Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Maui, Hawaiian Islands

Maui is a scuba diving paradise with its technicolor coral reefs, submerged volcanic craters, abundant marine life, and sugary beaches. Explore this Hawaiian island’s underwater wonderland and find out how it stays true to its nickname “The Magic Island.”

Geography of Maui

The island of Maui is the second-largest of the main Hawaiian Islands. To the south lies the other islands that make up Maui County, including Lanai, Molokai, and the uninhabited Kahoolawe and Molokini. Nicknamed the “Magic Island,” Maui boasts dramatic and distinct landscapes, including tropical lowlands, lush Upcountry valleys, and massive shield volcanoes. Its windward north and east shores are world-class windsurfing destinations, while its west and south coast hold plenty of scuba diving gems.

West Maui

West Maui, the island’s hot spot, is known for its sun-kissed beaches, magnificent mountains, luxury resorts, bustling towns, and breathtaking sunsets. But equally noteworthy are the many scuba diving sites scattered along idyllic stretches of coastline, all of which you can access from the shore or via a short scenic drive or boat ride.

Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay is part of the Honolua-Mokuleʻia Marine Life Conservation District along the west coast of Maui. In winter, when the trade winds set in, this pristine beach transforms into a world-renowned surf break. In summer, currents get milder and the water warm, making the bay an easy, shallow dive. The trail sign leading up to the site even says "When there are waves you surf and when the water is calm you dive." Dubbed as one of the best Maui scuba diving sites, the bay boasts abundant sea life and chances to see mantas, eels, Hawaiian scorpion fish, and turtles.

Kapalua Bay

Kapalua, which roughly translates to “arms embracing the sea” is a popular park area for tourists and families. Its powdery white sand beaches and clear, azure waters have graced hundreds of magazines worldwide. It also happens to be a great dive site offering easy shore entry, 25-50’ visibility, and amazing wildlife encounters.

Black Rock (Sheraton)

Black Rock is an underwater gem near the Sheraton Hotel in Lahaina. It’s a favorite among advanced divers for its dramatic walls and caves, which you can peek into to observe Hawaiian fish and white tips in their element. Other reef tenants—like sea slugs, sea urchins, pennant coral fish, yellow tang, juvenile puffer, red parrot, surgeonfish, needlefish, and sea turtles—can also be spotted here.

South Maui

The leeward south side of Maui enjoys hot summers, calm breezes, and superb visibility. Its underwater attractions are what a diver would expect when visiting the islands of Hawaii: signature deep-blue water, mystical lava tubes and arches, unique marine species, turtle and shark run-ins, and exhilarating pelagic encounters.

Kamaole 2 & 3

Kamaole 2 and 3 are part of a series of adjacent parks that offer rewarding underwater experiences for beginner divers. The beaches are better known for their glimmering winter swells and winds that beckon wakeboarders and windsurfers. But on a calm, sunny day, the reefs stretching out of the shore become a paradise for snorkelers and divers. Swim from reef to reef and keep your eyes peeled for schooling fish, sizeable pelagics, and cleaning stations bursting with life.

Wailea Beach

A world-class Maui scuba diving site, Wailea Beach rewards divers of all aptitudes with a variety of experiences. Beginners can fin out across the brain and staghorn coral formations and see marine life jutting out of nooks and crannies, while advanced divers can descend further toward the ocean for exciting swim-throughs and interactions with larger pelagics. Albeit a long-surface swim, the reef at Wailea Beach is well worth it as it is brimming with technicolor fish, living corals, and arches and walls to explore.

Makena Landing

All divers will find something to enjoy at Makena Landing, a pristine, secluded park surrounded by greenery and cobalt-blue waters. Visibility is excellent both in the shallow and deep parts of the reef, but expect a bit of turbulence caused by the surf. The expansive clusters of lava rocks and hard coral serve as shelters for shoals of silverfish, yellow tang, sergeant fish, spiny sea urchins, puffer fish, and parrot fish. Large green sea turtles hover about frequently along the feeding stations, so keep an eye out for that.

Offshore Dives

Off the coast of Maui, there are experiences to please every diver. Hire a boat charter to explore the picturesque submerged volcano craters, lava tube caverns, and the signature North Pacific warm water and mild currents.

Lanai Cathedrals

A relaxing 40-minute boat ride across the channel from Maui to Lanai, often accompanied by dolphins and whales, lies one of the best scuba diving sites in Hawaii. Local and visiting divers agree that Lanai's cathedrals and lava structures have the greatest marine diversity and density in Maui County. The site’s swim-throughs and archways take you on a magical ride into the mysterious abyss. You won’t get enough of the picturesque sea life feeding about in the crevices. The two openings of the First and Second Cathedrals allow gentle light to flow inside the caverns, allowing the tube and sponge colors to burst into vibrant orange and red.

Molokini Crater

Molokini is an amphitheater-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater between the islands of Maui and Lanai. Beneath this crescent formation lies a shallow, sun-dappled aquatic universe waiting to be explored by divers of all skill levels. A kaleidoscope of coral, tropical reef fish, and pelagics (many of which are endemic to the area) take up residence in the inner, middle, and outer reefs.

