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10 Best Molokini Snorkeling Tours in Maui (Turtles Too!)

One of the top things to do in Maui is to go snorkeling at Molokini.

You may know that Molokini is a sunken volcanic crater, located three miles off Maui’s southwestern coast. A coral reef within the crater’s arms is a wondrous waterworld for more than 250 species of tropical fish.

But what makes snorkeling Molokini special is its amazing water visibility. The water is so crazy clear, you can see zillions of colorful fish up to 150 feet away!

Not surprisingly, there are many Molokini tours to choose from. They typically also include snorkeling at Turtle Town – where you can swim with giant Hawaiian sea turtles.

After enjoying several such tours (and scuba diving at Molokini too!), we’ve narrowed down our list of the best Molokini snorkeling tours to the following 10 adventures.

If you’re chasing down some of the best snorkeling in Maui, be sure to include a Molokini Crater snorkeling tour in your itinerary when planning your Hawaii trip!

Snorkeling Maui: Molokini and Turtle Town
For a really fun Maui adventure, go on a Molokini and Turtle Town snorkeling tour!

Snorkeling Maui: Molokini tours

Quick answer: Top 3 Molokini tour picks

What’s special about Molokini Crater?

Where is Turtle Town?

10 Best Molokini snorkeling tours:

1) Eco-friendly Pacific Whale Foundation tour

2) Small-group, high-speed rafting adventure

3) Luxury sailing on the 65-foot Alii Nui (with hotel transfers)

4) Intimate cruise on the Leilani motor yacht

5) Private tour on a 60-foot super raft

6) Fun on the 3-deck Calypso (with 2 waterslides)

7) Deluxe sunrise tour from Makena on the Kai Kanani

8) Affordable fun on the 55-foot Malolo

9) BBQ lunch and open bar on the Pride of Maui

10) Lanai Kai II 53-foot boat with waterslide

Bonus: Dolphin and whale sightings!

What to bring on your Molokini snorkel trip

Is it worth going to Molokini?

Other Maui and Molokini Crater snorkeling FAQs

Pro tip for planning your Molokini tour

Last words on the best snorkeling tours to Molokini

Maui travel update (2024)

Maui is completely re-opened, except for Lahaina, which remains closed due to the August, 2023, wildfire.

The island welcomes you! And there’s lots to do outside of Lahaina! Buy local, book tours and enjoy your Maui visit!

For more info, see here on the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s website.

Best Molokini snorkeling tours: Top 3 picks

Want a quick answer? Here are our top 3 picks, all great for different reasons, and in no particular order:

#1 Pacific Whale Foundation

Eco-friendly catamaran tour (and the money goes to a great non-profit!)

#2 High-speed inflatable raft

Small-group, military-style raft (thrilling adventure and 5-star-rated)

Redline Rafting tour in Maui

#1 Luxury Molokini sailing

Deluxe sailing tour on a 65-foot catamaran (lots of free bubbly!)

What’s special about Molokini Crater snorkeling tours?

Before we get into the details of each tour, you’ll want to know a bit more about Molokini – and why some of the best snorkeling tours in Maui go there!

Shaped like a crescent moon, Molokini is an uninhabited volcanic crater partly submerged underwater. 

The top rises 160 feet above the clear blue water, forming a rocky islet about a half mile wide.

Above the water, Molokini is a bird sanctuary. Seabirds such as wedge-tailed shearwaters and frigate birds nest on the rocky atoll and can be seen soaring overhead.

Below the water’s surface, the reef at Molokini lies at a depth of some 10 feet close to the inside of the crescent, sloping down to 25 feet or so the further away you go. Its calm waters are the perfect depth for snorkeling!

The crescent-shaped Molokini Crater at sunrise
Molokini Island at sunrise

Because the crater is volcanic rock and so isolated, there’s no soil or sand around in the water. When snorkeling or scuba diving within the crater’s sheltered waters, you can see up to 150 feet away – the water is that clear!

Molokini Crater in Maui and its surrounding waters are a Marine Life Conservation District – and the range of fish species and other marine life found here is some of the most extensive in the Aloha state.

Black triggerfish? We noticed lots of them!

