I’m one of the last people who wants to go on vacation and just sit on the beach. That’s why I was admittedly apprehensive when we decided to spend a week and a half in Maui. While I’d imagine many people would welcome that much time to sit and sunbathe, it sent me into a bit of a panic. I personally see vacation as a time for exploration and active pursuits that you just can’t do back home.
I was surprised to find how much Maui had to offer for people like me. While this list won’t be comprehensive, I’d like to share some of my experiences with you in the hopes that all beach destinations aren’t written off by active travelers.
There are unlimited opportunities for water activities in Maui. You can go swimming, scuba diving, jet skiing, or surfing to your heart’s content. But I’m highlighting snorkeling because you can do it anywhere and the cost can vary from extraordinarily cheap (renting a snorkel on the beach) to very expensive (full day, inclusive tour).
We went snorkeling twice while in Maui. The first time, we opted for a 5 hour boat tour to Molokini Crater. The second time was at the beach near our hotel.
The boat tour: The boat leaves from the dock early in the morning and arrives to Molokini crater’s snorkeling area. The tour provides everyone with wet suits, snorkels, fins, etc. They also feed you afterwards, with a nice lunch and your choice of drinks. This is a fun group trip and an opportunity to sail away from the island. The views of Maui while coming back to shore are just stunning. As far as drawbacks, some people would prefer to snorkel on their own time. The time spent snorkeling may be too short for some, and too long for others. If you want to either take your time or just try out snorkeling independently, this may not be your best option. As far as sea life, we were able to see turtles, butterfly fish, trigger fish, sea urchins, tangs, and coral.
On the beach: The cheaper option for snorkeling is to rent (or bring) a snorkeling set and walk down to the beach. We were staying at Kaanapali beach and chose to rent some snorkels down there. This is a much cheaper and faster option than the boat tour. While there was mostly sand below us rather than coral, we saw some of the same wildlife, including turtles and tangs. We also spotted additional fish species, including the unicornfish and the Hawaiian state fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a (pronounced “hoomoo-hoomoo-nookoo-nookoo-ah-poo-a-a”). The only major downside about snorkeling on the beach is that the number of people around can be a bit overwhelming and intrusive. I was bothered by the various people who kept harassing the sea turtles and trying to grab them, pet them, etc. Please be aware: TOUCHING SEA TURTLES IS ILLEGAL in Hawaii. I know it’s tempting, but it’s not worth disturbing them. It’s just as exciting to say that you swam with them.
I have to say that the variety of fish species found near the beach was just as good as on the boat tour, so don’t feel like you are missing out if you can’t afford it. Mostly you are paying for the expertise of the crew, the experience of riding on the boat itself, and the buffet lunch provided to you.
Lastly, don’t forget your underwater camera. Disposable underwater cameras work well if you only need it for a day; otherwise, it may be worth renting a high quality digital underwater camera for the time that you need it. Many dive shops and stores around Maui offer cameras for rent.