Molokini Crater: Snorkel Gem of South Maui

Published on:
July 18, 2023

Staying in Kihei at The Hale Pau Hana Resort? Head for a short visit down to the entry way to Molokini Crater for a snorkel experience. If you're a nature enthusiast seeking a unique adventure in the pristine waters of Hawaii, located just off the coast of Maui, this crescent-shaped volcanic crater, often frequented by curious Pacific Whale Foundation tour boats, has become a premier snorkeling destination for enthusiasts and visitors from around the world. It's not uncommon to spot humpback whales in the beautiful blue water during your boat ride, adding to the charm of this unique adventure.

The crater itself is home to hundreds of species of tropical fish, colorful coral species, including the rare black coral, thriving in their natural habitat, all visible through the some of the clearest water in the Pacific. Grab your optical mask, snorkel gear, underwater cameras, slather on your sunscreen, and prepare for your snorkeling excursion.

Is Molokini Crater Worth Visiting?

Is Molokini Crater Worth Visiting?
A pod of spinner dolphins swimming in the clear blue waters, likely near Molokini Island, a renowned snorkeling and diving spot off the coast of Maui, Hawaii. These dolphins are known for their acrobatic spins and jumps above the water surface. Photo by Yale Cohen.

One might wonder if Molokini Crater is truly worth the hype. The resounding answer from those who have experienced it is a resounding "Yes!" Here's why:

Unique Topography: Molokini island and its crater offer an incredible snorkeling experience, with crystal-clear blue waters teeming with amazing spots. The submerged half-moon-shaped Molokini Crater serves as a protected marine sanctuary, sheltering an abundance of marine life within its boundaries. The island itself boasts stunning cliffs and rocky formations that add to the scenic beauty of the area.

Abundant Marine Life: From hundreds of species of fish to a wide variety of species of coral, the ocean life in this Maui crater is abundant and diverse. Snorkelers can expect to encounter vibrant coral reefs and a plethora of marine creatures, including tropical fish, green sea turtles, and even moray eels.

Varied Snorkeling Spots: Molokini Crater offers a range of scuba diving and snorkeling spots to explore. While Molokini Crater is one of the most famous snorkel sites, the boat ride from Ma'alaea Harbor or Kihei Boat Ramp to the crater itself will be filled with opportunities to witness the abundance of marine animals such as the majestic whale sharks. Additionally, nearby spots like Turtle Town and Coral Gardens are popular snorkeling destinations in South Maui, offering different underwater landscapes and encounters.

Popular Activities: In addition to snorkeling, many tours to Molokini Crater offer additional activities and amenities. You may have the chance to enjoy a lunch break at Turtle Town or Coral Gardens, further immersing yourself in the beauty of South Maui's lush reef ocean getaway. Moreover, most tours provide a continental breakfast, alcoholic beverages, and snorkel gear in their packages, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable experience.


How Did Molokini Crater Form?

Molokini Crater's intriguing volcanic activity formation adds to its allure. Approximately 230,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption off the coast of Maui resulted in the formation of this crescent-shaped crater. Over time, the crater's interior walls eroded, allowing seawater to fill the caldera.

Today, the submerged half-moon-shaped crater serves as a protected marine sanctuary, featuring plenty of coral such as the cauliflower coral, mushroom coral, and orange cup coral. Molokini island and its crater has been home to an abundance of marine life and bird life within its boundaries, including the wedge-tailed shearwater.

Molokini Crater in Maui Culture and Hawaiian Mythology

In Hawaiian mythology, Molokini Crater is associated with the legendary figure Maui, a demigod known for his mischievous and heroic exploits. According to the myths, Maui possessed a magical fishhook called "Manaiakalani." He used this powerful hook to perform great feats, including the creation of the Hawaiian Islands.

One version of the story tells of Maui using his fishhook to pull up the island of Maui from the ocean depths. As he was reeling in his catch, the hook broke off, leaving behind the topmost part of the island. This topmost part is believed to be Molokini Crater, with its crescent shape resembling the hook's remaining piece.

The crater's connection to Maui is significant because he is revered as a cultural hero in Hawaiian mythology. Maui is often credited with shaping the Hawaiian Islands, harnessing the sun, slowing down the movement of the sun, and bringing various gifts and resources to humanity. His stories and exploits are passed down through oral traditions and are an integral part of Hawaiian culture.

The crater also has historical importance as a traditional fishing and gathering area for Native Hawaiians. It was a place where they would fish for various marine species and collect resources from the surrounding waters.


How Deep is Molokini Crater?

How Deep is Molokini Crater?

The depth of Molokini Crater varies, offering diverse snorkeling opportunities for all skill levels. The shallowest areas of the crater are found near the shoreline, where the depth can range from just a few feet to around 20 feet deep. As you move towards the center of the crater, the depth gradually increases to approximately 300ft beneath sea level, which is a challenge for watches without water resistance of proper depth rating, if you bring one along. This variance in depth allows snorkelers to explore both the vibrant coral gardens closer to the surface and the deeper sections where larger marine creatures reside.