Moray eels? Yes, keep your eyes peeled.

A moray eel in Molokini
A giant moray eel pokes its head out of the reef at Molokini

Manta rays?

That would be epic! But the best place in Hawaii to see these mammoth shy rays is in Kona on the Big Island (we snorkeled with mantas in Kona on our UnCruise Hawaii trip).

Where is Turtle Town in Maui?

So you’re keen to go snorkeling in Turtle Town too…

There are actually several “Turtle Towns” along the south Maui coastline. (Depending on conditions and other variables, tours stop at different spots. They’re all fairly close to each other.)

One Turtle Town is an underwater rocky outcropping offshore Maluaka Beach.

Another is Turtle Arches (aka “Five Caves”), a series of large coral arches also along the southern coast of Maui.

Hawaii’s famous sea turtles are attracted to these particular spots close to the shoreline because they love to eat the seaweed and algae that grow on the lava formations here. 

The area is a great place to snorkel with these endearing marine animals in their natural habitat.

A yellow-and-brown Hawaiian sea turtle hovering above the sand at Molokini
The shells of Hawaiian green sea turtles look yellow and brown (they’re known as “green” because their fat is greenish colored)

Don’t think itty bitty turtles, by the way.

Hawaiian green sea turtles (or honu) – which are the most common species on Maui – are the largest sea turtles in the world with hard shells. They can grow as big as four feet in length and weigh over 300 pounds. 

So we’re talking really big sea turtles!

And they’re not at all fazed by snorkelers. They often swim very close to you before gliding away.

10 Best Molokini Crater snorkel tours

1) Eco-friendly Pacific Whale Foundation tour

Pacific Whale Foundation Molokini tour boat
Go snorkeling at Molokini with the Pacific Whale Foundation and you’ll learn about protecting Maui’s ocean creatures too

Fancy making a splash and helping out the environment at the same time? 

This eco-friendly Pacific Whale Foundation tour is the ticket.

Offered by the non-profit Pacific Whale Foundation, it aims to offer the best experience for guests while supporting their whale conservation program.

Your trip will be led by a certified marine naturalist, an ocean expert who will share their wisdom about what you’re really seeing in the deep blue. 

The whole package

“This is the third time [I’ve traveled] with the Pacific Whale Foundation. The crew is always excellent, [and] the knowledge shared [is] very pertinent and enhances greatly the whole trip. Beyond the fact that this trip is supporting a great cause, I… recommend this company!”

Esther B.

The boat used is a 54-foot catamaran, departing from Ma’alaea Harbor. 

The 5-hour tour is perfect for kids, as it includes a “learn to snorkel” class. And if that’s not enough, there’s even a waterslide descending from the catamaran straight into the ocean.

This Molokini and Turtle Town tour includes: 

  • Continental breakfast (banana bread, assorted pastries and fresh Hawaiian fruit)
  • BBQ lunch (teriyaki chicken breasts, hot dogs, veggie burgers, potato salad and corn-and-bean salad) with chocolate chip cookies for dessert
  • Certified marine naturalist guide 
  • Support for the Pacific Whale Foundation 
  • Learn to snorkel instruction

Book this Pacific Whale Foundation tour

2) Small-group Molokini Crater snorkel tour on a high-speed inflatable

Redline Rafting in Maui
Get to Molokini quicker than other boats on one of these fast red Zodiac-style rafts

This 5-star rated rafting tour with Redline Rafting focuses on a bespoke experience, taking small groups to lesser-known snorkeling spots on their Molokini crater tours.

A must do adventure

“The crew was amazing. They made the day. We visited 3 snorkeling sites and were allowed as much time as we needed. The smaller group, the speedy pontoon boat and the blue Hawaiian waters made for a great experience.”

Barbara J.

Climb onboard a military-style inflatable and zip out to the extinct volcanic crater. Swim along the back wall there and look out for up to 250 species of tropical fish, rays and turtles, all meandering around colorful coral. 

The second stop is “Turtle Town.” Which one? Only the crew knows!

But, as the name suggests, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see these much-loved creatures. 

