Swimming with sea turtles or watching them lounge on the beach is a major highlight for visitors to Maui. It’s one of those bucket list activities that should be a priority on everyone’s Maui itinerary.
While Hawaiian green sea turtles (also known as Honu) are abundant in the waters around Maui, they tend to have their favourite spots to hang out. If you’re looking for the best places to see turtles in Maui, it helps to know where to look before you set out!
On my last visit to Maui, I was very grateful to have many turtle sightings both on the beach and in the sea. To make things easier for you, I rounded up the best places to see turtles on Maui in this easy to follow guide.
I’ve also included some important turtle viewing tips, a list of the must-have turtle swimming essentials and a map to help you locate the exact location of each sea turtle hang out.
So, come with me and let’s find the best turtle viewing spots around Maui!
Table of Contents
The 10 Best Places to See Turtles in Maui
Important Tip for Viewing Sea Turtles on Maui
*Do not approach the turtles* Before you set off in search of turtles, there are some things you should know.
Although the sea turtles in Maui appear calm and unbothered with humans being near them, it’s important that you never approach them at any time. There are hefty fines upward of $10,000 for those who don’t respect the rules in place to protect these endangered animals.
Hawaiian green sea turtles are protected by the Endangered Species Act which means it is illegal to touch, feed, or stand near them. Always be sure to keep around 10 feet away from any sea turtle that you come across, whether it be on land or in the ocean.
Must-Have Essentials for Snorkeling with Turtles on Maui
Go-Pro – Did you really snorkel with turtles if you don’t have the photos to prove it?! All jokes aside, it’s awesome to look back on the amazing memories from your time snorkeling with sea turtles in Maui!
Over the years Go-Pros have improved a lot and become more affordable. They are compact and easy to bring along with you on any snorkeling or scuba diving adventure.
Reef-safe sunscreen – An essential item that is now required in Maui in order to preserve the coral reefs and marine life. Regular sunscreen contains toxic chemicals which harm marine life and damage corals.
As of October 2022, the use of regular sunscreen has been banned on the entire island of Maui. If you forget to bring a tube of mineral sunscreen with you, you can buy it on the island.
Mask & Snorkel – When you book a snorkeling tour, this will be provided by the tour operator. If you’re planning to do a lot of snorkeling from the beach, then it’s better to bring your own set. It’s also possible to rent a mask and snorkel from many rental shops around the island.
Fins – This goes hand in hand with bringing a mask and snorkel, you can also rent fins on the island. Check out Maui Ocean Rentals to book your snorkel gear online before you get there. It will cost you $30 to rent a complete set of snorkel equipment for one week.
Wetsuit Top – Keep yourself protected from the sun while you’re snorkeling with a wetsuit top. Sunscreen wears off over time, the best way to keep your back fully shielded is by wearing one of these while snorkeling.
A wetsuit top also helps if you’re someone who gets cold while swimming in the ocean for extended periods. Wearing one of these allows you to stay in the water longer without worrying about getting sun burnt.
Best Time to See Turtles in Maui
First thing in the morning when the tide is calm and the wind hasn’t picked up yet is the best time of day for any kind of water activities in Maui. This also goes for snorkeling with sea turtles.
Turtles can be seen pretty much any time of day but if you plan your snorkel trip early, you’re also less likely to encounter crowds of other tourists doing the same thing.
Best Tours for Snorkeling With Turtles on Maui
I wrote this post to help you locate sea turtles on your own, however I thought I’d mention several popular tours for those who are looking for a good snorkeling day trip by boat.
Molokini & Turtle Town Snorkeling Day Trip
Duration: 5 hours
Included: Mask & snorkel, breakfast, lunch, drinks, catamaran trip to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town, experienced tour guides.
Travel by catamaran to Molokini Crater where you can experience world-class snorkeling just off the coast of South Maui. Featuring vibrant corals filled with colourful marine life, Molokini Crater is known for its amazing and pristine snorkeling conditions.
This highly-rated tour will also include a visit to Turtle Town, one of the best places to snorkel with sea turtles in Maui. This series of underwater volcanic formations is a popular spot for turtles to hang out.
This is a great day trip that will take you to some prime snorkeling locations around Maui with experienced local guides to lead the way and teach you about the wildlife that you find.
If you book this tour during whale migration season which runs from December – April, there is a high chance of spotting whales breaching from the boat!
Half-Day Snorkel Trip to Honolua Bay
Duration: 5 hours
Included: Mask & snorkel, flotation devices, breakfast, lunch, drinks (2x alcoholic drinks included), catamaran trip to Honolua Bay, certified Marine Naturalists.
Departing Lahaina Harbor in the morning, enjoy a breakfast on board the boat as you sail toward Honolua Bay. Spend some time snorkeling with sea turtles and schools of fish at one of Maui’s top snorkel sites.
After finishing up at Honolua Bay, this tour also includes snorkeling time at a second site. With a guided reef tour led by Marine Naturalists, you’ll learn all about the sea animals that you encounter throughout the day.
