Snorkeling in coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

13 Best Snorkeling In Lahaina & West Maui: 2024 Guide

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Snorkeling in Lahaina and West Maui: Introduction

Snorkeling in Lahaina is a must-do activity if you are visiting Maui, Hawaii!

Lahaina, with its abundant marine life and captivating underwater landscapes, beckons snorkelers from all over the world!

Lahaina’s reputation as one of the top snorkeling destinations in the Hawaiian Islands is well-deserved, thanks to its unparalleled beauty and the unique experiences it offers.

School of yellow tangs in the coral reef while snorkeling in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
School of yellow tangs in the coral reef while snorkeling in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

With its prime location on the western side of Maui, Lahaina is shielded from strong winds, ensuring calm and clear waters for an optimal snorkeling experience.

Snorkelers of all skill levels can delight in exploring Lahaina’s best places for snorkeling, immersing themselves in an underwater realm teeming with life and beauty.

Now, get ready to dive into an underwater adventure like no other as we explore Lahaina’s remarkable snorkeling spots and uncover the secrets of its marine inhabitants.

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!

Snorkeler diving along the brain coral reef near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Snorkeler diving along the brain coral reef near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

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What to watch for while snorkeling in Lahaina?

Lahaina’s marine life is a testament to the wonders that lie beneath the ocean’s surface.

When you dip below the surface, you’ll enter a whole new world! Keep an eye out for stunning coral reef formations, vibrant tropical fish and a dizzying array of marine life.

Dazzling colors of coral reef
Dazzling colors of coral reef

Make your snorkeling a lot more fun by learning what to watch for with our Hawaii fish snorkeling guide!

Tropical Fish

You can see many kinds of tropical fish when you snorkel in Lahaina’s coral reefs. These are fish that live in warm water and have bright colors and patterns. 

Yellow Tang

The Yellow Tang is a vibrant and iconic tropical fish commonly found in the waters around Lahaina. With its bright yellow body and contrasting black markings near its tail, this fish is a true eye-catcher.

A school of yellow tang captured while snorkeling in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
A school of yellow tang captured while snorkeling in Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The Yellow Tang is one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world.

If you’re snorkeling around the Molokini Crater off Maui, keep an eye out for the magnificent Chevron tang. Its vivid orange body and zigzag patterns are sure to leave a lasting impression.

Picasso Triggerfish

The Picasso Triggerfish, with its trigger-like dorsal fin and a protruding mouth, is known for its striking combination of vibrant colors, including shades of blue, yellow, and black.

Picasso Triggerfish at Black Rock, Kaanapali, Maui.
Picasso Triggerfish at Black Rock, Kaanapali, Maui.

Moorish Idol

The Moorish Idol has an elongated dorsal fin, a distinctive snout along with a long, slender body and striking bold vertical stripes of black, white, and yellow.

School of Moorish Idol fish in Hawaii
School of Moorish Idol fish in Hawaii

Parrotfish

Parrotfish are known for their vibrant colors and distinct beak-like mouths, which resemble a parrot’s beak, hence their name. These fish can be found in various color combinations, including shades of blue, green, yellow, and pink.

Parrot fish commonly found in the corals near Lahaina, Maui
Parrot fish commonly found in the corals near Lahaina, Maui

Parrotfish play a crucial role in maintaining the health of coral reefs, as they feed on algae and help keep the ecosystem in balance.

Humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Reef Triggerfish)

This might be a mouthful to pronounce, but the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, also known as the Reef Triggerfish, is the state fish of Hawaii, and its local name means fish with nose like a pig.

The Reef Triggerfish has a blue mustache, a blue-black cap, a gold V on its tail, and features vibrant colors, including shades of blue, yellow, and green.

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Sea Turtles, Dolphins and Whales

Apart from the vibrantly colorful tropical fish, you can also see a dizzing array of other marine life like sea turtles, sharks, rays, dolphins, eels, octopus, and whales. 

Sea Turtles

Snorkeling in Lahaina offers an incredible opportunity to encounter majestic sea turtles up close. These gentle creatures, including the iconic Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle, are frequently seen gliding through the crystal-clear waters.

Hawaiian Green Sea turtle at cleaning station.
Hawaiian Green Sea turtle at cleaning station.

With their large size, fascinating patterns on their shells, and graceful movements, sea turtles captivate snorkelers of all ages.

Dolphins

Lahaina’s waters are home to several dolphin species, including the charismatic Spinner Dolphin and the acrobatic Bottlenose Dolphin. These intelligent marine mammals often delight snorkelers with their playful antics.