This Molokini tour includes:

  • Snorkeling in lesser-known spots, including the back wall of Maui
  • Small-group boat (maximum 24 passengers)
  • Continental breakfast (Maui cinnamon rolls and fresh tropical fruit)
  • Lunch (deli sandwiches and creamy pasta salad)
  • Snorkeling equipment
  • Local guide and snorkeling instructor

Book this high-speed rafting Molokini tour

3) Luxury Molokini snorkeling tour on the Alii Nui

The Alii Nui (a white, custom-built luxury sailing catamaran, 65 ft. long and 36 ft. wide) at Molokini Island
The Alii Nui is a custom-built luxury sailing catamaran (65 ft. long and 36 ft. wide)

If you’re looking for the Mercedes experience, the Alii Nui offers the best Molokini boat tour departing from Ma’alaea Harbor.

On our latest trip to Maui, we went snorkeling at Molokini and Turtle Town with Alii Nui Maui.

While their 65-foot catamaran can accommodate 100 passengers, the maximum number is capped at 45 for each tour.

There’s lots of space to lie out on the trampoline decking while sipping mimosas and champagne!

What a great tour!

“The number of fish and sea turtles that we saw were a real treat… [And] really really good food. The one thing that stands out is the level of hospitality and professionalism of the entire staff. After lunch, they walked around offering cookies. Later they offered sliced pineapple, and even offered to clean off our sunglasses. This is so worth the money.. Everything you could ask for was taken care of.”

Ron D.

Apart from being impressed by the Alii Nui reviews on TripAdvisor, one reason we picked Alii Nui Maui was because they include free transfers to and from your Maui resort.

(We only rented a car for some of the time during our Maui trip, so this was very handy for getting to Ma’alaea Harbor and back.)

The white Alii Nui catamaran under sail
Alii Nui Maui limits the number of passengers so everyone has plenty of room to relax

After checking in at 6:30 am, we boarded the Alii Nui.

As crew members prepared the boat for departure, passengers were served a full hot breakfast – scrambled eggs, bacon, banana bread, yogurt, fresh fruit and pastries. There was plenty of seating at several small tables under cover, as well as on benches along the sides of the vessel.

Then we set off. Before long, we reached the volcanic islet of Molokini.

The brown rocky islet of Molokini, Maui
Molokini is a partially submerged volcanic crater located between the islands of Maui and Kaho’olawe

And how lucky were we! We were blessed with almost perfect conditions.

The captain sailed around the back of the island. Molokini’s cliffs are steep on this side, and its back wall reaches straight down 250 feet below the water’s surface to the ocean floor. It’s a popular area for scuba divers when conditions are right.

Popping out around the other side, the Alii Nui then anchored in the sheltered inner curve of the caldera.

Wooden stairs were lowered into the water.

Passengers sit on stairs at the Alii Nui stern to put on their fins to go snorkeling
Passengers can easily get into the water from the staircase at the stern of the Alii Nui

And Alii Nui “lifeguards” set off to sit on paddleboards in the water (with extra masks and bottles of defogger) to keep an eye on us, in case anyone needed any help.

An Alii Nui crew member sits on a SUP board to help snorkelers at Molokini
An Alii Nui crew member sits on a SUP board to help snorkelers at Molokini

Before entering the water from the stairs, we were offered yellow waist flotation belts or foam noodles.

Even though we’re very comfortable in the water (and have lots of snorkeling and diving experience), taking a noodle and placing it under our chests made it that much easier to float on the water’s surface, mask facing down, with barely any effort.

Is this George snorkeling?

We’ve already mentioned Molokini is renowned for its exceptional water visibility – and it didn’t disappoint. We could see up to at least 100 feet away in the rich turquoise blue water!

Yellow butterfly and Orangespine unicorn fish stole the show. But we also spied an octopus crawling slowly on the reef.

One of the most fascinating sea creatures inhabiting Molokini Crater, Maui, are octopuses.
One of the most fascinating sea creatures inhabiting Molokini are octopuses

Colorful parrotfish, needle fish, Hawaii’s state fish (get ready for this word: the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a) and a large spotted eagle ray caught our attention too.

