Maui Snorkeling Secrets - Secret #1
You can reach the best snorkel spots in Maui right from shore!
If you Google the search term "Snorkeling in Maui," the overwhelming number of listings will link to companies that sell snorkel trips. If you pick up a free magazine at the Kahului airport you'll see tons of ads for these same companies. If you walk into a Maui snorkel rental shop, one of the first things they'll do is try to book you on a cruise.
It's no surprise people get the idea that if you want to snorkel in Maui, you need to hop on a boat. Fortunately, it's just not true. With the exception of Molokini, you can reach the best snorkel spots in Maui right from shore. Which means you can go where and when you want without even opening your wallet. You can also avoid the crowds of snorkelers all clamoring to see the sights—and sometimes you may even have a great spot all to yourself.
That's not to say you shouldn't take a snorkel cruise. They're actually a lot of fun and we've been out with several great companies. They provide everything you need (often even a meal) and seeing the island from the water is a special treat. But if you're on a budget and you still want to experience some fantastic snorkeling, you can do it right from shore and it comes at a great price—FREE! What's not to like about that?
Just get yourself a good snorkeling guidebook—we recommend ours! :) Mask, Fins, & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling —will guide you to Maui's best snorkeling beaches and provide you with detailed maps showing you where to park, where to find nearby amenities, and what part of the beach to snorkel for optimal conditions and underwater sights. Pick up a copy before your trip. You'll have a fun read for your flight and be ready to hit the beach when you arrive! "Happy Snorkeling," we know you'll love it!
Maui's Best Snorkeling Beaches
If you enjoy snorkeling, Maui is a fantastic place to vacation. With an abundance of beautiful beaches you'd be hard pressed to run out of potential snorkeling adventures. And while it's easy to think every beach in Maui offers great snorkeling, in reality some beaches are much better than others. Reef health, fish counts, and water clarity can make the difference between a good snorkel spot and a great snorkeling spot. The key to snorkeling in Maui is not only knowing where to go, but "where to go" once you get there.
Our snorkeling guidebook provides full descriptions and candid advice for all of Maui's best spots. Each location has detailed snorkel maps to guide you to the best snorkeling at each beach. Take a Look Inside for a preview.
Below are a few of our favorite snorkeling spots in West Maui and South Maui. Consult the Maui Snorkel Maps for their locations.
Best Spots to Snorkel in South Maui
Keawakapu Beach - Half-mile of sand with great snorkeling at each end
Ulua Beach - Nice reef that's popular with kids and beginners
Five Caves - Five Graves - Cool underwater caverns and arches
Maluaka Beach - Beautiful beach and an endless reef
Ahihi Bay - Big fish abound at this south coast marine preserve
Best Spots to Snorkel in West Maui
Honolua Bay - A marine preserve with lots of sea creatures
Kapalua Bay - Voted one of Maui's most beautiful beaches
Kahekili Beach - Great snorkeling with a full day of fun at the beach
Olowalu - MM14 - Great place to kayak-snorkel
Coral Gardens - For the adventure seeker with strong swimming skills
Spectacular Sunsets at Maui's Snorkeling Beaches
Not only are some of Maui’s best snorkeling spots found right off its sandy shoreline, but those same beaches offer beautiful evening sunsets. So after a fantastic day of snorkeling, one of our favorite ways to spend an evening is back at the beach watching the sun go down. Fortunately, both West and South Maui beaches face west, providing prime sunset viewing. And surprisingly, some of the best snorkeling beaches in Maui can be nearly deserted at sunset. So if you enjoy those quiet moments of solitude as the sun slips below the horizon, you may indeed have a popular day-time beach all to yourself.
Sunset Tips for Maui: After viewing many sunsets in Maui, it’s true some are more memorable than others. Often the key to a spectacular sunset are clouds. Clouds add visual interest as they catch the light of the setting sun and reflect a variety of ever-changing colors. In particular, wispy Cirrus and Altocumulus clouds create gorgeous sunsets, so keep an eye out for those high feathery clouds in the late afternoon and evening hours. They're your clue that an "evening stunner" may be in the works!
If you enjoy taking pictures, making a few adjustments to your camera’s settings can vastly improve your sunset pictures. If you’re able to set your camera’s white balance, try changing it from auto to “clouds” or “shade” and you’ll capture the sunset’s colors more accurately. Adjusting your exposure to darker or lighter can also improve your chances of capturing an image that looks much closer to the beautiful sunset before you! Also, take a look around for interesting foreground elements—a leaning palm or a stately Monkeypod tree can make great silhouettes against a colorful sky. When you take your shot, remember to keep your horizon line level and lower than normal to let the sky take center stage.
And finally, don’t run off as soon as the sun has set. Many think the show is over once the sun drops below the horizon. But if you’re patient and stay awhile you may be treated to an encore performance more dazzling than the first! These “second acts” during twilight are aptly named “afterglow” and are not uncommon in the Hawaiian Islands. The shot above was taken about a half hour after the sunset shown in the first picture. We call it, “Makena Afterglow.”
For more information on the best snorkeling spots in Maui and where to snorkel once you get there, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui’s Best Snorkeling. Happy Snorkeling!
Snorkeling in Maui — Tips to See More Fish
Every snorkeler we've met in Maui enjoys seeing fish and they all share the desire to see even more. Here's another tip to better your chances and advance your snorkeling skills.
Keep your Hands at your Sides: If you want to see more fish while snorkeling in Maui, your best bet is to do all you can to avoid scaring them off. Splashing through an area like an Olympic swimmer just isn’t the way to do it. Fight the natural swimming impulse to pull yourself through the water with your arms, and instead keep your hands at your sides. Just a few gentle kicks of your fins and you'll find yourself slowly propelled through the water. It’s a trick scuba divers learn in training and it works well to keep from chasing-off the creatures you’re out to see. Try it for a while and you’ll soon realize you have all the power you need right at your feet!
For more Maui snorkeling tips, check back often or pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Snorkeling by Kayak in Maui
If you’re up for an adventure and can handle a little exercise, a great way to snorkel some of Maui’s best spots is from a kayak. It’s a blast and an experience you’re unlikely to forget. Whether you go on your own or with a local kayaking outfit, you’re able cover a lot of ground and hit the water before most people are even on the beach. If kayaking the waters of Maui sounds like something you’d like to try, you have two options:
Guided Kayak Snorkel Tours: These outfitters provide everything you need, often throw in lunch, and do a good job leading their tours to some of the best spots. They charge around $70 a person for a half-day outing and operate frequently out of Makena Landing in South Maui and Olowalu in West Maui. While we’ve never been customers, we’ve encountered them often and have been impressed with many of their guides. Most are knowledgeable, friendly, and intent on providing you with a great experience.
Unguided Excursions: If you’re confident in your abilities and like to go your own way, you can skip the tours and rent your own kayak. Several beachfront hotels rent kayaks right at the beach and while spendy, it's a no-hassle approach. A more cost-effective option is contacting a kayak tour operator to reserve a kayak and arrange delivery. Locations vary, but morning excursions from Makena Landing seem to be a fairly regular offering.
For more information and detailed maps on great areas to kayak and snorkel in Maui, pick up our book: Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling.
Snorkeling in Maui - Reef Care - Sunscreen
There's nothing like snorkeling in Maui at Honolua Bay where you'll find coral and sea life in abundance! We've seen just about everything the warm waters of Maui have to offer at Honolua—green sea turtles, colorful squid, all kinds of eels, octopus, and a myriad of fish species. Its marine preserve status and vast area of healthy coral are major factors to the diverse sea life you'll find in this top snorkeling spot. To keep Honolua Bay and all of Maui's beautiful reefs healthy, it's up to each of us to be good reef stewards. Part Four of our Reef Care Tips takes a look at sunscreen use.
Smart Sunscreen Practices: We can spend hours snorkeling Honolua Bay and often do! But if you're going to spend that kind of time in the water, you have to protect your skin or you'll regret it for the rest of your trip! With the number of people who snorkel in Maui that's a lot of sunscreen going into the water. It's estimated that up to 6000 metric tons of sunscreen washes off swimmers' bodies annually with serious potential to damage coral reefs.
Fortunately there are smart sunscreen practices you can follow to minimize your impact on the reef while still protecting your skin. First, consider using a "reef friendly" sunscreen. Tour boat operators usually offer these sunscreens on their excursions and a variety can be found on the island. Second, always apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before entering the water. Giving sunscreen time to absorb not only increases its effectiveness, but helps prevent excess sunscreen from washing into the water. And finally, consider investing in sun-protective clothing to cover your back and arms. "Skins" provide great protection and minimize the need for sunscreen. Many are UPF rated, providing an additional defense for sensitive skin or those spending hours in the sun (think surfers). You can find skins in all price ranges on Maui from surf shops to big box stores.