Hawaiian spinner dolphin spinning out of the water
Hawaiian spinner dolphin spinning out of the water

Spotting a pod of dolphins, leaping out of the water or riding the bow waves of boats, is an unforgettable sight. Snorkelers may even have the chance to swim with dolphins, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Whales

During the winter months, Lahaina becomes a prime location for whale watching and snorkeling alongside these gentle giants. The warm Hawaiian waters attract humpback whales as they migrate from colder regions.

60,000 pounds of humpback whale propelled out of the water surface into the air during a spectacular whale breach in Maui
60,000 pounds of humpback whale propelled out of the water surface into the air during a spectacular whale breach in Maui

Snorkelers may witness the amazing sight of giant humpback whales breaching, tail-slapping, or engaging in social behaviors. The melodic songs of the male humpbacks can also be heard underwater.

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Where to snorkel in Lahaina and West Maui?

Lahaina has so many amazing snorkeling options that it is no wonder Lahaina is one of the world’s top snorkeling destinations!

For beginners and families, I would strongly recommend Kapalua Bay as the best spot for snorkeling near Lahaina and in West Maui, with Napili Bay and Airport Beach as alternatives. Honolua Bay is also popular, but doesn’t have a regular sandy beach.

Enjoying snorkeling in the calm, warm waters near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Enjoying snorkeling in the calm, warm waters near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

With smaller kids, Baby Beach is a popular option with its shallow calm waters creating a natural wading pool perfect for young children to safely explore and snorkel.

For more adventurous snorkelers, Honolua Bay is the most popular choice.

If you are looking for a more secluded spot for snorkeling, then Slaughterhouse Beach is a popular choice. For more advanced snorkelers, Ahihi-Kinau may be a better option.

If you don’t mind spending a bit, then the snorkeling boat tours to Molokini Crater and Lanai Island (Pineapple Island) are a far better experience.

13 Best Places for Snorkeling in Lahaina (From the shore)

The 13 best places for snorkeling in Lahaina (from the shore) are: 1) Honolua Bay, 2) Kapalua Bay, 3) Slaughterhouse Beach (Mokuleia Bay), 4) Olowalu Beach, 5) Black Rock, 6) Airport Beach (Kahekili Beach Park), 7) Napili Bay, 8) Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach), 9) Coral Gardens, 10) Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve Area, 11) Ulua Beach, 12) Palauea Beach (White Rock), and 13) Baby Beach.

Map of the Best Places for Snorkeling in Lahaina and West Maui

The below map gives the locations of the various spots described in this blog post.

Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay is one of the best places for snorkeling in Lahaina. It is a beautiful bay that is protected as a marine conservation area and offers many kinds of fish, turtles, coral, and sometimes dolphins and whales.

Handwritten sign hanging in Honolua Bay along the Honoapiilani Highway near Lahaina in the west of Maui island - Famous snorkeling spot
Handwritten sign hanging in Honolua Bay along the Honoapiilani Highway near Lahaina in the west of Maui island – Famous snorkeling spot

Honolua Bay is located on the northwestern end of Maui, about 20 minutes drive from Lahaina along Highway 30 north (8 miles). You can also take a boat tour to Honolua Bay from Lahaina Harbor, which will give you a different view of the bay and the island of Molokai.

Popular snorkeling spot: Honolua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Popular snorkeling spot: Honolua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

While there is no dedicated parking lot, you can park along the road near the bay’s entrance.

You’ll find portable toilets near the parking area.

To get to Honolua Bay, you have to hike a short 5-minute trail through a lush tropical rain forest.

The bay doesn’t have much of a beach, mostly rocks and boulders. You should use some kind of foot protection, bare feet are not advisable!

Rocks and boulders along Honolua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Rocks and boulders along Honolua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The best snorkeling spot in Honolua Bay is on the right side of the bay, where there is more coral and fish. You have to swim a little bit to get there, but it is worth it.

You will see many colorful tropical fish, such as butterflyfish, parrotfish, tangs, wrasses, and triggerfish. You can also see turtles, eels, octopus, and sometimes dolphins or whales.

Convict tangs in a coral reef near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Convict tangs in a coral reef near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Snorkeling in Honolua Bay is good for all levels of snorkelers, but you should be comfortable in the water and know how to use your snorkel gear properly. Use a floatation device if you are not comfortable swimming up to the reef.

Honolua Bay: Famous snorkeling spot near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Honolua Bay: Famous snorkeling spot near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Honolua Bay is one of my favorite places to snorkel in Lahaina, because it has so much to offer. I hope you enjoy it too!