A spotted eagle ray (black with white spots) glides along the sandy ocean floor.
A spotted eagle ray glides along the sandy ocean floor

Back on the Alii Nui, we dried off with the fresh clean towels provided.

The bar was open and mimosas were served. (All alcohol is complimentary.) Hummus, dips, salsa, chocolate cake and other snacks were also offered.

We weren’t really hungry, having wolfed down that big breakfast just a couple of hours previously. But the chocolate cake was too yummy to resist.

And we don’t usually start drinking at 9:30 in the morning – really! But, we thought: Just one mimosa (made with bubbly and POG or passion-fruit, orange and guava juice) surely couldn’t hurt.

A smiling Alii Nui crew members carrying a tray of mimosas (and doing the shaka sign)
A smiling Alii Nui crew members carries a tray of mimosas (and does the shaka sign)

And then we sailed to Turtle Town near Makena Landing.

Offshore from Makena Landing on South Maui, the “Turtle Town” we anchored at is close to an area known as “Five Graves” (or “Five Caves”) – named for the five headstones marking the graves of a family of Chinese laborers who were buried here along the Maui coastline.

This particular Turtle Town is a rocky pinnacle off the coast where green sea turtles are known to feed and hang out.

We were in the water for a good 10 minutes without seeing a turtle, though we could hear other snorkelers exclaiming they’d seen some.

We were almost ready to give up.

But then the biggest turtle we’ve ever seen (almost as long as a boogie board!) rose up slowly from the depths to peer at us just a few feet away. It looked absolutely prehistoric.

With sunbeams shining through the water, dancing off the turtle’s humongous shell, the experience was quite magical!

A large Hawaiian green sea turtle swims above the sand at Molokini.
Hawaiian green sea turtles are the largest sea turtles in the world, reaching lengths of more than four feet and weighing over 300 pounds

After he (she?) languidly swam away, we were entertained by another equally impressive turtle, which nibbled at algae on the lava rocks underwater.

Thrilled to have encountered turtles, we swam back to the boat, where a hot lunch awaited. Pulled pork, pesto chicken, tortellini, garlic bread, Caesar salad and soft chewy macadamia-nut-and-chocolate cookies – no one was going hungry!

Happily satiated, everyone on the catamaran drank lots more bubbly served by the friendly crew, as the wind filled the sails and we sailed back to Ma’alaea Harbor on Maui.

Guests drink mimosas from champagne glasses on the Alii Nui.
More mimosas? Of course!

This 6-hour luxury Molokini Island snorkeling tour includes:

  • Snorkeling Molokini and Turtle Town
  • Luxury catamaran with just 45 passengers
  • Use of good quality snorkel equipment
  • Hot breakfast, mid-morning snacks and a hot lunch
  • Free bubbly, soft drinks and an open bar
  • Complimentary use of warm towels on the boat, with clean dry ones offered in between snorkeling too
  • Complimentary sunscreen
  • Hot fresh water shower (hoses at the side of the catamaran)
  • Complimentary transfers to and from your hotel

There’s the option to go huka diving at Molokini (extra charge) instead of snorkeling on this tour. Huka diving involves breathing through a regulator attached to a long hose, which supplies air from a surface device.

Guests hang on to a yellow raft as they learn how to huka dive at Molokini, Hawaii.
Guests try huka diving at Molokini

See the Alii Nui Maui website for more details and to book

4) Relaxed and intimate Molokini snorkel cruise on the Leilani

The Leilani is a white 50-foot motor  yacht that does Molokini snorkeling tours.
The Leilani heads out to Molokini

Step onboard a 50-foot motor yacht called the Leilani for this small-group Molokini cruise

With a focus on guest comfort, the Leilani crew limit the boat’s capacity to 60% (just 33 passengers) to ensure that all guests feel comfortable and at home – and to do their bit to protect the ocean that we all love! 

Snorkeling takes place in both Molokini Crater and Turtle Town.

Once you’ve had your fill of the underwater world, climb back onboard and sip on a micro-brewed local beer, a Mai Tai or soda – all are available at the open bar.

A light breakfast and lunch are included, including dishes like muffins and croissants with guava jelly, pulled pork sandwiches and jumbo steamed hot dogs. Vegetarians and vegans can be catered to – just let them know three days before.

