It was a gorgeous mid-October day in Hawaii, and I wanted to go snorkeling at a good location on Maui that wasn’t too crowded. I originally planned to go to the west side of the island (Lahaina) to snorkel, but due to the high surf (winter swells of 6ft +) snorkeling there and in the north was not ideal. With the current ocean conditions in mind, I decided to switch up my plans and try snorkeling at Ulua Beach in the Wailea area. North swells are typical in the winter on Maui but do not affect this area. Snorkeling at Ulua Beach is idyllic, with beautiful white sand and unique lava fingers which house amazing marine animals. This is also a great location for beginner snorkelers and kids on Maui.
To ensure safety when snorkeling at Ulua Beach, it is always a good idea to use the ‘buddy system’, so I recruited my mom to come with me on my snorkeling adventure. I had an extra mask and snorkel, but I did not have any spare fins that fit her. Now, snorkeling without fins might not seem like a big deal, but they are actually incredibly important as they not only help you to swim more efficiently, but they also help you to navigate through strong currents and waves, especially around marine life and coral. Needless to say, we had to get her some fins. Luckily, I knew exactly where I could go to rent good quality snorkeling equipment on Maui, and made my way down to Kihei. With 9 convenient snorkeling and beach gear rental shops on Maui, I knew that I would have no problem finding a Boss Frogs location near Ulua/Mokapu beach to rent fins. The entire process took less than five minutes, and we walked out with a pair of fins that cost us less than a Costco slice of pizza 😂(only $1.50 to rent for 24 hours). Thanks to Boss Frogs, It was time to snorkel!
Getting to Ulua/Mokapu Beaches
Ulua/Mokapu beaches are located directly next to the Andaz Resort in Wailea. To get there, travel south on Wailea Alanui Drive, pass the Andaz Resort, and look for the bright yellow gate and the sign for Ulua/ Mokapu Beaches. Take a right down the hill a bit to find the parking lot and follow the sidewalk on the right hand side to reach the water. There are two main areas to park: the main parking lot, which is located on the right hand side of the beach and a small row closer towards the beach which is good for those who have health conditions or impairments. There is a generous amount of parking, but in order to secure a good spot, I recommend getting there early. Oh, and in case you are confused, Ulua and Mokapu beaches are adjacent to each other, and the main entrance with the parking lot is the best way to publicly access the beaches 😉
Easy Access to Excellent Snorkeling
There are multiple showers, a public restroom, and trash/recycle bins located around the area which makes it easy to leave the beach better than you found it. Beach chairs and umbrellas (also available for rent at Boss Frog's) are recommended if you plan to stay a while, as this location does not have very much shade. Ulua Beach has half a mile of beautiful white sand and gorgeous views of Kaho’olawe island and the west Maui mountains. Mokapu Beach is located directly in front of the Andaz Resort, so it can get a bit crowded as the hotel lawn chairs and umbrellas take up a lot of space. Turtles are sometimes spotted snorkeling at Ulua Beach so it is important to view them from a safe distance to make sure that the marine life do not get stressed out as it is illegal under federal law to touch, or harass Green Sea Turtles in Hawaii.
Marine Life at Ulua Beach
The best place for snorkeling at Ulua Beach is the right-hand side, where Ulua and Mokapu beaches meet. There are lava fingers that stick out of the water which serves as a great reef system for coral and other marine life. The water was only about 10-15 ft or so, and the water temperature was about 80 degrees, so the conditions were perfect for average snorkelers like us. We barely even had to swim, and immediately saw a huge school of Mountain Bass (Ahole’hole) and Goat Fish (Weke)…there must have been hundreds of them! As we continued, we saw a plethora of reef fish, and even a Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the Hawaiian state fish. My favorite part of the entire adventure was looking at the bright red Pencil Urchins. The contrast of their deep red spines with the dark coral in the background were stunning! An interesting fact about urchins is that they actually help to protect and maintain the oceans ecosystem by feeding off of the algae that grows on coral reefs. Even though the urchins are beautiful, it is important to remember not to touch them, as they have barbs on their spines that contain small amounts of neurotoxins that are extremely painful if stung.
Ulua beach is a fantastic place to snorkel on the south side of Maui. It has beautiful white sand, unique lava fingers housing spectacular marine life and coral, showers, restrooms, and stunning views of Kaho’olawe and west Maui. When visiting, it is important to pack reef -safe sunscreen to protect the coral reef, and to leave the area better than you found it. Bring the kids, family, friends, or pets to enjoy one of the best snorkeling beaches on Maui!