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Kapalua Bay

Looking for a family-friendly snorkeling destination near Lahaina? Look no further than Kapalua Bay, one of the best places to snorkel in the area that is sure to delight snorkelers of all ages.

Early morning snorkeling at Kapalua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Early morning snorkeling at Kapalua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Kapalua Bay is located on the northwestern side of Maui, about 15 minutes drive from Lahaina.

To reach Kapalua Bay from Lahaina, take Highway 30 northwest for approximately 9 miles. Look for signs indicating the entrance to Kapalua Resort, and follow them until you reach the bay. There is ample parking available near the beach, although it can get busy during peak hours.

Kapalua Bay is a crescent-shaped bay that boasts calm, clear waters and a soft sandy beach. The bay is sheltered by two lava rock outcroppings, which create a natural barrier against strong currents, making it an excellent spot for snorkeling.

Kapalua Bay at sunset. a prime snorkeling spot near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Kapalua Bay at sunset. a prime snorkeling spot near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Kapalua Bay is an ideal location for families and those who prefer to snorkel closer to the beach due to its abundance of marine life in relatively shallow waters. Snorkelers can easily observe colorful fish and fascinating coral formations without venturing too far from the shore.

Once you enter the water at Kapalua Bay, prepare to be amazed by the colorful coral reefs and abundant marine life. Swim along the rocky outcroppings to discover a diverse array of tropical fish, such as butterflyfish, tangs, and damselfish.

School of tropical butterfly fish eating on coral reef
School of tropical butterfly fish eating on coral reef

Keep an eye out for the occasional green sea turtle, which is a common sight in these waters.

The best areas to snorkel in Kapalua Bay are near the rocky points at either end of the beach. These areas are rich in coral formations and attract a wide variety of marine species.

You’ll find restroom facilities conveniently located near the parking.

Mokuleia Bay (Slaughterhouse Beach)

Tucked away on Maui’s northwest coast, Makuleia Bay (Slaughterhouse Beach) is a secluded bay that is located about 10 miles north of Lahaina. The bay boasts calm waters and a serene atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling enthusiasts.

Slaughthouse Beach near Lahaina, in the west of Maui island in Hawaii, United States
Slaughthouse Beach near Lahaina, in the west of Maui island in Hawaii, United States

To access Mokuleia Bay, follow Highway 30 north from Lahaina and look for the sign indicating the turnoff to “Slaughterhouse Beach.” From there, you’ll take a short hike down to the bay.

When it comes to parking, you’ll find a small gravel lot near the trailhead. While the parking area is limited, it tends to be less crowded compared to other popular snorkeling spots.

Snorkeling at Slaughterhouse Beach near Lahaina, Mokuleia Bay, Maui, Hawaii
Snorkeling at Slaughterhouse Beach near Lahaina, Mokuleia Bay, Maui, Hawaii

While Mokuleia Bay is a more secluded location, it doesn’t offer many amenities.

Mokuleia Bay is suitable for snorkelers of various levels, from beginners to more experienced individuals. The bay’s calm waters and relatively shallow reef make it an excellent spot for families with children.

The bay is home to an array of tropical fish species, such as butterflyfish, surgeonfish, and tangs. Snorkelers can also encounter fascinating sea creatures like eels, crustaceans, and even the occasional manta rays.

Manta ray in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Manta ray in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The best areas to snorkel in Mokuleia Bay are along the rocky points and the outer edges of the bay. These spots tend to have a higher concentration of coral formations and marine life.

I like Mokuleia Bay since it tends to be less crowded compared to other popular snorkeling spots.

Olowalu Beach

Olowalu Beach is known for its vibrant coral reefs and abundant marine life, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling.

Sunset reflection on Olowalu Beach, Olowalu Village, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Sunset reflection on Olowalu Beach, Olowalu Village, Maui, Hawaii, USA

To reach Olowalu Beach from Lahaina, head south on Highway 30 (8 miles) and look for the signs indicating the beach access. Once you arrive, you’ll find a small parking area along the highway.

There are portable restrooms available near the parking area.

Olowalu Beach is suitable for snorkelers of various levels, from beginners to experienced individuals. The calm and shallow waters near the shore make it a great spot for families with children.

As you dive into the waters of Olowalu Beach, be prepared to encounter an abundance of marine wonders. The coral reefs here are teeming with colorful tropical fish, such as parrotfish, triggerfish, and angelfish.

School of bluestripe snapper in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
School of bluestripe snapper in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Keep an eye out for graceful sea turtles, which are frequently spotted in this area. The best areas to snorkel are near the coral formations close to the shore, where you’ll find the highest concentration of marine life.

