Molokini Crater Snorkeling: Review of Molokini Snorkel Tours on Maui

by | Mar 19, 2024

Have you ever wondered what it feels like to explore an underwater paradise?

Welcome snorkeling at Molokini Crater, a must-do on Maui that offers an unparalleled underwater adventure.

Nestled a few miles off Maui’s coast, Molokini Crater is one of the world’s few partially submerged volcanic calderas, making it a unique and mesmerizing snorkel site.

This marine sanctuary is teeming with vibrant marine life, clear waters, and a rich historical tapestry that adds depth to every snorkel and dive. Keep reading to learn more about what to know before booking a tour.

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This Molokini Crater snorkeling post is written by Bryan Murphy, an expert in Hawaii travel and a top-rated podcast host. The post may contain affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you use the provided links. Learn more on my privacy policy page.

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My guide will explain everything you need to know for the ultimate snorkeling experience, from choosing the best Maui snorkel tours to preparing for your morning snorkel adventure.

Whether you’re a seasoned snorkeler or setting out for your first Maui ocean encounter, our insights will help you make the most of your Molokini adventure, ensuring it becomes the best snorkel trip of your life.

So, let’s get ready to uncover the wonders of snorkeling at Molokini Crater and what makes it stand out as the best overall choice for exploring Maui’s best snorkeling spots.

Key Takeaways of Molokini Crater

  • Molokini Crater has been a Marine Life Conservation District since 1977, home to around 250 fish species and 38 types of coral. Its clear waters offer visibility, often over 150 feet.
  • The crater has a historical background as a World War II target practice area, adding depth to your snorkeling adventure by combining natural beauty with history.
  • Choosing the right snorkeling tour depends on personal preferences for boat size and trip duration. Options range from intimate 2-hour excursions to comprehensive 5-hour journeys that can include whale watching and turtle spotting.
  • Preparing for your trip involves arriving early, managing motion sickness, and an underwater camera, wearing reef-friendly sunscreen, and respecting marine life by not touching or feeding fish.
  • To enjoy Molokini Crater fully, select tours that match your interests like additional adventures in whale watching or turtle spotting during the optimum seasons.

Recommended Tours

History of Molokini Crater

molokini crater from above - history of molokini crater

Molokini Crater tells a story of its past far beyond its current fame as a snorkeling paradise. During World War II, this now peaceful site served as a target practice area for the US Military.

The slopes of Molokini bear silent witness to these times with visible impact cratersshrapnel, and bullets embedded in them.

This intriguing history adds a layer of solemnity and significance to your visit, transforming it from just another day at sea into a dive through time.

Exploring Molokini today offers not only an underwater adventure but also respects its historical essence. As you swim among the vibrant marine life and coral reefs that have flourished within this partially submerged volcanic crater, remember the stories hidden beneath the waves.

Each snorkel or dive around its waters is a step back into prehistoric Maui and a leap into understanding how nature reclaims and beautifies even conflict-torn places.

Why Molokini is One of the Best Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii

Molokini Crater stands out as Hawaii’s top snorkeling destination for many exciting reasons. Its status as a Marine Life Conservation District since 1977 ensures the preservation of its unique ecosystem.

This incredible marine sanctuary hosts around 250 species of fish and 38 types of hard coral, creating a vibrant underwater community unlike any other.

The water quality is unmatched, and visibility often exceeds 150 feet, allowing snorkelers an unparalleled view of the reef’s colorful inhabitants and intricate landscapes.

This partially submerged volcanic caldera, one of only three in the world, formed roughly 150 thousand years ago. It serves as a haven not just for thousands of fish but also for adventurous humans seeking to explore its underwater beauty.

Snorkeling at Molokini Crater allows you to swim among Hawaiian green sea turtles and maybe even spot some reef sharks from a safe distance.

Boats are the sole means to reach this exceptional site, adding another layer of adventure to your experience on the South Maui coast.

Choosing the Right Snorkeling Tour

Molokini Afternoon Snorkel

Credit: Hawaii Tours

Molokini Afternoon Snorkel Sail

  • Lounge and relax on trampolines

  • Friendly, experienced captain and crew

  • High-quality snorkeling gear and fun water toys included (foam noodles, bodyboards, flotation vests)

