If you’re searching for a beginner friendly underwater adventure at one of the best access points to beautiful marine life on Maui, then snorkeling at Maluaka beach should be at the very top of your list! The reef system here is rich and diverse, and the beach has quiet, clear waters that are ideal for all abilities. The best area for snorkeling extends for a length of 300 yards and a width of around 100 yards, so there is always something new and fascinating to explore. Plus, relaxing on the beach or grass post snorkel is absolutely dreamy in itself.
A Bit of History
Maluaka Beach was always a favorite place for Hawaiian nobility to swim and unwind. 'Maluaka' translates to 'guarding shade', alluding to the enormous trees that surrounded the shore, providing Hawaiian chiefs a quiet place to rest.
Keawala'i Congregational Church stands just before the northern entrance to Maluaka beach. This incredibly historic church was originally constructed of pili grass in 1832. After heavy storms damaged the structure it was rebuilt by the community using stone and wood in the 1950’s. Members living near the beach gathered coral rocks for the making of the puna or cement, and those residing on the “forest side” brought down the lumber. The church has made a commitment to maintain Hawaiian tradition and culture, incorporating the use of Hawaiian language, music, and dance. Guests are welcome to attend religious services and cultural events at the church today.
Getting to Maluaka Beach
Maluaka beach is located in Makena on the south shore of Maui. There are entrance points at the north and south ends of the beach. To get to the northern entrance, go south on Piilani Highway until the highway turns into Wailea Alanui Drive. Turn left on this road and continue until you reach Honoiki Street. Take a right here, followed by a left at the stop sign on Makena Road. Drive until you come to the historic church on the right side of the road. Directly across the street is the Maluaka beach public parking lot with restrooms and showers. Walk for a few minutes further down the road to access the beach. There is a pull off to drop beach gear before parking, and a few parking spots along the roadside if you're lucky!
To get to the southern entrance to the beach, continue down Wailea Alanui Drive until you reach Makena Keonoio Road. Take a right here and drive to the end where you will see parking in the center of the road as well as a public lot on the mountain side. After you’ve parked, the beach is about a 5 minute walk along a paved pathway. This access point offers a public park area with restrooms, showers, a nice grassy area with picnic tables, bbq’s and a scenic lookout point.
Top 5 Tips for Snorkeling at Maluaka Beach
Before heading out on any snorkel adventure, consider how to keep the ocean healthy and properly interact with marine life. Here are some tips to snorkel like a pro!
- Treat the ocean with respect! Marine life should not be interacted with, fed, or harassed, and should be given enough room to swim freely. Touching a turtle incurs a fine of $15,000!
- Use reef-safe sunscreen. Many sunscreens include dangerous chemicals that harm marine life and coral reefs. They are now banned in Hawaii so make sure your's is labelled REEF SAFE.
- Snorkel with a buddy. If you’re snorkeling solo, stay close to shore or a group of snorkelers nearby!
- Stay on designated paths and trails. When exploring coral reefs, follow natural sand pathways and give yourself plenty of depth to avoid touching and killing live corals.
- Leave just footprints. When you're done at the beach, make sure to take everything with you and leave the beach in the same condition that you found it.
My Experience Snorkeling at Maluaka Beach
Before heading to Maluaka beach, I stopped by Boss Frog's in Kihei for a waterproof camera rental. I needed a Go-Pro so I could snap some selfies with the turtles and other marine life, of course! I got to Maluaka around 9:00am. There weren’t many people at the beach yet, the sun was out, and the conditions were absolutely idilic for snorkeling.
Getting into the water at Maluaka was as easy as it gets. The shore is soft and sandy with hardly any rocks or coral. This made it super simple to safely walk into waist deep water and put on my snorkeling gear rentals. I swam about 50 yards out from the south end of the beach before the coral and reef formations began. From there, I quickly came across a myriad of Hawaiian fish like moorish idols, saddle wrasse, convict tang, and loads of red pencil urchins.
My favorite moment was swimming up through an enormous school of yellowfin goatfish. They shimmered so brightly in the sunlight as they moved in perfect unison! FUN FACT: I later learned that goatfish have the ability to rapidly change color. This allows them to blend in with the sand to become less visible to predators, and can cause them to shine bright in the light. It was incredible to witness this phenomenon in person!
The fish were all so beautiful, but the distinctive coral structures are what really made this place unique. Every turn I took brought me to a new dramatic underwater seascape with different ravines, arches, and hidden caverns.
Take Me To Turtle Town!
After exploring the south end of the beach, I decided to head up north and attempt swimming to the famous 'Turtle Town'. This area is well known as one of the best places to swim with turtles on Maui. Turtle Town is located between Maluaka beach and its northerly neighbor, Makena Landing. It is possible to access that bay from the north end of Maluaka beach, but it requires decent swimming stamina to get around the point. The swim itself takes you past interesting lava rock formations and plenty of marine life, with incredible views of the historic church and green mountainsides above the surface.
Unfortunately, the turtle gods were not in my favor on this day. While I didn’t manage to see any turtles in Turtle Town, it was a great reminder that seeing specific sea life is never guaranteed but ads to the anticipation! Turtle Town is the second stop on snorkeling boat tours to Molokini, a highly recommended Maui activity for all ages.
Now that you’re equipped with all the information you need, it’s snorkel time! I’m confident that you’ll come for the snorkeling and stay for the fin-tastic marine life and spectacular Maui sunsets. Enjoy!