Olowalu Beach has an array of coral species, including brain coral, staghorn coral, and table coral. The presence of such healthy coral formations contributes to the overall beauty and richness of the marine ecosystem.

Black Rock

Located at the northern end of Ka’anapali Beach, Black Rock is a renowned snorkeling spot offers an abundance of marine life and stunning coral reefs.

Black Rock at Ka'anapali Beach near Lahaina on Maui, Hawaii
Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach near Lahaina on Maui, Hawaii

To access Black Rock, head north on Ka’anapali Parkway (5 miles) and follow the signs leading to the beach. Once you arrive, you’ll find ample parking available in the parking lots located near the beach.

There are restrooms and outdoor showers available.

Snorkeling at Black Rock is suitable for snorkelers of all levels, from beginners to experienced individuals. The calm and shallow waters near the shore make it a family-friendly spot.

Blackside hawkfish sitting on top of a coral head near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Blackside hawkfish sitting on top of a coral head near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The reef surrounding Black Rock is easily accessible, making it an excellent choice for those looking to observe marine life without venturing too far from the shore.

The coral reefs are home to vibrant fish, including butterflyfish, wrasses, and damselfish. Keep an eye out for sea turtles gliding gracefully through the water, as they are commonly spotted in this area.

The best areas to snorkel are around the base of Black Rock, where the coral formations are most plentiful and diverse.

Diving off Black Rock on Ka'anapali Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Diving off Black Rock on Ka’anapali Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Black Rock is home to the daily cliff diving ceremony that takes place at sunset. Experienced cliff divers perform traditional Hawaiian rituals, adding a touch of cultural significance to the snorkeling experience.

Kahekili Beach Park (Airport Beach)

Kahekili Beach Park is renowned for its golden sand, swaying palm trees, and the inviting turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Airport Beach near Lahaina on Ka'anapali Beach in Maui, Hawaii
Airport Beach near Lahaina on Ka’anapali Beach in Maui, Hawaii

To reach Kahekili Beach Park from Lahaina, head north on Highway 30 (2 miles) and follow the signs leading to the beach park. Once you arrive, you’ll find a designated parking area available for visitors.

There are restrooms and outdoor showers available.

The calm and shallow waters near the shore make it family-friendly, perfect for families with children who want to explore the underwater world together. The gentle slope of the ocean floor allows for easy access to the coral reefs.

The coral reefs are teeming with colorful tropical fish, such as butterflyfish, surgeonfish, and tangs. The best areas to snorkel are near the rock formations that dot the ocean floor, as they attract a multitude of marine species.

Achilles tang in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Achilles tang in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Napili Bay

Napili Bay is a beautiful, crescent-shaped sandy beach with crystal-clear turquoise waters.

To reach Napili Bay from Lahaina, head north on Highway 30 (9 miles) and turn left onto Napilihau Street. Follow the road until you reach Napili Bay Beach, where you’ll find limited parking available along the street.

Restrooms and outdoor showers are available near the beach.

The calm and relatively shallow waters near the shore create a safe environment for beginners and children. The gentle sloping ocean floor makes it easy to access the coral reefs without venturing too far from the beach.

The coral reefs are teeming with colorful tropical fish, such as angelfish, parrotfish, and tangs. The best areas to snorkel are along the edges of the bay, where the coral formations are most abundant and diverse.

A parrotfish patrols a coral reef near Lahaina on Maui, Hawaii
A parrotfish patrols a coral reef near Lahaina on Maui, Hawaii

Napili Bay sunsets from the beach are breathtaking. After your snorkeling adventure, find a spot on the sand and marvel at the vibrant colors illuminating the sky as the sun dips below the horizon.

Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach)

Turtle Town, part of Maluaka Beach, is a renowned snorkeling spot known for its abundant population of Hawaiian green sea turtles.

It’s approximately a 15-20 minute drive from Lahaina to reach this incredible destination.

The underwater landscape is adorned with colorful corals and swaying sea fans, providing a picturesque backdrop for your snorkeling adventure. But the real highlight of this location is the presence of Hawaiian green sea turtles, which are commonly spotted here.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, an endangered species
Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, an endangered species

To get to Turtle Town, you can park your vehicle in the designated parking areas near the snorkeling spots. While there may not be dedicated parking lots, you can typically find parking along the roadside or in nearby public parking areas.

The calm and relatively shallow waters make it an excellent choice for those who are new to snorkeling or prefer a more relaxed experience. Families with children can enjoy observing the friendly sea turtles and exploring the surrounding marine life together.

