Of the countless island activities in Maui, my favourite, far and away, is just grabbing my mask and snorkel, hitting the beach, and blowing bubbles with the local turtles. They are surprisingly easy to find, indescribably cute, and― best of all― it doesn’t cost a thing if you BYO snorkel (otherwise, rent mask, snorkel, and fins for as little as $10 for the entire week from any of Snorkel Bob’s many Maui locations). For some turtle fun of your own, explore these beaches and be sure to bring your underwater camera!
My absolute favourite place to snorkel with turtles is Maluaka Beach, fittingly known also as Turtle Beach, near Wilea-Makena in south Maui. It is under an hour from Lahaina and there’s a designated carpark that offers free, shady parking near the beach, as well as outdoor showers. I’ve been to this beach a number of times and always had luck with turtles, but it’s really my favourite spot due to the complete lack of people! Depending on when you visit the beach, you may be sharing it with as few as 3 other people, and certainly not more than a dozen. This is in sharp contrast to most beaches on Maui, even the others on this list, where you often find yourself on the receiving end of flippers to the face (and I’ve even seen some particularly stupid tourists trying to grab the turtles as they swim by). You’ll worry about none of this at Maluaka Beach, thankfully!
The beach itself is fairly small, but does offer some shade and really is a gorgeous spot to spend the afternoon. Turtle spotting is best against the rocks on the right hand side of the beach, and of course calmer water is always best. That being said, it was rather windy this week when we journeyed down to Maluaka and somehow we still managed to spot some shelled friends through the waves within minutes of entering the water.
Make a day out of it
Stop for lunch in Kihei at Coconut’s Fish Cafe (1279 S Kihei Rd) and indulge in the island’s best shave ice at Ulalani’s (61 S Kihei Rd).
Black Rock Beach
Another great spot to swim with some underwater locals is at Black Rock Beach in Ka’anapali, just in front of the Sheraton Resort. As the name might suggest, there is a prominent black rock to one side of the beach, which is an immensely popular jump rock, and it’s around this rocky area that you might see turtles if you aren’t lucky enough to see them flying through the shallows― before I even got into the water, there was a turtle cruising through the waves, weaving around people right up at the shore, and we spotted several others moments later.
The experience is distinctly different to Maluaka Beach, as you’ll share the beach with possibly a hundred other people, but there is an active family of turtles around and it’s worth dealing with the crowds. Parking provides a bit more of a challenge, so the best advice is to arrive early in the morning and score some of the designated (and free) “beach access” car spots in the small garage near the Sheraton, the carpark near Whaler’s Village, or several of the other nearby resorts. If you don’t have luck with this, you can park in the Whaler’s Village carpark for $3 per half hour, and it’s plenty close to the beach.
Make a day out of it
Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding, take surfing lessons, or hit up the shops at Whaler’s Village.
Napili Bay & Napili Point Beach
About 20 minutes from Lahaina in west Maui, splash around in Napili Bay and search for turtles at the rocks on both the far right and left ends of the beach. Considerably larger than Maluaka, yet still less crowded than Black Rock, Napili Bay is a great place to spot large sea turtles when the water is calm, or give boogie boarding a go when the surf starts pumping. Beware the strong rip that often cuts through the bay, though― half a dozen snorkelers got stuck out beyond the second reef and had to be rescued with an inflatable mattress the day we visited.
If you don’t have great luck at Napili Bay, drive a little further down the road, passing the Napili Shores resort, and find parking on the road near Napili Point. This rocky spot is home to some coffee-table-sized turtles, according to some Americans we met on the beach. Sadly, we didn’t see any of these giant turtles during our own snorkelling, but apparently they are out there!
Make a day out of it
Walk the Kapalua Coastal Trail from Kapalua Beach (the next beach over from Napili Bay) to DT Fleming Park and take in some of Maui’s best beaches and bays.