One of the best things about vacationing on a tropical island is always being by the sea – and the island of Maui is no different. If you’re looking for watersports like Maui snorkeling, Honolua Bay is one of the best places to go on your Maui vacation.
Honolua Bay is 13 minutes from Maui Kai
Just a stone’s throw from our Maui vacation rentals are some of the world’s best and most beautiful coral reefs – including the pristine water at the renowned Honolua Bay – a must see if you visit the Kapalua area.
Basalt cliffs and rocky outcroppings rim the beautiful, 500,000-square foot bay that is home to a large and diverse reef, a variety of marine life and a handful of small underwater caves. Honolua Bay boasts reef flats and a large crest that leads to a 13-meter deep, central channel – offering a large and diverse area to explore.
In the summer months the enclosed Honolua Bay – located on the north coast, less than 30 minutes from Lahaina – is famed for the beautiful corals, calm waters, and abundance of colorful fish.
Honolua means “two harbors” or “twin bays” in Hawaiian and the name is a nod to the bay’s previous life as a launching area for boats leaving and arriving on the island.
Now the area is completely protected under the Marine Life Conservation District to preserve the beautiful corals that attract thousands of tourists every year including photographers, surfers, boaters, and sightseers all hoping for a glimpse of the famous underwater world.
Honolua Bay is a lot less calm in the winter months, hosting popular surf competitions and attracting experienced surfers to the waves – great for those of you who are confident in the water and seeking an adrenalin rush or two!
Getting to Honolua Reefs
The reefs in the bay are easy to access if you know where to look. When you first arrive, it might not strike you as pristine like the Maui beaches you have become accustom to – but fear not, the water is crystal clear just 10 to 20 feet away from the rocky coastline.
If you’re hoping to snorkel at Honolua Bay, park (or arrange to be dropped off) at the parking lot off of Honoapiilani highway, and take the access trail down towards the bay. Remember to wear good shoes both for the footpath and as access to the water isn’t the easiest thanks to the rocky coastline and large boulders.
To enter the water head to the left or right side of the bay – avoiding the middle of the beach where the freshwater Honolua Stream flows over the beach and into the ocean, reducing visibility. The left side is best for snorkeling, and you won’t need to go far at all from the coastline to see the marine life, well as the right side is better for diving, as the water is much deeper and there are caves to explore.
If you are not a particularly strong swimmer, take things slowly – the ocean can easily tire you out, especially while swimming between reef fringes. Stay close to the shoreline, snorkel in groups and keep yourselves hydrated and protected from the sun (with coral friendly sun protection!).
What to Look For
Aside from the beautiful corals the bay – thanks to the areas status as a marine life conservation district, there is an abundance of fish and marine life too, whatever time of year you visit.
Visiting the bay in the summer will offer you the chance to see Snapper, Parrotfish, Sea Turtles, Butterfly Fish, Barracuda, Eels, and many other tropical fish. The best time of day to snorkel between April and October is in the early mornings when it’s also possible to see the Spinner Dolphins that play and hunt just off the coast.
For many visitors to Maui seeing turtles in the wild is a high on their list and if you visit Honolua between October and April (on calm day) you’re almost guaranteed to see a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle feeding on the reef.
In the Local Area
A long day in the water will take it out of anyone, and while there are no restaurants within walking distance of the area, in the summer months you will find coconut and fruit vendors, as well as a food truck parked opposite the bay. The food truck from Honolua Farms Kitchen are known for some of the best burgers on Maui.
The area around the bay is undeveloped and you will need to bring your own food and water if you plan on spending the day – or just a 10-minute drive up the road you will find Lahaina and the many restaurants located there.
Snorkeling Elsewhere in Maui
Despite the popularity of snorkeling, surfing and scuba diving the reefs in the summer months, the winter months are also a great time to see many of the reefs – especially if you want a chance to see the famous Hawaiian Turtles.
While Honolua Bay gets great surf in the winter months making see the reefs, the reefs in south and west Maui are often calm between December and February as the current and big waves pick up elsewhere on the islands. Often when Honolua Bay is inaccessible, the reefs at Olowalu are often a much better choice – you can find out more about snorkeling at Olowalu with our guide here.
The coral reefs around Maui, in particular Honolua Bay are beautiful whatever time of year – so be sure to add it your bucket list regardless of when you plan on visiting.
To learn more about snorkeling in Honolua Bay visit our resort guide for Maui. Our Maui Kai Resort is an ocean front resort located just a ten-minute drive from Honolua Bay. Our unique condos are all individually decorated helping you to find the vacation rental that works for you. Complete with your own private lanai and unbeatable views across the ocean – what are you waiting for? We’re ready for you.