua Bay Lookout, one of the best whale watching spots in Maui!

For a closer look, you may want to book a whale watching tour!

Whale watching tours in Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawaii
Whale watching tours in Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawaii

Here are some highly rated Maui whale watching tours:

If you want a thrilling experience, I highly recommend the Eye-Level Whale Watching 2 Hour Eco-Raft Tour from Lahaina, Maui or similar tour.

Humpback whale breaching in the Maui Nui Basin waters
Humpback whale breaching in the Maui Nui Basin waters

>> Check pricing and availability for the Eye-Level Whale Watching 2 Hour Eco-Raft Tour from Lahaina, Maui!

8. Stop for a Bite at the Food Truck near Honolua Bay

Feeling peckish? If you continue on Honoapiilani Highway past mile marker 33, you will reach Honolua Farms Kitchen and farm stand.

They sell fresh cut tropical fruit, ice creams, coconut water and a bunch of other stuff.

Farm stand selling tropical fruit and ice cream near Honolua Bay, Maui, HI
Farm stand selling tropical fruit and ice cream near Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

We also saw some food trucks along the way the sell sandwiches, burgers and smoothies, great for a quick bite after a morning Honolua Bay snorkel!

Food and drinks were yummy and reasonably priced.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Honolua Bay Surf Report

Planning to snorkel or surf at Honolua Bay?

We found this handy site that provides an updated Honolua Bay surf report, and used it to decide whether to snorkel or surf at Honolua Bay.

Surfers waiting for big waves at sunset in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI
Surfers waiting for big waves at sunset in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

Snorkeling and Water Activities Gear Checklist

Though you can rent snorkeling gear or use the ones that come with tours, we invested in our own gear, mainly due to Covid-19 (why take the risk?).

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Tips for Your Visit to Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

If you’re parking along the highway, make sure you park within the white road border.

Leave nothing in the car. We actually left the car unlocked just to avoid having to deal with broken glass, in case somebody decided to target our car, and see if there was anything valuable hidden in the trunk.

Comfortable footwear, appropriate for the rocky beach, is a must.

Lava rocks, gravel and silt at Honolua Bay Beach
Lava rocks, gravel and silt at Honolua Bay Beach

We needed mosquito repellent and bug spray when we went, especially since we stayed back for the sunset. Reefsafe sunscreen is also required.

Given you have a 15-minute hike to Honolua Bay, be mindful of all the gear, food and snacks you need to carry. Ideally keep the gear to a minimum.

Honolua Bay Access Trail, rainforest jungle trail hike to Honolua Bay, Maui, HI
Honolua Bay Access Trail, rainforest jungle trail hike to Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

Note that you are in a Marine Life Conservation District. Apart from not fishing, that also means you can’t pick up anything, including lava rocks, shells, coral (don’t even dream of breaking coral – they are beautiful living creatures).

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

Ocean Safety Tips

Hawaii’s beaches are beautiful, but ocean activities can be dangerous. Ocean conditions are dynamic and can change without warning.

Here are some tips to enjoy the ocean and beaches safely:

  • ALWAYS heed posted warning signs.
  • Check conditions just before you arrive at your chosen beach, and watch conditions at the beach for a bit before you decide to enter the water.
  • Swim at a lifeguarded beach and ask the lifeguard for advice before you enter the water.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean, whether you are standing at the shore or on a cliff above. If you see wet rocks or sand, it means the water has been here recently.
  • Know your limitations, especially if you are not an experienced swimmer. If in doubt, do not go out.
  • If you choose to enter the water, go with a partner or in a group.
  • Know that alcohol can impair judgment and motor skills in the water.
  • Keep children close and always keep your eyes on what they are doing in the water.
  • Watch for sharp coral or rocks or sea urchins.
  • Check advisories regarding water quality at various beaches here.

Also check out the safety guide put out by Maui County.

>> Book these 5-star rated, highly popular, Maui Tours now!

The Best Maui Tours

Have you booked these top-rated Maui guided adventures yet?

Small-group Road to Hana tour so everyone in your group can sit back and enjoy the views without worrying about negotiating hairpin bends or finding parking at popular stops!

A Haleakala sunrise tour so you can experience the bucket-list sunrise atop the volcano without the need to reserve a parking spot or drive up in the dark!

A Maui whale watching raft tour, which will let you see the massive humpback whales at eye level! (You can also opt for a more sedate boat whale watching tour.) A MUST winter Maui activity!

A Maui snorkeling excursion that combines the Molokini Crater with Turtle Town, the two most epic snorkeling destinations on the island!

A 7-line Maui zipline experience where you can glide over the forests on the north shore of Maui. Enjoy ocean views and navigate obstacle course challenges!

An oceanfront luau in Wailea where you can enjoy a sunset buffet and traditional Polynesian entertainment. You can also opt for a Kaanapali oceanfront luau.