Apart from the captivating sea turtles, you may encounter colorful tropical fish, such as butterflyfish, angelfish, and surgeonfish. Keep an eye out for moray eels peeking out from their coral hideaways, as well as an occasional sighting of spotted eagle rays gracefully gliding through the water.

Angelfish in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Angelfish in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

To make the most of your snorkeling experience at Turtle Town, it’s recommended to explore the rocky areas along the coastline. These rocky outcrops provide shelter for the turtles and attract a diverse range of marine life.

Coral Gardens

Coral Gardens is a stretch of golden sand and inviting turquoise waters located approximately 6 miles south of Lahaina.

To reach Coral Gardens from Lahaina, head south on Highway 30 and turn left onto Honoapiilani Highway. Continue along the highway until you reach the designated parking area for Coral Gardens, which is conveniently located near the beach.

School of yellow tangs in the crystal clear waters near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
School of yellow tangs in the crystal clear waters near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Restrooms and showers are available nearby.

The calm and relatively shallow waters near the shore make it an ideal spot for those who are new to snorkeling. The underwater landscape at Coral Gardens is teeming with marine life, offering an educational and entertaining experience for families with children.

The coral reefs are brimming with colorful tropical fish, such as butterflyfish, tangs, and wrasses. The best areas to snorkel are near the coral formations, where the marine life thrives.

Raccoon butterfly fish in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Raccoon butterfly fish in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve

Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve, located along the southwestern coast of Maui, is a protected reserve that offers an untouched marine ecosystem and breathtaking snorkeling opportunities.

Secluded snorkeling at the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Secluded snorkeling at the Ahihi-Kinau Natural Reserve near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve is located approximately 30 minutes from Lahaina. The reserve boasts an exceptional coral reef system, with vibrant coral formations and an abundance of marine life.

Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve is a remote location with limited facilities. Additionally, parking is available at designated areas along the roadside, but spaces may be limited.

Snorkeling at Ahihi-Kinau is suitable for intermediate to advanced snorkelers due to its unique underwater terrain and sometimes unpredictable conditions. The reserve is known for its rocky coastline and rugged lava formations, which require extra care and caution while exploring.

The coral reefs are teeming with colorful fish, such as parrotfish, butterflyfish, and tangs.

Beautiful Moorish Idol fish in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Beautiful Moorish Idol fish in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Explore the areas with healthy coral formations and thriving marine life. The rocky outcrops and underwater ledges serve as shelters for various species, creating ideal snorkeling spots.

Ulua Beach

Ulua Beach, situated along the sunny shores of South Maui, boasts a beautiful crescent-shaped bay with soft golden sand, gently swaying palm trees, and panoramic views of the azure ocean.

Sunset on Ulua Beach near Lahaina, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii, USA
Sunset on Ulua Beach near Lahaina, Wailea, Maui, Hawaii, USA

It’s approximately a 20-minute drive from Lahaina town, with a designated parking lot available nearby. The beach also offers convenient amenities such as restrooms and showers.

Snorkelers can expect to encounter an abundance of tropical fish species, including vibrant angelfish, butterflyfish, and triggerfish. Keep your eyes peeled for the fascinating octopuses and curious sea turtles that often grace the area with their presence.

Wrasse at a cleaning station in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Wrasse at a cleaning station in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The calm and clear waters near the shoreline provide a comfortable and safe environment for exploration. Children can delight in the abundance of colorful fish and fascinating marine life.

When snorkeling at Ulua Beach, the best areas to explore are the rocky outcrops and coral formations along the fringes of the bay. These areas are teeming with marine life and offer excellent opportunities for up-close encounters.

Palauea Beach (White Rock)

Palauea Beach, also known as White Rock, is a stretch of golden sand with breathtaking views of the turquoise waters.

Palauea Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawai, offers excellent snorkeling
Palauea Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawai, offers excellent snorkeling

To get to Palauea Beach, you can follow Makena Road (also known as Wailea Alanui Drive) roughly 8 miles south from Lahaina. Look for the sign indicating the beach access, and park in the designated parking area.

You will encounter an abundance of colorful tropical fish, including parrotfish, tangs, and butterflyfish. The coral formations are stunning, providing a picturesque backdrop for your underwater exploration.

Snorkeling at Palauea Beach is suitable for beginners and families. The water conditions are generally calm and clear, providing excellent visibility for observing the underwater wonders.

Keep an eye out for Hawaiian green sea turtles, as they are frequent visitors to the area. In addition to turtles, you may also come across various species of reef fish, such as surgeonfish, damselfish, and wrasses.

Green sea turtle being cleaned by yellow tangs in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Green sea turtle being cleaned by yellow tangs in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The best areas to snorkel at Palauea Beach are around the rocky outcrops and coral formations, where the marine life tends to be most concentrated.

