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Best Beginner Snorkeling Beaches in Maui

Best Beginner Snorkeling Beaches in Maui

25 Nov 2022

Of the many things Maui is known for, its incredible turquoise waters full of brightly colored tropical fish and dazzling coral reefs stand out as one of the top things to experience while visiting. What better and more accessible way to experience the spectacular marine life of Maui than by snorkeling alongside it?

Unlike other ocean excursions that require special equipment and training, snorkeling is a fun, easy way for everyone to catch a glimpse of the extraordinary underwater world. From grandparents to young children, snorkeling is the perfect activity for the entire family to get in on. 

However, for those new to snorkeling or not 100% comfortable in the ocean, hopping into open water might feel daunting. If this is you, don't worry, Maui is one of the best and safest places to learn how to snorkel. Its shallow, calm ocean conditions, crystal clear water, and abundant reef life make it the perfect destination for all snorkelers, whether brand new or experienced. 

As part of our beginner guide to snorkeling West Maui, we've put together some helpful tips and a list of the best locations to visit to ensure a smooth and enjoyable first trip. 

Best of all, visitors don’t need to travel far from shore or book an expensive tour to spot spectacular marine life. In fact, all the locations we recommend below are free and right off the beach, just a short walk from your car.  




  1. Pack the right gear - A foggy, leaking mask and uncomfortable fins or an awkward fitting mouthpiece on your snorkel have the potential to ruin any outing. Finding the perfect fit for your equipment is essential to having a great snorkeling experience, and with several popular options, it can feel hard to know what will work for you. This is why we recommend visiting a local snorkel store to try on the several different options they offer before purchasing. Most shops offer wide and narrow sizes and will even help you fit the mask to your face. While you are there, be sure to pick up some defogger to keep your viewing experience crystal clear. Some swimmers may also want to consider purchasing a flotation device and wetsuit top to stay warm and easily take breaks when needed.
  2. Practice - If you’ve never snorkeled before, breathing through a tube with your face underwater might feel uncomfortable. Try your gear on before you get in the water, making all the necessary adjustments to get everything snug and comfortable. Find a calm shallow area to ensure your mask is not leaking, test out your snorkel, and practice swimming with flippers. It can take some time to become comfortable breathing through a snorkel, so don't rush this part!
  3. Don’t go alone - Next to not turning your back to the ocean, not snorkeling alone is one of the best precautions any swimmer can take to ensure their safety, especially on their first trip. You never know what issues may arise, so it's always best to bring a friend, just in case. Plus, you will get to share the experience with them!
  4. Don’t touch - Underwater ecosystems are fragile and can easily be disrupted by the oils and bacteria humans carry on their skin. Similarly, many marine creatures are covered in toxins that can cause harm to humans. This is why it is so important to remain an observer and not touch, kick, or stand on any wildlife during your excursion. 
  5. Relax - Probably the most important advice any first-timer needs to hear is to stay calm. If you feel water seeping under your goggles or your snorkel accidentally goes below water, don’t panic. Flip on your back, take some deep breaths, and float for a little while. If you packed a floatation device, you can easily take a break and readjust your mask or flippers when needed. Otherwise, find a sandy, shallow area to fix your equipment before heading back out.


Now that you've reviewed some helpful tips to make your first trip a success, it's time to head to the beach! Here are the top five beaches we recommend for your first snorkeling session. 




1. Honolua Bay

Bursting with beautiful coral gardens and all different types of aquatic creatures, Honolua Bay is a marine life conservation area and a world-class snorkeling destination. The tall rocky cliffs surrounding the bay shelter it from wind and keep the water calm. Honolua snorkel tours are a popular option for travelers but are not a requirement. The area is public and can easily be accessed by a short trail that leads to the rocky beach that lines the bay. The rich sea life and calm, shallow waters give first-time snorkelers plenty to see while safely and comfortably allowing them to get a feel for their gear.  


2. Olowalu

With clear shallow waters, soft waves, and 450 acres of coral to explore, Olowalu is not only one of the best snorkeling spots in Maui but is a perfect destination for first-time snorkelers. It is also the only major snorkel reef on the island protected from the trade winds, making it a great spot to be on a windy afternoon. Located just off the main highway in West Maui, the nearly half a mile of shoreline is shaded by large trees and offers plenty of easy parking, steps from the water. Olowalu offers ample room for beginners to practice comfortably close to the beach while giving more experienced swimmers plenty of opportunity to venture further offshore. 


3. Pu’unoa Beach (Baby Beach)

Protected by an offshore reef break that generally prevents any waves from reaching the shore, Baby Beach is a calm shallow location great for practicing breathing through your snorkel for the first time. Frequented by families with young children, swimmers won't have to worry about strong currents or being knocked by waves at this beach and can even venture far from shore while remaining only waist deep. Located in the heart of Lahaina along West Maui's Front Street, visitors will find street parking at the south entrance to the beach or can access a small dirt parking lot on the northern end. 


4. Kahekili Beach (Airport Beach)

Located just north of Ka'anapali, Airport Beach is a gorgeous stretch of the West Maui coastline featuring a thriving coral reef that is easily and quickly accessible. The reef hugs the shoreline for nearly half a mile reaching depths of up to 15 feet while still offering plenty of shallow areas and calm waters. This beach is best visited early in the morning before the wind picks up when the water is the clearest. Unlike the other beaches mentioned here, Airport Beach offers convenient facilities like showers, restrooms, picnic tables, barbecues, and a large shaded lawn area, making it easily accessible to families and groups. 


5. Black Rock

Situated on the north end of the beloved Kaanapali Beach, Black Rock, is a historic lava rock formation and a favorite snorkeling destination for travelers of all ages. With plenty to see right off the beach near the base of the rocks, your group won't need to stray into deep water to experience all the tropical fish this area has to offer. Only more experienced swimmers should journey out to the furthest point of the formation, as the currents can be strong and unsafe there. Black Rock is also a popular cliff-jumping area, so if you do venture further out, try not to get in anyone's way. A parking garage near the north end of the beach offers limited public beach access parking, so you will want to arrive early to guarantee a spot. 


Thanks for reading the Maui Resort Rentals blog! For more information about incredible things to do in Maui, take a look at our other blogs here.