The Top 5 Maui Snorkeling Tours
Snorkeling and Maui go hand in hand for a reason: the pristine waters off the Valley Isle’s coast teem with some of the most vibrant marine life in the world. And while terrific snorkeling is found just off the beach across the island, nothing trumps taking a trip out into the Pacific—where diving under may put you within reach of everything from manta rays to Hawaiian squirrelfish.
COVID UPDATE: All of these Maui snorkeling tours are back up and running with weekly (if not daily) tours. Small groups and distancing are being observed as well as strict cleaning policies.
Choosing the right snorkeling tour on your Maui vacation, however, is a different story. Dozens of boats line the Kihei and Lahaina harbors, ready to whisk guests to several of Maui’s most revered places. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together the top 5 snorkeling tours Hawaii’s second-largest island has to offer—and why you should book a reservation pronto:
38 unique coral species and 250 different fish species flourish in the waters surrounding Molokini—a partially-submerged volcanic crater just off of Maui’s southern coast. Formally declared a Marine Life Conservation District in 1977, it lures hundreds of snorkelers and divers to its depths on a daily basis. While heaps of companies provide guests the chance to see its magic up close, PacWhale Eco-Adventures offers something special. Helmed by the Pacific Whale Foundation—an enterprise devoted to furthering our marine knowledge and inspiring environmental stewardship—their Molokini & Turtle Arches Snorkel is as educational as it is entertaining. Each excursion is led by marine naturalists, who supply guests with the latest data on Maui’s inimitable sea creatures. And not only will you be able to snorkel at Molokini—where you’ll find 150-foot depths of radiance—but you’ll also be taken to Turtle Arches. The “bonus” snorkel site is treasured for its underwater lava formations and frequent sightings of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles—which, reaching dimensions of 4 feet and 300 pounds, are the largest hard-shelled turtles on earth.
Know Before You Go:
- If you happen to wear prescription eyeglasses, PacWhale Eco-Adventures has you covered: They provide optical masks, as well as standard (though high quality) gear.
- PacWhale Eco-Adventures’ Molokini & Turtle Arches Snorkel tour isn’t all about science and underwater culture. Onboard, you’ll be treated to a wealth of delights, including a continental breakfast and a sumptuous spread at lunch (think: grilled chicken, garden burgers, hot dogs, and salad). Those 21 and over will also be offered a libation in the form of wine, a cocktail, or a Maui Brewing Co. beer.
- Have keiki in your crew? PacWhale Eco-Adventures offers an onboard Junior Naturalist Program for kids.
Moray eels, white-tipped reef sharks, yellow tang, and humuhumunukunukuapua’a (Hawaii’s state fish) are just a few of the gems you may see when you book Redline Rafting Co.’s Molokini Crater & South Maui Coast tour. Taking you to the same, stellar destination described in#1, this iteration of the classic Maui day stands out from the pack for the laidback, intimate experience it offers. Their 35-foot rafts—especially customized for snorkeling and sea adventures—are fast and sleek, while the small number of people they host on each trip will make you feel like you’re a guest at an exclusive party. What’s more, Redline Rafting Co. is one of the few outfits to ferry guests to Molokini’s “Back Wall,” where some of the largest species in this part of the Pacific can be seen. Following your tour of Molokini, you’ll be taken to what’s been called Maui’s “Forbidden Coast”—a secluded stretch of coastline that’s marked by lava formations and underwater grottos.
Know Before You Go:
- Consider dolphins your spirit animal? You’re in luck: Redline Rafting Co. specifically journeys to La Perouse Bay in the hopes of spotting Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins.
- Fresh fruit and cinnamon rolls are offered for breakfast, while lunch is comprised of deli sandwiches and pasta salad.
- Also have keiki in your crew? Be sure they’re 8 or older—given the adventurous nature of the trip (and vessel), it’s not recommended for young children, the elderly, or pregnant women.
Signature Deluxe Sunrise Molokini Snorkel
Most Molokini-bound vessels depart from Kihei and Lahaina. Not Kai Kanani’s luxury catamaran, which launches from the splendid Maluaka Beach in Makena (and putting you that much closer to your destination). There, you may see not only the marine life listed above but also parrotfish, Hawaiian octopus, and Bluefin trevally. The Kai Kanani—which has been serving visitors and islanders for over three decades—also takes guests along the Makena coast, where you’ll be given the chance to swim alongside those honu we mentioned earlier.
Know Before You Go:
- Staying in Wailea? The Kai Kanani offers a shuttle service from the enclave’s resorts.
- Happen to consider yourself a late (or late-ish) riser? You’re in luck again: The Kai Kanani’s Signature Deluxe Snorkel starts at 9:45 am, granting you the ability to (somewhat) sleep in.
- Bring your appetite: The tour includes a spread of locally-sourced grinds, including fresh fruit, quinoa salad, slow-cooked pulled pork sliders, and ham and cheddar hoagies. Post-snorkel, you can also imbibe in an open bar that serves the likes of local spirits and Kona beer.
Lana‘i Snorkel & Dive Watch
Lana‘i may be the smallest inhabited island in the Hawaiian Island chain but it’s also one of the biggest when it comes to dolphins. Resting just off the western coast of Maui, this island—which skyrocketed to fame for its pineapple production before Larry Ellison bought it—brims with wild dolphins, including bottlenose dolphins, spinner dolphins, and spotter dolphins. Translation? You may experience some of the happiest sights of your life aboard PacWhale Eco-Adventures’ Lana‘i Snorkel & Dive Watch. On this trip, you’ll cruise to the Lana‘i coastline, snorkel in its immaculate waters, dine on superb food, and, if you happen to be traveling between December and April, possibly see a whale tail or two.
Know Before You Go:
- The Pacific Whale Foundation is known for going above and beyond—and this extends to their tours. Their Lana‘i Snorkel & Dive Watch tour comes with a marine wildlife poster, a fish I.D. class, and snorkel instruction.
- The trip departs from Lahaina at 8 am and returns roughly 5 hours later, giving those staying on other parts of the island the chance to see Maui’s renowned whaling town in the early afternoon.
- No need to make a Starbucks run before departing: Fresh Maui coffee is served on board.
Molokini has earned a sterling reputation as one of the top snorkeling spots on the globe, but visitors to Maui would be remiss to overlook the island’s Honolua Bay. Located on the island’s lush and lovely western coast, this protected marine conversation area houses a number of brilliant creatures, including barracuda, boxfish, stripe belly puffer, and paletail unicornfish. Dolphin sightings are common on this snorkel trip, while the journey itself is pure posh: It’s conducted on Ocean Spirit, the Pacific Whale Foundation’s newest (and deluxe) catamaran.
Know Before You Go:
- Keen on snapping shots of the marine life you discover? PacWhale Eco-Adventures offers underwater cameras for purchase.
- The upmarket feel of Ocean Spirit reaches new heights with the quality of food that’s served on board, including Maui vegetable frittata, kiawe-smoked pork with guava BBQ sauce, and fresh island fruit.
- Didn’t pack sunscreen? PacWhale has you covered again: You can purchase reef-safe sunscreen on board for $10. It’s a small price to pay to protect the very marine life you’re witnessing—and to enjoy a day in the unmatchable (and glorious) Maui sun.
Still can’t decide?
Get more in-depth information about Snorkeling in Maui.