You don’t have to take a snorkel boat to see great coral, fish, and green sea turtles – although a trip to Molokini can be spectacular.
The map to the right shows our three favorite spots in South Maui where you can snorkel from the shore: Ulua Beach, Makena Landing, and the Ahihi Kenau Reserve. The short access road to Ulua Beach is 2.7 miles south of Maui Vista. There is a conspicuous sign for Makena Landing 6.0 miles from our condo. The most accessable snorkel spot in the Ahihi Kenau Reserve is 9.1 miles away.
Each location has something different to offer. For pictures and more detailed descriptions, see our posts for each of these three sites. Here are the general characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of each location.
Ulua Beach is a convenient and popular county park with paved parking, restrooms and outdoor showers. Parking can be a problem and the beach crowded – especially in the morning before the winds pick up. There are reasons why Ulua Beach is popular: it’s easy to get to, the beach is lovely, there is both sun and shade, all the amenities you need are there, and there’s good snorkeling. It’s an easy snorkel but the farther out you go the better it gets. Expect to see lots of nice coral and colorful (generally small) fish. A great place for beginners and more experienced snorkelers alike.
Makana Landing has lots of turtles. It’s rare to spend an hour there and not see turtles. At the north end of the cove there is a small paved parking lot, restrooms, and outdoor showers. (There is also parking on the street.) The beaches are sandy but small. You’ll see nice coral if you swim far enough to the south. Look for turtles near the rocks on the north side of the cove or in the little bays to the south. You can also sometimes see turtles resting on the bottom – often part way under a rock or large coral.
Ahihi Kinau Reserve
The Ahihi Kineu Reserve includes an underwater preserve where fishing is prohibited. As a result, you can see some big fish there. The Reserve is about a 20 minute drive south of Maui Vista and the road becomes narrow and windy for the last couple of miles. Drive with care – there are lots of blind spots and it’s sometimes difficult for cars to pass in the opposite direction. There is no parking where you put in for snorkeling and no showers or restrooms within miles – although there is a construction-type toilet a few hundred yards past the cove where you’ll also find a parking lot. The beach is rocky and can be hard on your feet. The big draw is big fish. For the best views, keep to the left as you swim past the mouth of the cove.
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