Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities in Maui. And with warm, calm clear water filled with fish, turtles, coral, dolphins, and whales found all over the island it is pretty easy to see why. We have Snorkeled all over the world and conditions and sea life are as good on Maui as Anywhere else we have swum and far better than most.
There are a huge number of Tour Companies all wanting to cash in on this activity by offering to take you out on a boat and lets you snorkel under the safety and supervision of a lifeguard. But are these tours a good idea, when there are so many great opportunities for beach snorkeling? Our Best Maui Snorkeling Tours Guide lets you know exactly what tours are available where they go, what you may see, and what is included. So you can be sure you are booking the best tour suited to your needs.
Why Take a Snorkel Tour?
Our Favorite Activity in Maui is Snorkeling. It is a pretty rare day we are not heading out into the ocean from one beach or another. With such incredible snorkeling right off the beach, it can seem a bit unnecessary to pay to go snorkeling.
And indeed it can be. However, there are a few reasons why it’s a good idea to pay for a tour.
The first reason is simply you can get to places you just can’t reach without a boat. The obvious being Molokini, but there are others such as the Aquarium on the Lava Coast and the Manta Point way out from Mile Marker 13 and of course the remote coasts of Lanai. While Molokini is Suicidal without a boat, the others are possible but definitely a very advanced level.
another reason is your comfort level. Snorkeling can be intimidating and risky if you are a weaker swimmer or not too confident in the water. A tour can get you straight to the places you need to be and assist you in the water and provide surface cover in case anything goes wrong. It is really reassuring knowing someone is looking out for you!
The tours also provide all the gear you need and if you don’t have your own and don’t want to hire then this is a hassle-free way to get snorkeling.
And Finally, there is always more to these tours than JUST Snorkeling. The Boat trip itself is always an enjoyable experience. It could be a Sailing boat and Power Boat or just a fun Party boat with an Open bar. Whatever the Experience it’s always nearly as fun if not more than the actual Snorkeling. We have No need to pay for Snorkeling trips anymore but still do and always have a great time.
While Technically not on Maui Just off the coast of Wailea is the Partially Sunken Islet of Molokini. This is a collapsed Volcanic Crater that now forms a partially eclipsed moon-shaped islet. The inside of the crater is still partially sheltered from the ocean swells and hosts a phenomenally Pristine Coral Reef.
Flushed daily by fresh Pacific Ocean water the Visibility here is breathtaking. Marine life is varied and abundant, Coral Growth is healthy and widespread. It really is a wonderful place to snorkel. Getting there is more of an issue, however, it’s quite a swim* Fortunately there are a whole host of Boat Charters that will take out to the Crater, feed you, allow you plenty of time in the water and then provide drinks and dessert afterward.
These Trips are Hugely popular and with good reason. They are great fun and get you out to a truly unique location that, does have some of the best snorkeling in the world. A big boast, but it really is good out there. However there are a lot of operators out there and some are better than others, and some are just different. A good trip to Molokini is fantastic, a poor one a bit of a wasted tourist trap.
*That is a JOKE, it’s a 3-mile swim across Wild and open Ocean, Do not even Consider it!
Almost all the Molokini Tours operate out of Maalaea Harbor
Here is our list of Top Molokini Operators.
- 1 – Four Winds II
- 2 – Trilogy Sail
- 3 – Maui Sail
- 4 – Pride Of Maui
- 5 – Calypso
- 6 – Maui Magic
- 7 – Pacific Whale Foundation
This list is obviously very light on details, but that is because we have gone to GREAT length in detailing these trips in
If you are looking for something a little more Exciting then the Adventure Tours may be for you. The boats used for these tours are Fast, Powerful RIBs that really do move along well. Being Fast and Maneuverable means they can cover much more ground and get you to places you just could manage in a bigger slower boat.
These are the only Tours that will take you to the remote Lava Coast and the back wall of Molokini and can offer some very unique sites on Lania.
These are pretty intense boat trips especially if the chop is up. Expect some serious bumping around and spending the day pretty wet. These are not trips for people expecting a relaxing cruise. While we love them, it’s important to know what to expect and be ready for some discomfort. That is the payoff for the fun!
All Adventure Tours depart from the Kihei Boat ramp in Kihei.
- Kanaio Coast & Molokini Snorkel Adventure – $144
- Kanaio Coast – $115
- Molokini Express – $57
- Molokini Whale Watch Express – $62
- Guaranteed Whale Watch – $41
Blue Water Rafting
It’s a fantastic trip and one of the best half days you can spend in Maui. With all tours, you can expect some whale action in whale season (Nov-Apr) and Both Breakfast and lunch Are provided on the Kanaio Coast and Molokini tour.
