The idyllic island of Maui has a reputation for being the best place in Hawaii to snorkel, which means marine life encounters are common. One of the most treasured memories people have when snorkeling in the waters around Maui are those that include its sea turtles, and it's humbling to be in the presence of one. There are multiple turtle species that call the island of Maui their home, and there's a good chance visitors will see them at least once while enjoying the water.


The habits of the turtles, combined with their favorite Maui beach spots, are indicative of where they're more likely to pop up. Knowing these, and a few more helpful tips about Hawaii's most beloved marine life will have visitors ready to observe turtles in their natural habitats.

*Hawaii has laws that protect its turtle population. Visitors must always give them a safe distance and are not permitted to touch the turtles in any way, as it's illegal. Maintain a distance at all times and avoid disrupting the natural habitat of these magnificent animals.

Related: How To Spend An Unconventional (But Amazing) Day On Hawaii's Island Of Lanai

What To Know About Maui's Turtles

The most well-known turtle in Maui might be the Green turtle, but there are many species that live on this island's coastline. In total, five turtles can be observed in Maui with the green turtle being the most abundant. It's estimated that these large turtles have inhabited the island of Maui for the last 150 million years, making them one of the oldest species in the world. Those who visit the island to go snorkeling and scuba diving are practically guaranteed to run into them, and it's one of the allures of participating in such an activity.

Types Of Sea Turtles In Maui

  • Green turtle, known as honu in Hawaiian
  • Hawksbill sea turtles
  • Olive Ridleys
  • Leatherbacks
  • Loggerheads

While the Green turtle and the Hawksbill are seen the most commonly on the beaches and while snorkeling or diving, the other three are rather elusive. It's more common for visitors (or mostly locals) to witness these turtles in action while deep-sea diving or deep-sea fishing. They tend to live further out in the water and enjoy diving in the deep waters further off the coastline. They also avoid nesting on the shoreline like the other two, making them even more elusive.

The Best Time To See Maui's Turtles

Luckily, it's not all that challenging to find turtles in Maui while snorkeling or diving. As such, there's no specific time of the day that's any better than another. While exploring the waters off the coast of Maui, it's entirely possible to see them bobbing at the surface or swimming around the reefs just below in shallow water.

Occasionally, beachgoers might even see these magnificent turtles taking a break to soak up the sun on the rocky shorelines along the beach. If visitors are looking for clues, they should take into account which direction the sun is shining (turtles enjoy its rays), where the wind is minimal or nonexistent, and how high or low the tide is.

The Best Beaches To See Turtles In Maui

There is a total of eight beaches in Maui, according to Hawaii Travel with Kids, where visitors are sure to see plenty of marine life - including sea turtles.

  • Kannapali. Also known as Black Rock Beach, visitors can snorkel and go cliff-diving here. This is also where visitors can get a glimpse at the famous Volkswagen turtle, which is estimated to weigh roughly 300 pounds and can often be found swimming about.
  • Maluaka Beach. The best part of this beach to see turtles is down by the coral reefs at the end of the sandy stretch. It's also nicknamed 'Turtle Town' due to all of the turtles that can be found swimming off its shores.
  • Keawakapu Beach. Those who don't favor swimming can stop by Keawakapu Beach to watch the turtles from the safety of the shore. It's not a crowded beach and beachgoers can enjoy its gentle waters and watch turtles swimming nearby.
  • Hookipa Beach. This is another great option for those who don't want to snorkel, and turtles are best seen just before sunset. The waves here are strong but turtles can often be seen sunbathing on the rocks nearby.
  • Ulua Beach. With its gentle waves and popularity, Ulua Beach is great for families and kids, who can enjoy its laid-back nature while watching the turtles swimming just offshore. It's also near Kookipa Beach, so visitors have twice as much of a chance to see turtles if they're in the area.
  • Polo Beach. The weather is somewhat of a challenge at Polo Beach but it's very private and allows visitors the chance to witness turtles close to and on the beach.
  • Five Caves. Turtles at Five Caves tend to blend in well with the surrounding landscape, and visitors might mistake them for rocks initially. However, it's a popular gathering place for them - just be careful where you step!
  • Kaeleku Point. Those who are looking to swim with sea turtles can do that at Kaeleku Point, where the waves are gentle and the turtles gather in groups.

Next: There's A Reason Food In Hawaii Is So Expensive, Here's How To Budget While You're There