Snorkeling at Five Caves

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Snorkeling at Five Caves

For adventurous Maui visitors seeking an exciting underwater activity, snorkeling at Five Caves in Makena beckons with a maze of undersea caves and arches. This location is known as one of the best snorkeling spots on Maui and is without a doubt one of the most unique. The rugged volcanic rock formations in this area create intricate tunnels and passageways housing wide varieties of marine life and endless nooks and crannies to explore! 

The ideal time for snorkeling at Five Caves is during winter months. Large south swells can occasionally occur in the summer, which decreases visibility and makes the shoreline more hazardous for snorkeling. If you decide to snorkel here in the summer, make sure you to check the daily Maui Snorkel Report By Boss Frog’s™ before you go. In April, the summer swells were beginning to arrive. To be safe, I checked the daily snorkel report and identified south Maui as a 8 out of 10 rating. My snorkel day was a go!

The Allure of Snorkeling at Five Caves

An underwater labyrinth at Five Caves is surrounded by coral gardens brimming with marine life, making it an oasis for countless local Hawaiian fish and other fascinating sea creatures. Keep an eye out for the variety of aquatic life that call these caves home! Sea turtles and (friendly) reef sharks frequently use these holes and caves to rest. 

The caves themselves are accessible by advanced snorkelers, free-divers and scuba divers only. For those capable of swimming down through the caves, know that they are easily navigated and an exit is always visible if you need to come up for air! If you are a beginner snorkeler or if you aren’t comfortable with long breath holds, there are still beautiful sights to behold from above. 

History of Five Graves

Before the coastline became dotted with upscale residences, the indigenous people of south Maui occupied this area. The attraction was primarily the plentiful freshwater streams and fisheries of the area. A few miles south at a location known as Keoneʽoiʽo, French navigator Jean Francois de La Perouse made the first known landing on Maui (by a Western explorer) in 1786. When the Rose Ranch (now Ulupalakua Ranch) opened in the late 1800s, the area played a crucial role as a dock for  supplies to be unloaded from ships bound for the mountainous areas of the island. 

The location of Five Caves on Maui is called ‘Makena Landing,’ and also saw the movement of cattle. As late as 1946, the coastline was used as a busy port for the loading of both cargo and livestock. A family of Chinese laborers made their presence known as European settlers progressively moved along the seashore. Their tombs denoted the location and inspired the term ‘Five Graves’ which is also sometimes used to describe this famous dive site today.  

Directions to Five Caves Makena

Travel south on Pi’ilani Highway until the highway flows into Wailea Ike Road, to the intersection facing the Shops at Wailea. At the base of the hill, turn left at the light onto Wailea Alanui Dr. Follow this road through Wailea’s upscale resorts for about 2.5 miles. Then, take a right onto Makena Road which takes you through a neighborhood with some stunning beachfront properties. Proceed approximately 200 feet until you see the beach access route by 5034 Makena Road on the right-hand side. Parking is available here on a dirt lot across the street. 

Alternatively, continue further down to Makena Landing for more parking. You can still get to the caves from the Makena parking lot, but it will require a longer swim (or walk). You will still see some beautiful marine life along your swim to Five Caves, so this is a great way to extend your snorkel session and witness more of what this popular area has to offer.

Renting Quality Snorkel Gear on Maui

On my way to Five Caves, I stopped at a Boss Frogs store in Kihei to rent some gear. A quality snorkel set is the best preparation for advanced snorkeling locations like Five Caves. Additionally, I wanted a wetsuit for my anticipated long session in the water. If you want to spend a lot of time in the ocean on Maui, I suggest wearing something over your bathing suit to help preserve body heat—even if the water may be warmer than you’re used to. Since the ocean temperature on Maui is lower than your skin’s, it will absorb your body heat. Boss Frogs rents wetsuit tops to keep you warm and comfortable. They also sell swimwear (rash guards) and surf shorts!

Snorkeling at Five Caves

Upon arrival at 9:30 am, the parking near the Five Caves entrance was completely full. With only a few parking spaces available off the side of the road, so I advise making your arrival time here as early as possible. Personally, I didn’t mind the long swim from the bay at Makena Landing. I had snorkeled at this bay before and knew there was a long strip of coral reef to explore on the route to Five Caves.

Makena Landing was beautiful! With barely any clouds in the sky, the ocean was calm with crystal clear visibility. The sandy entrance at Makena Landing is a big perk when compared to the rocky entrance at Five Caves. I easily entered the water, strapped on my fins and was quickly on my way.

Marine Life at Five Caves

After about a 50 yard swim, I started to see glimpses of the beautiful underwater marine life of Maui. Sightings of isolated trumpetfish, butterfly fish, and moorish idol soon gave rise to schools of yellowfin goatfish and bluestripe snapper. The most colorful fish award of the day easily went to my close encounter with a rainbow wrasse. As the fish swam by, flashes of blue, green, yellow, and purple brightly popped in the clear visibility! 

After a long swim, I finally arrived to snorkel at Five Caves. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to hold my breath long enough to descend to the caves, I peacefully floated at the top and observed my surroundings. Thanks to the incredible visibility, I could see about 50-60 feet out, and turtles were everywhere! Not long after I arrived, one large male turtle floated beneath me. I could tell this turtle was a male because of its long, thick tale. Compared to female turtles, males have a smaller body and shell which makes their larger tale even more noticeable.

Maui Snorkel Tours

By now my snorkel cup was full and I was eager to begin my lengthy swim back to Makena Bay. On my way, I noticed snorkelers arriving on one of Malolo’s Maui snorkel tour boats. Snorkel tours are an excellent choice if you want to experience the best snorkeling on Maui but don’t want to take on strenuous swims or tough ocean entries. In addition, they have food, beverages, and amazing crews that guarantee a safe and enjoyable snorkeling experience. I highly recommend booking a trip with Malolo or one of the other boats that tour around this area!

Five Caves, Five Graves is an absolute must for snorkelers seeking an extraordinary underwater adventure. With unique caves and diverse marine life, this spot promises an unforgettable snorkeling experience that surpasses the ordinary. Definitely visit this snorkel location on your next Maui vacation, whether you decide to see it from the shore or by snorkel tour to Turtle Town!