January 29, 2023

The Best Maui Snorkeling

Note: Some tour providers on this list may have limited or ceased operations due to COVID-19. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.

Picturesque coastlines with unique topography and diverse ecosystems not only make snorkeling a top thing to do in Maui, but they also make the island one of the best places to snorkel and scuba dive in the U.S. There are three well-known snorkeling zones on and around the island, including the South Shore, Kaanapali and the Upper West. These areas include several of Maui’s most popular snorkeling sites, such as the underwater reef at Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, also known as Turtle Arches.

Situated approximately 2 ½ miles off the southwest shores of Maui, Molokini is a crescent atoll that formed from the remains of a volcanic eruption that occurred roughly 230,000 years ago. The calm waters around this protected area offer excellent visibility of up to 150 feet, as well as the ability to see approximately 250 species of endemic fish and marine life. Sightings could include parrotfish, black triggerfish, moray eels, manta rays, dolphins, octopuses and even whitetip reef sharks. And if you’re lucky, you may see migrating humpback whales around the crater during whale season, which occurs from mid-December to late March.

Snorkelers also come to the Valley Isle to swim with green sea turtles at Turtle Town on Maui’s southwestern coast. In addition to the turtles, a wide variety of tropical fish and other marine life populate the reef and lava formations.

No matter where you want to snorkel, it’s best to book a tour with a knowledgeable and experienced guide. The daily weather and ocean conditions (think: poor visibility or hazardous surf) vary significantly on the island, which can make discerning the best days to go out difficult – even if you consult a local snorkeling report. That’s where trained local guides can make or break your snorkeling experience. U.S. News identified the following outings as the best available consulting both expert opinion and traveler sentiment.

Maui Magic – Morning Molokini Adventure Snorkel

Maui Magic’s early morning tour, which lasts five hours, departs at 6:30 a.m. from Maalaea. The excursion not only includes a stop at Molokini Crater but also another stop at a specially selected location chosen by the captain. During this half-day trip, tour-takers can snorkel alongside colorful reefs populated with tropical fish. During the tour, snorkelers may also see dolphins, sea turtles and humpback whales (during the winter months). Prices start at $130 for adults and $100 for children ages 5 to 12. The company does not recommend the trip for kids 4 and younger. Prices include snorkeling gear, a tropical breakfast, a midmorning snack, a barbecue lunch and nonalcoholic beverages. Complimentary wine, beer and cocktails are available on the way back to the dock. Participants can also choose to snuba (a type of water sport that allows users to dive below the water’s surface without the training required for scuba diving). Snuba gear costs an additional $62. Know that extra charges apply for use of underwater digital cameras and wetsuits. Most reviewers enjoy the fun vibe on board the boat and mention that the captain and crew are friendly and knowledgeable. Others say that the trip is ideal for older children. The company also offers a seasonal whale watching and snorkeling combo trip.

Maui Snorkel Charters’ four-hour tour visits Molokini Crater and up to six other locations. The additional locations vary, as the crew will only take you to spots with the best conditions on the day of your tour. Animal sightings may include octopuses, tropical fish, sea turtles and humpback whales (between December and April). The company’s custom-built, 40-foot boat seats 26 passengers; however, each charter takes no more than 18 individuals. Outings cost approximately $115 per participant 13 and older and about $110 for children 12 and younger. Prices include all gear, reef-safe sunscreen, jackets to keep you warm and a light breakfast. (Note: If you want to tip your guide, bring cash.) Trips run daily from 7 to 11 a.m. and leave from the Kihei Boat Ramp, which sits 2 ½ miles north of Wailea Beach. Patrons rave about the tour and the personable and knowledgeable crew. Many say they had more time in the water because the group was small and that they will always book with Maui Snorkel Charters. The company also offers private snorkel charters.

