Molokini Snorkel marine sanctuary

Molokini - a seabird sanctuary above water and a marine sanctuary under water

Molokini Snorkel clear visibility

The visibility is so clear... you forget you're underwater!

Molokini Snorkel 2 miles from South Maui

Molokini is only accessible by boat

Molokini Snorkel butterfly fish

Molokini - Milletseed butterfly fish are a common sight

Molokini Snorkel protected reef

Molokini - the protected reef awaits your exploration

Molokini Snorkel diving

Scuba divers getting 'mugged' by a variety of Molokini residents

Molokini is an ancient volcanic caldera that offers some of the clearest water for snorkeling anywhere in the world. It is located about 2 miles offshore from South Maui in the Alalakeiki Channel (between Maui and Kaho’olawe). Molokini is a marine sanctuary below water and a bird sanctuary above water. There is no access to the island itself; only those with research permits are permitted to go ashore. The incredibly clear water is due to its location in the middle of the channel and the lack of any sand deposits around the islet. No matter the wind or wave conditions the visibility here is unparalleled. A variety of snorkel tours are available. Below is a selection of the best ways to experience Molokini Crater.
Aqua Adventures offers a two location snorkel tour (normally Molokini snorkeling for the first stop and Turtle Arches for the second) with 6:45am check in daily at Maalaea Harbor slip #51. This is the boat harbor in Central Maui just behind the Maui Ocean Center Aquarium along Highway 30. Some Molokini boats hold upwards to 140 people but there are no such crowds on board Aqua Adventures. While the vessel can hold 49, they limit the trip to just 36 guests per day. The boat is FAST too! Powered by twin 350HP motors, this vessel cruises at 22 knots which means you’ll be waving goodbye to other boats as you pass them on the way to Molokini crater. Want to try something really adventurous? Take your snorkeling experience to a whole new level of underwater thrills with a SNUBA DIVE. That is their specialty!
The Pride of Maui takes you to Molokini in comfort … offering glass-bottom viewing, a fun water slide, continental breakfast, an excellent BBQ lunch, and a refreshing open bar. This vessel is spacious and stable; her sprawling upper deck features unobstructed panoramic viewing and outstanding photo opportunities of the majestic Maui coast and surrounding islands. This powerful catamaran offers a fast, smooth ride to Molokini, which lies in the middle of the channel between Maui and Kahoolawe. First stop is typically Molokini Crater, famous for its clear water and incredible array of undersea life. After snorkeling at Molokini, the boat makes a second stop at “Turtle Town” where you can swim with Hawaiian green sea turtles!
Paragon Molokini Snorkel Sail focuses on performance sailing, and you will experience an exhilarating trade wind sail along with exploring the unique snorkeling at Molokini.  They only go to Molokini instead of motoring around to multiple snorkel sites.  The combination of performance sailing and snorkeling is what perfect Hawaiian days are made of!
Four Winds II is a 55 foot glass bottom catamaran, fondly referred to as “the boat for fun-lovers”. Once onboard, you’ll soon discover why Maui’s visitors consider this trip to be one of the best to Molokini and why we have become a local favorite too. With a crew that is dedicated to your needs and providing you absolute fun, this trip is a family favorite. It offers something for all ages. Breakfast, BBQ lunch, waterslide, glass bottom viewing, open bar, all snorkel gear and instruction … and snuba is available as an option.
Blue Water Rafting offers a great alternative to people who are staying in a resort at Wailea, Makena, or one of the South Kihei condo properties. They offer four different tours, three of which go to Molokini crater. These tours are operated on a 24 passenger zodiac raft; their tours are exciting and fun for the adventure-seeker. Their signature trip is 5.5 hour Molokini / Kanaio Coast where you explore the sea caves and lava arches of Maui’s remote and rugged Kanaio Coast.
If you are an adventurer that likes the wind in your hair, getting a chance to see dolphins in the wild, and the thrill of discovering a side of Maui that only a few will see… the Maui Magic Molokini and Beyond tour is for you! The newly built 54ft. Maui Magic is a state-of-the-art, fast, comfortable, power catamaran equipped with BBQ grills, onboard waterslide, and an awesome sound system. The itinerary is similar to the 5.5 hour Molokini and Kanaio Coast tour with Blue Water Rafting … only this vessel is larger, and has more creature comforts than a zodiac raft.
blue water rafting
Venture into the sea caves
hawaiian sea turtle
Spend the day swimming with turtles

COahu Luau and Showsruise Ship Passengers

NCL cruise ship passengers in Kahului are able to do any Molokini snorkel tours on their second day. This is a 12-15 minute cab ride to Maalaea Harbor, or we can arrange a rental car with shuttle pick-up at the harbor; rates vary throughout the year but start around $40 per day in low season; see our rental car page for more information. If you’d like to go to Molokini on day 1, Molokini Express by Blue Water Rafting is the only one that fits the itinerary.

Lahaina cruise ship passengers can do Molokini snorkel tour only on day 2 (assuming your ship is spending the previous night in Lahaina). This would require a 20-25 minute cab ride, or we can arrange a rental car.

Activity Tips

Kevin Ditamore – Owner / Manager

Let’s begin by making it clear … there are MANY boats that do Molokini snorkel tours. There are lots of old icky boats, a host of mediocre trips, and then there are a few great ones and THEY are the ones you are reading about on this page. WE ONLY BOOK NICE MOLOKINI TRIPS!!! You can’t go wrong with ANY of the boats listed on this page. We don’t book OLD boats that are poorly maintained … period. I have personally been on EVERY one of these boats and stand behind these tour operators. Now that you don’t have to worry about us booking you on a BAD boat the only question left to settle is “Which boat is the very best for you?”