Great day snorkeling from the boat

“[The captain and crew] were great! Service, food, boat were right on… Great day. Oh, the breakfast was good and lunch (pulled pork) was awesome!”

Keith C.

This Molokini and Turtle Town snorkeling adventure includes: 

  • Snorkeling at some of Molokini’s most popular spots 
  • Open bar with high-end drinks
  • Breakfast and lunch 
  • Intimate experience with no more than 33 passengers

Book this Leilani Molokini snorkel cruise

5) Private charter on a 60-foot super raft

The Reef Explorer is a new custom-built super raft
The Reef Explorer is a new custom-built super raft

For a Molokini snorkeling tour with a difference, how about this super raft? 

Bookable as a charter boat for three hours, it’ll be just you and your group on board the modern Reef Explorer. (The 60-foot raft even has a restroom.)

You’ll zoom past the larger groups and find quieter spots, so you can have the seascapes all to yourself!

Great way to experience Maui waters

“[This] private super raft is the only way I would experience snorkeling and sightseeing on the water…”

James A.

Snorkeling is generally at Maui’s Coral Gardens or Molokini Crater, but as a private tour you have some input in where you’d prefer to go. 

Plus, because it’s a bespoke tour, you can splash around to your heart’s content. Your time is fully customizable without having to worry about other tourgoers! 

The Molokini snorkeling reviews of this vessel are very positive, with a few claiming it to be the best snorkeling tour in Maui. 

This snorkeling Molokini Crater tour includes:

  • Private 60-foot super raft for up to 15 people
  • Use of snorkeling equipment
  • Snacks and bottled water/ soda

Book this super raft tour

6) Fun Molokini snorkeling adventure on the 3-deck Calypso

The Calypso is big comfortable boat allowing even non-snorkelers to see Molokini’s underwater world

The best Molokini tour for… non-snorkelers, this adventure on the Calypso boasts a glass-bottom viewing room, where you can gaze down at the underwater world without even getting your feet wet!

Alternatively, if you want to jump right in, you can zoom down one of the catamaran’s two waterslides.

Of course, there’s also the option to jump in or descend down the staircases.

In fact, the Calypso has a wide staircase that makes it that much easier to get in and out of the sea. 

Family, fish, food, and fun!

“The crew was professional and well organized, friendly and attentive. Impressed with how safety oriented they were… The slide was also a blast… My party of 7 agreed that it was the perfect way to spend the day.”

Kathy A.

It’s a spacious boat – the only triple-decker catamaran in Maui! – and it takes up to 123 passengers.

With comfort at its heart, there’s plenty of room to lounge during snorkeling breaks (but because it’s a big boat, there’ll be more people in the water with you when snorkeling).

The 5½ tours include lunch (deli meat or pulled pork sandwiches plus veggie wraps) and unlimited soft drinks, with chocolate chip cookies for anyone who craves something sweet. 

This snorkel tour in Maui includes: 

  • Large comfortable boat (123 passengers)
  • Snorkeling gear 
  • Two slides, a glass bottom viewing platform and two showers on the boat
  • Hot and cold beverages
  • Breakfast and lunch

Book this tour on the Calypso catamaran

7) Deluxe sunrise Molokini tour from Makena on the Kai Kanani

Fresh fruit and cinnamon buns on the Kai Kanani snorkeling boat
The Kai Kanani also offers deluxe tours for snorkeling Molokini Crater and Turtle Town

Now there’s another catamaran, the Kai Kanani, which (like the Alii Nui, #3) also offers deluxe Molokini snorkel tours.

It leaves from Maluaka Beach in Makena, further south of Ma’alaea Harbor.

Makena is closer to Molokini than Ma’alaea Harbor, so the boat ride to Molokini is shorter. And if you take their sunrise deluxe snorkel tour, they promise to be the first snorkel boat at Molokini.

You check in at 6:00 am – and you’re back on Maui by 9:45 am. It’s the best Molokini snorkel tour if you want to beat the crowds. 