  • Olympus underwater 16MP digital cameras and wetsuits available for rent

  • Onboard restrooms and fresh-water showers for comfort

  • Duration: 3-hours


Credit: Hawaii Tours

Molokini AM Snorkel Tour

  • Includes breakfast, snacks, BBQ lunch, and drinks

  • Features a glass-bottom viewing area

  • All necessary gear provided, including options for SNUBA

  • Ideal for families

  • Experience incredible marine life

  • Duration: 5-hours

Credit: Hawaii Tours

Molokini Snorkel or 2-Tank Dive

  • Offered Monday to Friday

  • Encounter dozens of marine life species and hundreds of colorful fish

  • Includes boat trip and guidance

  • Experienced divers only

  • Duration: 6-hours

redline tours

Credit: Hawaii Tours

Redline Rafting Molokini Snorkeling Tour

  • Snorkeling gear and guidance provided

  • Encounter turtles at Turtle Canyon

  • Observe vibrant fish and coral

  • Knowledgeable and experienced crew

  • Spot dolphins at La Perouse Bay

  • Option for private snorkel charter

  • Duration: 5-hours

Picking the perfect snorkeling tour for Molokini Crater is key to a fantastic experience. Look for tours that match your interests, whether it’s whale watching or exploring the vibrant underwater world.

Importance of Boat Size

Choosing the right boat size for your Molokini snorkeling adventure matters a lot. Smaller boats, like the Leilani, offer a cozy trip with up to 40 passengers. This gives you a personal experience and easier access to snorkel spots.

On the other hand, larger vessels such as the Pride of Maui can carry up to 149 people. These bigger boats have more amenities and space, making them great for groups or families looking for comfort on their journey.

Boat size affects your overall experience at Molokini Crater. With smaller groups, you get closer encounters with marine life and personalized guidance from your snorkel guides. Larger boats provide stability during rough seas and ample room to relax after hours of snorkeling.

No matter what you choose, ensure it fits your vision of an ultimate Molokini snorkeling trip.

Options for 2-hr and 5-hr Tours

Molokini Crater tours can range from 2-6 hours.The shorter trip is perfect if you’re tight on time but still want to experience the magic of snorkeling in one of Hawaii’s top spots.

You get all the gear you need for an extra $75, making it super easy to dive right into your adventure without any hassle.

If you have more time and want a deeper dive into the Molokini experience, a longer tour is your go-to option. This longer excursion allows you to snorkel around the crater and often includes sightings of whales and turtles, adding even more excitement to your day.

Professional instructors guide all tours, ensuring a safe and unforgettable journey under the waves.

Additional Adventures: Humpback Whale Watching and Turtle Spotting

Molokini Crater isn’t just about the vibrant coral and fish. It’s also a prime spot for whale watching and turtle spotting, especially during the summer months.

To make sure you get to see these magnificent creatures up close, book your tours in advance. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Whale Watching Adventures:
    • The waters around Molokini are a playground for humpback whales, particularly from December to April.
    • Tours offer the expertise of professional instructors who help you spot these majestic animals.
    • Keep your camera ready; witnessing a whale breach is breathtaking and makes for an unforgettable photo.
  • Turtle Spotting Excursions:
    • Turtle Town, near Molokini, is famous for its large population of green sea turtles.
    • Instructors on your tour will guide you to the best spots for turtle encounters.
    • Swimming alongside these serene creatures is an experience that connects you deeply with nature.

Both adventures add depth to your snorkeling trip, making it more than just exploring underwater life. They bring you face-to-face with some of the ocean’s most captivating inhabitants.

Ensure your tour includes these additional adventures for a truly memorable experience off Maui’s coast.

Preparing for a Molokini Crater Snorkeling Adventure

small tour boat near molokini crater

Getting ready for a Molokini Crater snorkeling trip means packing your spirit of adventure and some essential gear. Keep reading to discover how you can make the most of this unforgettable experience!

Arriving Early

Arrive early to catch the calm and clear waters at Molokini Crater, making your snorkeling adventure unforgettable. Most boat tours kick off with a complimentary breakfast, fueling you for the exciting day ahead.

Opting for a departure from Makena offers the shortest ride to the crater, allowing you to beat the crowds and dive into an underwater world unspoiled by human interference.

This early start not only gifts you serene waters but also maximizes your time in this underwater paradise. With fewer boats around, marine life is more active, giving you front-row seats to Maui’s underwater ballet.

It’s like having VIP access to one of nature’s most impressive shows; schools of tropical fish dart through coral gardens as sunlight filters through the clear blue water—a truly magical scene that early risers swear by.

Understanding What to Expect

Expect to be amazed as you enter a world unlike any other!

Snorkeling in Molokini offers an unmatched underwater spectacle. The crater’s unique status protects its ecosystems, giving snorkelers a chance to see some of Hawaii’s most beautiful underwater scenery.

Your adventure begins long before you hit the water. You’ll sail from Maui on either a large or small boat, depending on your preference for intimacy or stability during your journey.