For more ways you can help protect Maui's beautiful reefs, check back frequently or pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Frequently Asked Questions - What if it Rains?!?
We frequently receive questions about snorkeling in Maui from visitors to our site. We always respond to emails, but thought our Maui Snorkel Blog is the perfect venue for questions. So if you have any questions about snorkeling or Maui, be sure to check our new "Frequently Asked Questions" category and you may just find an answer. This week's topic - "Oh-no! There's RAIN in the Forecast!"
Q: Looks like clouds and rain in the forecast for our trip next week, we're bummed, can we still snorkel?
A: Rain or clouds in the weather forecast for Maui is not unusual—kind of explains the rainbow on Hawaii license plates! But rest assured, having rain or clouds in Maui's forecast is a lot different than a similar prediction for the mainland. Rain showers and clouds are common in Maui, but in most areas they're usually short-lived. A bit of rain isn't likely to interrupt your snorkeling plans. In fact it's universally accepted that if you want to get away from the rain, hop in your car, drive ten minutes, and you'll be back in sunshine! That said, if you want to reduce your chances for rain, consider staying in South Maui or Lahaina in West Maui as both areas tend to see less rain than other parts of the island.
On the other hand, if a major downpour hits while you're visiting Maui, we recommend changing your snorkel plans for a few days. Heavy rains cause run-off to flow into near-shore waters creating murky conditions that can last a few days until the water clears. Picture the water that runs down your driveway after washing a month's worth of dirt and dust off your car—the same thing happens on an island. We'll never forget being out in the water when a huge downpour hit. Conditions were crystal clear when we started, but after ten minutes of pelting rain (as seen to the right) we were suddenly enveloped in a wave of brown water. The clarity went from "clear sea to murky tea" in seconds. Since snorkeling is all about enjoying the underwater sights, it's best to make other plans after a major rainstorm to give conditions time to clear. That shouldn't be too difficult in a place like Maui! But if you're still determined to snorkel no matter what the conditions, as locals will tell you: "Snorkeling in murky water is just a bad idea!" Cue the theme to Jaws...
If snorkeling conditions aren't optimal, check our Exploring Maui posts for adventures to pass the time while you're waiting for conditions to clear. Or if the surf's up and snorkeling's out, it's a great time to see some amazing surfers at these top surf spots in Maui.
For more snorkeling tips and cool things to do in Maui, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. More questions? Contact us here or through Social Media—you can find Maui's Best Snorkeling on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. We'd appreciate your support and love hearing from our fellow snorkeling fans!
Snorkeling with the Humuhumunukunukuāpua'a
We can't have entries about sea creatures and snorkeling in Maui without mentioning the Humuhumunukunukuāpua'a. Renowned as Hawaii's state fish, its name is one of the longest words in the Hawaiian language—it's often joked, "the name is longer than the fish!" Also known as the "Wedgetail Triggerfish," or humu-humu for short, their conspicuous geometric pattern makes them easy to recognize. And fortunately, learning its Hawaiian name isn't as complicated as it looks. In fact, if you break the word into syllables and know what sounds the vowels make, it's actually one of those words that's fun to practice and inexplicably gratifying to say with once you've got it down!
There are two vowel sounds in the Hawaiian language you need to know, "u" sounds like the "oo" in "moo," and "a" sounds like "ah" in saw. So here's the word broken into syllables and easier pronunciation:
"hu-mu | hu-mu | nu-ku | nu-ku| ah-pu | ah-ah"
You'll also notice a bit of repetition which makes it easier to say and remember: humu-humu... nuku-nuku... and ah-ah (at the end). Now throw in "ah-pu" right before the "ah-ah" and you've got it made! The real trick is when you can say it five times fast!
The Humu-humu is very common in Maui's waters. They tend to be solitary creatures and a bit wary of snorkelers. In fact if they're guarding a nest of eggs, Wedgetail Triggerfish can be rather aggressive toward the unknowing snorkeler. We once had a humu charge directly at us with its dorsal fin raised—it was clear he meant business! As with all snorkeling adventures and encounters with sea life, remember "you're the visitor" to their underwater world. Give creatures plenty of space and you'll be rewarded with the opportunity of seeing marine life interacting naturally in their home environment.
To learn more about Maui's sea creatures and snorkeling tips for Maui, be sure to bookmark our blog and check back often, or pick up your copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Maui Snorkeling Safety — Breaking Waves
Breaking waves are beautiful to look at, but unless you’re on a boogie board trying to catch one, it’s best to steer clear of the break zone while snorkeling in Maui. Even small waves can pack a punch and it's important to move through the break zone quickly when entering or exiting the water. Pay attention to what’s going on and don’t dawdle. A breaking wave can level you in an instant and tends to take the fun out of the day.
A good habit to develop before entering or exiting the water is to spend a few minutes watching the waves. Take note of where the waves are breaking, their size, and timing. Use this knowledge to pick a place to enter and time your movement through the breaking waves. If you happen to arrive at a spot with heavy surf, skip the idea of snorkeling altogether. It’s not only dangerous, but rough surf makes for lousy snorkeling. It kicks up sand and creates cloudy water. Your best advice is try another spot.
For a guide to all the best snorkel spots on Maui, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins, & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling.
Happy Cyber Monday — Maui's Best Snorkeling Style
To show our appreciation for all our great customers, we're offering an Unbeatable Deal. And when we say "Unbeatable," it's not the typical Black Friday / Cyber Monday hype that everyone's come to expect. We mean it. After all, it's pretty hard to beat "Free."
So to pass along some Aloha Spirit, we're offering 10 of our "I'd Rather Be Snorkeling" T-shirts absolutely free—yes, we'll even pay for the shipping! If we could figure out how to package it, we'd toss in some Maui sun, sand, and warm ocean water, but for now you'll just have to visit.
What are the details? What's the catch?
Final note: Currently our T-shirts are available in Large or X-Large, so if you have a preference, let us know. But act fast... because in true Black Friday / Cyber Monday tradition, supplies are limited... we'll let you know if you're one of the first ten to respond. Happy Aloha Friday!
PS... Sorry, we can only ship to US addresses–international shipping rates are crazy!
Maui Snorkeling Tips - Use Anti-Fog Gel!
Every snorkeler we've ever met enjoys seeing fish and they all share the desire to see more. To better your chances, here's an invaluable Maui Snorkel Blog Tip: Get yourself a bottle of anti-fog gel. It'll extend your time in the water and you'll see everything better—guaranteed.
Whenever we advise snorkelers about equipment, anti-fog gel is a serious "must have" on our list. It's a fantastic product and makes any snorkel outing better. A thin coat applied to the inside of your lenses will keep them fog free and allow you to see clearly underwater for a much longer period of time. A few people may disagree or suggest "spit works just as well," but we beg to differ. We've spent countless hours exploring Maui's underwater world and a bottle of anti-fog gel has been our constant companion. As penny-pinchers we know where to cut costs, and this isn’t one of them. A small dab on each lens is all you need, so that little bottle of gel can provide several years worth of snorkeling.
If you need further convincing, here's a fact: the temperature difference between the warm air inside your snorkel mask and the cool water outside create ideal conditions for fog. A little anti-fog gel combats this natural tendency and will keep your mask clear for at least an hour, maybe two. Our personal preference is Sea Gold Anti-Fog Gel. If you're in Maui you can find it at your nearest Maui Dive Shop. We encourage you to stop by and pick up a bottle—you'll find it's worth every penny. They also carry our book, "Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling." So if you don't have a copy, you can pick one up while you're in Maui!
Snorkeling with Kids in Maui
Early one evening in Maui we happened to see a father and his young son snorkeling together in a condo swimming pool. The quality of their interaction captured our attention. The boy's father was not only helping his son become comfortable with his equipment, but teaching him hand signals so they could communicate non-verbally underwater. Along with the standard “okay” sign, and the shivering “I’m cold” sign, they were creating hand signals to indicate what type of creatures they were hoping to see. The enjoyment and engagement of both father and son was readily apparent. Their pool time was not only a fun and practical way for this father to get his child comfortable with snorkeling, but it created a treasured memory his son will likely have for the rest of his life. Who knows? Maybe we were witnessing the early education of the next Jacques Cousteau. Then again, maybe the next Cousteau resides in your family. By getting kids comfortable in the pool and confident with their gear you can jump-start their interest in snorkeling and increase the likelihood of having a great "first snorkel" when you're ready to hit the reefs in Maui.