Highly recommended

“Definitely a high quality snorkel trip. Nice clean boat, well-organized, and super friendly and helpful crew… Note that while we were just a couple, we thought the crew did a great job helping both young kids and a couple of elderly folks as well.”

Rick and Christine

Kai Kanani tours include a delicious continental breakfast of warm cinnamon rolls, yogurt parfait, fresh strawberries and hot chocolate as the sun rises. After snorkeling, you’re treated to egg frittatas, ham-and-cheese sliders and an open bar with mimosas and Bloody Mary’s.

The boat is licensed for 80 passengers, but it’s capped at 45 for the sunrise deluxe tour.

Complimentary shuttle service from hotels and resorts in the Wailea area is also offered.

This sunrise Molokini and Turtle Town snorkel tour includes:

  • The privilege of being the first boat at Molokini
  • Two delicious breakfasts (continental and hot breakfast)
  • Open bar with the hot breakfast
  • Snorkeling gear
  • Hotel transfers in the Wailea area

Book this deluxe sunrise cruise on the Kai Kanani

8) Molokini snorkel tour on the 55-foot Malolo

You never know what you may see when snorkeling at Molokini!

If you want a tour that’s less expensive than the Alii Nui (#3) and Kai Kanani (#7) – but don’t want to scrimp on quality – the 55-foot Malolo catamaran provides a full snorkeling tour with breakfast and lunch

It takes up to 66 passengers (licensed for 80) and there are two restrooms onboard.

Venturing first to Molokini Crater, and then to Turtle Town or Coral Gardens, the cruise has a friendly and professional team, making it another one of the best snorkel tours in Maui. 

Would highly recommend

“Amazing experience. Good captain and crew… Great protocol for head counts and a lifeguard in the water to make sure everyone was safe.”

Matt R.

Alcoholic drinks can be purchased on board, and wetsuits and waterproof cameras are available to rent. 

To soak up the sun while cruising, you can lie out on the trampoline netting.

This Molokini and Maui turtle snorkeling tour includes:

  • Boat for up to 66 people
  • Continental breakfast and deli lunch 
  • Soft drinks and hot drinks
  • Snorkel gear and floatation devices

Book this Malolo boat tour

9) Snorkeling Molokini Crater on the Pride of Maui

Whale watching in Maui on the Pride of Maui tour boat
In winter, there’s a good chance you’ll see whales on the way to Molokini

To go with a snorkeling company that’s been in the Hawaii tourism biz for over four decades, look no further than the Pride of Maui catamaran.

The operating company was the first to limit their boats to 60% of their capacity – ensuring that any snorkeling spots they visit aren’t overcrowded and bolstering sustainable tourism. (The Pride of Maui can accommodate 149 people, but only takes 90.)

The 5-hour tours visit Molokini and Turtle Town, and you ride on a world-class, 65-foot power catamaran, with constant assistance and entertainment from the rigorously trained crew. 

The Pride of Maui also has a waterslide for added fun.

Great snorkeling trip

“Amazing crew! Felt safe and informed the whole trip. Grandkids had a blast snorkeling [for the first time] and the slide was a bonus! Breakfast and lunch were delicious. Great way to end our vacay.”

Georgia A.

This snorkel Molokini trip includes:

  • Power catamaran with up to 90 people
  • Snorkel equipment
  • Option to snuba (additional cost)
  • Friendly staff
  • Open bar
  • Breakfast and BBQ lunch

Book this Pride of Maui tour

10) Lanai Kai II 53-foot boat with waterslide

A young woman goes down the waterslide on the Lanai Kai II snorkeling boat in Maui.
Down the slide she goes!

Stand at the stern of the Lanai Kai II, a 53-foot boat (or sit in the large shaded cabin), as you sail to Molokini.

When you get there, you might want to splash into the pristine waters by way of the boat’s 25-foot waterslide. 

This half-day snorkeling excursion – which runs from 7 am until noon – heads to the best snorkel spots, with full instruction on the boat before you jump into the ocean.

Amazing snorkeling excursion for the entire family

“Wonderful snorkeling adventure! The crew were so good with our 4-year-old that he wanted to stay on the boat instead of snorkeling. My 11-year-old and 9-year-old loved the snorkeling and the water slide.”

