There’s so much good snorkeling not far from Maui Vista (see South Maui Snorkeling – 3 Favorite Spots), why drive an hour to Honolua Bay? There are plenty of reasons. First of all, Honolua Bay is a spectacular snorkeling spot. In addition, there are lots of other fun things to see and do in West Maui. For example, the Nakalele Blowhole is just another 10 minutes down the road past Honolua Bay.
To get there from Kihei, head north on South Kihei Road or the Pi’ilani Highway and follow the signs to Lahaina. Continue north on Highway 30 through Lahaina, Ka’anapali, and Kapalua. When the road narrows and slows for tight, blind curves, you’re almost there.
Stop at the overlook (pictured above) and check out conditions and the best snorkeling spots. (If you click on the picture and blow it up you can see snorkelers and areas with coral – that’s where you want to be.) If the surf’s up, the snorkeling won’t be good – but there will be surfers to watch. You can watch from the overlook or, better still, drive around the bay and turn left onto the dirt road high on the other side side of the bay. Find a parking spot and walk out for the best views (see Surfing the Big Water at Honolua Bay).
For snorkeling, drive to the bottom of the hill and look for a parking spot. If you don’t see one at first, keep driving – there are several other areas where people park. You’ll find a trail near each parking area. All trails end up at more or less the same place.
It’s a pleasant, but surprisingly long, walk to the water through a shaded grove. People do it in flip-flops, but a sturdier sandal or shoe is recommended.
The beach itself is rocky with few places to even put a beach chair. There are no restrooms, no water, no garbage cans, no nothing – except begging chickens and great snorkeling.
The wet and sometimes slimy rocks near the shore are slippery. Lots of people get in from an old broken boat ramp that the two people on the left side of the accompanying picture are standing on.
Most people snorkel on the right side of the bay, but there is plenty of coral on the other side as well. It’s a fairly long swim before the viewing gets good. If you’re not a strong swimmer, you might want to take a boogie board or a noodle. At first the coral and fish are mainly close to the shore on the right. As the coral gets denser you’ll see it expand out toward the middle of the bay. Explore this area to your heart’s content.
A word to the wise: several large snorkel boats anchor at Honolua Bay around mid day. If you want to miss the crowd in the water, go early. If they’re there when you are, just remember that they’re paying the big bucks while you’re getting the same views for free. Enjoy!
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What a great review of the beach! I recently went to Honolua Bay and really loved it–probably the highlight of my snorkeling experience. I saw several turtles, lots of fish, amazing coral–hard to pinpoint it to just one thing that I loved the most! Okay, it was the turtles 🙂
I recently wrote a blog post and made a video on my experience there. Feel free to use or share the video (embed code along the bottom). Thanks for all the helpful info!
(post w/video: http://blog.sunplay.com/blog/snorkeling-at-honolua-bay-maui/)