- <14 Passengers, Maui’s only Semi-Private Tour
- 3 Certified Lifeguards onboard
- 2.5 Hour Tour
- Snorkel Instruction For Beginners
- Snacks & Beverages
Yes! The best part about our Maui Snorkel Tours is that they are small groups rafting tours which means our crew gives one-on-one snorkel instruction, fits your gear to you and is in the water with you during the duration of the snorkel tour! We also provide flotation devices like float belts and pool noodles to assist beginner or experienced snorkelers. Our Maui snorkel tour is one snorkel stop along Maui’s coastal reefs, near shore and in shallow water, perfect for spotting tropical fish and looking for sea turtles. These spots are beginner friendly depths and current and the best snorkel tour for first time snorkelers.
Although we recommend knowing how to swim before you snorkel, what is most important is being comfortable in the water. If you have spent time in the ocean and would like to learn to snorkel this is the best snorkel tour to learn because of our small group and snorkel instruction. We also have float belts for beginner snorkelers to wear that allow you to float on the surface while learning to snorkel.
Don’t snorkel if you are alone. Always snorkel with a friend in case of equipment failure or feeling ill. Don’t snorkel right after rainfall if the water is murky. Not only is there increased bacteria but murky water can lead to mistaken identity for predatory marine animals. Don’t snorkel if there is swell or strong currents. The ocean is powerful and is to be respected and understood. Always follow advice from locals and signs posted along beaches. Joining a guided snorkel tour will ensure snorkel locations are the safest option and you always have someone snorkeling with you.
Yes! Snorkeling with Maui’s sea turtles on our snorkel tour is the best place to learn how to safely interact with these protected marine animals. The protection is in place to provide sea turtles the space they require to come to the surface to breathe and continue with other normal behaviors. There are five (5) species of turtles in Maui, but the Hawaiian Green Sea turtles are the most frequent species of turtles we snorkel with in Maui! While sea turtles are observed in the wild, our chances of snorkeling with them are high and we do our best to go to snorkel stops where turtles frequent.
We see a variety of tropical fish when we are snorkeling! Many of the tropical fish found in Maui are found nowhere else in the world! We often snorkel with green sea turtles and spot octopus.
Another endangered and protected species you may encounter are monk seals. Reef sharks, whale sharks, false killer whales and eagle rays also make occasional appearances on our snorkel tours and that’s when having your go-pro ready to film really pays off!
Lahaina is also located on the leeward side of the West Maui Mountains, creating the most consistent and driest weather on the island of Maui. This means we have the most sunny days on Maui, making it the best place to snorkel in – Maui! Often it will be raining in Wailea or Kaana-pali and be dry in Lahaina. Because we are a tropical island, weather reports are rarely ac curate more than 24 hours out and we use special NOAA and sailing weather reports to get the most accurate weather for our Maui snorkel destinations.
With that in mind, we will reschedule Maui snorkel tours due to weather if it wil be unpleasant or unsafe for our guests.
The story of the sea turtles or honu begins with the hero Aiai turning his rock drawing into a turtle. The honu represents a deeply rooted connection with the ocean, land and people because it was made of land and put into the sea, returning to land to lay eggs and continue its life cycle. There are many legends of the honu in our Hawaiian culture. Some stories tell of sea turtles being the foundation for islands other they are rescuing, protecting or being a messenger to the people of Hawaii.
One legend tells us the giant turtle goddess Kauila who would protect and play with children (keiki) by transforming into a human girl.
Images of turtles can be seen in many Hawaiian artifacts, petroglyphs and cultural representations. Evenhula incorporates movements that reflect the honu laying and covering her eggs. Turtles were often seen as property of ali’i (chiefs) and were raised in fishponds and harvested for meat and shells.
Other families did not harvest the honu and instead believed the honu represented good luck, longevity and mana (spirit and energy). Honu are also ‘aumakua. In our Hawaiian culture. ’aumakua are spiritual guardians, guiding their ohana (family).
Hawaii is home to several species of sea turtles. Three of these species of sea turtles are native to the islands. There are only a few sea turtles you may see while snorkeling, the most common is the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle.
Green Sea Turtles
Native to Hawaii and the most widely seen sea turtle is the Green Sea Turtles. Green sea turtles are the largest hard-shell sea turtle typically 3-4 feet long and can weigh up to 400 lbs. They have lighter underbellies with dark green or brown shells and small heads. Interestingly enough their name is in reference to their green fat on their outer color. This species is the only herbivorous sea turtle, typically eating algae and seagrass.