Katie P.

This Molokini and Maui Turtle Town tour includes:

  • Boat with up to 67 passengers
  • Buffet lunch of sandwiches, pasta salad and coffee cake 
  • Coffee, tea, juices and soft drinks
  • A 25-foot waterslide 
  • Snorkel equipment and full instruction 

Book this Lanai Kai II snorkeling tour

Bonus: Dolphin and whale sightings!

Tropical fish aren’t the only marine life you’ll see on these snorkeling tours in Hawaii.

You’ll probably also be treated to the sight of Hawaiian spinner dolphins in the wild.

They love to race alongside the bow of a boat or in the boat’s wake. Some pods can number as many as 30 dolphins!

As well, if you go in the winter months, chances are excellent you’ll see humpback whales too on your tour.

The whale season in Maui is December to April – that’s when up to 12,000 humpbacks migrate to the island’s warm shallow waters to breed, give birth and nurse their young.

Fun Hawaii fact: Hawaii is the only U.S. state where humpback whales mate. (Even the whales find Hawaii romantic!)

What to bring on your Molokini snorkel trip

So, you’ve booked one of the best Molokini crater snorkeling trips, now what to bring? 

Wear your bathing suit underneath your shorts or clothes.

And when packing for Maui, throw in reef-safe sunscreen as well as a rash guard or snorkel skin to protect yourself from sunburn. (Or you can buy these items on Maui when shopping for your Hawaii gifts and souvenirs – lots of stores sell swimwear and accessories for fun in the sun.)

If you tend to get seasick, bring some anti-nausea medication with you too, just in case…

Molokini snorkeling reviews: Is Molokini worth it?

Woman snorkels above the reef at Molokini, surrounded by tropical fish.
Bottom line? Molokini really is one of the best places to snorkel in Maui

You might have read some disappointing reviews about Molokini Crater and turtle snorkel trips.

It’s no secret that over the years, the world’s coral reefs have suffered from the effects of climate change and overuse.

Molokini is no exception.

Each morning, upward of a dozen Molokini snorkel boats anchor within the crater’s shallow inner cove.

Some 600 to 800 snorkelers may visit the crater at any one time. In 2019, a bill was passed to limit the number of tour boats visiting Molokini at the same time to 12, but the governor vetoed the bill.

Years ago, when we first went scuba diving at Molokini, the coral gardens were healthy and blooming. And the wide variety of colorful tropical fish were abundant – we remember galaxies of fish! At least, that’s what we think we remember.

Today, it’s the same crystal clear waters. And the same marvelous visibility.

But it would be a lie to say the reef is glorious. It doesn’t have the same interesting coral formations or kaleidoscope of hues we’ve seen when diving in the Red Sea or the Caribbean. The colors are neutral (mostly gray, coffee and sand tones).

And the fish aren’t as plentiful as before.

Does that mean you shouldn’t book a Molokini snorkel trip? No, no and no.

Our latest Mai snorkeling trip on the Alii Nui was wonderful.

A Hawaiian green sea turtle in Maui glides swims through turquoise waters.
Swimming with sea turtles is on most people’s Maui bucket list!

Of course, the brilliant weather we were blessed with helped. We visited in mid-November – the sun shone and the water was calm and silky warm. And it had been almost two years since we’d last gone snorkeling.

For water babes like us, how could we not have an incredible time snorkeling on Maui!

Expectations and weather conditions will influence your experience.

Don’t go expecting the absolute best snorkeling ever. And if it happens to be a windy day and the seas are choppy, you may feel a bit unsettled (er, sick) on the boat ride. Not so fun…

But if you go on any of the Molokini snorkel tours covered here, the expert crew will do their best to show you a great time.

And if your day is anything like ours was – and you spot a huge sea turtle (or two!) – you’ll beam and shout “Yes! Molokini is worth it!”

Who’s happy to be on a Molokini snorkeling cruise? Us!

Other Maui and Molokini Crater snorkeling FAQs

What’s the best place to snorkel in Maui?

There are many great snorkel sites on the island of Maui, including Ahihi-Kinau, Honolua Bay and Black Rock at Ka’anapali Beach. But one of the best snorkeling spots is at Molokini Crater.