Baby Beach (Pu’unoa Beach)

Baby Beach is a protected cove with calm and shallow waters, making it ideal for children to safely explore and enjoy snorkeling. The beach is named Baby Beach because of its gentle waves and shallow entry, providing a comfortable and secure environment for young snorkelers.

Baby Beach, near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, a perfect snorkeling destination for families with small kids
Baby Beach, near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, a perfect snorkeling destination for families with small kids

To get to Baby Beach, you can drive north on Honoapiilani Highway (Highway 30) from Lahaina (3 miles). Look for the sign indicating the entrance to Baby Beach on your right-hand side.

There is a small parking area available, but it can get crowded during peak times, so arriving early is recommended. Restrooms and showers are not available directly at the beach.

Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on Baby Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Hawaiian green sea turtle resting on Baby Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

While the coral reefs at Baby Beach are not as extensive as some other snorkeling spots, there are still plenty of colorful fish and marine life to observe. Keep an eye out for reef fish such as tangs, butterflyfish, and triggerfish.

The best areas to snorkel at Baby Beach are near the rocky outcrops on either side of the cove. These areas often have more fish activity and are great for children to observe and learn about the marine ecosystem.

Yellow tangs in coral reef waters near Lahaina, Maui
Yellow tangs in coral reef waters near Lahaina, Maui

Safety is paramount when snorkeling, especially with small kids. Make sure everyone wears properly fitting snorkel masks and fins. Keep a close eye on children at all times and ensure they are comfortable in the water.

It’s also a good idea to have life jackets available for added safety, especially for younger children who may not be strong swimmers.

Beautiful Baby Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, a sheltered snorkeling destination for kids and beginners
Beautiful Baby Beach near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii, a sheltered snorkeling destination for kids and beginners

Baby Beach is a wonderful snorkeling destination for families with small kids, providing a safe and enjoyable introduction to the underwater world.

Boat Tours From Lahaina

The experience from a boat tour is different from snorkeling on your own near the shore in several ways.

A boat tour can take you to different snorkeling spots that you might not be able to reach by yourself, such as other islands or remote locations. You can see more variety and diversity of marine life and coral in different places.

Molokini Crater and Lanai island (Pineapple Island) are beautiful snorkeling locations off Maui’s coast reachable only by boat.

Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater, located off the coast of Maui, is a volcanic crater that offers exceptional snorkeling opportunities. The crater is home to an abundance of marine life and features excellent visibility, making it a favorite spot for experienced snorkelers.

One of the best snorkeling places in Hawaii, Molokini Crater, reachable by boat tours from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
One of the best snorkeling places in Hawaii, Molokini Crater, reachable by boat tours from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

The water here can be deep, and currents can be strong, so it’s important to be confident in your swimming abilities.

Check pricing and availability on this popular Molokini snorkeling tour now!

Lanai Island (Pineapple Island)

Lanai Island, often referred to as the “Pineapple Island,” is a picturesque and secluded paradise located in the Hawaiian archipelago.

Lanai’s snorkeling spots are teeming with colorful coral reefs, tropical fish, and even the chance to encounter sea turtles, dolphins, and other fascinating marine life. The waters around Lanai are renowned for their clarity, allowing for excellent visibility to explore the underwater world.

Check pricing and availability on this popular (less crowded) snorkeling tour to Lanai Island now!

Snorkeling boat tour from Lahaina to a secluded cove north of Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.
Snorkeling boat tour from Lahaina to a secluded cove north of Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.

A boat tour usually has a marine naturalist guide who can teach you about the marine life and coral you see, as well as the history and culture of the places you visit.

A boat tour can make your snorkeling more fun and enjoyable by providing you with food, drinks, music, and entertainment.

Some boats have glass bottoms providing a window seat to family members who don’t want snorkel or scuba dive!

Finally, consider the opportunity to club a snorkeling boat tour with whale watching, swimming with dolphins or island tours.

Snorkeling boat tours near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Snorkeling boat tours near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Best Snorkeling Boat Tours near Lahaina

Apart from Lahaina, you have many boat tour options that depart from Maalaea, Wailuku, and Kihei.

If you are limited to boat tours from Lahaina, I highly recommend the Trilogy excursions.

Trilogy Excursions

Trilogy offers a popular snorkeling tour to Molokini Crater aboard their spacious catamarans. They provide high-quality equipment, knowledgeable guides, and a delicious breakfast and lunch.

They also offer a “Discover Molokini” tour for beginners and a “Sail Trilogy to Molokini” tour for experienced snorkelers.