Green sea turtles begin reproducing between 2-5 years old and reach maturity around 25-35 years, living as long as 70 years. Sea turtles return to beaches near their hatching location to lay more than 100 eggs. After 2 months, baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean from their sandy nest. You can determine the gender of green sea turtles by the length of their tails. Green sea turtles can be found all over the world and were added to the threatened species list in 1978 due to being over harvested and entanglements caused by fishing line, nets and trash and changes of habitat. Remember to follow snorkel with turtle guidelines listed below to help protect this endangered species.
Hawksbill Sea Turtles
Hawksbill sea turtles have a pointed hawk-like beak that helps them extract sponges, one of their favorite foods, from coral reefs. With the species declining more than 80% in the last century, it is estimated there are less than 100 female Hawksbill turtles in Hawaii which is why they are considered endangered and are protected. The majority of Hawksbill sea turtles are found on Big Island due to their nesting locations, but some can be seen on Maui, although it is rare.
Hawksbill can grow in length similar to the green sea turtle (2-4 feet) but only reach a weight of 200lbs. Also hard-shelled, this species has a colorful shell, patterned with a combination of shades of black, brown, amber, orange, red and yellow. They are much lighter in color than green sea turtles.
Loggerhead Sea Turtles
Although Loggerhead sea turtles are the most abundant sea turtles in the U.S., there are very few spotted in Hawaii. It is believed the population seen in Hawaii are those that nest on the sandy beaches of Japan. Carnivorous sea turtles, Loggerhead have a slow growth and reproduction, reaching sexual maturity around 20-30 years. In contrast with green sea turtles, Logger- head have a large head (hence their name) and a heart-shaped shell of reddish-brown color on top and light yellow on the bottom. Loggerhead sea turtles also have a special ability to drink sea water and “cry” out the salt through salt glands near their eyes. Because of their population decline, Loggerhead sea turtles are currently on the threatened list under the Endangered Species Act.
Coming in at 6 feet and 1000 lbs, Leatherback sea turtles are the largest sea turtles. While green sea turtles are the largest hard-shell sea turtles, leatherbacks do not have scales and instead sport a shell made of layers of dermal bones beneath their dark leathery skin. This endangered species can dive as deep as 400 feet, holding their breaths for more than an hour, hunting for jelly fish and other soft bodied prey. There is much unknown about Leatherback sea turtles. Although they growth quickly, researchers are unsure when they reach sexual maturity or what their life span is. They do know Leatherback sea turtles are the only species that remain pelagic and eat a carnivorous diet as they mature into adulthood. Leatherback sea turtles are on the critically endangered list in many countries and the U.S.
Our Maui snorkel tours take snorkelers to the top west Maui snorkel spots to see turtles.
The secret to finding the best places to snorkel with turtles is understanding turtle behavior, feeding locations and where their cleaning stations are located. Cleaning stations are places where turtles rest and have fish clean the algae from their shells. Often these stations will host multiple sea turtles resting, making it a great location to sea turtles while snorkeling.
Our top locations to snorkel with turtles in Maui are Olowalu Reef, Honolua Bay and Mala Wharf, all locations we visit on our afternoon Maui snorkel tours.
It is always important to follow protection regulations when snorkeling with sea turtles to keep them safe and continuing their daily habits. See our tips in the next section for how to snorkel with sea turtles.
Give them Space
While snorkeling with sea turtles do not approach closer than 10 feet. This helps give them space to return to the surface to breathe and go about their normal behaviors of eating. If a turtle approaches you closer while snorkeling, respectfully and slowly move away from them. Turtle “yawning” or a flipper swipe toward you can be indicators that you are disturbing the turtle. Calmly snorkeling with little splashing will create an environment that marine animals can better relax in.
Pay attention to your proximity and bring an underwater camera that has a zoom so you can capture those awesome turtle moments respectfully. Harassing sea turtles can lead to a $100,000 file and even jail time.
Protect Turtle’s Habitat
While snorkeling you can protect their habitat by never standing on coral reefs. Only use reef safe sunscreen free of Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octinoxate, Octocrylene, Cinoxate, Dioxybenzone, Ensulizole, Meradimate. Padimate, or Sulisoben- zone. Select a reef safe sunscreen that has Zinc or mineral ingredients or wear a sunshirt for protection.