- Molokini Adventure Tour – $135
- Whale Watching Tour – $59
Redline Rafting is a very similar and direct competitor to Blue Water. The Biggest difference is the color of the boats. But this is no bad thing really. The Tour offerings are more concise, as they only offer the M
- Deluxe Dolphin Lanai Snorkel – $144.66
- Whale Watch – $44.99-$54.99
Captain Steve is known for two things. The fantastic adventure snorkel trips over to the remote and stunning reef of Lanai and one of the best ways to get close to whales.
Like all Whale Watching tours, they are still limited to the same minimum distances from the whales, and all the same restrictions, however, the smaller more maneuvrable boat mean they can get to more groups, kill the engines, and hope the whales approach them. If Whales want to come and say hello they can, we are not protected from them. And Captain Steves Boat is known for having more success in this regard than most.
The Raft is also Much closer to the water level so when the whales do approach you are much closer to the action. On a good day, when the whales play ball this trip is life-affirming. Even on a bad day, just getting out amongst the whales is unforgettable.
Captain Steve does not offer a “Whale Guarantee” like a lot of trips, but that is OK as you would never get to use it…YOU WILL SEE WHALES.
- Molokini Wild Side – $140
A sort of cross between the adventure Tours and the Molokini Tours. This takes you to the more remote sites on Maui including the Back Wall of Molokini. The Vessel is a fast Cat with Row seating which is a bit odd and it’s nothing like the fast, small RIBS used by the other operators.
Turtle Town Tours
Many Snorkel trips offer to take you to Turtle Town. People’s first question is always “where is Turtle Town?” The answer is, It is Made up. Essentially any tour offering to take you to Turtle Town could be taking you to any number of locations around the Maui Coast where Turtles can be found. They all tend to have their own spot, to avoid overcrowding and will be filled with Coral, Fish, and almost certainly have Turtles.
Most of these tours are done in the afternoon when the conditions for Molokini are not as favorable so are great choices for Late risers. They are usually a lot cheaper as well.
- Price – Adult – $52 – Child – $38
- Duration – 3.5 Hours
- BBQ Lunch and Open Bar
- Price – Adult – $70 – Child – $35
- Duration – 3 Hours
- BBQ Lunch and Open Bar
- Max 38 Passengers
- Price – Adult – $59 – Child – $49
- Duration – 3.5 Hours
- BBQ Lunch and Open Bar
These three Tours are all quite similar. They all Depart from Maalaea
The Outlier and our preferred choice are Sail Maui. It is more expensive but it’s aboard a real sailing Catamaran and they nearly alwaus drop the sails and blast along on the power of the wind. The limited numbers and higher qulaity lunch served on real plates easily makes up for the extra cash.
Pride of Maui and Four Winds II are so evenly matched there is nothing to choose between them. Whichever you go for you should have a great time.
Honolua Bay Tours
Very Similar to Turtle Town Tours are the Honolua Bay Tours. These are usually done on a Sailing Catamaran and are peaceful relaxing tours that cruise up the coast and deposit you into the protected waters of Honolua. Filled with fish coral and Turtles the bay is one of the best spots on the island for snorkeling. Unfortunately, it is also susceptible to some pretty epic surf conditions and some poor water conditions in heavy rains. In which case the tour operators will likely pick an alternate site, normally Olowalu (Mile Marker 13).
On its day though Honolua is a genuinely incredible site and one of Hawaii’s best Snorkel sites. Check it out in the below Video taken from the Air…It is simply stunning.
- Discover Kaanapali – Adult $135 – Youth(13-17) $115 Child(3-12) $80
Fantastic and Relaxing tour to Honolua. Boarding is done from the Beach in Kaanapali before cruising up the coast to the Snorkel spot that is usually Honolua. This is a morning tour and you are served breakfast, BBQ Lunch and then two Alcoholic drinks for your cruise back. You can upgrade to Snuba as well but at Honolua, with its very shallow reefs, this is not really needed.
- West Maui Snorkel and Performance Sail – $125
The Sail Maui, West Maui Snorkel, and Performance sail is another great option. Like all of Sail Maui’s tours, they put the emphasis on REAL sailing not just cruising about under engine power. Honolua Bay is their first choice but they will head elsewhere is the conditions are poor.