For many more tips on snorkeling with kids in Maui, pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Surf's Up and Snorkeling's Out?—Life's Still Good on Maui!
You've got your gear. You've picked a spot. You're all set to experience some of Maui's best snorkeling. Then you hear the two words that are sure to darken any snorkel fanatics day, "Surf's up!" Bummer, right? Not at all. Just means a change of plans—because when the surf's up and snorkeling's out, life's still good in Maui! Greet it as an chance to check out some of the island's awesome surfers.
If you're in South Maui and the waves are pumping, consider venturing to Ahihi Bay. It's a popular spot for some very skilled riders. It's not the most comfortable place—think lava rock seating—but you're sure to catch some great surfers and awesome waves. With the action being fairly close to shore, it's also a great spot to capture some amazing surfing shots.
A more remote location is La Persouse Bay. Since the closure of "Fish Bowl" and the "Aquarium," we're not huge fans of the snorkeling here, but we love venturing to the area nonetheless. This end of the road, "lava–meets–sea" landscape is uniquely gorgeous. And when surfing conditions cooperate, the ocean can produce some monster waves. The biggest seem to occur a few coves down the shoreline path. It's a hike—but wow—it's worth it. The guys who surf here are phenomenal. It's a great place to grab some epic surf shots—think magazine cover.
If you're on the West side of Maui (northwest, really) the place to catch some fantastic surfing is also one of the best spots to snorkel in Maui – Honolua Bay. Always a favorite of snorkelers, when the surf is pounding it's even more popular with surfers. It's a wide open area with multiple spots to catch waves and the action here can get crazy. With a full set of waves, riders can cover the horizon. The best viewing can be found at the paved overlook on the south side of Honolua Bay.
So remember, when the surf's up and snorkeling's out, life's still good in Maui! For more Snorkeling Secrets and cool things to do in Maui, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling.
Maui Snorkeling Safety — Use a Flotation Device
Anytime you enter the ocean there are hazards. Be smart, play it safe, and use good judgment. Also recognize the single biggest danger while snorkeling in Maui is drowning. While not as sensational as a shark encounter, drownings in Maui are not rare and claim many more lives. So before you enter the water, be honest with yourself about your abilities. If you're planning to snorkel in Maui and your swimming skills aren’t the best, you should always use a flotation device. Your enjoyment and safety will increase dramatically. Even with snorkel gear, it’s easy for an inexperienced swimmer to give-in to irrational fears and begin having difficulty in the water, particularly if ocean conditions change or fatigue sets in. Using a flotation device will give you extra buoyancy, help keep you safe, and put those fears to rest. It can also provide better maneuverability in tight or shallow spots—an added benefit to the coral.
A variety of flotation devices are available for snorkelers in Maui, ranging from foam noodles, to snorkel belts and traditional life vests. For some, a foam noodle held under the arms and across the chest can often be enough to put a person at ease. A life vest can be even better since it requires little thought or hassle once you've put it on. You don't have to hang onto it or keep track of it, and it can't get pulled away or lost should ocean conditions change. For inexperienced swimmers, having just one "scary moment" in the water can change a positive attitude about snorkeling to a negative one. So be sure to plan ahead and bring along a flotation device for those in your group who need a little extra swimming assistance.
For more safety and snorkeling tips in Maui, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. Happy Snorkeling!
Back to "School" with Maui's Best Snorkeling
"Back to school" has us thinking of something we love to see when we're snorkeling Maui – "schools of fish!" It's not every day you'll spot a large school, but if you know where to look there are several areas around Maui where you'll likely have the good fortune of seeing them. One spot we always encounter a school or two is Honolua Bay in West Maui. Honolua Bay is a marine preserve and home to wide variety of sea life, including a huge school of Bigeye Scad. We can always tell when snorkelers new to Honolua have spotted the bay's "resident Bigeyes" by their excited shout-outs to nearby friends. We usually hear something like, "Whoa!!! Get over here quick!" We can't blame them, it's truly a sight to encounter this huge mass of silvery scad swimming in synchronization along the north side of the bay. If you quietly glide over to the shallows, just below the boulders, you just might see them too!
While you're at Honolua it's also worth a bit of a swim to check out the reef toward the center-right of the bay. We often see large groups of striped Convict Tangs here interspersed with a wide variety of surgeonfish as they feed over Honolua's extensive coral reefs.
Another great area for spotting large schools is off the shores of Olowalu in West Maui. If you're up for a kayak-snorkel trip, you can join one of the frequent kayak tours here where you'll see pristine coral, large schools of fish, and numerous sea turtles all awaiting your discovery at this beautiful spot!
One small reminder... never feed the fish. Years ago it was a common practice for snorkelers and divers to feed fish in the hope of getting "up-close and personal" with sea life. We highly discourage feeding any sea creatures. It creates aggressive behavior and can change the types of creatures that frequent an area. It's bad for marine life and can be detrimental to people too. ...Consider the diver who lost his thumb when a moray eel became "overly eager" for the hot dogs the diver tried to feed it! We can't emphasize it enough—feeding wildlife is a seriously bad idea.
For more information on the best snorkeling spots in Maui and where to snorkel once you get there, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. Best of luck to the new year of school and in seeing your first "school of fish" while you're snorkeling in Maui! Happy Snorkeling!
Snorkeling with Honolua's Bigfin Squid
If you're snorkeling the waters of Honolua Bay in Maui, keep an eye out for schools of Bigfin Squid. You'll sometimes find them in the shallows here, and seeing them just a few feet from your mask is a moment you won't forget.
Squid are intriguing to watch, you might call them natural entertainers. They'll typically hover as a group in front of you, leisurely changing color and shape in unison. They can put on a show for 10 minutes or more—seemingly as curious about you, as you are about them. Then in a flash, they'll disappear and you're left wondering where they could have gone in that "blink of an eye!"
Squid are covered in specialized pigment cells which allow them to change color and create patterns on their skin. At times they can even appear iridescent or glow. Squid change colors for a variety of reasons. They can camouflage themselves from predators and prey, or use color as a means of communication. They are known to use complex courting displays to attract mates. Amazingly, male squid can display courtship patterns on one side of their body, while producing aggressive patterns on the other to discourage the competition!
Squid and octopus are both members of the cephalapod class and share similarities as well as differences. Both can swim incredibly fast, squirt ink, and change color. Both creatures have eight legs, but squid have two additional tentacles they use to grab and eat prey. Octopus tend to live solitary lives and can be found in dens along the sea floor, while many squid live in groups and are found in the open ocean. So next time you're snorkeling at Honolua Bay in Maui, look for the resident Bigfin Squid, they're sure to entertain you.
For more about squid and other underwater creatures in Maui, check back often or pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Maui Snorkeling Tips — Fins
Every snorkeler we've ever met enjoys seeing fish and they all share the desire to see even more. Here's another tip to better your chances and advance your snorkeling skills...
Quiet your Fins: Whenever you're snorkeling, pay attention to the noise you're making as you snorkel. If your fins are slapping or chopping through the water, you'll want to take a few minutes to work on your technique. Fins actually work best by using the full length of your legs to kick. It's your hips and thighs that should be doing most of the work, not your knees. Concentrate on letting the power of your kick come from the big muscles in your thighs and rear instead of your knees. Just a few tweaks in your style will propel you more quietly and efficiently through the water, with fewer fish dashing away from the "creature" splashing noisily toward them and a bonus—less calf cramps!
For more Maui snorkeling tips, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. Our guidebook will direct you to Maui's best snorkeling spots and show you where to snorkel once you get there—we'll have you planning your adventures and ready to snorkel before your plane lands in Maui!
Snorkeling in Maui - Reef Care - Fish
Maui is home to many beautiful coral reefs. If you love snorkeling and visiting this intriguing underwater world, you'll soon realize it's up to each of us to do our part to be good stewards to the reef and the creatures who make their home there. Part three of our reef care tips looks at avoiding careless human interactions that can negatively effect fish populations.
Skip the Fish Food: Feeding Fish was at one time a pretty popular practice while snorkeling and diving; fortunately it's a tradition that's going by the wayside. It may sound like a fun idea at first—toss out some food and watch the fish swarm around you. But this short-term thrill can have long lasting impact. It can dramatically change reef dynamics and the variety of fish that inhabit an area. Feeding fish encourages aggressive fish and aggressive feeding behaviors that often result in pushing out other fish species.
