Top 10 Places To Visit In Maui – Honolua Bay is a protected marine reserve and one of the most beautiful snorkeling spots on Maui! To reach the beach, you’ll need to walk a 5-minute path through the tropical rainforest, and if you have any worries, they’ll melt away as you gaze in awe at the giant plants along the path and listen to the flocks of resident chickens. The bay is bordered by a beach full of large smooth stones. There is no sand to speak of. In quiet times, this bay is home to snorkelers and divers, but when the water comes through, the surfing is in Honolua Bay! Check Maui’s snorkeling conditions before you go there.
Both sides of the bay have a well established coral reef with great Hawaiian marine life. You are likely to see peacocks, butterflies, yellow wagtails, Moorish idols and sometimes a manta ray or octopus! Turtles are also seen here occasionally. As fresh water flows into Honolua Bay, mixing with salt water, in some places the underwater world looks wavy – a bit like water running down a windshield at a car wash.
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Enter the water by going off the old boat ramp on the right. The bottom of the shoreline is covered with rocks. The ramp and the rocks behind it are very slippery, so take your time. For convenience, swim as fast as possible and then push out to check the fish! The beach is made of large, smooth, round stones. Although it is beautiful, it is not very comfortable to rest in.
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The scene (land) surrounding Honolua Bay is maintained by a man named Uncle Jimmy. If he is around and you have time to sit and talk stories, he has some incredible tales and history to share. If you want a big mahalo, leave a tip for Uncle Jimmy on the way; it’s a nice exchange for everything he does on the beach and on the trail, as well as watching over people’s cars.
For more information on how to access Honolua Bay and snorkeling tips, check out our recent blog, Honolua Bay Snorkeling Adventure.
Mokuleia Bay is accessed by stairs from the main road. It’s worth the climb as the area was designated a Marine Life Conservation Area in 1978, making it a beautiful spot for snorkelling. This beach is known as the “Slaughterhouse” because it used to be located on top of a cliff. Today, the beach’s appeal is fueled by the lack of visible development around the beach. Slaughterhouse is a great place to snorkel most of the year, but the waves can be rough in winter. If it’s rough and you’re comfortable snorkeling in those conditions, you’ll need to push out about 30 feet to see anything. (If you don’t feel comfortable, take note. There are plenty of other great beaches to enjoy.)
Don’t bother swimming to the left at Mokulea Bay; there is nothing interesting there. Head right and you may see turtles, large parrotfish, hornfish, Moorish idols and needlefish. Watch yourself around the rocks jutting out above the surface and you’ll love this site. Even in places where there are no fish nearby, the huge boulders make you feel like you are in an ancient underwater city.
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Enter the water on the right side of the beach and take your time starting with plenty of space between you and the boulders. As you enter, the sandy bottom is made up of rugged hills and valleys. Once inside, keep an eye out for the stream heading north. If you’re a strong swimmer, you can explore the right side of Mokulea Bay and continue north around a point in Honolua Bay, another great snorkeling spot!
Mokulea Bay Beach is sandy, beautiful and wild, with no amenities, so if you like walking, you’ll love spending time here after swimming. You can rent beach umbrellas, chairs, coolers, boogie boards and other beach gear!
For more information on how to access Slaughterhouse Beach and snorkeling tips, see our recent blog Snorkeling at Slaughterhouse Beach.
DT Fleming Beach is bordered by pines, palms and naupaka plants. It’s a beautiful place to watch the ocean come in as well as the surfers riding their boards. (This is actually a great surfing beach for advanced surfers.) Depending on the weather, this fairly long and wide stretch of sand can be very windy and have big waves. There are picnic tables and grills for relaxed days, and plenty of gorgeous beaches to enjoy. DT Fleming is one of the only beaches on the west side that has a lifeguard. There is also a small restaurant, Burger Shack Kapalua, just steps from the sand.
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The crescent-shaped Kapalua Bay is simply gorgeous and one of the easiest places to snorkel on Maui because of the abundance of marine life close to shore. Whether you choose to get in the water or sunbathe on the sand, Kapalua Bay is generally calm and a great choice for people of all ages. Both sides of the bay have lava rock formations that are home to all kinds of marine life.
The left side (looking at the ocean view) is full of sea turtles in the early morning and the reef is very nice at the far end. On the right, there are many fish, including stingrays, baby parrotfish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a, and several species of butterflies. As with the left, the far end of the right has the best reef. In the center of Kapalua Bay is all the rolling sand, beautifully shaped by the waves.
Enter the water on the left. There you’ll find gently sloping sand, perfect for spending time getting your gear on and getting the kids ready. The right side is rocky and quite shallow close to the shore, so be careful – not only for your own safety, but also for the safety of the living reef. Avoid scratches by exiting the water on the left side.
Napili Bay is one of the most beautiful sandy beaches on Maui and perfect for families. Bodyboarders, surfers, paddle boarders and swimmers are known to live in this bay. The Sea House Restaurant is beautifully located at the northern end of the bay, and the rest of the beach is home to several small resorts. Sea turtles are especially common here at sunrise and sunset, a great time to take photos from the shore, just remember to give them plenty of space.
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Fish tend to congregate at the edges of the bay where the reef has grown and where their food and territory is located. If you are looking for an encounter with marine life, the left side of Napili Bay is more interesting than the right side. You’ll see stingrays, humuhumunukunukuapua’a, brown surgeonfish, and sometimes turtles. The center of the bay is all sand, and although it is a beautiful place, you rarely see fish there.
Almost any beach can be entered in Napili Bay, as the entire coastline is sandy. Just an FYI: On either side you will find several concrete slabs – sometimes in very shallow water – about 10 yards from shore. If there’s a lot of surfing here, it’s a great day for surfer watching, but not so much for snorkeling. Big waves mean poor visibility for them. Napili Bay is a good place for kids to run around, play with boogie boards and dig in the sand.
Airport Beach is named after Kaanapali Airport, which was located on this beach until 1986. Royal Hawaiian Air Service made traveling with them a lot of fun. Pilots used to tell the story of all their inter-island flights, and according to an article by Mark Viet in the Lahaina News, “a passenger could take a dog on the flight if the rest of the group agreed and the dog had no fleas.”
Today, the Airport Beach Pavilion marks the site of the old airport terminal, and the snorkeling off the beach is exceptional! The offshore reef is part of the Kahekili Herbivore Fisheries Management Area, a semi-protected underwater space since 2009. Certain types of algae-eating fish cannot be caught in this area, and the health of the reef has improved as a result. You’ll love swimming through this thriving ecosystem!
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Under the water, you are sure to see black-winged fish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a, unicorn and yellow-winged. This is also great habitat for blue trevally, goatfish and eels! The coral reef here stretches in all directions and you will find it almost as soon as you enter the water. Explore what fish you can expect on your snorkeling adventure with our Hawaii Fish Guide.
You can enter anywhere where the sand of the sloping beach continues into the water. Look for the light turquoise color and go in there. (The dark color you see below the surface is coral reef and very fragile.)
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