Snorkeling the coral reefs of Molokini Crater near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.
Snorkeling the coral reefs of Molokini Crater near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

Trilogy offers a full-day snorkeling tour that combines Molokini Crater with a visit to Lanai’s stunning coastline. This tour provides a comprehensive island-hopping adventure.

Pacific Whale Foundation

Known for their commitment to marine conservation, the Pacific Whale Foundation offers eco-friendly boat tours to Molokini Crater. Their tours include expert naturalists, educational presentations, snorkeling gear, and a continental breakfast.

Snorkeling boat tours at Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii: Top snorkeling destination in Hawaii
Snorkeling boat tours at Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii: Top snorkeling destination in Hawaii
Redline Rafting

If you prefer a more adventurous and intimate experience, Redline Rafting offers small-group tours to Molokini Crater on high-speed rafts. With fewer passengers, you’ll have more personalized attention from the crew and enjoy a thrilling ride.

Sea life of Molokini Crater near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.
Sea life of Molokini Crater near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.

They provide top-notch snorkeling gear, a continental breakfast, and the opportunity to explore multiple snorkeling spots.

Pride of Maui

Pride of Maui offers a variety of snorkeling tours to Molokini Crater that includes quality snorkeling gear, expert guides, and a delicious barbecue lunch. Their spacious catamaran features multiple decks, a waterslide, and onboard amenities for your comfort.

Best Time to Snorkel In Lahaina and West Maui

When it comes to snorkeling in Lahaina, timing is everything.

Best Time of the Year to Snorkel in Lahaina

While Lahaina offers great snorkeling conditions throughout the year, the best time to snorkel in Lahaina is during the summer months for warm water and optimal visibility, and the winter months to see the majestic humpback whales.

Lahaina Snorkeling in Summer

During the summer months, from May to September, the water is warmest and calmest, and you can snorkel comfortably and easily.

Water visibility can be up to 100 feet (30 meters). You can also see more fish and other marine life because they like the warm water too.

Lahaina snorkeling in summer: abundant tropical fish and excellent visibility
Lahaina snorkeling in summer: abundant tropical fish and excellent visibility

If you want to snorkel with sea turtles, the summer months are better since they often frequent the coastal areas.

Sea turtle navigating coral reef
Sea turtle navigating coral reef

Some of the best spots for snorkeling in Lahaina in the summer are Honolua Bay, Kapalua Bay, and Napili Bay.

Lahaina Snorkeling in Winter

During the winter months, from November to April, the water may be slightly cooler and rougher, but this is when Lahaina becomes a hot spot for whale watching.

Humpback whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters during this time, and you might be lucky enough to see them as you snorkel. You can hear their melodic songs underwater or catch a glimpse of a playful breach in the distance—it’s a truly magical experience!

Breaching humpback whale
Breaching humpback whale

Some of the best places for snorkeling in Lahaina in the winter are Mala Wharf, Black Rock, and Olowalu.

Best time of the day to snorkel in Lahaina

I find that early mornings are an ideal time to snorkel in Lahaina. The water is usually calm and clear, and you can snorkel smoothly and see well underwater.

Also, you can beat the crowds that tend to arrive later in the day.

Early morning clear underwater visibility when snorkeling near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Early morning clear underwater visibility when snorkeling near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Additionally, the morning light adds a special touch to the underwater scenery, casting a warm glow and illuminating the vibrant colors of the marine life.

Snorkeling Equipment

Snorkeling equipment is pretty basic and relatively inexpensive.

You need a snugly fitting mask to see underwater. You can use anti-fog spray or baby shampoo to prevent the mask from fogging up.

You need a snorkel, a tube that connects to your mouth and sticks out of the water and lets you breathe underwater. It should have a mouthpiece that fits your mouth and a valve that prevents water from entering the tube.

You can also use a snorkel keeper to attach the snorkel to your mask.

I recommend investing in a high-quality mask and snorkel. A well-fitted mask with a comfortable seal and a snorkel that allows for easy breathing can make a world of difference in your snorkeling experience.

Mask, snorkel and fins
Mask, snorkel and fins

It’s worth spending a little extra to ensure you have reliable equipment that won’t leak or fog up.

You may want to use fins on your feet to move faster and easier underwater. They should fit your feet well and not be too loose or too tight. You can choose between full-foot fins or open-heel fins with straps.

You can also use fin socks or booties to protect your feet from blisters or cuts.

A flotation device like a life jacket, a snorkel vest, a noodle, or a boogie board is useful.

A rash guard, a shirt or a suit that is made of stretchy fabric that dries quickly, can keep you warm in cooler water and protect you from the sun, the wind and the coral.