My highest recommendation is to first consider Aqua Adventures. Many of our clients want something a step up in terms of personal service and really want to go on a less-crowded boat. I can tell you that you won’t find anything less crowded than Aqua Adventures. Their boat is certified for 49 passengers but they limit the trip to 36. That’s 100 less people than some of the other Molokini trips! Their boat is well designed to handle Maui’s often windy ocean conditions. This is also the best choice for someone who wants to try SNUBA diving; their boat was custom designed with SNUBA in mind, and their instructors are the best in the industry. Aqua Adventures offers a two-location snorkel trip, going to Molokini first and Turtle Arches second on a typical day. This boat is family owned and operated and they have next to ZERO crew turnover. These people love their jobs, love the ocean, and love sharing all of this with you. I recommend this tour for anyone EXCEPT those with very small children or anyone who KNOWS they have a problem with motion sickness. There is no water slide on this boat, so kids might prefer one of the bigger boats. Their deli lunch features HIGH QUALITY beef, ham, and turkey that have been SMOKED at Beach Bums, an excellent BBQ restaurant at Maalaea Harbor. If you are a vegetarian, you might prefer one of the bigger boats that offer garden burgers, but those smoked meats are REALLY tasty!

The Fourwinds and Pride of Maui are very similar boats in size and amenities and are the two best of the larger boats; the biggest difference between them is their itinerary. The Pride of Maui goes to Molokini for one snorkel stop and Turtle Town for a second. Everybody loves turtles, so the Pride of Maui includes them with their morning tour. The Fourwinds structures their trip differently … there are lots of places where turtles can be seen while snorkeling along the Maui Coastline that don’t require a boat ride, but a boat is the ONLY way you can experience Molokini. For that reason they stay at Molokini the entire time. giving you more snorkel time there than any other boat. If you are only going to snorkel once during your vacation, the Pride of Maui will give you more diversity. If you plan to snorkel around your hotel too, you’ll probably see turtles then, so the Fourwinds will give you more time to experience Molokini crater. The Fourwinds has the better glass bottom viewing area, so if you have anyone in your party who isn’t going to snorkel, they’ll enjoy that feature. Both boats are large with capacity in the 130 range, but they are spacious and well laid out to handle the larger crowds. We’ve seen other large boats that look like people are hanging over the edge … that isn’t the case with these two. Both of these boats are powered catamarans that are very stable; if you have any concerns at all about motion sickness the Pride of Maui has the widest beam (width) which makes it the most stable boat in the water.

Blue Water Rafting is a great choice for the adventure seeker, especially ones who are staying in Kihei and Wailea … these rafts are small enough to enter some of the sea caves and lava arches along the Kanaio Coast (when the ocean swells permit). But you do need to be aware that high adventure also means low creature comforts. There is no rest room on board … when you have to go … then you have to jump in the water. Blue Water Rafting has a saying … “NO WIMPS.” If you are one, they really prefer you to go on someone else’s boat. From experience we can tell you that these guys really are die hards. They will provide you with a thrilling ocean experience, and that means going out in a variety of ocean and weather conditions. You will get wet on their tours … even on an otherwise dry sunny day. This is a bouncy ride and you will experience open ocean conditions that are much rougher than what you’d find on a typical Molokini tour. By now you should be able to tell if this is the right tour for you … or not.

For those who want to experience the Kanaio Coast but maybe aren’t up for the rigours of the rafting tour, the Maui Magic offers a great compromise. Their boat is larger than the rafts, but much smaller than the Pride of Maui and the Fourwinds. The Maui Magic handles the open ocean conditions experienced along the Kanaio Coast with a little more of a forgiving ride. You’ll get to see the wild scenery that only a handful of long-time Maui residents have ever seen, but you’ll get a little more forgiving ride. The Maui Magic is too large to enter any of these caves, but you’ll get to see the wild volcanic coastline and enjoy the views (and the on board rest room and BBQ lunch).

Molokini as a snorkel destination is somewhat weather-dependent … while all of these tours that advertise Molokini as a destination will make every effort to provide guests with the experience they seek, a few days a year the tours get diverted to an alternate snorkel spot. All snorkel destinations are ultimately the decision of the captain of the respective vessel and that decision is always made with the safety and comfort of the guests in mind.

Morning is typically better snorkeling than the afternoon because our trade winds here in Hawaii are typically much lighter in the morning and the wind kicks up around noon or so. Many boats (and activity desks) advertise less expensive afternoon Molokini trips … we don’t find this approach to be an honest one. Because of afternoon trade winds most PM trips go to “Coral Gardens” which is near the tunnel along the Pali Highway between Maalaea and Lahaina. Coral Gardens is a nice spot to snorkel … but it isn’t Molokini. We do offer these afternoon trips, but we take the high road here at Adventuremaui.com … since your chances of going to Molokini in the afternoon are less than 20%, we prefer to market them as Coral Gardens snorkel tours … which occasionally get diverted to Molokini on really calm afternoons. If you want to be reasonably sure you are going to Molokini, you definitely want to book a morning trip when your chances of getting to Molokini are more like 95% instead of 20%.

We also offer scuba diving to Molokini Crater which is not found here on this page … see our Maui Scuba Diving page for details. We offer both certified diving and introductory, no experience necessary dives. The tours featured on our scuba diving page are best if EVERYONE in your party wants to scuba dive. If you have some snorkelers and a few certified divers, the Pride of Maui found here on this page is the best choice.