Picturesque coastlines with unique topography and diverse ecosystems not only make snorkeling one of the best things 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 3 miles off the southwest shores of Maui, Molokini is a crescent-shaped 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 200 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 November to 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 coral reefs 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 snorkeling conditions (think: poor visibility or strong currents) 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
Price: Adults from $180; kids from $140
Duration: 5 hours
Maui Magic’s early morning tour, which lasts five hours, departs at 6:30 a.m. from Ma’alaea. 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 and may also see dolphins, sea turtles and humpback whales (during the winter months). Most reviewers enjoy the fun vibe on board the boat and mention that the captain and crew are friendly and knowledgeable. Several called the tour the highlight of their Maui vacation.
Prices start at $180 for adults and $140 for children ages 5 to 12. The company does not recommend the trip for kids 4 and younger. Prices include snorkeling gear, 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, which allows swimmers to dive several feet beneath the water’s surface without the training required for scuba diving. Snuba gear costs an additional $69. Know that extra charges apply for use of underwater digital cameras and wetsuits. The company also runs private charters.
Maui Snorkel Charters
Price: Adults from $180; kids from $170
Duration: 4 hours
Maui Snorkel Charters’ four-hour tour visits Molokini Crater and up to six other snorkeling spots. 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 (in the winter). The company’s custom-built, 40-foot boat seats 26 passengers; however, each charter takes no more than 18 individuals. Patrons rave about the tour and the personable and knowledgeable crew. Many reviewers also appreciated the small boat and small group size, which they say create an intimate experience.
Outings cost approximately $180 per participant 13 and older and about $170 for children 5 to 12. Prices include all gear, a light snack and reef-safe sunscreen. (Note: If you want to tip your guide, bring cash.) Tour availability varies by month, but generally, 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. The company also offers private snorkel charters.
Trilogy Excursions – Discover Molokini
Price: Adults from $190; kids from $135
Duration: 5 hours
Set sail to Molokini for a five-hour snorkeling adventure aboard Trilogy’s 54-foot catamaran. You’ll start your tour enjoying a continental breakfast on board the boat before arriving at the submerged crater for snorkeling. Then, you’ll head to a second snorkeling location (usually Turtle Town, but the exact destination will depend on the weather) before enjoying a barbecue lunch. Reviewers praise the crew for their clear instructions and attention to safety. Travelers also call out the delicious food and drinks as highlights.
Tickets start at $190 for adults, $175 for youths ages 13 to 17 and $135 for kids ages 3 to 12. Tours depart daily at either 7 or 8 a.m., depending on which slip at Ma’alaea Harbor
your chosen tour is departing from. Looking for a more low-key activity? Consider the company’s sunset sail.
Kai Kanani – Sunrise Deluxe Snorkel
Price: Adults from $280; kids from $230
Duration: 3.5 hours
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 participants will enjoy 45 minutes of solitude in its crystalline waters. 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 snorkeling spot. You’ll also receive snacks throughout your trip and breakfast after snorkeling. Participants comment that this one-of-a-kind experience is worth the early wake-up call to be the only snorkelers at Molokini. They also say the crew and captain are friendly and informative
Tickets for tours, which are offered daily, start at approximately $280 for adults and about $230 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. Kai Kanani offers a midmorning snorkeling excursion and several other types of outings, including a sunset sail.
Malolo Molokini – Molokini & Turtle Town Snorkel Tour
Price: Adults from $160; kids from $120
Duration: 5.5 hours
Set sail aboard Malolo, a 55-foot catamaran, for this morning snorkeling excursion to Molokini and Turtle Town, which departs before 7 a.m. Tour-takers will spend approximately one hour snorkeling total; 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). Most reviewers have a positive experience and enjoy the tour, citing the friendly, attentive crew. However, a few travelers complain of poor company communication regarding trip confirmations and departure times.
