Guide to Scuba Diving Maui

Hawaii is a dream travel destination for people around the world, especially people who love scuba diving. This chain of islands is an ocean enthusiast’s paradise and the island of Maui, the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, is no exception.

Nicknamed ‘the Valley Isle’, Maui is full of magic both above and below the waves. From the world-famous Hana Highway to pristine sandy beaches, from golfing to farm visits, and of course a vast array of water sports including surfing, sailing and of course scuba diving; there is no shortage of activities and sites on this island.

Scuba diving in Maui is said to be some of the best in the world. With plenty of marine life and warm clear blue waters, it’s a divers paradise. Plus, since it’s so close, scuba divers in Maui can also experience scuba diving in Lanai as many diver operators will visit sites near both islands. So if you are looking for a great dive destination in Hawaii with lots of opportunities, Maui is a great pick.

What can you expect from this guide?

We recognize that although everyone would love to visit a great dive destination like Maui, it can be a little daunting finding first-hand information online, that gives you enough of that ease of mind to make you comfortable enough to plan your trip.

Planning and organizing a big dive trip, far from home, and finding accurate information on where to dive, where to stay, what dive shops to use, what seasons to visit, costs, attractions you should see on land, safety information and more, makes it a bit stressful.

But it doesn’t have to be.

As fellow scuba travelers, we feel your pain when it comes to getting reliable information to organize our dive trips, so we have put together this guide to help with any information you will need!

If you still have questions about scuba diving in Maui, feel free to ask them in the comments below, or shoot us an email!

The Ultimate Guide to Scuba Diving Maui

humpback whale in Maui

As you can see from the map above, Maui is a pretty big island, and offers quite a bit of great dive sites. Each of these dive sites has something different to offer, from muck diving with rare macro critters, to diving with giant mantas, to exploring wrecks. 

For each location we will tell you what they are best known for, and if decide you want to check it out, click the link and you will be directed to a more thorough guide about that specific location, with all the information you will need.

North Maui

The north end of Maui is popular for shore diving. There are a few dive outfitters who will take you to further sites on the island, but if you’re looking for the local experience than grab your gear and just get in.

Keep in mind, diving at this end of the island is best in the summer months when the swells aren’t as big. In the winter, it’s better as a surf location.

South Maui

South Maui is where most of the scuba diving in Maui takes place. From WWII wrecks to lava-formed reefs, drop-offs, pinnacles, and more; the dive sites around South Maui is some of the best in the world.

While it’s amazing for experienced divers, it’s also a great spot for new divers or those looking to learn. The waters here are calmer than the other shores of the island and there are a number of shallow dive sites; perfect for open water divers.

West Maui

West Maui is a top dive destination on the island. The area is home to several popular scuba diving and snorkeling sites. One of the best sites is Honolua Bay, which involves crossing through private property (so you may need to ask for permission).

The north shore of the bay is best for diving while snorkelers can explore the whole bay. Other must-dive sites include Napili Bay, Kahekili Park, Black Rock Point, and Marriott Reef. West Maui has a good assortment of dive sites to suit divers of all levels.

Lanai

Lanai is actually an island of its own, but because of its close proximity it’s often visited by divers based on Maui.

Lanai is not very developed in comparison to the other Hawaiian Islands, so the diving conditions here are pristine with an abundance of marine life and clear waters.

Don’t miss the First Cathedral and the Second Cathedral dive sites.

Moloka’i

Moloka’i is another island off the coast of Maui. It offers stunning scuba and snorkel sites, but you don’t hear about it as much because you need a dive boat or charter to access the area.

The real gem in Moloka’i is Moko Ho’oniki. If you are lucky, you may spot scalloped hammerheads, tiger sharks, or even whale sharks. Because of its depth, this area is best suited for advanced divers.

This awesome scuba video by Chris Biela of PrimoMedia, highlights many of the best underwater attractions of Maui!

Frequently asked questions about Maui

How Much Does it Cost to Dive in Maui

Scuba diving in Maui, well scuba diving across Hawaii, is expensive compared to Southeast Asia or the Caribbean.

That being said, Maui is a top dive destination so the cost is definitely worth it. Here is a rough estimate of scuba diving costs in Maui:

  • 2 fun Dives: $150.00
  • PADI Open Water Certification: $400.00
  • PADI Advanced Open Water Certification $350
  • PADI Rescue and EWR Course: $400

*Tip: Many dive shops will offer better rates on multi-day packages.

Of course costs will differ depending on the destination and dive shop. Please don’t let pricing be the determining factor when considering a dive outfitter.

Other aspects such as safety, quality of equipment, dive instructors/guides, and reputation should always be a priority. Make sure to read reviews and research the dive fitters you intend to use ahead of time.

What is the Best Time to Visit Maui

turtle in Maui


Maui can be visited any time of the year, but for the best experience we recommend visiting during the months of April and May or September through November. Technically, these are Maui’s ‘shoulder seasons’, but they are also an optimal time to visit for a number of reasons.