How long are Molokini crater tours?

The total excursion time is about 5 to 6 hours.

The departure time from Ma’alaea Harbor is usually early in the morning, around 6:30 or 7:00 am.

Yes, that’s early – and it’s hard to wake up early on holiday!

But, as with all the Hawaiian islands, early morning is the best time for snorkeling. That’s when the water is the most calm and clear. By mid-morning, the trade winds usually start to pick up, the water gets choppier and visibility isn’t as good.

It takes about an hour from Ma’alaea Harbor to reach Molokini.

In general, tours include about 45 minutes of snorkeling in Molokini Crater.

Most tours then do a second snorkeling stop at one of the Turtle Towns. You usually get to enjoy another 30 to 45 minutes in the water to snorkel with the sea turtles there.

Where do Molokini tours leave from?

While a few boats leave from Lahaina Harbor, most Molokini boat tours leave from Ma’alaea Harbor on the south coast of Maui.

The Kai Kanani leaves from Makena Beach (and the boat ride to Molokini is shorter than from Ma’alaea Harbor).

Check with your Maui crater snorkeling provider to see if they offer transfers to and from your hotel. 

What’s included in a Molokini and Turtle Town snorkeling tour?

The following is usually provided:

  • Use of snorkeling gear and flotation devices
  • Breakfast
  • Fresh fruit
  • Snacks
  • Tea, coffee and soft drinks

If you want a Mai Tai to celebrate on the way back to Maui, you may have to pay for that. (Depending on your tour, alcoholic beverages may be an extra cost.)

Can you go snorkeling at Molokini Crater without a tour?

No. Snorkeling at Molokini without a tour isn’t allowed.

As it’s a protected marine area, access is strictly regulated to preserve the ecosystem and ensure the safety of visitors. You’ll need the right permits (which your tour will organize) to snorkel Molokini!

Are there sharks at Molokini Crater?

Yes, some sharks inhabit Molokini Crater. But seeing one when you’re snorkeling is a long shot.

Sharks naturally shy away from humans, and because Molokini snorkeling tours are popular with tourists, sharks stay away from people in the water there.

Pro tip for planning your Maui snorkeling tour to Molokini

Plan your Molokini snorkeling tour for early in your holiday.

Assuming you’ve flown west from the U.S. or Canada to Hawaii, your internal body clock will have you waking up early in Maui when you first arrive – so you might as well take advantage of this!

That wraps up our guide on the best Molokini snorkel tours!

Everyone knows about Hawaii’s on-land beauty, but these Molokini and Turtle Town snorkel tours will show you the wonderland of colorful fish and coral just underneath the water’s surface. 

Whether you choose one of the bigger boats or opt for a sunrise trip with fewer people, these Molokini adventures unveil a side of Hawaii that many don’t ever experience. 

Snorkeling in Maui at Molokini and Turtle Town tours is a must-add to your Maui vacation bucket list!

Experience more of Hawaii!

First trip: If this is your first time visiting Hawaii, you’re in for a treat! (Read our complete guide.)

Which Hawaiian island is better? Find out how to choose between Maui and Kauai.

Maui accommodation: We love these romantic resorts in Maui (from boutique and bohemian to splurge).

Lanai: From hiking through pine forests to watching spinner dolphins, there are lots of fun things to do on Lanai Island!

Kauai: On this lush garden isle, you must visit Kauai’s beautiful botanical gardens. See all the other fun Kauai activities we love too. Also check out the best places to stay in Kauai, from condos to grand resorts.

Our top travel tips and resources

Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)

Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).

Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours, plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out Viator (a TripAdvisor company) and GetYourGuide.

Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.

Travel insurance: SafetyWing is designed for frequent travelers, long-term adventurers and digital nomads. It covers medical expenses, lost checked luggage, trip interruption and more.

Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)

Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.

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Snorkeling Molokini and Turtle Town, Maui
Best Molokini snorkeling tours

Photo credits: 14 to 16, 21, 23 Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 4, 9 to 13, 17 to 19, 24 David Parias | Maui snorkeling tour boat photos courtesy of the respective tour operators


About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

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