If you find yourself approached by a horde of "Sergeants" all looking for a hand-out, it's quite possible you've snorkeled into an area that's seen heavy fish feeding. What may initially seem “cute” is quickly lost when you notice a quantifiable lack of any other kinds of fish. If you want to be a good steward while you snorkel in Maui, don't feed the fish. Remember you're the guest. If you're interested in seeing a realistic picture of "life under the surface," you'll want to avoid doing things (like fish feeding) that interfere with the natural day-to-day activities of the creatures who live there.
For more ways you can help protect Maui's beautiful reefs, check back frequently or pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Snorkeling Maui's South Shore in the Summer
We frequently receive snorkeling questions from visitors to our website and are always happy to respond. With summer in full swing, a recent query about snorkeling conditions this time of year offered an excellent opportunity for a new blog post...
Q: How are the snorkeling conditions in South Maui during August? Is snorkeling typically not as good during this time of year? We stayed on the North Shore of Kaua'i last October and the rough surf made swimming and snorkeling almost impossible, I'm trying to avoid a repeat!
A: It's true the seasons in Maui can affect ocean conditions. In the summer, Maui sees most of its swells coming out of the south and southwest from winter storms in the southern hemisphere. This means beaches facing south/southwest can experience stronger wave action which can kick up sand and create less than ideal conditions for snorkeling—think cloudy water. But here's the deal, it doesn't happen all the time. Swells are periodic—they come and they go. . . a swell may hit for a few days, then waters calm back down. Or a swell can be so minor to begin with, it doesn't create enough wave action to impact visibility.
Another factor with south and southwestern swells are Maui's nearby islands. Moloka'i, Lana'i, and Kaho'olawe all help to block these swells or redirect them to certain areas of the island. Some say it's these outer islands that actually make specific areas of Maui's coastline better surf spots than others.
Keep in mind that wherever you plan to snorkel, conditions are always best in the morning. On Maui the winds start blowing by midday. This can create some serious waves which churn things up and limit visibility. The exception is Honolua Bay in West Maui, it can be good almost anytime of day.
We've spent plenty of time snorkeling South Maui during summer months. We wouldn't scratch any area off your list until you check the conditions on that particular day. In fact, we think South Maui offers so many great snorkeling spots, even if you're staying on Maui's west side, it's worth the drive. Head down, look things over, and if it's too rough to snorkel, make a trip out to La Pérouse Bay and enjoy the beautiful beaches and scenery along the way. If the surf's up, both La Pérouse and Ahihi Bay are also great spots for taking pictures and watching some amazing surfers catch the waves.
If you have snorkeling questions, be sure to send us an email from our contact page, we love hearing from fellow snorkeling fans! For more information on the best snorkeling spots in Maui and where to snorkel once you get there, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. Happy Snorkeling!
Snorkeling in Maui - Reef Care - Fins
Whenever you're snorkeling in Maui it's important to practice good snorkeling habits to protect Maui's beautiful coral reefs. As mentioned in our initial reef care post, coral reefs across the world are struggling to survive. Each of us must do our part to be good stewards of the reef and encourage others to do the same. Part two of our reef care tips is about paying attention to your gear.
Watch Your Fins: It’s easy to forget, but fins add length to your legs. Depending on the style, this can range from 18 inches to well over two feet. Make sure you account for this extra length, particularly when you’re stopped in an upright position to take a break, adjust your mask, or converse with your snorkeling companions. Too many times we’ve seen snorkelers tread water while their fins are slapping the coral below. An effective technique used by experienced snorkelers is to raise your knees up as if you’re sitting in the water. This keeps your fins up higher and further away from the coral. You'll find the salt water and your swimming ability will keep you quite buoyant without much need to tread water. If you’re unable to do this comfortably, you should use a flotation device. Life vests or snorkel belts are a great way to help less skilled swimmers feel more comfortable in the water so they can enjoy snorkeling, stay safe, and not damage the reef.
For more information on the best snorkeling spots in Maui and how you can help protect Maui's beautiful reefs, pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Snorkeling in Maui - The Incredible Octopus
Called the "Einstein of invertebrates" the octopus is a real treat to see when you're snorkeling in Maui. Boasting a large brain for its size, this sea creature makes good use of its smarts. It exhibits short and long-term memory skills, uses tools, and is a problem solver who learns by observation. In captivity, octopuses can be trained to solve multiple mazes, while in the wild they've been observed collecting coconut shells from the ocean floor and using them to hide from predators.
Octopuses are classified as Cephalopods, an amazing group of creatures that have inhabited the world's oceans for over 500 million years. After so much time, it's not surprising the octopus has developed all kinds of intriguing ways to adapt and survive. Most notably the octopus is a true master of disguise. With its body covered in millions of neurons, muscle fibers, and pigment cells, an octopus can change its color and texture to match its surroundings in an instant. Many predators (and snorkelers) swim right past them oblivious to their presence. When threatened, octopuses also have several weapons at their defense. Using their own jet propulsion, they can move through the water incredibly fast. They can also squirt a cloud of black ink obscuring their escape from predators.
If you want to see an octopus while snorkeling in Maui, you're in luck. The "Day Octopus" is the most common octopus in Hawaiian waters and can usually be found in and around Maui's near shore reefs—you just have to be observant! Snorkel slowly—very slowly—and carefully scan the rocks and coral reef. They often hide in plain sight blending with whatever surface they're resting upon. It's truly fascinating to watch an octopus zoom through the water like a streamlined bullet, then land on a surface and "turn themselves into a rock!"
To learn more about the "incredible octopus" or Maui's other amazing sea creatures, check back often and pick up a copy of our guidebook, Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Snorkeling with the "Stripebelly Pufferfish"
The chances of seeing a Stripebelly Pufferfish are pretty high when you're snorkeling in Maui. Their chunky shape and polka-dots make them fun to spot and observe. You'll typically find them meandering about coral reefs or even resting on the sandy sea floor appearing to take a snooze. The stripebelly is the largest pufferfish you'll see when you're snorkeling in Maui; reaching up to 19 inches in length—they're about the size of a small dog! When pufferfish feel threatened, they can inflate by gulping water until they're nearly ball-shaped, making them difficult to be eaten by predators. In all our snorkeling experiences we haven't seen a stripebelly reach these inflated proportions. We keep a reasonable distance from them and always give wildlife their space. As cartoon-like and harmless as puffers appear, their skin and some internal organs contain a very powerful neurotoxin. According to John Hoover's book, "Hawaiian Reef Fishes," at least seven people in the Hawaiian islands have died from eating pufferfish; so not surprisingly, it's illegal for restaurants in Hawaii to serve them! But no need to swim away if you see a stripebelly—just don’t make a meal of one!
To learn more about Maui's sea creatures and snorkeling tips for Maui, bookmark our blog and pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
When to Snorkel in Maui
When it comes to snorkeling, bright sunshine and calm water create the best conditions. Fortunately Maui has plenty of both. However, you'll find the best time of day to snorkel in Maui is usually in the morning. Snorkeling later can still be good, but Maui's trade winds tend to pick up the later it gets. Wind creates waves that can make snorkeling conditions less than ideal. Not only does it make the water choppy for swimming, but the wave action kicks up sand from the sea floor creating cloudy water and low visibility—kind of a bummer for snorkeling when the whole idea is "seeing" underwater features and creatures.
Fortunately the trade winds on Maui are predictable. Most days start out calm. By late morning the winds usually begin to pick up, then build into midday, and are blowing hard by afternoon. So plan most of your snorkeling excursions for morning—we can't think of a better way to start the day! Occasionally there may be times when you get to the beach early and still find choppy waves and high surge. Usually this means Maui's waters are just catching the last remnants of a distant storm. If that's the case, you're better off waiting a day to give waters time to clear as ocean conditions calm.
Bright sunshine also adds to ideal snorkeling conditions. If it's overcast or intermittent clouds keep blocking the sun, you'll notice things look different underwater; the colors of fish and coral are less vibrant than on a cloudless, blue-sky day. That’s not to say you can't still have a good time, but in terms of optimal snorkeling and taking great "fish pics," the difference can be like turning on a bright light in a dark closet. If you're marathon snorkelers like us, you'll notice that as the sun gets higher, the water clarity and underwater sights just get brighter and better! At some point though, the wind starts in and conditions begin to change. So our advice: Get an early start and enjoy the best of both of both worlds!
