Best Weather for Snorkeling

looking at octopus while snorkeling

Being a tropical island, Maui has shifts in weather that can affect all outdoor and water activities. There are many variables that affect snorkeling conditions, including rain, wind, current and cloud cover! We want to explore each of these elements and how they can affect your snorkeling experience!

Snorkeling in the Rain or After a Storm

Because Maui is a tropical island, light rains are very typical and heavy rains are welcomed and needed for the health of the island. But when Maui receives significant rainfall, the water running down the mountain to the ocean brings soil and particles with it. This run-off creates low visibility and murky water.

The weather throughout the island of Maui can be very different, sometimes there is rain in one area and often the other side of the island is experiencing no rain at all. It’s also important to know that many snorkel tours, including Ultimate’s Lanai snorkel tours, leave Maui and snorkel the Lanai coast. If there is rain on Maui but not on Lanai, this will not affect the visibility of the water on the tours that snorkel the island of Lanai.

Not only does visibility make it difficult to see marine life and murky water has bacteria we don’t want to be swimming in, it also impairs the visibility of predator marine life, like sharks, increasing chances of mistaken identity as they hunt turtles in the ocean’s water. Not just for the experience, but also for safety, we do not recommend snorkeling when there is low visibility, when the water looks brown or murky after heavy rainfall.

Snorkeling in Cloudy Weather

Cloudy weather on the other hand has little to no effect on snorkeling. Although clouds can indicate rain or the passing of a storm, often they are a welcomed relief from the warm sunshine Maui receives.

Cloud cover may create cooler temperatures as you’re snorkeling, but even Maui’s cooler temperatures are tropical and rarely drop below 70’s fahrenheit. If cooling waters are a concern, many snorkel tours, including Ultimate, rent wetsuit tops. This extra insulation not only keeps you warm and comfortable while you are snorkeling, but it provides extra flotation as well!

Snorkeling in Waves and Windy Conditions

Waves are caused by many factors including incoming swells from distant tropical storms, wind chop and other vessels. Snorkeling in mild waves is doable, but the main concern is it causing seasickness for snorkelers. If waves are more than mild, not only does it make entering from the shore, or driving from a boat difficult, it also can affect the water clarity as it is stirring up sand and soot.

Most wave swells come in directions, North, South, East, West. Because Maui is an island there is typically a location at all times that has calm waters. To confirm where conditions are best, talk to a snorkel company like us, or call a snorkel store in the area. They have daily updates on conditions and can recommend the best places to snorkel!

Wind can be a tricky element as it not only affects your snorkel tour, but also the means to get to your snorkel location. If you are on a boat charter, heavy winds can make the boat ride bumpy and wet, blowing the ocean spray onto the deck of the vessel.

trying to snorkel after a storm

Understanding Wind Conditions and Forecasts

Captains will often refer to wind in knots rather than mph. Knots are a nautical term that measures speed and is slightly more than the regular land miles we are familiar with. 1 nautical mile is equal to 1.1508 statute or regular miles. 1 knot = 1.15mpg. For now we will share wind information in mph, but now you have the tools to translate that into knots, so you can better understand the weather communication of seaman.

Ross Reynolds, Senior Lecturer in Meteorology at the University of Reading wrote an awesome breakdown of measuring wind in an article in Telegraph. This breakdown is very helpful for those of us that are less familiar with nautical weather!

Benefits of Lahaina Weather for Snorkeling

One of the benefits of operating out of Lahaina Harbor, is that the west side of Maui is located on the lee-ward side of the West Maui Mountains. This means the majority of storms, wind and rain approach the other side of the mountains first, blocking most of it from even reaching the west side of the island. This makes the west side of Maui one of the calmest and driest locations on the island.

Wind on the west side is typically 1-15 knots, which is a calm to a light breeze. The best for snorkeling would be breezy or less, which reduces wind chop and make the overall experience on the ocean more pleasant.

Best Time of Day to Snorkel – High and Low Tide

Tide and time of day are elements that can affect those previously explored. Some tide changes increase or decrease wave activity, where time of day can impact visibility, safety and wind conditions. It’s important to connect with a local snorkel operation to determine the best time of day for snorkeling and tide as those change throughout the season and location on the island.

It’s also important to know that land based weather forecasts are not always relevant to ocean forecasts. Captains use special weather forecast like NOAA and Passage Weather to track storm cycles, wind, rain and other weather conditions.

Contact Your Tour Operator the Day Of!

Maui has very consistent, warm tropical weather. In the event a storm or weather change occurs, it is recommended to call a snorkel company or store and ask the locals about the weather, how it is affecting snorkel conditions and where the best location is to snorkel that day!

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