An underwater, waterproof camera is wonderful to capture the memories!

Snorkeling Equipment Rentals

You can rent snorkeling equipment in Lahaina from many places that cater to snorkelers including the ones below:

  • Boss Frog’s Rentals Hawaii: You can rent snorkel gear, body boards, surf boards, stand up paddle boards, bikes, beach chairs, coolers, umbrellas, and golf clubs. They have 24 hour snorkel gear return available at their Lahaina store.
  • The Snorkel Store: You can rent snorkel gear, boogie boards, flotation devices, surfboards and golf clubs. They also offer bundle deals and coupons for their rentals.
  • Auntie Snorkel: You can rent snorkel gear, beach chairs, umbrellas, coolers, boogie boards, stand up paddle boards, surfboards, kayaks, bikes, and scooters. They also offer 50% off for online reservations and free delivery for some rentals.

Prices depend on the duration of your rental and the specific equipment you choose. Most rental shops offer daily or weekly rates.

Beautiful waters of Molokini Crater while on snorkeling boat tour from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Beautiful waters of Molokini Crater while on snorkeling boat tour from Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

If you plan to snorkel multiple times during your stay in Lahaina, consider renting equipment for the duration of your trip rather than on a daily basis. Apart from being cheaper, having your gear on hand means you can be spontaneous and snorkel whenever the mood strikes!

Taking care of the equipment is crucial. Rinse your gear thoroughly with fresh water after each use to remove salt and sand. Avoid leaving it in direct sunlight for extended periods, as this can cause damage.

Don’t forget to return the equipment on time!

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?).

Safety Tips for Lahaina Snorkeling

Snorkeling in Lahaina is a lot of fun, but you also need to be safe and responsible. Here are some tips to help you have a great snorkeling experience:

Check the weather and the ocean conditions: Before you go snorkeling, you should check the weather forecast and the ocean conditions, such as the wind, the waves, the currents, and the visibility.

Beautiful, crescent-shaped Kapalua Bay, Maui, Hawaii, is one of the best family-friendly snorkeling spots near Lahaina
Beautiful, crescent-shaped Kapalua Bay, Maui, Hawaii, is one of the best family-friendly snorkeling spots near Lahaina

You should look for calm and clear water with good visibility, because these can make your snorkeling easier and more enjoyable.

Choose a suitable snorkeling spot: Select snorkeling spots that are suitable for your skill level. For beginners, calm and sheltered areas like Kapalua Bay or Napili Bay are great options. If you’re more experienced, Honolua Bay offers a thrilling snorkeling experience with its diverse marine life.

Snorkelers in Honolua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Snorkelers in Honolua Bay near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

You should follow some basic rules and tips for snorkeling to protect yourself and the marine life. Some of them are:

  • Buddy Up: Snorkeling with a buddy is highly recommended. Having a companion provides an extra layer of safety and allows you to look out for each other. It’s more fun to share the experience, and if any issues arise, you can assist one another.
  • Stay Hydrated: Snorkeling can be physically demanding, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated. Bring a reusable water bottle and drink plenty of fluids before and after your snorkeling session.
  • Wear reef-safe sunscreen: You should wear sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun, which can be very strong in Hawaii. You should apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you go into the water and reapply it every 2 hours.
Blackside Hawkfish in Honolua Bay, top snorkeling spot near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.
Blackside Hawkfish in Honolua Bay, top snorkeling spot near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.
  • Do not touch or feed the animals or coral: Observe marine life from a safe and respectful distance. Avoid touching, chasing, or feeding any marine creatures you encounter.
  • Be aware of your surroundings: You should look up occasionally to see where you are in relation to the shore or the boat. You should also listen for any sounds that might indicate danger, such as waves crashing or boats approaching. You should also avoid swimming near rocks, piers, boats, buoys, or fishing lines.

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.

Exploring the Underwater Paradise: Snorkeling in Lahaina

Lahaina offers an array of fantastic snorkeling opportunities that cater to snorkelers of all levels and preferences. The crystal-clear waters, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life make Lahaina a haven for snorkeling enthusiasts.

Vibrant marine life in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Vibrant marine life in the coral reefs near Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

Snorkeling in Lahaina offers a gateway to a world of breathtaking beauty and natural wonders. Whether you’re gliding through coral gardens or swimming alongside colorful fish, the memories you create in the pristine waters of Lahaina will stay with you long after you’ve returned to shore.

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!

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.

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Discover the best places to go snorkeling in Lahaina and West Maui. Plus, the best tours and tips for a great experience!

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