Help Injured Turtles
If you come across a turtle while snorkeling that has a fishing line, entangled or shows any sign of injury, stay near the turtle and send someone to shore to contact NOAA hotline at (888) 256-9840. Wait for dispatched professionals to free the turtle to ensure the turtle is not injured further and you are not harmed in the process as well by a turtle’s sharp beak, fish hook or nearby predators. Preventative measures can be taken by living a more sustainable lifestyle.
Our afternoon Maui snorkel tour is a great snorkel tour or for beginner snorkelers or snorkelers looking for a shorter afternoon snorkel tour with a chance to snorkel with turtles. We depart from Lahaina Harbor and head either south or north along Maui’s west coast, snorkeling at locations that have the best ocean conditions such as wind, swell and current for that day. Here are our top picks for best places to snorkel on Maui.
Olowalu Snorkel Spot
Olowalu Reef is one of the oldest and largest coral reef structures in Hawaii. More than 100 acres of coral reef, Olowalu is home to many species of fish, turtles, ray, sharks and other marine life, making it one of the best places to snorkel in Maui. Located at the base of the west Maui mountains, protecting this snorkel bay from most weather, making the water clear and calm, great for all levels of snorkeling. Because the depth of the water is very shallow from shore, snorkeling this spot from land can be difficult as you need to avoid walking on or touching the reef to preserve its health. Accessing this snorkel spot from a boat is the best option to protect you and the rest and find the best snorkel spots with tropical fish and turtles.
Mala Wharf Snorkel Spot
Considered west Maui’s “Turtle Town ”, Mala Wharf is a unique man made reef that is home to dozens of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. This spot was once a commercial pier where pineapples were loaded onto boats for shipping, but collapsed in a hurricane. Now the collapsed peer serves as an underwater reef for dozens of marine animal species including tropical fish, turtles, rays, octopus and even reef sharks. This spot can be accessed from shore, but caution is advised as it is a working boat ramp and entering from shore is a very shallow reef. Snorkeling this spot from a boat is the best option, allowing you to snorkel at the main turtle resting area and avoiding the shallow reef and rocks along the shoreline.
Honolua Bay Snorkel Spot
Honolua Bay is one of the best summer time snorkeling locations on Maui. Due to Maui’s swell patterns, surf will be big during winter months, often holding professional surfing contest at this unique bay. Honolua is a protected bay and in the summer months the water is crystal clear, making it one of Maui’s most popular snorkel spots. If you want to access this spot from shore you will walk through a narrow jungle path to a rocky beach and swim far into the bay. From the boat you start at the outermost reef and work toward the cliff, stopping at the turtle cleaning station to look for turtles and observe the dozens of tropical fish protected at this snorkel spot. Most of the reef along this bay is 15 feet deep or less, making it easy to snorkel along the colorful color and marine life.
Cliff House Snorkel Spot
Located near Kapalua Bay, Cliff House is a fun snorkel stop that has rocky cliffs along its shoreline, perfect for jumping into the crystal clear waters of Namalu Bay. Named for the Kapalua Cliff House struction that overlooks this bay, this snorkel spot teems with tropical fish, sea turtles and other marine life.
Snorkel one of these snorkel spots on our afternoon Maui snorkel tour. If you’re looking to venture away from Maui’s coast, check out our snorkel tours that venture to the island of Lanai for more snorkel stops and dolphin watching.
When Maui was formed, it was made by two volcanos, the eastern mountain now known as Haleakala and the western mountain called Iao Needle. These West Maui mountains protect the western coast of Maui from the elements of wind and rain, making it one of the warmest and calmest beach locations in Maui. In the heart of west Maui is Lahaina Town, named “cruel sun” for its dry and warm climate, ideal for water activities like fishing, snorkeling and surfing.
In the late 1700’s, Kamehameha conquered Maui as an effort to unite the Hawaiian islands as one kingdom. The battle in Iao Valley on the other side of the West Maui mountains led to a bloody end, but ultimately Kamehameha was successful.
Lahaina was a small fishing town before it was chosen as the royal capitol by King Kamehameha II in 1820. Many Hawaiian royals were buried in Lahaina, now the sacred cemetery of Wainee Church.
Historic Lahaina town holds history from days when it was a major sea port for whaler ships passing through the Pacific. You can explore historical sites on the Lahaina Town walking tour and learn about the start of the town and its well known harbor.
Today Lahaina is home to Lahaina Harbor and Mala Ramp, making it the highest grossing harbor in the state. Because of the consistent weather for water activities like snorkeling, and the seasonal migration of humpback whales, Maui will always be a popular destination for visitors.