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Where To See Sea Turtles On Maui: A Complete Guide

a turtle swimming under water

Plate lunch, Mai Tais, sea turtles. You can’t board the plane home from Maui without enjoying all three. The first two are never hard to find. But when it comes to snorkeling with sea turtles in Maui, there are a few spots you just gotta know.

What kind of sea turtles can you see in Maui?

Like all of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui makes a happy home for several turtle species. The warm waters and expansive coral reefs provide rich feeding grounds where sea turtles thrive.

The species you’ll encounter most often are Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. They’re fascinating little guys, actually named for the color of their fat over the color of their shell.

You can thank their diet of seagrass and algae for the green hue—and for bringing them close to shore where you can easily view them feeding.

Here’s a few more fun facts about Maui’s green sea turtles:

  • They can hold their breath for up to 4 hours.
  • Males have longer tails than females.
  • The species is estimated to be more than 150 million years old.
  • They live for 70 years or longer.
  • Sea turtles are excellent open ocean navigators.

What do I need to know before snorkeling with sea turtles in Maui?

We’re glad you asked! There’s a few important details you’ll want to know before diving in.

In Hawaii, sea turtles—locally known as honu—have long been regarded as sacred animals. Considered guardian spirits by the islands’ ancient populations, their meat, shells and spirit have always played an intricate role in Hawaiian culture.

Today, Hawaii’s sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It is illegal to touch, hunt, harass or harm a sea turtle. And yes; chasing, feeding, riding, or otherwise causing stress to a sea turtle falls under those restrictions.

Your best option is to stay 10-20 feet from any sea turtle you see, giving them plenty of space to cruise, feed and relax.

Another tip? Stick to reef-safe sunscreen while you’re in the ocean. Harmful chemicals found in common sunscreens can destroy delicate coral reef structures. And as you know, those exact reefs are what feed Maui’s sea turtles! Protect them.

Best Places To See Turtles On Maui

a man flying through the air over a body of water

Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach): Wailea/Kihei

You already know it’s a good spot when it has earned the title of Turtle Town. Yes, some of the best turtle snorkeling on Maui is found on the stretch of coast between Nahuna Point and Black Sand Beach.

Otherwise known as Turtle Town.

There are a few entry points here where you can find turtles, running from Makena Landing to Maluaka Beach. The Maluaka Beach area offers both a gorgeous, sand-bottom beach and a protected reef near the southern end.

To snorkel with sea turtles, you’ll want to head to the reef. There’s tons of marine life here, including of course, a healthy population of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. Look for them snacking on algae in the shallow waters near the reef.

Tip: The Maluaka Beach entrance is unmarked. Look for it across from the Makena Beach & Golf Resort.

Black Rock Beach: Ka’anapali

There’s something to love about every beach in Maui, and for Black Rock Beach, it’s the accessibility. Located within walking distance to some of the island’s favorite resorts—The Westin Maui, Sheraton Maui and more—this gorgeous beach is perfect for a quick snorkel adventure.

If you’re without a car or traveling with kids, this could be the perfect spot to dip in and look for sea turtles. As always, you’ll want to stick as close as possible to the rocky reefs where fish and turtles tend to stay.

Keep your eyes peeled for local legend, Volkswagen! If he’s around, he’ll be hard to miss. He’s 300 pounds!

Tip: If you’re not a confident swimmer, don’t go beyond the point. You risk getting caught in a current. Also, get there early! This is a popular snorkeling and cliff jumping spot.

Ulua Beach: Wailea

a pool next to a body of water

Beginners, listen up! This is the spot. An idyllic beach with calm waters and a sandy entry, this family-friendly snorkeling spot is one of Maui’s best.

Follow a walking path from the Wailea resorts or grab one of the few parking spots at the beach park entrance. Either way, you’ll want to pack for a full day as the beach here is just as good as the snorkeling.

Tip: Swim to the right, around the reef towards Mokapu Beach and then walk the beach path back.

Ho’okipa Beach Park: Kahului

If you’re looking to view turtles on the beach in Maui rather than snorkel with them, head to Ho’okipa Beach Park.

This North Maui beach is primarily known as a windsurfing spot, and the choppy waters aren’t great for snorkelers. But you won’t need to snorkel to see turtles here.

Typically, this beach will have a few sea turtles hanging on the sand. They come to warm up in a safe place, making it easy for visitors to grab a glimpse from the beach.

Maui Ocean Center: Maalea

If snorkeling isn’t your thing or you’re looking for more in-depth information about sea turtles, head to the Maui Ocean Center. Here, you’ll get up close and personal with sea turtles, plus dozens of other types of Hawaiian marine life.

Even if you do make it out snorkeling, we suggest adding a visit to the Maui Ocean Center to your trip anyway. Besides all the amazing marine life, they offer informative presentations and support local conservation efforts.

Snorkel Tours On Maui

a turtle swimming under water

By now, you probably get the point—sea turtles are everywhere around Maui’s reefs! Almost anytime you’re near a rocky coastline, you have the chance to see sea turtles.

But if you want to guarantee that you swim with sea turtles while in Maui, we suggest booking a snorkeling tour.

Amazing, locally guided tours operate all around the island. From quick beach sessions to snorkel cruises, Maui’s snorkeling tours are the best option for the complete experience.

They’ll give you the gear, guidance and make sure you have the best chance possible of an unforgettable snorkel with the turtles!