Marine Life in Maui

  • Hawaiian (green) lionfish - Now a scarcity in Maui’s reefs due to the aquarium trade, the green lionfish is a species of reef fish unique and endemic to The Hawaiian Islands.
  • Barracuda - The great barracuda, also known as opelu mama or kaku, plays a significant role in Hawaiian spearfishing traditions. They are found in the deep ocean but often swim along the shallow surf as well.
  • Green moray eels - These enigmatic eels are plentiful throughout Maui, and almost each dive site offers the chance to spot them. They are often found in seawalls and rock pilings, hiding in the crevices.
  • Humpback whales - The Auau Channel, a shallow, protected channel between Maui and Lanai, is a route for Pacific humpback whales migrating from Hawaii to Alaska in the winter. The channel’s warm, bathtub-like conditions make it a preferred site for these gentle giants to birth and raise their calves.
  • Green sea turtles - The Hawaiian Islands are home to several species of sea turtles. They are often seen cruising calmly through Maui’s reefs and basking on its tranquil beaches.

Other Attractions

  • Upcountry Maui - If you need a break from Maui’s scorching heat and salty breezes, take a scenic drive through Upcountry. The region is known for its charming local shops and rolling hills where Maui’s produce and flowers are grown. Soak up the coveted Hawaiian fresh air, open country, lavender fields, and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.
  • Road to Hana - If you’re in Maui for the thrills, rent a car and drive through the famous Road to Hana, a 64.4 mile-long stretch of highway that connects Central and East Maui. It’s notorious for its relentless bends and falling rocks, but the iconic bridges, plunging waterfalls, thick cliffside vegetation, and endless ocean views make the route worthy of anyone’s bucket list.
  • Haleakalā National Park - Maui doesn’t fall short on dramatic natural features. Take a two-hour drive to the summit of Haleakalā, or "The House of the Sun", Maui’s tallest peak at 10,023 feet above sea level. It’s one of the two massive shield volcanoes that form the island of Maui and undoubtedly one of the coolest places in the world to catch the sunrise.

How to Get to Maui

Maui is an island that’s part of the US state of Hawaii, which means tourists are given the same entry requirements as that of the mainland United States. Australians, however, can travel in Hawaii for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa under the Visa Waiver Program. Here’s how you can get to the island:

By Air
There are a number of airlines that offer non-stop flights directly to Maui, including Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines. For shorter flights, it’s best to fly from Alaska, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, or any other city on the West Coast. Kahului Airport and Kapalua Airport are the two main airports of the island and they are served by numerous international carriers. You may also get a flight into Honolulu International Airport (HNL) on Oahu and take a short, 30-minute flight to Maui. Direct flights are also available from several Asian and South Pacific countries, including Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, and Singapore

By Sea
Several luxury cruise ships anchor in Lahaina harbor, West Maui’s old whaling town. Typical cruises from the contiguous United States leave from Los Angeles or San Francisco and dock in this historic harbor. From there, you can take a taxi to explore nearby beaches or arrange for a scuba diving trip with your cruise line.

Best Time to Visit Maui

Like most islands in Hawaii, Maui enjoys sunny, tropical weather year-round. But the varying elevations on the island create a variety of microclimates as well. It’s mostly dry and hot in the South and West coasts, with a blend of ocean breezes and trade winds. The higher you go, the colder and windier it will be. Expect occasional showers throughout the island. The island only has two seasons: summer (kau), which runs from May to October, and winter (hoolio) from November to April. The best time of the year to go scuba diving in Maui is during the low season, between April through Mid-June, but summer offers guaranteed encounters with turtles and humpback whales.

Required Trainings & Certifications

Maui welcomes card-carrying divers of all certification levels. But if you’re planning to dive in an intermediate or advanced site, you may need an Advanced Open Water Diver (AOWD) or similar certifications. If you’re a beginner and wish to take your skills to the next level, there are plenty of training centers and local dive shops you can tap for lessons. If you’re planning to get certified in Maui, it’s highly recommended to prepare beforehand and take an introductory scuba certification course online.

Miscellaneous Information

The US dollar is the main currency in Maui and all the other islands of Hawaii. ATMs are available across Kahului, Kihei, Lahaina, and Upcountry Maui, so getting cash is fast and easy. Most credit cards and traveler’s checks are accepted in touristy towns. For excursions in remote towns, be sure to bring cash.

Time Zone
Maui observes Hawaii Standard Time (HST) and does not follow Daylight Savings Time (DST).

Driving Side
Just like in the mainland, Hawaiians drive on the right side of the road. Maui’s quaint towns offer a safe and casual drive, while the highway circling the island offers awe-inspiring but challenging drives. Watch out for intense bends, curves, waterfalls, waves crashing over the road, deep ravines, and falling rocks.

Calling Code
TThe 808 telephone area code covers Maui County, as well as the inhabited and uninhabited islands of the Hawaiian archipelago. To call long-distance from one Hawaiian Island to another, dial 1 + 808 + local number.

ISO 3166 code
ISO 3166 alpha-2 code “BS” is the entry for Maui in ISO 3166-2.

Internet TLD
.us is the Internet country code top-level domain for Maui and the rest of The Hawaiian Islands.