Trilogy – Lanai Coastal Snorkel Sail

Trilogy’s 5 ½-hour snorkel sail takes participants to the pristine waters along the Lanai coast, which are only reachable by boat. Here, snorkelers will find species of tropical fish that are only found in these waters. They’ll also view Kaunolu Village’s sea cliffs, which are some of the highest in the world. If Kaunolu’s snorkeling conditions are poor, participants will go to Club Lanai instead. The tour includes use of snorkeling gear and floatation devices, an optional naturalist-guided reef tour, a continental breakfast, a deli lunch, nonalcoholic drinks and two adult beverages for travelers 21 and older. Prices start at $169 for adults and $129 for snorkelers ages 13 to 17. Tickets for children ages 3 to 12 cost around $90, while kids 2 and younger ride for free. Trips depart multiple times a week from Lahaina Harbor. Tour-takers comment that the snorkeling is incredible and that the food and beverages are plentiful and delicious. They also praise the captain and crew’s attentiveness. Some reviewers say that they saw several whales. Other company offerings include a Discover Kaanapali tour and a Captain’s Sunset Dinner Sail.

Kai Kanani – Sunrise Deluxe Snorkel

Early morning risers beat the crowds at Molokini with a 6 a.m. check-in for this 3 ½-hour Sunrise Deluxe Snorkel. Kai Kanani says its boat is one of the first to reach the crater, adding patrons will enjoy 45 minutes of solitude in its pristine waters, which offer up to 200 feet of visibility. As the tour’s name implies, you’ll see the sunrise, as well as Haleakala and the Big Island. After snorkeling Molokini, you’ll head to Turtle Town or another prime spot. You’ll also receive snacks throughout your trip and breakfast after snorkeling. Tickets cost approximately $205 for adults and about $165 for children ages 2 to 12. Tour fees are waived for infants. The price covers all food, snorkeling gear and shuttle service from select Wailea resorts. Participants comment that it’s worth the early wake-up call to be the only snorkelers at Molokini. They also say the crew and captain are friendly and informative. Kai Kanani offers a later morning snorkeling excursion and several other types of outings, including a sunset sail.

The Best Maui Snorkeling

Molokini is one of the most popular snorkel spots for Maui tourists.(Getty Images)

Molokini Maui – Molokini Snorkeling Aboard The Malolo!

Set sail on board Malolo, a 55-foot catamaran, for this morning snorkeling excursion to Molokini and Turtle Town. Tour-takers will spend one hour snorkeling at each site; the company provides snorkeling gear, float vests and bodyboards. Aboard the boat, snorkelers will find trampolines to laze on and can enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast, a deli lunch and nonalcoholic beverages (adult beverages are available for purchase). Ticket prices start at $99.95 for adults and $49.95 for children ages 3 to 12. Kids 2 and younger sail for free. Most reviewers have a positive experience and enjoy the tour. However, a few travelers complain of poor company communication regarding trip confirmations and departure times.

For those who’d rather sign up for a shorter tour, there’s a Sunday morning tour of only Molokini Crater that costs about $70 per adult and approximately $50 per child. Additionally, the company operates an afternoon snorkeling tour to either Molokini or Coral Gardens. Afternoon tours include snorkeling gear but not snacks or drinks; lunch is available for purchase. Tickets for afternoon outings cost about $60 for adults and $20 for kids. Wetsuits, underwater cameras and deluxe snorkeling equipment cost extra. All snorkeling tours depart from Maalaea. The company also offers snuba and scuba diving tours.

Redline Rafting – Two-Hour Molokini Snorkel

Redline Rafting’s two-hour small boat tour, which is available at 7 or 9:30 a.m., accommodates a maximum of 10 passengers. This outing is perfect for travelers who only want to snorkel at Molokini. The fast 15-minute ride to the crater can be bumpy and wet, so the company recommends that people with certain physical conditions or limitations refrain from booking the trip. Kids younger than 8 are not permitted, and an adult must accompany children between 8 and 15. Guardians must sign waivers for 16- and 17-year-olds. Tickets cost approximately $100 per person and include snorkeling gear, instruction, reef-safe sunscreen, float belts, life jackets and assistance from the crew in identifying tropical fish. Boats depart from the Kihei Boat Ramp. Tour-takers say they appreciate the efficient small group tour, which they note is perfect for experienced snorkelers. They also praise the expertise and thoughtfulness of the crew. The company offers a five-hour snorkeling excursion, whale watching trips and private snorkeling tours as well.