Thankfully you'll find Maui offers plenty of sunshine and relatively calm water on most days. In fact of all the islands in Hawaii, you won't find more access to awesome shoreline snorkeling! But if conditions are less than ideal, just be flexible… hop in the car and try a different spot, or if all else fails save your snorkeling for another day and remind yourself—you're in Maui! There's always something to do! For ideas, check out our Explore Maui posts or great surf spots, we're sure you'll find plenty to enjoy!
For more information on the best snorkeling spots in Maui and where to snorkel once you get there, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. Happy Snorkeling!
Where to Snorkel in Maui - How to Find a Great Spot
If you enjoy great snorkeling with plenty of sea life and beautiful coral, it's important to know what to look for when you're scouting a spot. As a general rule, rocks and coral offer the best opportunity for optimal snorkeling. Together they form the reef providing shelter and food for fish and other sea creatures. At many of South Maui’s sandy beaches, coral reefs are often found at the ends of the beach where rocky points extend into the ocean. So if you find yourself at an unfamiliar spot and intend to snorkel, you’re likely to have more luck if you begin snorkeling closer to the rocky ends of the beach instead of starting out from the middle. You'll also avoid a long, somewhat boring swim! Typically the underwater landscape in front of a sandy beach is pretty featureless and dull (think sand desert) while nearby rock formations offer coral teeming with life and activity. Of course there are exceptions… the reef at Kahekili in West Maui parallels the sandy beach just a few feet out from the shoreline.
For more information on the best snorkeling spots in Maui and where to snorkel once you get there, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. Happy Snorkeling!!!
When to Visit Maui? – We Vote Spring!
We're often asked when is the best time to visit Maui? Honestly, anytime is great, but if we were pinned-down on the question, we might just have to say mid-April to early June. It's a beautiful time to visit Maui, especially if you enjoy getting out and exploring.
As photographers, spring is definitely one of our favorite times of year. The weather is more cooperative for taking pictures with pleasant temperatures and lighter tradewinds, making it easier to capture pictures of palms or other foliage without fighting the wind. Best of all, the scenery is at its greenest. With the lengthening days of spring and the end of winter rains, the island's vegetation springs to life. If you have an eye for photography, you'll definitely appreciate the lush greenery of this time of year over the heat-withered fronds of late summer! Heading to Hana, you'll find waterfalls flowing higher, and Up Country's roads ablaze in the purple blossoms of Maui's magnificent jacaranda trees.
Late spring is also a quieter time on the island, making it easier on your pocketbook. Once spring break is over and before summer vacation gets rolling, Maui experiences a lull in visitors. Getting around is less hectic, popular spots aren't as busy, and you'll find better rates on accommodations and other services. Favorite beaches are also less crowded—a plus for both snorkeling and having a bit more space on the sand to yourself.
So if you're headed to Maui this spring, it's the perfect time of year for taking some great scenic shots—and to snorkel of course! :) For more information about exploring Maui and finding great snorkeling spots, be sure to pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. You can also contact us here or through social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google Plus, we'd love to hear from you!
Maui's Best Snorkeling in West and South Maui
If you visit our Look Inside page and scan the Table of Contents, you may wonder why the locations recommended in our book are all in West and South Maui. There’s a reason. We visited Maui for many years before moving there and after countless hours exploring, it’s where we consistently found the best snorkeling. That’s not to say there aren’t other great spots. Hana, Ke‘anae, and the far northern points of West Maui offer some enticing areas, but the challenges presented by isolation and unpredictable conditions keep them from being ranked as “Best,” particularly with limited vacation time. Too many of our Hana snorkel excursions were derailed by rough seas. Sure, the beautiful views and banana bread can take the bite out of three hours of endless corners, but if your main goal is snorkeling, stick to the west and south sides of the island—they're by far your best bet for consistently good snorkeling. No disrespect to Hana, we love it! But inevitably we tend to enjoy our time visiting Hana without fins.
For a guide to all the best snorkel spots on Maui, including candid advice, snorkel routes, and detailed maps of Maui's best beaches, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins, & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. If you're already on the island, you can find it at one of Maui Dive Shop's 7 locations or The Makena Mercantile, just inside The Makena Beach & Golf Resort.
Exploring Maui - Up-n-Around West Maui
Snorkeling in Maui is our favorite pastime. But if we're not out exploring Maui's coral reefs, we love hopping in the car and discovering new, intriguing places all over the island. One of our favorites is following the road up and around the top of Maui's West side and back down into Central Maui to Kahului (the airport town). You'll find an abundance of things to see and explore… there's hiking along windswept lava shorelines, unique rock formations, Nakalele blowhole, and narrow, winding roads along steep cliffs and over rugged range land—all make the trip a memorable adventure.
As photographers, we enjoy getting off the beaten path and taking pictures of unique and beautiful landscapes. The road around Maui's northwest side does not disappoint. Spring is a particularly nice time of year to make this drive, with the wetter months of winter greening up the scenery. Here are a few highlights along the way...
A great view of Molaka'i from Punalau Beach.
Unique lava formations abound, if you take time to look for them!
Kahakuloa Head towers in the distance.
The chapel at Old Kahakuloa Village.
Scenery along the narrow and winding road.
The trip is just over 25 miles past Honolua Bay (one of our favorite snorkel spots on the west side). But don't let the short distance fool you, if you make as many stops as we do, this can easily be a half-day adventure or more. It's a quest that definitely follows the old adage, "it's the journey, not the destination." Our only caveat is the drive includes a few hair pin turns, and the road narrows down to one lane at times. So if you're a little spooked about cliff-side roads or backing up your car to allow another driver to pass—have the most self-assured driver behind the wheel. Other than that, taking the road up-n-around West Maui is a marvelous adventure, we highly recommend it!
For questions about snorkeling or exploring Maui, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. You can also contact us here or through social media on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. We'd love to hear from you!
Where Can I Find your Snorkel Guide on Maui?
Spring break is right around the corner and if you're lucky, you're planning a trip to Maui! We frequently hear from people who can't order our snorkeling guidebook in time for their trip and wonder if they can find it on the island. Fortunately the answer is yes! Our snorkel book can be found at Maui Dive Shop locations across the island (in Kahana, Lahaina, Ma'alaea Harbor, Wailea, and two locations in Kihei). If you're staying in the Wailea/Makena area you'll also find our Maui snorkel guide inside the gift shop at the Makena Beach & Golf Resort.
Enjoying Maui's underwater world and its amazing sea creatures is a fantastic way to spend time in Maui, and after you've tried it, we hope you'll be hooked! With detailed descriptions of the best snorkeling spots in Maui, our guidebook should get you off to a great start! As a self-described "snorkeling fanatic," Rich wrote the guide with the idea of offering something for snorkelers of all levels. He offers snorkeling basics and tips specific to Maui for beginners, as well as "Marathon Adventures" for advanced snorkelers. Along with colorful maps and beautiful pictures on every page, you'll find underwater photography tips, advice for snorkeling with kids, and kayak-snorkel excursions for both West and South Maui. We hope you'll find our snorkel guidebook indispensable to discovering Maui's best beaches and snorkeling spots.
So if you're planning a trip to Maui, pick up your copy of "Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling"—it's sure to inspire your sense of snorkeling adventure! You can find it on the island or order it here and enjoy a great read on your flight to Maui. We're sure it'll have you planning your adventures and excited to snorkel before your plane lands in Kahului! Happy Snorkeling!
Snorkeling in Maui - Reef Care - Coral
It’s a sad fact, but the world’s coral reefs are struggling to survive. Climate change, increased ocean acidity, over-fishing, hazardous run-off, and pollution are all taking their toll. Unfortunately, Maui’s reefs are not immune. Careless human interaction is also at fault. Please learn and practice good snorkeling behaviors and encourage others to do the same. Here's an important rule to keep in mind while snorkeling in Maui.
Don't Touch the Coral: Every time a person touches coral, it can weaken and die. Whether it’s an intentional reaching out and wanting to feel the coral or a careless kick of a fin, it has the same effect. While some rationalize, “it's just a little touch,” each “little touch” adds up. Multiply it by several thousand snorkelers a year and you get the idea. Regrettably, damaged coral can be seen in many places around the island. While it should go without saying, we'll say it anyway: Please, never stand on a coral head. If you need to adjust your gear or want to visit with your snorkeling companions, always do so with plenty of clearance between you and the coral. And by the way, you should never feel shy to share this friendly reminder with other snorkelers.
