Maui’s Molokini Island – A Top Snorkel and Scuba Diving Spot

a view of molokini crater from wailea maui

A view of Molokini (on the right) as seen from Wailea, Maui

Molokini is Hawaii’s crescent shaped island that is located about three miles off the coast of South Maui. This islet is actually the top of an extinct volcanic crater.

Molokini is protected as a marine and bird sanctuary. Since the area is a marine sanctuary, the waters in the open crater are perfect for snorkeling.

The only way to get to Molokini is by an ocean vessel. You’ll find many companies who offer snorkeling tours to Molokini. Most of them are by catamaran. Some snorkeling companies that we’ve had good experiences with are:

  • Trilogy
  • Alii Nui – They have an option that includes “turtle town.”
  • Pride of Maui – They have an option that includes “turtle town.”
  • If your budget is very tight, Four Winds offers a decent trip to Molokini, however, we much prefer the experiences on the previously mentioned tour companies.

Molokini is one of the top snorkeling and diving spots in Hawaii, according to the head dive master, Mike Jones at Trilogy. It may even be one of the top spots in the world. One of my friends who is a scuba diver told me that the visibility at Molokini was the best he had ever seen.

I have been snorkeling around the world and Molokini was the first place I saw an octopus. The clear water and visibility here can be outstanding, especially when the water is calm.

Molokini

Molokini crater – photo credit to Ron Dahlquist

Most of the snorkel cruises will include breakfast and/or lunch plus all the snorkel gear you’ll need. Most times a crew member will keep watch over the snorkelers, which adds a bit more safety.

If you have a choice of times, go to Molokini, we highly recommend you choose an early morning trip – the earlier, the better. The ocean is typically the smoothest during early morning hours. For that same reason, we also recommend you avoid afternoon sails to Molokini if you are prone to sea sickness.

We also recommend a snorkel cruise to Molokini that leaves from Maalaea Harbor instead of Lahaina. The reason being is that the distance from Maalaea to Molokini is shorter.

If you are hesitant about snorkeling, I encourage you to read our post: Courage for the first time Hawaii snorkeler.

Tip: If you go between January and April, keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales while you’re in the boat. Also, it’s not uncommon to see turtles and dolphins year round from the boat.

About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

15 comments

  1. Hello,

    Any tour companies recommended? Preferably a catamaran would be appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Brian

  2. In Sept 2013, I went snorkeling for the first time here. Went with Trilogy. The crew was great. I would highly recommend them. If ever I get back to Maui I will use them again.

  3. How much does it usually cost to do this activity

    • Plan on anywhere from $50 to just over $100 per person. Costs depend on if you’re going on in the morning or afternoon, the size of the boat (usually the more capacity on the boat, the less expensive) and if a meal (or two) are included. There are many commercial tour operators who go to Molokini so shop around for price and reviews.

  4. Do you need to make a reservation with trilogy far in advance?

    • Carol – I wouldn’t think so, unless you are visiting around a holiday, but I recommend you contact them directly to ask their advice.

  5. Yes you need a reservation in advance. Visit the Trilogy website for details and pricing. Also they have a Facebook page.

  6. I noticed on the websites for Trilogy and Alii Nui both allow infants and children. We will have our 20 month along with us in Hawaii in March and I wondered about other’s people thoughts on bringing a toddler on the catamaran? Has anyone been on this trip and seen small children/ toddlers? We are trying to include him in as many activities as possible while in Maui (we also have a teenager). Is that a crazy idea??

    • We’ve never taking a toddler on a catamaran in Hawaii, so we can’t speak from experience. You might want to call one of the companies to get their advice.

      You do need to keep hold of hand rails when walking around. The ride is usually wavy.

  7. Based on your article, a trip to Molokini is definitely on my list of things to do. As I have been researching it and reading reviews a lot of people are saying that there is not as much to see anymore and that there are other snorkeling trips that take you to better locations. What are your thoughts on that? When is the last time you went to Molokini? It will be the first time my husband and I will be snorkeling (he is also interested in the SNUBA) so we won’t have anything to compare it to and I’m sure we will be thrilled seeing any kind of sea life. We are looking to enjoy the entire experience of the trip and would appreciate your input.

    Thanks

  8. Which part of the “experience” with Four Winds you did not like? We are going in August… Thanks!

    • It was so crowded. Pretty much every seat was taken. Due to the number of passengers versus crew, the service was impersonal.

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