It is quite common to see dolphins on this tour as well which is an added bonus!
Ultimate Lanai Snorkel Trip and Dolphin Watching Cruise
Duration: 4 hours
Included: Breakfast, drinks, snacks, use of snorkeling equipment, flotation devices, complimentary reef safe sunscreen, wetsuit tops available for rent, experienced tour guides.
Discover the underwater paradise that exists around the island of Lanai on this exciting 4 hour boat trip. Encounter marine life such as dolphins, sea turtles, manta rays, tropical fish and more.
The coral reefs near Lanai are full of life and offer a very good chance of swimming with sea turtles. This awesome tour includes a tasty breakfast and snacks such as banana bread and fresh fruit.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds of Maui for some fantastic snorkeling conditions and dolphin watching, this tour is a great choice!
Map of the Best Places to See Turtles in Maui
Click the square on the top right corner of this map to expand it in a new window and see each turtle viewing location.
Where to See Turtles in Maui – On the Beach
Ho’okipa Beach Park
This is perhaps the most popular place to see turtles on land in Maui! With turtle sightings practically guaranteed, tourists flock to Ho’okipa Beach to watch them sunning themselves on the sand. The best time of day to see them gathered on the beach is in the afternoon.
Ho’okipa Beach Park is located on Maui’s North Shore, a few minutes past the town of Paia. Aside from the sea turtles, it’s a famous surfing beach thanks to the huge waves. You can sit and watch the surfers from the lookout above the beach.
The combination of large waves and sharp rocks near the shore results in some less than ideal swimming conditions. If you’re looking for a nice swimming spot nearby, try Baby Beach or Secret Beach which are located in Paia.
This location has become such a popular place to see turtles on Maui that there is usually a conservation officer patrolling the area daily. This is to make sure people are following the rules and not getting too close to the turtles resting on the beach.
Tip – You can easily include this beach as a stop on your Road to Hana driving itinerary.
Kuau Beach Park
Just down the road from Ho’okipa Beach, you can often find turtles basking in the sun on this quiet beach. Kuau Beach Park is also referred to as Kaulahao Beach and has more of a laid back vibe than the more popular Ho’okipa Beach.
It tends to attract more of a local crowd and is less busy than Ho’okipa. You can also hop in for a snorkel here for a high chance of swimming alongside sea turtles.
Baby Beach – Paia
Baby Beach is a quiet, protected lagoon located just south of Paia town on Maui’s North Shore. Turtles can often be spotted swimming around in the shallow waters here or resting on the sand.
This beach is typically less busy with tourists and a great spot for swimming and lounging in the soft sand. With a coral reef that creates a natural swimming pool, it’s a nice spot to snorkel and swim with children.
While seeing turtles here is very common, it’s not always guaranteed. If you’re looking for a scenic beach to relax on for the day with a high chance of seeing turtles then head over to Baby Beach in Paia!
Located a short drive south of Wailea, Makena Landing is another beach where you’re almost certain to find turtles relaxing on the rocks near the shore. I went to this spot one morning and saw five turtles just chilling right there on the beach.
After watching them for a bit, we decided to go for a snorkel to see what else we could find. It turns out it’s also a great place to swim with turtles as we saw several in the water very close to the shore!
There’s loads of fish to be seen here too which makes it an awesome snorkeling spot overall. This is also a nice place to rent a kayak and cruise around for a few hours taking in the stunning scenery.
Turtle Lagoon – Maui Ocean Center
Visiting an aquarium obviously doesn’t count when it comes to seeing turtles in the wild. I had to include this place though because it is an iconic Maui attraction and deserves a place on your Maui itinerary.
If you get stuck with a rainy day on the island, a visit to Maui Ocean Center is the perfect activity. You can easily spend a few hours here strolling through the interactive displays and coming face to face with Hawaiian sea animals.
It’s a fun way to learn more about the marine life that you will see while snorkeling on the island.
This aquarium is home to sharks, stingrays, octopuses, loads of fish and of course sea turtles! The Turtle Lagoon at Maui Ocean Center gives you a chance to watch Hawaiian green sea turtles from above the water and below.
While the prices may seem a little high at first glance, I can highly recommend this place based on my own great experience there. One of the highlights is walking through the glass tunnel where you’ll see sharks and stingrays swimming above your head.
At the end of your visit, you’ll get to watch a 3D humpback whale show which is a very unique and cool experience.
Opening Hours: 9am – 5pm daily
Tickets: $44/adult, $30/child
Where to See Turtles in Maui – In the Ocean
Maluaka Beach – Turtle Town
When you hear about the best spots to swim with turtles in Maui, Turtle Town is often the first place mentioned. I mean, the name says it all! At the south end of Maluaka Beach, underwater volcanic formations attract an abundance of Hawaiian green sea turtles.