Is Molokini Crater Dangerous?

While Molokini Crater is generally considered safe snorkeling, it's important to exercise caution and respect the natural environment. Strong currents can occasionally be present, especially during certain times of the year, so it's advisable to check local weather conditions and heed any warnings before embarking on your snorkeling adventure. Additionally, it's always recommended to follow the instructions provided by professional guides or tour operators to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Molokini Crater Snorkeling for Non-Swimmers

If you're a non-swimmer but still wish to experience the wonders of Molokini Crater, don't worry! Many snorkeling tours cater to individuals of all skill levels, including non-swimmers. Some tour operators provide flotation devices such as life jackets or snorkel vests, allowing non-swimmers to comfortably float on the water's surface while observing the underwater marvels through a snorkel mask. This way, you can still enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Molokini Crater without having to worry about swimming abilities.

Where is Molokini Crater Located?

Molokini Crater is located approximately three miles (4.8 kilometers) off the southern coast of Maui, Hawaii, near Kai Kanani and Maluaka Beach. To reach the crater, visitors can join guided snorkeling tours that depart from larger boats at Ma'alaea Harbor. The boat ride takes around 30 minutes to an hour, offering scenic views of the coastline, including the famous Black Sand Beach Maui. A knowledgeable boat captain ensures a safe and enjoyable experience for all passengers.


How to Get There from the Hale Pau Hana

Molokini Crater from The Hale Pau Hana

To reach Molokini Crater from the Hale Pau Hana, you have several options. One of the most convenient ways is to join a guided snorkeling tour that departs from nearby Maalaea Harbor. Many tour operators provide transportation from hotels and resorts, including the Hale Pau Hana, to the harbor. From there, you'll board a boat that will take you to the crater, providing ample opportunities for snorkeling and exploring the underwater wonders. Remember to check with tour operators regarding their specific pickup points and schedules.

Boat Tours: To join a boat tour to Molokini Crater, head to Maalaea Harbor, about 9 miles north of the Hale Pau Hana, and find specialized tour operators for Molokini snorkeling and diving trips. Choose a tour that suits your preferences and budget, as they often provide equipment, transportation, and knowledgeable guides. Enjoy a scenic ride along the coastline to Molokini Crater and receive equipment and guidance for an enhanced snorkeling or diving experience upon arrival.

Private Charters: For a customized experience, explore private charter options from Maalaea Harbor or nearby harbors. Contact charter companies to express interest in Molokini Crater. Private charters allow itinerary and activity customization, so confirm trip details, including duration, services, and equipment, to ensure they meet your requirements and expectations for visiting Molokini Crater.

Popular Molokini Crater Tours and Private Charter Options:

Trilogy Excursions: Trilogy Excursions is a well-known tour company in Maui, offering sustainable boat tours and excursions like snorkeling, sailing, and whale watching, with a focus on customer service and marine conservation.

Pacific Whale Foundation: Pacific Whale Foundation is a reputable organization in Maui dedicated to marine research, education, and conservation. They offer a range of boat tours and activities focused on whale watching and marine wildlife encounters.

Maui Classic Charters: Maui Classic Charters specializes in personalized private charters and boat tours, creating unique experiences for visitors through customized itineraries and activities, including trips to Molokini Crater.

Redline Rafting Co.: Redline Rafting Co. offers thrilling boat tours on high-speed rafts, providing a unique and adventurous exploration of Maui's coastline and marine environments. With small group sizes, personalized experiences, and knowledgeable guides, they create exciting adventures, including snorkeling and dolphin sightings at Molokini Crater.

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Unforgettable Adventures and Tranquil Getaways Await at Molokini Crater

The journey to the crater will surely include a ride on the clear blue waters of the South Maui coast, a location known for having some of the clearest and calm waters in all of the Hawaiian Islands. The stunning views along the coast are a sight to behold, and as you delve into the shallow water, you'll see why Molokini Crater is a coveted destination for snorkel trips. From its intriguing formation to the abundance of marine life, this volcanic crater offers a unique adventure for scuba divers and snorkelers of all skill levels. Whether you're an avid swimmer or a non-swimmer seeking a tranquil encounter with nature, Molokini Crater offers a remarkable snorkeling experience.

So, pack your snorkeling gear, embrace the thrill of exploration, and get ready to be mesmerized by the wonders of Molokini Crater! Whether you end your day with a sunset cruise along the South Maui coast or with a delicious lunch at Turtle Town, your journey to Molokini Crater is bound to be the perfect snorkeling trip.

Seeking a seamless blend of relaxation and adventure for your Molokini Crater snorkeling excursion? Look to The Hale Pau Hana in Kihei for the ultimate accommodation. Immerse yourself in comfort and indulge in the convenience of our prime location for hotels in South Maui. Book your stay today and let us be your gateway to paradise!

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