The west-facing beaches of Maui enjoy golden sunsets, picturesque views, and frequent visits from humpback whales.
And if that wasn’t enough, they’re also home to an abundance of fish, coral, and even the Hawaiian turtle. It’s a snorkeling paradise!
Grab your snorkel gear and get ready to explore the waves with our guide to the best West Maui snorkeling.
We’ve covered the spots you have to visit, when to go, and even where to pick up your snorkel masks!
Best Places To Snorkel On West Maui
Table of Contents
Fishing is prohibited at Honolua Bay, so the waters here are absolutely teeming with ocean life.
You have to swim out a bit to see it—the water near the shore can be murky—but the extra effort pays off. Once the waters open up, they come alive with fish and coral, plus the occasional turtle.
Enter using the beach access ramp, and head to the left side of the water. While the water at Honolua Bay might be exceptional, the rest of it is a little disappointing.
The beach is rocky, parking is limited, and there are no facilities.
Part of the Marine Life Preservation District, wildlife thrives at Slaughterhouse Beach, otherwise known as Mokuleia Beach.
A pretty destination, you’ll want to spend time soaking up the view from the sand once you’re done exploring the waves. The best snorkeling is to the right of the beach, where the rocks curve around to Honolua.
Access to Slaughterhouse Beach is difficult, as you have to follow a long staircase from the parking lot to the beach. There are also no facilities.
But the trees that ring the beach provide shade in the morning and afternoon, making it a nice spot to get out of the sun.
Kapalua Bay beach is tucked into the natural curves of the coastline, with long rocky outcrops protruding on either side of the beach. For snorkelers, this is excellent news.
These arms protect the water within the bay from much of the stronger currents, creating a surface almost as still as a swimming pool in the mornings. And the rocks are a haven for interesting wildlife, with corals, fish, and even turtles spotted enjoying the waters.
Kapalua Bay also has a decent amount of facilities, with public restrooms at the head of the beach trail, and places to grab food and drink.
Step off the sands of Kahekili Beach and into the water, and you’ll be practically on top of the reef already. This is an excellent snorkeling beach for convenience.
Park nearby, and you can get out of your car and begin exploring the corals in just a few steps.
For beginner snorkelers, Kahekili Beach is a good place to learn. As well as the fish (which are plentiful) turtles are also very common at Kahekili. The only real downside of Kahekili is that you’re on the reef right away.
This makes access easy (no need to swim out far), but also a little tricky (you don’t want to step on the reef). Start floating as soon as you hit the water.
Ka’anapali Beach (Black Rock)
The convenience of Ka’anapali Beach is one of the reasons that it’s so popular with snorkel fans on West Maui. A short walk from many of the major accommodations, Ka’anapali Beach comes packed with conveniences.
It takes its name from the lava flow formation that protrudes into the water and separates Ka’anapali and Kahekili.
Snorkeling is excellent across this area, although watch out for stronger currents. Watch out for the crowds as well. Ka’anapali Beach is rarely quiet.
The reef at Olowalu comes almost right up the shore, and it stretches quite a distance into the water. Otherwise known as Mile Marker 14 Beach, this is a roadside snorkel destination where the experience in the water far outclasses the beach itself.
In the morning, the calm seas are open for exploration, and beginners will enjoy the easy access. The visibility is also fantastic.
You really do come to Olowalu for the water, and the water alone. The beach itself is small, there are no facilities, and the road is literally next to the sand.
Still, the reef is good enough to make up for these minor issues.
West Maui Snorkel Rental
Alternatively, ask about snorkel rental at your accommodation. Many resorts, hotels, and condos have snorkel equipment on site.
You can also typically buy low cost snorkel equipment from Costco!
When Is The Best Time To Snorkel On West Maui?
The morning is the best time to snorkel on West Maui, as the currents are calmer and the visibility is improved.
The wind tends to pick up throughout the day, leading to stronger waves which are tough to swim in, and churn up the waters. Set off early, if you really want to make the most of the snorkeling.
It’s important to be aware of the currents wherever you snorkel on West Maui, but this is particularly true for the beaches to the north.
Honolua Bay and Slaughterhouse Beach are also surf destinations, and the calm snorkel waters can quickly transform into epic waves. Check the conditions before visiting. It is possible to snorkel at Honolua and Slaughterhouse Beach throughout the year, but the best conditions are found in the summer months.
During winter, this area really transforms into a surf spot.
From the tips of Honolua Bay down to the curve of Olowalu, West Maui has a coast that is just perfect for snorkeling.
Beginner’s should try the easy access of Kahekili, while more advanced snorkelers will love the abundance of marine life at Honolua.
Visit early in the morning for the best conditions, and grab your snorkel gear from one of the many rental shops in the area.