Snorkeling was high on our list of things to do in Maui planning our family trip to Hawaii. The first time my husband and I ever snorkeled was on the Big Island of Hawaii. We had the most AMAZING snorkeling experiences. So we were really looking forward to Maui Snorkeling.
Our Big Island trip was pre-internet and pre-kids. We bought a guide book and only snorkeled offshore beach access. We saw scores of tropical fish – like the yellow tangs pictured above, eels, and turtles. Those first snorkeling experiences became the inspiration for the underwater scenes in my children’s book about a mermaid, Miri Attwater and the Ocean’s Secret.
Everywhere we snorkeled on the Big Island, we went early in the morning off a beach. We left when the visibility was getting worse. And laughed as the snorkeling boat trips pulled up in droves as we got out! People were paying for a boat ride to see a worse version of what we’d seen for FREE.
We later tried a couple of boat snorkeling tours. They were both disappointments.
So for this trip, we prepared to snorkel Maui from shore.
Information resources – Maui snorkeling
I scoured the internet and forums for tips on snorkeling in Maui. I wanted to find off the beaten path places like the ones that we snorkeled off the Big Island.
I bought a Maui guidebook. And I bought a book specifically about snorkeling Maui. (See Resouces below.)
Where to snorkel from the beach – Maui snorkeling
Universally, the guidebooks thought the most “popular” places to snorkel were over-rated. I picked resort and condo locations based on “good” and “favorite” snorkeling spots I found in guidebooks and from reading reviews. I had to adjust somewhat based on where condos were available. But everywhere we tried to snorkel had gotten some good reviews.
So I picked resort and condo locations based on “good” and “favorite” snorkeling spots. I had to adjust some based on where condos were available. But everywhere we tried to snorkel had gotten some good reviews.
Our trip – Maui snorkeling, beach access
Because we had teens, we knew it would be hard to get everyone out early at the same time in the morning. So we planned to snorkel off our resort and condo beaches. However, we thought if the snorkeling off our beaches wasn’t great, we would drive to some other locations.
Here’s what happened.
Weather – Maui Snorkeling
Your luck with weather will be a big factor in whether or not you will be able to snorkel from shore.
My husband and I got up with the sunrise 5 out of 7 mornings and hauled our gear down to the beach. In the summer, the sun rises early in Hawaii. It’s hard to get up that early! But every day we made it, the ocean was rough. Every. Single. Morning.
The other two mornings, my husband thought the water looked calm. In fact, he could even see some turtles in the water (When he didn’t have his equipment.) We weren’t sure if this was just bad luck on which days we arrived places and were able to get up early, or if the water just looks calm until you get in it. We did hear from other tourists that the water may have been unusually rough.
Ocean and beach topography – Maui Snorkeling
I tried to pick beaches that were a little sheltered by their shape. But not of them were as enclosed and cove-like as where we had snorkeled on the Big Island. That, plus the weather, may have combined to give us bad luck.
My husband and teens were able to do a bit of snorkeling one morning off Keawakapu Beach. They saw a few fish and lots of sea urchins. They were most excited to spot a Humuhumunukunukuapua`a, the state fish of Hawaii. But most of the time the snorkelers were too busy trying to keep themselves off the rocks to get a good look at anything.
In fact, at one point it got quite exciting to watch from the beach, when they got trapped between some rocks and pounding waves. (Not!)
Before the trip, my teens complained that I insisted they wear leggings and gloves for snorkeling. (Best Snorkeling Gear for Beginners) It wasn’t the stylish bikini snorkeling outfit they had in mind. But after this, my daughter confessed that she was glad. She would have gotten really beaten up on the rocks if she hadn’t had both the gloves AND leggings.
But we did manage to get a video using my cheap hack for underwater photography. I did stabilize this video a bit. But I left the sound on so you get an idea of how much of a struggle the snorkeling was – at the best of times.
It became very apparent that even though we were having bad luck with this plan, getting a whole family up before sunrise to load in the car and head to a beach WITHOUT facilities in case the snorkeling might be good – just wasn’t going to happen.
Better luck tips for Maui Snorkeling
Needless to say, snorkeling was not the highlight of our trip. Luckily, there were plenty of other things to do on Maui.[link]
But I want you to have the best trip possible, and not leave it to luck. Check out my plan for next time, my advice on snorkeling Maui with a family.
Resources for Maui Snorkeling