Ticket prices start at $160 for adults and $120 for children ages 4 to 12. Kids 3 and younger sail for free. Tours are generally offered Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, though exact availability may vary by month. The company also offers an afternoon snorkel tour as well as a sunset dinner cruise, among other options.
Molokini is one of the most popular snorkel spots for Maui tourists.
Redline Rafting – Two-Hour Molokini Snorkel
Price: From $139
Duration: 2 hours
Redline Rafting’s two-hour small boat tour, which is available at 7 or 9:30 a.m., accommodates a maximum of 24 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. 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.
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 start at $139 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. The company offers a five-hour snorkeling excursion, whale watching trips and private snorkeling tours as well.
Aqua Adventures – Snorkel & Snuba
Price: Adults from $160; kids from $140
Duration: 5 hours
This daily excursion takes a maximum of 38 passengers to Molokini and Turtle Town. The approximately five-hour tour offers patrons up to three hours of snorkeling. Reviewers praise the captain and crew’s knowledge and expertise, adding that the tour was the highlight of their Maui trip. Others mention that they saw a wide variety of marine life, including breaching whales, flying fish and dolphins that swam alongside the boat.
Tours depart daily at 7:15 a.m. The cost is approximately $160 for tour-takers 13 and older and about $140 for children ages 12 and younger. Ticket prices include snorkeling gear, guided dives, a continental breakfast and a deli lunch. Note that there is an extra cost if you’d like to snuba and that children must be at least 8 to snuba. Aqua Adventures also offers private charters.
Maui Snorkel Tours
Price: From $160
Duration: 5 hours
Ideal for beginners or those prone to seasickness, Maui Snorkel Tours hosts individualized shore-based tours, meaning you won’t be taking a boat to any offshore locations. The snorkeling sites vary depending on the weather and location of the tour-taker’s hotel or lodging. These family-friendly, 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. Patrons rave about the guides and say they appreciate the small group experience and personal attention, especially for beginners.
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 $160 per person for two snorkelers. If you tour with three or more in your group, you’ll pay about $140 per person. The maximum group size is seven. The price includes all gear, snorkeling lessons for beginners and a light snack and bottled water at the end of the excursion.
Alii Nui Sailing Charters – Molokini Deluxe Snorkel
Price: Adults from $254; kids from $189
Duration: 5 hours
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive snorkel trip that combines visits to Molokini and Turtle Town with a bevy of extras, consider this morning snorkel tour from Alii Nui Sailing Charters. The five-hour tour includes breakfast, snacks and lunch, as well as beer, wine and seltzer, complimentary use of towels and sunscreen, wetsuit tops and flotation devices, snorkeling gear and shuttle service. Reviewers were impressed with the clean boat, attentive crew and delicious food. They also reported seeing an abundance of wildlife.
Tours are generally offered daily at 7 a.m., though availability may vary by month. Tickets, which includes complimentary shuttle service from south Maui accommodations, start at about $254 for participants 13 and older and $189 for kids 12 and younger. In the mood for a more relaxing activity? Alii Nui Sailing Charters also operates sunset sails for both families and lovebirds.
Know Before You Go
- In 2021, Hawaii banned the use of non-reef-safe sunscreens, which are sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate – chemicals known to cause damage to marine ecosystems. Most tour companies will provide you with reef-safe sunscreen to use during your excursion, but it’s a good idea to bring your own.
- You’ll also want to bring a towel and sunglasses, as well as an extra set of clothes if you want to change out of your swimsuit after the snorkeling portion of the tour.
- Your tour company will provide you with sanitized snorkel equipment, but if you prefer to use your own, you’re welcome to bring it on the tour.
- If you’re prone to motion sickness, you’ll want to pack motion sickness medication. The boat trip to Molokini is often smooth, but as the day progresses, the winds and currents become stronger, making the ride back to Maui bumpy.
- Be respectful of any wildlife you encounter. For green sea turtles, it’s advised you stay back at least 10 feet on land and in water. For dolphins, keep a distance of at least 150 feet. These animals are protected by state and federal law.