For more ways you can help protect Maui's beautiful reefs, check back frequently or pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Maui Snorkeling Safety - Wear Those Fins!
Fins may not be the first thing you think of when considering snorkeling equipment, but they're an extremely important part of your gear. At times we'll see people snorkeling in Maui without them, but we don't recommend it. Wearing fins make snorkeling easier and safer than going without. If your snorkeling plans include more than a quick underwater peek, fins are most definitely the way to go. Their efficiency to propel you forward lets you enjoy the wonders of the ocean instead exerting yourself getting from point A to point B. Fins also offer a great safety advantage if ocean conditions or circumstances change unexpectedly. Fins enable you to propel yourself through a strong current or return quickly to shore—a significant benefit when you need it. Not to mention, fins are just fun! The more you snorkel and learn how your fins can help you maneuver, the sooner you'll understand how turtles and fish can be incredibly fast and amazingly gracefully all at the same time.
We recommend adjustable strap fins. They’re simple, straightforward, and get the job done. Some people use scuba fins that fit over reef shoes or booties, but they can be heavy and cumbersome. While we've used high-end diving fins, we prefer low-priced kit fins when it comes to snorkeling. They give plenty of thrust per kick and don’t weigh a ton on a hike to the beach. The additional length of scuba fins can also make them harder to maneuver—particularly in shallow areas, where you don't want to bump or kick the coral with your fins.
Putting on your Fins:
Occasionally we'll see inexperienced snorkelers don their fins while still on the beach. Attempting to walk in fins while you're on land is highly awkward. To compensate, many try walking backwards. But shuffling backwards toward the ocean is a risk. With your back toward the water, there's a much greater chance of being pummeled by a wave, tripping over rocks, or stepping on a sea creature. We highly encourage putting on your fins while in the water. Just hang on to them in one hand till you're out past the breakers and slip them onto your feet. It's easy to do and a bit more elegant than duck waddling backwards! If the thought of putting on your fins in the water makes you nervous, consider using a flotation device. Here's why: Snorkeling - Using a Flotation Device
For more snorkeling safety tips or questions about Maui, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. We'd love to hear from you!
Underwater Photography Tips — Tip 1
These days posting pictures to social media is more popular than ever—even from underwater! Taking pictures while you're snorkeling in Maui can be a lot of fun and with a little research, you'll find numerous options for underwater cameras and/or waterproof cases. But once you start taking underwater pictures, you'll soon discover that getting something better than a blurry snapshot can be bit of a challenge. Here are a few tips to increase your chances the next time you're ready to snorkel in Maui.
Before you hit the water, get to know your camera. Take a lot of shots and pay attention to how your camera responds. The single biggest problem with underwater photography and point-and-shoot cameras is the lag-time between the moment you press the shutter and the time it takes for the camera to take the picture and record it. It may surprise you, but it’s not instantaneous, and some cameras are worse than others. When you're shooting underwater, the result can be a lot of missed shots and blurry images.
This "shutter-lag" issue really becomes apparent when a cool fish zips by and you scramble to get the shot. You press the shutter release and seconds later the only thing in the preview is a fish tail—bummer! To minimize this issue, try to anticipate the movement of your subject. If the current is pushing you or a fish is swimming in a certain direction, consider where your subject will be by the time your camera actually snaps the picture. Then frame your shot accordingly.
For more underwater photography tips and Maui snorkeling advice, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Maui Snorkeling Safety — Rip Currents
Anytime you enter the ocean there are hazards. Knowing what they are and how to manage them can reduce your risk. Be smart, play it safe, and use good judgment. Also recognize the single biggest danger while swimming or snorkeling in Maui is drowning.
Rip Currents: Rip currents are the number one danger at the beach, but they don’t have to be. If you understand their nature and what to do if you get caught in one, you can manage the situation and return to shore or await rescue.
A rip current is a powerful channel of water that flows swiftly from the beach out toward sea. They usually develop along low spots of the shoreline. Instead of a wave simply receding like it does on a flat or protected beach, water naturally flows toward this low point. As water accumulates it gains speed and force and upon reaching the low spot it funnels into a channel as it flows back out to sea. Fortunately, rip currents tend to be fairly narrow and dissipate as they move away from shore. If you're ever caught in a rip current remember:
Don't Panic and Don't Fight It!
Recognize a rip for what it is and “go with the flow” and/or swim parallel along the beach to get yourself out of the current. Remember as a rip current moves away from the beach it will dissipate and you can escape it. Most rips usually diminish within a few hundred feet. The flow of a rip can be powerful and trying to swim against it can lead to panic and exhaustion. Instead, save your energy, keep your wits about you, and know that your fins provide a major safety advantage. If you stay calm and think logically you will have no problem returning to shore.
For more safety tips and a guide to all the best snorkel spots on Maui, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins, & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling.
Maui Snorkeling Tips
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Every snorkeler we've ever met loves seeing marine life, and all share the desire to discover even more. Here's our next tip to better your chances and advance your snorkeling skills...
Think Small: When snorkeling in Maui, it's easy to be enthralled by a huge fish like a Blue Trevally, but if you look closely for some of the smaller creatures on the reef, you'll find equally engaging traits. The intricate details and color on something so small can be mesmerizing to watch. Juvenile fish and other creatures can be found all along the coral reefs you just need to look for them. Some of the best spots are along the rocky edge of shore or between the ridges and grooves of coral. Slowly scan these areas and you may find all kinds of miniature creatures going about their day just inches in front of your snorkel mask. Take time to stop and observe the smallest of creatures and we're sure you'll add a whole new dimension to your snorkeling experiences in Maui.
For more Maui snorkeling tips, check back frequently or pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Maui Snorkeling Tips
Every snorkeler we've met enjoys seeing fish and they all share the desire to see even more. Our next two blog posts will focus on a few tips to better your chances and advance your snorkeling skills.
Take it Slow: A popular Maui bumper sticker reads: Slow Down—This ain't the Mainland. It's a sentiment that's equally applicable while snorkeling. When you enter the water and slip on your mask, think "island time" and slow your pace as you snorkel over the reefs. Many of the most interesting sea creatures are experts at camouflage. When you take your time, you'll pick up details that are easy to miss and you'll see more sea life than ever before. Many times we've seen snorkelers cruise right past an octopus. If they hadn't been in such a rush, they would have seen it. Whenever you're snorkeling in Maui, take it slow, you'll be glad you did!
For more Maui snorkeling tips, keep an eye on our snorkel blog or pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Snorkeling with Sea Turtles in Maui
When it comes to snorkeling in Maui, high on the wish list of creatures to spot are turtles. In Maui, you'll often hear turtles called "Honu" (Ho Noo), the Hawaiian name for turtles. While these days we can fly to Hawaii in a few hours, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are genetically distinct from other sea turtles because of Hawaii's remote location in the Pacific. By the early 1970s their numbers were in sharp decline, but protective laws enacted in 1978 have helped the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles to make quite a comeback. They are now frequently spotted throughout the near shore waters of Maui and other Hawaiian Islands as they forage for algae and seaweed around coral. Weighing-in at 200-500 pounds, sea turtles are likely the largest creature you'll spot while snorkeling in Maui, and seeing these gentle giants is a real treat!
Tips for seeing turtles while snorkeling in Maui: When not foraging for food, sea turtles like to rest on the ocean floor tucked just underneath the ledges of coral. Float or snorkel slowly along these areas and you're likely to spot them. If you're lucky, you may see several turtles at once. For the best chance to observe turtles interacting naturally in their environment, avoid crowding them. If they happen to swim near you, give them plenty of space and they'll be much more likely to hang around for awhile. Important to note, federal and state laws make it illegal to touch or harass sea turtles.
For more turtle pics and Maui snorkeling tips, be sure to bookmark our blog and check back often!
Maui Snorkeling Tips - Choosing a Mask
Whether you're snorkeling in Maui or getting decked out for Halloween, choosing the right mask can make all the difference! A leaky, uncomfortable snorkel mask can really take the focus off of enjoying the sights—not what you want if snorkeling isn't something you get to do everyday. Thankfully, finding a good fit isn't difficult. Hold the mask up to your face and take note—does the plastic feel hard, stiff, or uncomfortable? If so, put it back and look for another. Masks with silicon skirts (the part next to your face) are usually your best bet. Silicon forms to the contours of your face and feels softer against your skin than older materials. When you’ve found a mask that feels reasonably comfortable, inhale through your nose to create suction. A seal should develop between your face and the mask. If you hold your breath and bend forward—like taking a bow—the mask should stay put. If it does, you’ve got a good fit and a mask that shouldn’t leak.
