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 an old volcanic crater rim, of which, only a semi circle is still above water. 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 it 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 in the 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.
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. 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. 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.
Overall, Molokini Crater is the 7th most popular snorkel dive spot of all 21 snorkeling dives in Maui.