If you’re planning a trip to Maui, there’s a good chance you’re hoping to see a turtle. Known as the honu, the native Hawaiian turtles are an icon of the islands, and their graceful movements are a delight to see.
Although the honu are frequent visitors across the coastline of Maui, there is no guarantee you’ll see one on your beach visit. But with this guide, you can certainly increase your chances of a sea turtle sighting!
Read on to find the best places to see turtles on Maui (from a safe, respectable difference).
The Best Place To See Turtles On Maui
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Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach)
The clue really is in the name when it comes to Turtle Town—this is a popular turtle meeting spot off the coast of South Maui where turtle sightings aren’t guaranteed, but they are highly likely.
Turtle Town is located near Maluaka Beach, in the Makena area of South Maui. You can often spot the honu from the beach itself, and while snorkeling in the shallows.
However, many visitors to Turtle Town come by boat. Boat trips to Molokini (another excellent turtle destination) often include trips to Turtle Town.
Alternatively, take a drive to Maluaka Beach, and snorkel at the south end of the beach.
Black Rock Beach
To the north end of Ka’anapali Beach, Black Rock Beach is one of the most popular places to see turtles on Maui.
Fronting many of the major Ka’anapali resorts, Black Rock is a convenient location that draws both the crowds and the turtles.
The best place to snorkel here is around the Black Rock itself, which is an ancient lava rock formation protruding into the sea. Visit early in the morning to avoid the worst of the currents, and most of the cliff jumpers.
Tucked into a curve of the coast just south from Napili Bay, Honokeana Bay is often missed by tourists to Maui.
The beach itself isn’t great. It’s rocky and small, there’s no parking lot nearby, and it’s hard to find the beach behind the condos.
Once you get in the water, however, you’ll forget all about that. On a good day, the waters of Honokeana Bay are teeming with honu. Enter the waters carefully, and keep an eye out for turtles sunbathing on the rocks.
Kapalua Bay is a real gem of West Maui, a beach with sparkling clear seas and soft sands.
The protruding arms that mark the borders of the beach help protect Kapalua from the worst of the currents, giving it a still surface and fantastic visibility.
These rocky outcrops also attract the turtles, as does the coral that’s tucked close to the shore.
If you want to snorkel at Kapalua Bay, we recommend arriving early to beat the crowds. When you’re done in the water, take a walk along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, and look out for turtles resting on the rocky coast.
Ulua And Mokapu Beach
Ulua and Mokapu are two connected beaches at the entrance of Wailea, and they’re both incredibly popular snorkeling destinations.
The beaches are divided by a rock outcrop, and this is where you’ll find the best snorkeling—and possibly the turtles! Strong swimmers should try snorkeling from Mokapu to Ulua, looking for honu along the way.
Just to the north of Mokapu Beach is Keawakapu Beach. In fact, the two share the same strip of sand. Keawakapu isn’t quite as famous for its snorkeling, but it’s still worth a visit if you’re searching for turtles.
5 Caves/5 Graves
5 Caves, along the Makena coast, is an area with an exceptional underwater landscape. Rocky and rugged, this isn’t a great place for a beach day. But the turtles don’t care about that, and they’re frequent visitors to 5 Caves.
Snorkeling is better close to shore, but the best of 5 Caves is found further to sea. This area is for advanced divers only.
5 Caves actually gets its name from the series of deep underwater caves that are found along the coast. (The area’s other name, 5 Graves, comes from a nearby graveyard.)
With only a small beach area, it’s easy to overlook Makena Landing. But as you move away from the sand and out to the sea, you’ll discover how Makena Landing opens up into an excellent snorkel destination.
With the gently sloping sands giving way to a clear and sparkling sea, Makena Landing is a prime place for turtle spotting.
Lucky visitors might get the chance to see turtles sunbathing on the rocks at Makena Landing. If you do, make sure to keep a safe distance, and avoid disturbing the turtles.
Ho’okipa Beach on the North Shore is a world famous windsurfing destination, and one of the best places to spot turtles on Maui.
The turtles at Ho’okipa Beach are known for resting on the sand, which makes this the perfect turtle watching beach if you want to stay dry.
The turtles visit Ho’okipa Beach throughout the day, but you’re most likely to see them in the early afternoon, between 2pm and 4pm.
They also like to stroll along the beach at sunset, so visit in the evening for a chance to see honu enjoy the famous Maui golden hour.
Or Try, Maui Ocean Center
For an almost guaranteed turtle sighting, take a trip to Maui Ocean Center in Ma’alaea.
An exceptional aquarium dedicated to preserving Hawaiian marine life, the Maui Ocean Center houses a turtle lagoon, so you can see the turtles while keeping your feet dry.
The turtle lagoon houses rescued and recently hatched turtles, and an underwater view allows you to watch their graceful movement through the water.
Sea turtles are one of the greatest delights to be found on Maui, and if you visit enough beaches, there’s a good chance you’ll see a turtle!
If you are lucky enough to see the honu, then you must remain respectful. They’re wild animals, after all! Stay several feet away, and don’t touch a turtle under any circumstances!