You get Breakfast and lunch, and provide non-alcoholic drinks, and also allow (non-Glass) BYOB! (Bring Your Own Booze)
This is a Saturday only tour departing from Lahaina
- Discover Kaanapali – Adult $104 – Child(0-12) $64
The Pacific Whale Foundation tour operates from Lahaina Harbor aboard the Ocean Spirit. Including lunch Diner and two Alcoholic drinks. It takes in two Snorkel spots one of which will hopefully be Honolua Bay. You also have on board a trained Naturalist so any questions about the marine life of Maui will be easily answered. Other tours will do this but the quality of these answers can vary significantly!
Just across the Channel lies the Island of Lanai – You Probably spend a lot of your time on Maui gazing out towards the Island. This island is barely populated with a mere 3000 residents in the city of Lanai. It is also highly un-developed and its coast is pristine and largely untouched. Unsurprisingly this makes for some incredible Snorkeling.
The Crossing can be a bit wild but it’s a fantastic journey and often encounters Whales, Dolphins, and flying fish. Once across the Tours will take you to a host of incredible sites that are teeming with life. These Sites were once one of the biggest sources of Marine Fish for the Home Aquarium Market and as such Snorkeling here is akin to being in an aquarium. Often Featured in the Worlds top 10 Snorkel sites, its resident pod of Spinner dolphins will make anyone’s trip.
A confession here though. We don’t often take Snorkel trips to Lanai. If we are to cross the channel we do it aboard a Dive Boat. But the below video should give you a good idea of how rich the Sea Life is!
- Price – Adult – $195 – Child – $97.50
- Duration – 7 Hours
- Breakfast, Picnic Lunch and Open Bar
- Only 30 Passengers per Trip
One of the best Trips on Maui. The Sail Maui Lanai Picnic Snorkel trip takes you across to Lanai for an epic Snorkel spot before allowing time on the island to enjoy a beach picnic and/or hike to Sweetheart rock. You can also snorkel the reef just off the beach as well.
The trip is fully catered and the sail back to Maui gives you plenty of time to enjoy the drinks on offer. The low numbers are one of the main reasons we love this trip but it comes at a high price. But it’s one you will not forget.
Also on offer is the shorter 5-hour Snorkel Trip to Lanai Coast for $125
- Price – Adult – $109 – Child – $54
- Duration – 5.5 Hours
- Breakfast, Lunch, and Open Bar
This Tour is run calypso but it is not on the monster boat, instead, it is on the older Quicksilver Catamaran. This is probably a good thing as the calypso is a real beast of a boat and has no business flooding the quiet coasts of Lanai with tourists.
This is a basic tour but it gets you to a TOP Lanai Snorkel Site and provides all the amenities you could wish for at a pretty competitive price.
- Price – Adult – $105 – Child – $65
- Duration – 5 Hours
- Breakfast, Lunch, and 1 Alcoholic Drink
- Certified Marine Naturalists onboard
This is one trip that regularly receives great reviews. We are not really PWF’s biggest fans but their Lanai trip stands out as one of their better offerings. It trip takes you across the Channel to one of Lanai’s top snorkel spots before lunch and a cruise back with drinks. Only drink one is included (boo) but you can purchase more.
In Whale Season you are almost certain to see Whales. Dolphins are year-round regulars. The attendance of a Marine Naturalist onboard is great and they will be able to answer any of your questions about this wonderful marine paradise.
All the Above Trip Sail from Lahaina Harbor
If you want to Go Snorkelling but don’t want to get wet then this could be the answer! There are two options available and they both get you a glimpse of the undersea world without getting wet.
This is a real Submarine that dives down to over 100ft to get a real glimpse of Maui’s undersea world. The Trip starts with a boat ride out to the Sub where you board before plunging to the depths. You will explore Reefs and the Sea Floor before stopping by the Wreck of the Carthaginian where you will see schools of fish, Reef Sharks and possibly even a group of Scuba Divers!
It’s a very unique experience and well worth it. We tend to prefer to actually get wet but this is a suitable alternative to getting to see the undersea world.
While the Appearance of the Reef Dancer is very Yellow Submarine the actual experience is not quite so under the sea. The Vessel is not actually a Sub at all but a Deep hulled Glass Bottom Boat. The experience is somewhat less unique than the Atlantic and you should not expect too much but if Snorkelling and Submarines are a little too much then this glimpse of the sub-nautical realm may be your only option.
Have Your Say
Whew!, that’s a lot of trips and a lot of information. We are sure you will still have a ton of questions if so feel free to Fire away in the comments section below. Also if you have any other thoughts or comments please share them with us below. We love hearing about anything Maui Related. Maybe you went on a particular trio and loved it? Maybe you had a particularly poor trip? Whatever it is, just Fire Away Below.