Tip: Clearing your Mask
If you find a mask with a good fit, the occasions of getting water inside will be limited. But from time to time it happens. Fortunately, clearing water from your mask is easy. You don’t need to remove your mask or even take a break from snorkeling. Here’s what to do: while keeping your mask underwater, tilt your head back and gently apply pressure to the upper portion of your mask. Exhale through your nose. This will cause the water to drain out the bottom of your mask. It’s a simple trick that works great with a little practice.
You'll notice "our model to the left" ;) is sporting a strap cover. If you plan on snorkeling a lot and are buying your own gear, you might want to pick up a neoprene strap cover for your mask. A strap cover just makes wearing a mask more comfortable and much easier to "slip on" or "slide off" over your head. It's definitely nicer than wrestling a rubber strap through wet hair—particularly if you have long hair. Strap covers are easy to attach, they slide right over your mask's strap and are secured with Velcro. While they're not a "must have," strap covers are icing on the cake for avid snorkelers.
Happy Halloween snorkel fans! If you're in Maui over Halloween, be sure to check out the festivities in Lahaina. Get there early if you can, it's quite the celebration and traffic can be a "fright!" For more snorkeling tips or questions about Maui, contact us here or through social media. You can find Maui's Best Snorkeling on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. We'd love to hear from you!
Discover the Maui Swap Meet
When we're not snorkeling Maui, we love to explore the island. With its gorgeous beaches and intriguing natural landscapes, there's an abundance of places to discover that are relatively inexpensive or free (other than the time and gas it takes to get there). While our primary focus is snorkeling, it's worth noting other activities unique to Maui. It's nice to have options for those days when you can't hit the water or are in the mood to explore the island above its shorelines. One of our favorites? The Maui Swap Meet in Kahului.
There is so much to enjoy about this weekly Saturday event. For a mere 50 cents admission, you'll find a huge gathering of local vendors with a wide assortment of goods. The swap meet offers such a vibrant, entertaining feast it's easy to have your plans for a "quick visit" turn into a full-morning diversion.
Top on our list are the tasty foods and treats... you'll find farm fresh veggies and tropical fruits to enhance your stay on Maui, as well as countless other delights... coconut macaroons... unique combinations of island fruits transformed into mouth-watering frozen treats... chocolate-macadamia nut confections... shave ice... freshly roasted coffee. Just about any taste of the tropics can be found, including coconut water served in its "original container" and chopped with a machete before your eyes. Tropical plants and fresh cut flowers round out the colorful array of swap meet offerings!
Along with the usual tourist trinkets, the Maui Swap Meet is also a great place to meet some of Maui's gifted artisans. There are many talented locals living on the island who make the Maui Swap Meet a primary place for selling their creative handiwork. You'll find original paintings, jewelry, photography, pottery, clothing, tile mosaics, woodwork, music... It's a gathering of talent that goes well beyond other tourist venues on the island. You'll discover unique art, meet the creators, and just may leave with an original piece to decorate your home or fondly remember your time in Maui.
So if you can't tell already—we love the Maui Swap Meet! If you're not snorkeling, it's a great way to spend a Saturday morning in Maui. You'll find it underway from 7 am to 1 pm every Saturday at the UH Maui College campus in Kahului (the same city as the main airport). For 50 cents admission and free parking, you can't miss! In the meantime, if you have any questions about snorkeling or exploring Maui, please feel free to contact us here or through social media. You can find Maui's Best Snorkeling on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. We'd love to hear from you!
Snorkeling in Maui - What Makes it Unique
Maui is officially known as the Valley Isle, but many call it the Ocean Island. Maui is blessed with more spots to easily access its waters than any of its sister islands. This is great news if you love snorkeling and are planning a trip to Maui. From Maluaka Beach in the south to Kapalua Bay in the north there are a countless number of beautiful snorkeling beaches in Maui.
However, snorkeling in Maui is a little different than many other places and knowing about these differences can make your snorkeling adventures even better. The two most important differences to be aware of are Shoreline Access and Wind.
Shoreline Access: Nearly every snorkel spot in Maui can be accessed from shore. This means if you know where to go and how to get there, you have very few limits. You don't have to take a boat, you don't have to pay anyone, and you don't have to be on someone else's schedule. You have the freedom to go where you want, when you want, and for as long as you want. All you really need is a great snorkeling guidebook—we recommend ours! :) We've snorkeled all the spots and give candid advice on which ones are good and which ones are great.
Wind: Maui can be windy—at times very windy. The wind creates waves and can stir up sand that makes snorkeling conditions pretty lousy. Fortunately the winds on Maui are predictable. They pick up in the late morning, build into midday, and can really blow by the afternoon. This means your best bet for snorkeling on Maui is in the morning or earlier in the day. You'll find nicer water, safer conditions, and a more enjoyable snorkeling experience.
For more tips and great snorkeling beaches in Maui, check back often and pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Snorkeling in Maui - Moray Eels
At first glance moray eels look pretty intimidating. You'll often find them poking their snake-like heads out of dark crevices—opening and closing their jaws and displaying a mouthful of teeth in a threatening manner. There's no need to rush off if you see one though, morays aren't typically aggressive unless they're being harrassed or fed. Simply give them space and enjoy the opportunity to observe these interesting creatures.
While they may not look like it, eels are actually fish. But unlike fish, morays eels don't have gill covers. This makes a big difference when it comes to breathing. Fish breathe by opening and closing their gill covers to draw water across their gills, while morays have to constantly open and close their mouths to do the same thing. So while they may look menacing, morays are just doing "what morays have to do" in order to breathe.
So if you encounter eels while snorkeling in Maui don't be spooked—just enjoy. Their tendency to stay in one place makes them easy to photograph and observe. You may get lucky and see hunting behavior, but in that case your observation will be cut short, these amazing creatures can weave in and out of the coral in seconds.
For more about eels and other fascinating underwater creatures in Maui, check back often or pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Include "Maui's Best Snorkeling" in your carry-on!
We’ll admit it, we're snorkel fanatics! We love cruising the reef and have spent countless hours exploring Maui’s waters... We’ve hit the sites listed in free visitor magazines, and checked out places suggested in travel guidebooks. We’ve ventured into areas mentioned on websites, and explored spots that just looked intriguing from shore. We’ve covered much of Maui’s coastline and had a fantastic time learning which spots are good—and which ones are great!
Our goal is to share what we've found and help others discover the beauty and amazing sea life found just below the water's surface. We're confident our guidebook will help you create memorable snorkeling adventures and make the most of your time in Maui.
Here's a sample of what others have to say:
"This Book is Great"
This book is great. It gives precise locations for the beaches, parking, and amenities for the best snorkeling places in Maui. It describes the correct entry points for the reefs in Maui as well what type of flora and fauna one is going to encounter at a particular beach. One can clearly see the author is an experienced snorkeler. In addition to descriptions for each place, the author also presents snorkeling tips, ocean hazards, and conservation. I used this book to plan my snorkeling for a 5 day trip to Maui and do not regret it. Next time I go to Maui, this book will be in my luggage again. –Amazon Review
"Great Book that Stays on Target"
...This book really gives you what you want—detailed descriptions of the snorkeling at various locations. It has maps, it has driving directions, it has parking information. But what I really love is the detailed descriptions of the snorkeling... where to go within the bay... what to look for... what you'll see... and those beautiful, beautiful pictures! I even learned that the weird bat-fish I saw in Kapalua Bay is actually an Oriental Flying Gurnard!
"Thank you again for your awesome book"
I loved the pictures, and the instructions on where to find the best snorkeling were excellent. We also liked your idea of a "marathon adventure" and made up one of our own based on your suggestions (ironic as we were on Maui to run the marathon)! –Email
So if you're headed to Maui, be sure to include "Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling" in your carry-on. You'll be planning your adventures and ready to snorkel before your plane lands in Maui! Aloha and Happy Snorkeling!
Exploring the Trails at La Pérouse, Maui
When we're not snorkeling we love to explore Maui. If you haven't driven down Makena Road to La Pérouse Bay in South Maui it's well worth your time.