The best place to locate them here is by entering the ocean from the south end of Maluaka Beach. This is where you’ll find the coral reef and have the best chance of snorkeling with turtles.
In your search for sea turtles, keep a watch out for the other marine life that can be seen at Turtle Town such as octopus, eels, and plenty of tropical Hawaiian fish.
Locating this spot can be a little tricky as there is no actual signage for Turtle Town or Maluaka Beach for that matter. You can find this beach just south of Makena Landing with a parking lot in the south end for easy access to Turtle Town. Click here to view the location on Google Maps.
With incredible snorkeling conditions and great facilities (restrooms and showers near the parking lot), Maluaka Beach is easily one of the best snorkeling spot on Maui!
If you’re seeking a great snorkel spot near Kihei or Wailea, you can’t go wrong with Ulua Beach. This palm-lined cove provides an idyllic setting to spend a laidback day of snorkeling and relaxing.
For the best chance of seeing turtles, aim to explore around the rocky outcrop at the north end of the beach. This section of land that separates Ulua Beach from the neighbouring Mokapu Beach is home to a thriving reef system.
You’ll be sure to see lots of fish and sea turtles bobbing around in the water not far from the shore. This is an ideal spot for beginner snorkelers and children.
Ulua Beach has a parking lot, restrooms and showers available which makes it an excellent place to spend the day snorkeling with turtles on Maui.
Black Rock Ka’anapali
At the north end of Ka’anapali Beach, this large volcanic outcrop is a hot spot for turtle sightings. Since it’s so close to the busy tourist areas of Lahaina and Ka’anapali, this location is usually quite crowded with other people.
Surprisingly though, this doesn’t deter the turtles from gathering here. This awesome snorkeling spot is always going to be busy so if you hope to avoid crowds, get there first thing in the morning. If you arrive later in the day, it’s likely that you’ll see more people than sea turtles!
For the best chance to see turtles, stick to the corals near the rocky outcrop. You’ll also see a huge variety of fish in this spot such as Hawaii’s state fish, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a among many other colourful species.
If you’re into cliff jumping, Black Rock also happens to be a great place for that as you’ll notice many people jumping in from the cliffs.
On the north west corner of Maui lies one of the island’s top bays for snorkeling. The clear turquoise water of Honolua Bay is teeming with marine life and beautiful coral gardens.
Thanks to the Marine Conservation law which makes fishing illegal in this area, you will be able to see many types of tropical fish and turtles. Honolua Bay is fairly large and requires a bit of swimming to make it to the prime snorkel spots.
You will find the best corals and sea turtles along the right side of the bay (if you’re standing on the beach looking toward the ocean). Look out for boat tours that are often parked near the best snorkeling spots to get an idea of where you should go.
The calm and clear water in this bay result in great snorkeling conditions however there can sometimes be a current with large waves present. Always check the conditions before venturing out. If you see surfers in the bay, it’s a good indicator that it’s not a good time for snorkeling.
To access Honolua Bay you’ll need to park on the road near the Honolua Bay access trail and walk for 5 minutes to reach the beach. If you arrive later in the day, it may be more challenging to find a parking space with limited roadside parking available.
With limited facilities here (no restrooms, showers or a proper parking lot), booking a day trip to Honolua Bay is a popular choice.
A snorkeling boat trip to Honolua Bay makes a great day trip from Lahaina. There are several catamaran tours that take you there from Lahaina Harbor, see a highly-reviewed tour option at the link below.
Another beautiful beach on Maui’s west coast which is known for great snorkeling conditions. With a vibrant coral reef, you’ll be sure to see plenty of exotic fish and of course, Hawaiian green sea turtles.
With soft sand, clear water and stunning scenery, this is the perfect place to spend a lazy day at the beach while hopping in for a few snorkel sessions.
The nice thing about this snorkeling spot is that you don’t have to go far to find sea turtles. Just a few steps from the shore and you’ll soon be surrounded by sea life and pretty corals.
Kapalua Bay is easily accessible with restrooms, showers and a parking lot. It’s a very popular beach so you’ll have to arrive early to get a parking space. The beach is not very big and fills up quickly, the earlier you get there the better!
Final Thoughts on Where to See Turtles in Maui
I hope this guide has been useful in helping you locate the best places to see turtles in Maui! If I missed a spot, be sure to let me know in the comments below. I can’t wait to get back to Maui again to swim with sea turtles and hopefully find a few more spots to add to this list.
If you’re in the process of planning your trip to Maui, you may want to check out my five day Maui itinerary. Otherwise, see more of my Maui guides below. 🙂
Read More Maui Travel Guides
- The Perfect 5 Day Maui Itinerary
- The Ultimate Maui Bucket List – 35 Iconic Things to do in Maui
- What to Pack for Maui – The Perfect Maui Packing List
- How to Watch the Sunset on Haleakala – Complete Guide
- 31 Best Stops on the Road to Hana + Driving Itinerary
- 25 Best Instagram Spots on Maui + Interactive Map
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