Snorkeling at the Molokini Crater


The perfect combination of world-class snorkeling with an ocean voyage across the azure blue Alalakeiki Channel makes an excursion to Molokini unforgettable. The remote location of the small islet creates a uniquely rich natural marine preserve thriving with corals, fishes and undersea creatures large and small. Within the protection of the partially submerged volcanic crater the waters are clear, calm, and shallow enabling maximum visibility through out. Not only one of the best spots to dive in Hawaii, Molokini ranks among the best in the world.

At a Glance:
Highlights: World-class snorkeling site reachable by boat charter only. The remote location has preserved reef and an array of fish to enjoy the best snorkeling on Maui.
Activity level: Easy to moderate depending on your "sea legs" for the 6 hours
Location: Departing from Ma'alaea Harbor, Maui
Options: Book a charter boat trip, preferably with 50 or less passengers and make it a catamaran for best ride and stability.
Hazards! Seasickness is a possibility. Take precautions if you are sea wary.
Reservations: Required, go online or by phone to book.
Cost: $119 adult $89.25 teens $59.50 child

Where to start:
A majority of the boats journeying to Molokini leave from the Ma'alaea Harbor along the highway known as route 30. The parking areas at the harbor are spread between the street, and municipal harbor spots. There are also paid parking stalls above the shops at Ma'alaea in front of the Maui Ocean Center. Each charter has a different protocol and meeting place, but generally mornings are the best weather and smoothest water for the 45-minute journey to the islet. Don't be surprised if your boat departs as early as 6:45, as the early snorkeler gets the best fish and choice of moorings.

The ride out:
The exit channel from Ma'alaea Harbor sets you on a direct course toward Molokini. When the conditions are smooth and favorable the journey to the isle is on glassy ocean and can be quite dreamy. A catamaran is best, as it most stable and makes a huge difference in the amount of ocean movement you feel. No wind is nice, but predominantly there will be some form of wind making a sailing catamaran such as those operated by the industry leader, Trilogy Sailing Tours a great option. During whale season the trip to Molokini also functions as a whale watch. As you literally weave through the dense Pacific Humpback whale population that ranges through the area from November to April annually.

Snorkeling the crater:
Once you have arrived at Molokini, captain and crew tie the boat to secure moorings, then your vessel becomes an easy diving platform for snorkeling, or snuba diving (a type of scuba diving with the tank floating above you providing air supply). Best to follow the instructions provided by the experienced crew who will act as your lifeguards and dive masters during your tour. Most excursions have snorkel gear and floats to lend to assist in your diving experience. The deep-water drop off from the edge of the crater is a 300 foot undersea cliff, and the crescent of land that is the bird sanctuary surrounding it create a calm water basin for easy swimming. With an average 30 to 60 feet of depth within the crater the clear water conditions provides visibility for greater distance allowing for awesome fish viewing like no other spot on Maui. Stay close to the boat if you are uncertain at first, and find the best "swim-step" for getting safely in and out of the water. It is best to adjust your snorkel gear while you are safely near the boat. Most charters have their guests swim between the boat and the land making a concentrated area to focus their attention and to keep people from accessing the deep side of the crater where currents can be an issue.
* Let the crew know if you are a novice snorkeler or swimmer. Don't be afraid to snorkel with a life-vest or other form of floatation if it aids in your comfort.

The ride back:
At some point the boat has to head back to the harbor. This is often predestined by timing or weather elements as decided by the captain of your charter. If the wind has picked up get ready for some bumpy boating. The hour plus journey into windy choppy ocean swell can create motion sickness conditions. Luckily the boat operators themselves make the call regarding the days forecast and conditions, these experienced mariners know the intricacies to making the Molokini run happen smoothly.

Local's Tip:
The entire journey to and from Molokini makes for a 6-hour journey on the sea. When coming back to land, hydrate yourself well, and then have a good meal to help you recover from those hours. It is best to plan rest and relaxation without much expectation for the afternoons after such a boat trip.

Trilogy Excursions
Local phone: 808-874-5649
Toll free phone: 888-225-Maui

101 Maalaea Harbor
Wailuku, HI 96793

Directions to Ma'alaea departures:

  • From Lahaina: Drive Hi-route 30 East for 25 minutes along the coast. Look for a tunnel that you will drive through along the coast, then 5 minutes past make right at the signs for Ma'alaea Harbor.
  • From Kihei: From North Kihei Road turn left onto Hi-route 31. Drive for approximately 8 minutes to roads end and turn left onto Hi-route 30. At next traffic light turn left and then turn right at the stop sign, and proceed to the harbor.


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