Heading south from Kihei and past Wailea, you'll reach the area known as Makena. Neither Wailea or Makena have their own zip codes, but they are by no means just an extension of Kihei. Each area has its own distinct feel. Driving along the tree lined, manicured resorts of Wailea there's a definite sense of upscale luxury. The further you go, Wailea-Alaluni Road melds into Makena-Alaluni and the vibe changes from "lively tourist zone" to "mellow residential" with a whole cast of beautiful beaches along the way...Po'lenalena, Makena Landing, Maluaka, Little Beach and Big Beach—all should be on your list for visiting while you're in Maui. But if your goal is LaPérouse Bay keep on driving; past the big red hill (known as Pu'u Ola'i), past Secret Beach (a tiny, beautiful spot that nearly always has a wedding underway), and on down the road with its fantastic views of Molokini and shore side homes you'd love to call home.
The further you go, the more narrow the road becomes hugging right alongside the lava lined shores of the Pacific. Take it slow and you're likely to see bright yellow tangs flitting about in the shallows. It's a whole different feel from the hustle and bustle of Kihei or Wailea, no sprinklers keep the landscape green, it's hot and dry with scant shade from the thorny Kiawe trees overhead.
Soon you'll soon reach Ahihi Cove, it'll take all your willpower to resist the urge to pull over for a swim at this idyllic spot. Beyond the cove you'll enter the lava fields on the southwest side of Haleakala. The road becomes one lane from here on out as it gently ascends and descends through the stark lava landscape. You'll want to keep your speed down to accommodate oncoming traffic and bikers, as well as wild goats that amble along the road. After passing the parking area for Ahihi Bay, your destination is just a mile and a half away. You'll know you've arrived when the pavement ends at a gravel parking area beside the bay.
If you've never visited this part of the island, the trip alone is a "mini adventure." But there's plenty more to see depending on how much you want to explore. A private property sits just to the right of the parking area, please don't trespass even if other visitors disregard the posted signs. When it comes to being visitors, we live by the golden rule and encourage you to do the same. The trail starts to your left close to shore. You can follow it until you feel like turning around, though many don't venture beyond the first half-mile or so. You'll pass by early Hawaiian ruins, rugged shorelines, lava arches, and see the ocean erupt from a small blowhole as waves roll in. Rock cairns dot the trail, along with tide pools bordered by "salt and pepper rocks" (black lava and weathered white coral). Further along you'll find a memorial to surfers under shoreline trees. When the south swells are up, La Pérouse is a favorite surf spot and a few have lost their lives here. If you continue down the trail you'll eventually reach a light marking Cape Hanamanioa (just under 1.5 miles from your start). Some call it a light house, but it's really not much more than a light on a pole marking one of the southernmost points on Maui.
You can continue along this path or on the Hoapili Trail, a route once used by ancient Hawaiians and also known as the King's Highway. If you're the tenacious type and don't mind hiking through lava in the heat, King's Highway eventually leads to Keawanaku Beach and further yet, Kanaio Beach. It's a memorable adventure hiking to these oasis-like spots, but neither beach is marked so it takes a bit of guesswork and plenty of patience while making your way through "alotta" lava! If you try snorkeling at Keawanaku, take care, we've encountered exceptionally strong currents here. Remember, you're on-your-own at this very isolated spot.
La Pérouse is a uniquely beautiful place offering adventure for just about everyone. We recommend timing your visit for early morning or late afternoon/early evening to avoid the windiest times of day (as the area is notorious for high winds). If you plan on hiking the trails, bring plenty of water and wear appropriate footwear—flip-flops won't cut it. Twisting an ankle while navigating the rugged trails here is a real possibility, and likely NOT on your vacation bucket list!
For more information on snorkeling or exploring Maui, pick up a copy of Mask Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling! You can also contact us here or through Social Media. Look for us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+. We’d love to hear from you!
Maui's Best Snorkeling Beaches - Maluaka Beach
Maluaka is one of our favorite beaches in South Maui. It’s a peaceful spot in a beautiful setting and offers some of the best snorkeling on Maui. Its wide stretch of sand is bordered by the lush grounds of The Makena Beach and Golf Resort and is relatively uncrowded compared to many Maui beaches.
For a snorkeler, it's hard to get much better. There’s an abundance of great coral, a wide variety of fish, and dramatic underwater seascapes with ravines, arches, and hidden caverns. We think it's the perfect place for a morning snorkel followed by a day of picnicking, swimming, and enjoying the beach.
To top it off, Maluaka's expansive reef is home to one of Maui’s famed “Turtle Towns,” where excursion boats often bring paying customers —yes, it’s that good. If you decide to go, you'll also find Maluaka Beach offers showers, bathrooms, and a reasonable amount of parking.
For snorkel routes, candid advice, and detailed maps of Maluaka and all of Maui's best beaches, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins, & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling. If you're on the island, visit The Makena Mercantile. It's inside The Makena Beach and Golf Resort located just above Maluaka Beach. It's one of several island locations where you can buy our snorkel guidebook.
Snorkeling with Eagle and Manta Rays
If we could wish for one singular, out-of-this-world experience for visitors to Maui, it would be the chance to snorkel alongside a Manta or Eagle Ray. Rays are a spectacular sight and having one gracefully glide by as you're snorkeling is a moment you'll never forget!
Spotted Eagle Rays and Mantas are the most likely rays you'll see while snorkeling in Maui. They're classified as fish but don't have scales and like sharks (their close cousins), rays have skeletons made entirely of cartilage. It's not an everyday occurence to see them, so if you encounter one while snorkeling it's definitely your lucky day!
Spotted Eagle Rays are easily recognized by their white polka-dotted top-sides and a broad snout resembling a duck bill. They are smaller than mantas and have a long whip-like tail with several venomous barbs near its base. Known to be shy and wary of humans, whenever we encounter them they always "fly by" in a hurry. We spotted the juvenile shown above timidly darting back and forth along the shallows of Maluaka Beach. Spotted Eagle Rays are not aggressive creatures to fear, but their barbs can inflict serious pain if touched, so like all sea creatures give them plenty of space.
Manta Rays are the largest type of ray, outsized only by sharks and whales in the ocean. With wingspans in the 8-12 feet range around Maui, the first time you see one, it's hard not to be awe-struck. Looking a bit like an enormous flying bat with a cavernous, gaping mouth, it's a sure bet you've never seen anything like it in a lifetime on land—let alone gliding next to you in the water! If you didn't know anything about mantas, their size alone can be intimidating. But unlike their cousin (the shark), mantas are extremely gentle creatures. They do not have venomous barbs and despite their large mouth, they are filter feeders who dine on zooplankton and small fish. So if you're fortunate to have a manta gracefully pass by as you're snorkeling, relax and take pleasure in the moment, it's not often you'll enjoy such a unique privilege.
On rare occasions, Mantas and Eagle Rays are known to breach the water's surface, flying completely out of the water and sometimes somersaulting or cart-wheeling through the air. It's not known why rays take these unusual acrobatic flights. Speculation runs from courtship rituals to pure entertainment. What ever the reason, it's a spectacle to behold! Check out this amazing BBC video of the phenomena, "flights" begin at 50 seconds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz6zOyZpYTY
To learn more about Maui's sea creatures and snorkeling tips for Maui, be sure to bookmark our blog and pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling!
Maui Snorkeling Secrets - Adventure Awaits
The most common places to snorkel in Maui tend to be just off the rocky ends of Maui's beautiful sandy beaches. But if you have a keen sense of adventure and advanced swimming skills, it's possible to get off the beaten path and snorkel in some truly interesting spots.
The secret involves finding a spot and doing a little reconnaissance. Whenever we're driving around the island we're always looking for new spots to snorkel. Once we see something intriguing, we scout it out. We'll stop by to get the general feel of the area and look for access points to get in and out of the water safely. We also take note of any nearby restrooms and showers—it's always nice to know where you can get cleaned up afterwards.
When to snorkel is another consideration. Whenever we're planning to snorkel a remote spot we check out the surf forecast for that part of the island. Swells and surf can vary considerably depending what side of the island you're on. If it looks like the waves are going to be thumping, we save our snorkeling adventure for another day. This is especially important if your snorkel spot requires entry and exit from a rocky shoreline. You don't want to get tossed against lava rock—definitely not a pleasant vacation memory.
While we're on the subject of lava rock...if you don't have a pair of cheap reef shoes, do yourself a favor and pick up a pair in Maui. They are no match for the nasty thorns of a kiawe tree, but they're a "treat to your feet" when you're ambling over rocky shorelines. And unlike leaving valuables in your car, you can usually leave a pair of reef shoes on shore and still find them when you get back!
If you're interested in out of the way places and marathon snorkeling adventures while you're visiting Maui, pick up a copy of Mask, Fins & Snorkel: The Adventure Guide to Maui's Best Snorkeling.
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