Larger vessels offer more amenities while smaller boats can provide a closer connection to the ocean itself. Either way, reaching Molokini requires sailing off the coast of Maui, promising breathtaking views along the way.

Once there, expert guides help everyone from beginners to seasoned snorkelers enjoy their time inside this partially submerged volcanic caldera – one of only three in the world!

Tips for a Successful Molokini Crater Snorkeling Experience

eel in maui at molokini crater

To make your Molokini Crater snorkeling trip unforgettable, pack sunblock and a waterproof camera. Always listen to your guide’s safety tips – they know the best spots!

Dressing Appropriately

For your adventure, pick comfortable clothes and gear for swimming and snorkeling. Most tours provide snorkel gear and flotation devices. Respect the ocean and enjoy your time in it safely and sustainably.

Bringing Necessary Supplies

Pack wisely for your Molokini snorkel trip. Bring sunscreen, a towel, and an underwater camera to capture the vibrant sea life. Don’t forget a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated on the boat.

Wear a swimsuit under your clothes and consider water shoes for extra comfort on the boat’s deck. Tour companies usually provide snorkeling gear, but you can bring your own if you prefer specific equipment.

Keep these essentials in mind for a hassle-free adventure at Molokini Crater.

Respecting the Environment

Keep Molokini Crater beautiful by using reef-friendly sunscreen. This protects the marine life from harmful chemicals. Respect the rules, too. Boats can’t anchor in Molokini. They must use state-provided moorings to protect the seabed and coral.

Do your part: don’t touch or feed the fish and take all trash back with you. Let’s keep this unique sanctuary safe for future visitors to enjoy its beauty just like you do today.

Wrap-Up: Unforgettable Snorkeling at Molokini Crater

As we wrap up our adventure through the world of Molokini Crater Snorkeling, let’s take a moment to reflect on what makes this Maui snorkel tour a journey unlike any other.

From the vibrant marine life calling the crater home to the clear, inviting waters surrounding Molokini, it’s clear why this is one of the top Maui destinations for snorkeling and scuba diving enthusiasts.

Whether you’re exploring the partially submerged volcanic caldera for the first time or returning for another unforgettable boat trip, the Molokini snorkeling experience promises wonders far beyond the ordinary.

Remember, choosing the right tour can make all the difference in enjoying your time at this unique snorkel site, one of only three volcanic calderas in the world accessible for such adventures.

Whether you opt for a morning snorkel to see the crater and turtle town in their serene beauty or engage in additional activities like whale watching, your Molokini adventure is bound to be extraordinary.

For those eager to dive deeper into the wonders of Maui’s ocean, consider checking out other tours available or visiting the Maui Ocean Center for more insights into local marine life.

So, grab your fins, pick your tour, and get ready to explore the underwater marvels that await at Molokini Crater.

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FAQs for Snorkeling at Molokini Crater

1. What makes Molokini Crater a must-snorkel spot in Maui?

Molokini Crater, one of the world’s few volcanic calderas above sea level, offers crystal-clear waters and a unique marine ecosystem. It’s home to vibrant coral reefs and hundreds of fish species, making it the best snorkeling in Maui.

2. How do I get to Molokini Crater for snorkeling?

The crater is best reached by boat from the Kihei Boat Ramp. Many tour companies offer Molokini snorkeling excursions that include everything you need for an unforgettable adventure on and under the water.

3. Can I see turtles while snorkeling at Molokini Crater?

Absolutely! Join a “Molokini and Turtle Town” tour for the chance to swim with these gentle creatures. The area around Molokini is known for its frequent turtle visitors, offering an amazing opportunity to snorkel alongside them.

4. Is there something special about the back side of Molokini Crater?

Yes! The backside of Molokini offers a thrilling experience for advanced snorkelers and divers due to its deeper waters and stronger currents, showcasing different wildlife compared to inside the crater.

5. What should I look for in a good Molokini snorkel tour?

Look for tours that include clear instructions on how to use equipment, provide drinks or snacks, ensure safety measures are in place, and have knowledgeable guides who can share insights about the history of Molokini as well as identify various marine life.

6. Are there any tips for first-time snorkelers visiting Molokini Crater?

First-timers should listen carefully during the snorkel instruction provided by their tour company—this will help you feel more comfortable once you’re in the water.

Also, don’t forget sunscreen (reef-safe!), bring a waterproof camera if possible, and stay hydrated throughout your molten adventure!

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy

Bryan Murphy is the owner of Hawaii’s Best Travel and is a recognized authority on responsible travel to Hawaii. Combining years of on-ground experience with insights from the top-rated podcast, Hawaii’s Best, he connects with a broad online community, offering a richer, more responsible way to experience Hawaii.