Renting a Car in Maui

The best things to do in Maui are located all over the island.

Public transport options on Maui are minimal to non-existent, so if you want to explore the island beyond your base, you’ll want to book a rental car for your Maui trip.

We always use Discover Cars to book Maui car rentals. They search across a variety of rental car companies, both budget and brand, to offer you the best deals, AND they offer free cancellations. Plus, there are no hidden fees.

>> Check availability and prices on Maui car rentals now!

Where to Stay in Maui

Depending on whether you want a vacation rental with more room and the option to cook some of your meals, or you want a resort or hotel experience, and depending on which part of Maui you want to choose as your base, you have a variety of options.

By far the majority of visitors to Maui choose to base on the west side, where there is a large selection of accommodations available, from resorts and hotels to vacation rentals.

We suggest starting your search for Maui accommodations by browsing vacation rentals on VRBO. You can filter to choose a specific area, such as Kihei, Kapalua, or Wailea.

We have stayed in VRBO rentals in Kihei and Kapalua and find that the choice and quality are generally great.

>> Look for a Maui vacation rental on VRBO now!

Surfers at sunset in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI
Surfers at sunset in Honolua Bay, Maui, HI

More Maui Travel Inspiration

If you are considering a trip to Maui, read some of our other comprehensive guides to craft the ultimate Maui itinerary!

If you are a first-time visitor to Maui, start by reading our article on the best things to do in Maui. From beautiful beaches and lush rainforest to Maui’s volcanic crater, our round-up captures the most iconic Maui experiences and activities.

If you are dreaming of a winter getaway to a tropical paradise, read our guide on why you should visit Maui in winter!

If you are planning a brief first visit to Maui, here’s our 3-day Maui itinerary to help you flesh out your own trip! And if you are considering a couples getaway to Maui, read about the top romantic things to do in Maui!

Driving the Road to Hana is one of Maui’s bucket-list experiences. We have a comprehensive guide to the best stops on the Road to Hana, including waterfalls and short hikes on the way.

One of the top stops on the route is Wai’anapanapa State Park, which requires reservations. Read our full guide to Maui’s black sand beach in this popular state park!

Maui boasts one of only two national parks in Hawaii. Read our round-up of the best things to do in Haleakala National Park. We also have the ultimate guide to sunrise at Haleakala.

We also have a guide to the best hikes in Haleakala National Park, and in-depth hiking guides to the two most epic hikes in the park: the Sliding Sands Trail and the Pipiwai Trail.

Speaking of hiking, also be sure to check out our round-up of the best Maui hikes, from easy to challenging. Plus, peruse our complete guides to hiking the popular Kapalua Coastal Trail in northwest Maui, and the Waihee Ridge Trail for astounding views!

We also have a round-up of the best waterfalls in Maui, from the 400-foot Waimoku Falls to Upper Waikani Falls near Hana. Some Maui waterfalls can be seen from viewpoints whereas others require hiking.

Water activities are plentiful in Maui! Check out our epic guide to whale watching in Maui, and our guide to the best Molokini snorkeling tours and the best Turtle Town snorkeling.

If you’d rather snorkel from shore, read our round-up of the best snorkel spots in West Maui.

Every Maui itinerary should have plenty of beach time: there are so many beautiful beaches in Maui that you are spoiled for choice. We have a round-up of the best beaches in South Maui, plus a detailed guide to Wailea Beach in southwest Maui, and one for Maluaka Beach along the Turtle Town stretch of coast.

We also have articles on the much-visited Kaanapali Beach, the popular Napili Beach and local favorite Keawakapu Beach. Along the northwest side, Honolua Bay is a famous surfing spot, and Ho’okipa Beach, near Paia, is a windsurfing mecca.

If you are looking to experience a different side of Maui, plan a visit to the Iao Valley State Monument. The lush landscapes and serene ambience will wow you! Also read our guide to Maui’s state parks, which include popular Makena State Park, home to Big Beach and Little Beach.

Spend a day exploring Upcountry Maui. Some of the best things to do in Upcountry Maui include touring farms and gardens. Help milk goats, tour a tea farm, go wine tasting and much more.

Did you find this article informative? Pin it on Pinterest and share!

Discover the complete guide to Honolua Bay in Maui, Hawaii. It's a great place to snorkel!

Disclaimer

All information provided on this blog is for informational purposes only and is subject to our terms and conditions of use. It is not a substitute for information or advice from official agencies or qualified professionals.

SV Travel Media LLC makes no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information provided here, and readers should use their own discretion and judgement, and seek advice from professionals where needed.

Your use of the information described in, and your participation in activities presented on our website may carry the risk of illness, bodily injury, disability, death, or property damage. You freely assume all risks and dangers that may occur as a result of your access, use, purchase, or participation in any information, activity, product, or service listed on our website.

Like this article? Share it with your friends!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *