South of Maalaea and west of Makena off Maui, the Molokini crater snorkeling is popular for the water clarity and diverse marine life. The crescent-shaped Molokini Island Reserve is a partially submerged extinct volcanic crater, of which, only a semi circle is still above water. Molokini is by far the best snorkeling in Maui and is located within the 'Alalakeiki Chann...
South of Maalaea and west of Makena off Maui, the Molokini crater snorkeling is popular for the water clarity and diverse marine life. The crescent-shaped Molokini Island Reserve is a partially submerged extinct volcanic crater, of which, only a semi circle is still above water. Molokini is by far the best snorkeling in Maui and is located within the 'Alalakeiki Channel about three miles off Maui's southwestern coast.
The water depth in the crater drops off swiftly, so most of the good snorkeling is within 15 feet of the edge of the crater rim. Since Molokini Shoal Marine Life Conservation Distric is a wildlife sanctuary where fishing is prohibited, the snorkeling at Molokini crater has abundant marine life including reef sharks, parrot fish, moray eels, butterfly fish, humuhumunukunukuapua'a (Hawaiian state fish aka rectangular triggerfish), hawk fish and snapper. Overall, there are 250 species of fish and 38 types of hard corals. Occasionally, there are even manta rays and whale sharks in the crater, but not close to shore.
The snorkeling at this boat-accessed Molokini crater is best in the morning before the trade winds kick up in the afternoon. Make sure to stay clearly within the crater since the currents around the edges tend to pull out to the opposite side of the crater away from the boats. If you are lucky and have calm waters, you may experience high visibility of up to 150 feet. Since the marine life is acclimated to tons of snorkelers daily, they are quite friendly and don't flee when you swim up to them. Matter of fact, there are over 300,000 visitors annually with about 90% snorkelers.
The Molokini crater is located 3 miles off the southwest coast of Maui, and therefore, only accessible by charter boat tour from Maalaea Harbor. The morning tour offers the calmest water conditions. When selecting a tour, make sure to check on how much time is actually spent at Molokini. Many of the Molokini snorkeling tours spend way too much time looking for whales or stopping at turtle towns. If they quote two hours at Molokini, it is probably really about 1.5 hours.
There are some tours that depart from the closer Makena, such as Kai Kanani Tours. The early morning tour arrives at Molokini Crater about 30-45 minutes before the Maalaea Harbor based tours. These Makena tours pickup from Maluaka Beach and require getting your feet wet to get to the boat.
When you arrive at Molokini crater, you can expect to find plenty of other charter boats and hundreds of snorkelers. There is no cooking or BBQ grills permitted while moored in the bay. And, with increased tourist traffic, some charter boats are dramatically limiting the time spent at Molokini, so don't be surprised. To reach the snorkeling on Maui by air, you will need to fly into Kahului Airport (OGG) which is located in the middle of the north coast of Maui. It is served by direct flights from the mainland US and also by inter-island flights from several other Hawaiian Islands by regional carriers.
The Maalaea Harbor is located due south of the airport and equidistant from the two main tourist resort centers in Wailea-Makena and along the west coast north of Lahina. When planning a trip to the Hawaiian islands, be aware that the State Of Hawaii has banned all sunscreens that oxybenzone, which has been proven to kill coral reefs.
Overall, Molokini Crater is the 4th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 22 snorkeling dives in Maui. Several of the better snorkeling spots are nearby Molokini Crater including Maluaka Beach Park, Kanahena Cove, La Perouse Bay, Five Caves, Keawanaku Beach and Makena Landing Park.
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