by Nancy Morris,
West Maui, including areas such as Kaanapali, Honalua Bay and Kapalua offer some of the best snorkeling you will find anywhere on the entire island. If you are planning a vacation to the west side of Maui and you like to snorkel, take time to visit several different snorkeling sites as the west side of the island has much to offer. Mornings are generally better when it comes to snorkeling because swimming conditions are usually calmer, resulting in better visibility. However, sheltered coves and bays on Maui’s west side often allow good afternoon snorkeling too.
Renting Snorkel Gear on Maui
If you are visiting Maui for any length of time, ideally, you should rent a car. There are so many great places to visit, and though most are easy to get to, public transportation is more for local shopping than sight-seeing and touring by taxi will cost you a fortune (reserve your car rental well ahead of time for best rates). You can find a plethora of scuba and snorkeling rental locations all over Maui. Consider renting snorkel gear for a week at a time. Though you can find snorkel rental locations that charge as little as $10 or $15 per week, be aware that in many cases you get what you pay for and paying a little more will probably get you better equipment. We rent our gear from Maui Dive Shop. The staff is friendly, accommodating and very knowledgeable.
Snorkeling in Kapalua Bay
Kapalua Bay is a cove protected by two reefs making it a great location for family snorkeling. It’s superb for beginners as the sandy beach makes getting into the water super simple. If you stay close to north end and snorkel the rocky edge, you will find a larger variety of fish and have better visibility. Arrive early in the morning if you hope to find a parking spot in the public lot. Otherwise, no problem; just park along the road and walk a little further to the beach.olani.com
Snorkeling in Black Rock
Rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and several miles long, Kaanapali beach has something for everyone. The rocky black peninsula at the north end of Kaanapali is aptly named Black Rock and provides excellent snorkeling and decent scuba diving. Be wary of people jumping off the rocks into the water. Most of the jumpers are pretty careful to avoid snorkelers, but keep your distance just to be on the safe side. Access to the water is easy and the beach has plenty of room for everyone. There is a small beach access parking garage where you can park for free located next to the Sheraton Maui in Kaanapali. If the stalls are taken already, you can park closer to Whaler’s Village. Validation at one of the shops in Whaler’s Village will get you three free hours of parking, but you may have to fork over a few dollars if you stay longer than that.
Mile Marker 14
When asking about great places to snorkel, mile marker 14 is likely to come up. It’s a great place for beginners but in case you don’t know what to expect, there are a few things you should be aware of. Parking consists of pulling off the busy highway anywhere along the snorkeling area. Once you reach mile marker 14, you will spot cars pulled off to the side and dotted in between trees. You will have enough room to place your towels and non-valuables on the short, dark sandy beach with its interesting low-lying branches. There are plenty of rocks in the water and there is not much distance between the ocean and the highway. Consequently, if your party has children that are too young to snorkel and need entertaining, this may not be the best snorkeling location for you.
Honalua Bay Snorkeling
It’s hard to remain objective when describing Honalua Bay because for me, it is easily the most remarkable place I have had the pleasure to snorkel. The first time I snorkeled at Honalua Bay, it was a calm afternoon and even though the day was rather overcast, the deep water was crystal clear and the color of the live coral was extremely vivid. At one point, much to my delight, I found myself face-to-face with an enormous sea turtle. I returned the following week with an underwater camera but the trade winds had been active by then for a few days and unfortunately the visibility was limited due to the sand roiled up by the rough water. Just the same, I did manage get a few fairly decent pictures (see photos).
If you decide to snorkel in Honalua Bay, expect to work a little harder on your entry. Unstable rocks cover most of the shoreline and extra caution is needed when making your way to the water. Although excellent for beginner to intermediate snorkelers, I would recommend Honalua Bay for confident swimmers because strong ocean currents may be present and you have to swim quite far into the bay to see large fish and deep coral ridges. Honalua Bay makes up part of the Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District so you might encounter conservationists asking you to abstain from wearing sunscreen in order to preserve coral life. Limited parking is located ½ mile or so past mile marker 32. Once you have parked, simply follow the dirt path through what I like to refer to as, the enchanted forest, down to the bay.
Take Caution When Snorkeling
Never leave valuables locked in your car along the highway. Always snorkel with a buddy and pay close attention to the ocean conditions. If you think it looks too rough to snorkel, you’re probably right.
- HawaiiSnorkelingGuide: Kapalua Bay
- MauiInfoSource: Honalua Bay, Mile Marker 14