Snorkeling in Maui is one of the top ocean activities to do when you visit the islands!
The best snorkeling with sea turtles in Maui depends on the ocean’s conditions, reef and marine life you find there! Turtles are one of our favorite marine animals to observe when snorkeling, so we put together this guide showing where to snorkel with sea turtles in Maui!
Where to Snorkel with Sea Turtles in Maui?
Maui snorkeling can be found all around the island from shore or from boat! Many of our favorite Maui snorkel with sea turtles spots can be found on the west side of Maui! Starting at the most southern location, Olowalu is one of the largest reef systems in Hawaii, spanning 450 acres underwater and spanning thousands of feet from shore. Olowalu reef is one of Maui’s healthiest coral reef areas; it’s home to a variety of marine life.
Green Sea Turtles are often found in this reef area, eating the seagrass and algae and resting in the protection of the large coral heads. Hawaii monk seals (the only seals found in Hawaii) can be sighted at this popular snorkel spot as well.
Both sea turtles and monk seals are protected and should not be approached or touched. Monk seals can also be aggressive, so you never want to disturb one if you see them resting on shore. A rare manta ray cleaning station can also be found here and lots of tropical fish!
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Lahaina
When traveling to Lahaina, Maui, we recommend stopping at our favorite in town snorkel spot, Mala Pier/Boat Ramp. This is our top snorkel spot for snorkeling with turtles in Maui! From the surface this old broken down pier doesn’t look like much, but once you get underwater you enter a world of snorkel wonder.
Originally built in 1922, this pier was used to load pineapple from the plantations onto steamships shipping cargo from Maui. Destroyed in the hurricane of 1992, this pier collapsed, creating a beneficial and healthy artificial reef structure for thousands of marine animals along this shoreline in Lahaina, Maui.
Snorkeling from shore (near Baby Beach Lahaina), head towards the old pier, make sure you stay out of the channel where boats are coming and going to and from the boat ramp. You’ll see schools of tropical fish (nenue, chubs and more), a few small reef sharks, some octopus playing peek-a-boo from under the broken pier and of course lots of sea turtles!
Because this is a popular snorkel and dive spot, the turtles are not afraid of swimmers and will casually swim with snorkelers. Just because the turtles are comfortable around swimmers does not mean we should disregard sea turtle protections laws here in Maui (see snorkeling with turtles etiquette tips below).
Observe respectfully and enjoy these close sea turtle encounters! We guarantee you’ll be snorkeling and swimming with turtles at this Lahaina snorkel spot!
The northern most spot on the west side of Maui that we love to snorkel with turtles is Honolua Bay. Winter time this spot is one of the top surf spots in the world and with waves reaching up to 30+feet, you don’t want to be snorkeling there. Spring, summer and fall, this spot is often the calmest bay on island, making it a top snorkel top in Maui!
Getting to the bay is all part of the tropical experience. Driving the road to the north west part of Maui is green, luscious and remote. Once you park, you walk through the tropical Honolua trail until you reach the bay’s edge. There isn’t much of a sandy beach, here, this spot is strictly snorkeling, but you won’t be disappointed! Honolua Bay is a nature conservatory where no fishing is permitted, protecting the reef and marine life there.
In addition, the 200+ acres surrounding the bay was purchased by the state to be protected and prevent development, keeping this piece of paradise pristine. Not only will you be snorkeling with turtles, you will see hundreds of tropical fish, maybe a monk seal, octopus, barracuda or other marine life.
These top spots are reachable by shore, but are often part of snorkel boat tours as well. The benefit of snorkeling these spots from a boat is getting to the best part of the reef with the least amount of effort, a fun boat ride and a marine naturalist guide, showing you the underwater landscape and pointing out marine life!
Etiquette for Snorkeling with Sea Turtles
Snorkeling with sea turtles is a magical experience for us, but making it a safe experience for the turtles is a priority. Hawaiian green sea turtles are endangered and have laws protecting them from our over eagerness. It’s important to know that sea turtles must come to the surface to breath.
If we are too close or making them uncomfortable, it can inhibit them from coming up to breath when they need to. It is also not permitted by law to touch a sea turtle in Maui. If you see one entangled or in distress, contact NOAA at 1-800-853-1964 or DLNR at 808-643-DLNR (3567).
If you try to assist the turtle you may unknowingly cause it more harm or distress. Move calmly and slowly around the turtles, breath slowly and don’t splash. They will sense any distress or excitement from you which will either cause them stress and even cause them to swim away. Although Maui’s sea turtles are not considered aggressive towards snorkelers and it is considered safe to swim with them, they do have sharp beaks and can bite.
Snorkeling with sea turtles in Maui is an experience you don’t want to miss! Knowing where to go and how to safely snorkel with sea turtles will make your encounters the most memorable!
You can explore a shoreline snorkel location for turtles, or hop on one of our snorkel tours and see turtles, dolphins and more! Check out our Maui Snorkel Tours for more info!