Snorkeling at Kapalua Bay, Maui
It’s sometimes hard to believe that one island can have so many beautiful beaches. Really, it is. You go to your 12th or 13th spot on Maui and think “Okay, there has to be a rotten one in the bunch!”
And there’s really not. Not to mention the snorkeling is great at all the beaches around the stunning island. Snorkeling at Kapalua Bay on the north side of Maui was no exception.
If you’ve never ventured into Kapalua, you’re in for a treat. This ritzy part of the island is filled with luxury resorts, golf courses, and general opulence. This isn’t a side where you’ll see many locals enjoying the beaches but it’s still a popular destination with all kinds of tourists.
We got to Kapalua Bay early in the morning—before 9 AM. The small beach is a protected cove marked on both sides by large outcropping of lava rock (which is what it makes it good for snorkeling and a popular destination). The beach itself is beautiful and has everything you’d want in a Maui spot to spend your day: lovely white sand, nearby restrooms, a shower to clean yourself off after a good snorkel, and a nearby parking lot. Space here is limited, however. If you don’t get there by at least 9 in the morning, there might not be much sand left for you to spread out your towel. Supply and demand: there’s a limited amount of surface area on this beautiful beach and tons of visitors who want to enjoy the sun and surf here.
If you choose to head out at Kapalua to try the snorkeling, you’ll probably want to stick to the edges of the beach where there’s the most rock and coral formations. As with most beaches, expect to swim out a little ways to get past the coral and rocks that are dead or dying before seeing the good stuff.
The water clarity here and the protection from the wind is what makes it an ideal location for snorkelers of all ages; this is a beach the whole family can enjoy. If you snorkel in the morning, you’re going to not have visibility affected by later afternoon winds with water muddled by sand. The water was really was incredibly clear and blue.
Now a little bit of what I saw!
This was an interesting fish—the tail on it would expand and contract when it wanted to speed away (as in race away from the crazy snorkeler with the GoPro). It’s called a barred filefish and is very common in the Hawaiian Islands.
Here’s another shot of the same fish but you can see some red sea urchins nestled among the rocks here. I don’t know what it was about sea urchins but I always found them so fascinating. They look like an alien creature.
These two fish on the right side of the frame (a little blurry, sorry! They’re quick buggers) are a type of goatfish known as manybar. Male manybar goatfish are much bigger than the female and can reach up to 14 inches long while the females only get approximately 7 inches when full grown. If you see a bigger-sized one of these, odds are it’s a male.
In the foreground of this screen grab you can see a pair of bluestripe butterlyfish. I saw lots of schools of these guys in all different places all over the island. In the background is a yellow tang—another common fish in the Hawaiian water.
State fish alert! This is a reef triggerfish or what the Hawaiians call the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a—a name I clearly butcher in the video you can watch above. I should’ve just tried to call it what the locals do: the humuhumu. That’s much less of a mouthful for this white girl. Sadly, it won’t be the last mispronunciation you hear from me. That incredibly long name actually means “triggerfish with a snout like a pig.”
I think this was some kind of parrotfish. He was so big and fast it was hard to get a closer look!
And finally, I saw a few Moorish idol. They get their name from the Moors of Africa and are thought to be a bringer of happiness. I can attest to this because they made me pretty happy when I saw them. They are very similar to a few other kinds of fish like the schooling bannerfish as well as the pennant coralfish, but the Moorish idol can be distinguished by the yellow triangular mark across its nose. Fun fact: Gil on “Finding Nemo” is a Moorish idol.
You might not perhaps get the unique variety that a lot of other Maui beaches have to offer, but you’ll certainly have a good time snorkeling at Kapalua Bay. It’s a great place to spend the whole day relaxing and has something for the whole family if you don’t mind a little crowding. Not your idea of a good time? Stay tuned! We have plenty more Maui beaches and snorkeling destinations to review!