Sea Maui – West Maui Half Day Snorkel Adventure

Sea Maui’s West Maui 4 ½-hour snorkeling tour departs from Kaanapali Beach several days a week at 8:30 a.m. The snorkeling spots vary depending on the ocean conditions but can include Mala Wharf, Olowalu, Cliff House and Honolua Bay. During the boat ride, keep an eye out for Hawaiian spinner and bottlenose dolphins. If you time your visit for winter, you may also see whales. Tour-takers rave about the crew and experience. Some say it was the best activity they did while in Hawaii. Ticket prices start at $134 for adults and $114 for participants ages 13 to 20. Children ages 3 to 12 tour for $84 each, and kids 2 and younger ride for free. The price covers snorkeling gear, as well as complimentary breakfast, lunch and a selection of beverages, including wine, beer and cocktails for adults 21 and older. The company also offers a snorkeling tour of Lanai, plus three different sunset cruises and whale watching tours.

Aqua Adventures – Snorkel & Snuba

This daily excursion takes a maximum of 36 passengers to Molokini and Turtle Town. The approximately five-hour tour offers patrons up to three hours of snorkeling and one opportunity to snuba. (Note: Children must be at least 8 years old to snuba.) The cost is approximately $170 for tour-takers 13 and older and about $130 for children ages 8 to 12. Children 3 and younger ride for free. Those who do not wish to snuba can pay a snorkeling-only price and save about $55 per person. Ticket prices include snorkeling and snuba gear, guided dives, a continental breakfast, a deli lunch and an open bar after snorkeling. Reviewers praise the captain and crew’s knowledge and expertise, adding that the tour was the highlight of their trip. Others mention that they saw a wide variety of marine life, including breaching whales, flying fish and dolphins that swam alongside the boat. Aqua Adventures also offers private charters.

Maui Snorkel Tours hosts individualized shore-based tours. The snorkeling sites vary depending on the weather and location of the tour-taker’s hotel or lodging. These small group outings accommodate all ages, swimming abilities and snorkeling experience levels, as well as individuals with physical disabilities. Trips also feature a marine biology briefing about the aquatic environment and how to identify various fish species. Tours depart Monday through Friday, begin between 7:30 and 8 a.m., and finish at noon. To enhance your experience, you and your group will be the only participants during each outing. The cost is approximately $150 per person for two snorkelers. If you tour with three or more in your group, you’ll pay about $110 per person. The maximum group size is 12, and this size tour will have two guides. The price includes all gear, snorkeling lessons for beginners and a light snack and bottled water at the end of the excursion. Patrons rave about the guides and say they appreciate the small group experience and personal attention, especially for beginners.

Alii Nui Sailing Charters – Morning Snorkel Sail Deluxe

This six-hour, premium sail features stops at Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. The trip departs four days a week year-round, but the exact days vary depending on the time of year. The outing includes complimentary transportation (based on availability), gear, wetsuits, breakfast, snacks, lunch and beer and wine. Check-in begins at 6:30 a.m. Prices start at $199 for adults and $149 for children ages 4 to 12. Kids 3 and younger sail for free. Huka and scuba diving are available for an additional fee, and some restrictions apply. Tour-takers praise the captain and crew’s friendliness and the incredible food and beverages. They also highly recommend the tour and call it an unforgettable experience. Alii Nui Sailing Charters’ other offerings include an afternoon snorkeling excursion, a whale watching outing, a sunset sail and private charters.

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