The weather is great, though really it’s pretty decent year-round, but what makes the shoulder seasons such a great time to visit Maui is the cuts in costs and the lack of crowds.

During the summer months, Maui is a family vacation paradise while during the winter months, this Hawaiian island attracts hundreds of travellers looking to escape the snow and cold.

Not surprisingly, these busy times mean more expensive rates and bigger crowds. By travelling in spring or fall, you’ll be able to save some money and avoid the hordes of other tourists.

With that being said, there are a couple of reasons why you may want to travel to Maui in the summer or winter months. Winter is when surfing is best in Maui, and your best chance to see whales.

However, the waters are also much rougher which may make diving more difficult. Summer, on the other hand, is when the waters are the calmest and best for swimming.

So if you are a new or beginner diver, this may be the best time for you in terms of scuba diving in Maui. It’s also high season for turtles, so much so that seeing them during your dives is pretty much a guarantee.

Unique Critters to Look Out For

manta ray in Maui

 

Humpback whales: As mentioned earlier, whales are common around Maui during the winter months, however it is rare to see them while diving.

Turtles: The Hawaiian green sea turtle is a protected species and growing in population throughout the Hawaiian Islands. They are most commonly sighted during the summer months. The honu (Hawaiian term for the turtles) play an important role in Polynesian folklore as they were believed to be ancestors.

Manta Rays: Common around Maui’s wrasse cleaning stations. Also keep an eye when you are at the surface, sometimes they breach the waves and even do somersaults.

Hawaiian Day Octopus: The waters around Hawaii are full of different species of octopus, but the most common one you will see is the Hawaiian day octopus.

Spinner Dolphins: One of the most commonly spotted marine creatures in Hawaii is the spinner dolphin. They can be seen playing near the surface as well as down below.

Hawaiian Monk Seal: Hawaiian monk seals are endangered, and a rare find so if you do see one know that you are very lucky. They tend to be in quieter areas and love soaking up the sun on Maui’s beaches.

Sharks: Hawaii is home to numerous shark species, but only a few can be found around the scuba diving sites around Maui. If you are lucky you may see reef sharks, scalloped hammerhead sharks, Galapagos, and tiger sharks.

What Area Should I Stay in?

two lovely dolphins in Maui

Maui is a big enough island that we recommend staying close to your chosen dive operator. Maui has a variety of accommodation options making it easy for travellers to find a fit for their budget.

South Maui tends to offer the most options in terms of Maui resorts and beachfront properties. But, it’s also the busiest area on the island.

North Maui is a bit quieter and known for surfing (during the winter months) and gorgeous beaches. Keep in mind, because it is such a great surf spot means the waters here tend to be a bit rougher than on the south side of the island.

West Maui is another popular choice; great beaches, plenty to do and see in the area. The east of the island, on the other hand, is very remote.

Each of the areas on Maui have something different to offer so we suggest picking a dive shop and basing yourself there, then spending a bit of time seeing the rest of the island.

The interior of Maui also offers some interesting landscapes for those who don’t mind being away from the ocean for a couple of days.

How do I get to Maui?

Hawaiian Monk Seal in Maui

Being the second largest Hawaiian island, and a popular pick for tourists visiting Hawaii, Maui is pretty easy to get to. The main airport on Maui is Kahului and many airlines off direct flights to this airport.

It’s also very easy to fly to Maui from another Hawaiian island. It’s only a 30 minute flight from Honolulu to Maui or you can even take a ferry if you are coming from (or going to) Lanai.

If you are flying in from another Hawaiian island you may land in one of Maui’s smaller commuter airports; Kapalua Airport in the west or Hana Airport in the east.

How do I Get Around Maui?

It is possible to get around Maui by bus, shuttle, or taxi, but if you really want to experience the island and take in all it has to offer than your best bet is to rent a car for your stay. Vehicles should be rented in advance and can be rented from any of the airports.

What is the Food like in Maui?

Maui, and Hawaii as a state, has a lot of unique local food that you should definitely try while travelling the island. Given that Maui is an island, you can expect a lot of seafood, but there is also quite a bit of meat (especially pork and chicken) as well.
Of course, Hawaii has tons of delicious fresh fruits as well. Here are a few of the most popular local Maui foods.

Breadfruit: roughly the size of a melon. Usually served baked, steamed, or fried. Breadfruit is starchy like a potato (which is why its prepared by one) but said to taste kind of like bread- hence the name.

Loco Moco: An egg, meat patty, rice, and gravy. Considered to be healthy and very common.

Pip Kaula: Hawaiian beef jerky

Ahi: Tuna that can be seared, blackened, baked, or served raw in dishes like poke and sashimi.

Mahimahi: A popular fish dish served at Luaus.

Opah: Moonfish that is served in a variety of ways.

Kalua Pig: a pork dish that is prepared by placing hot rocks inside the pig then cooking it in an imu (underground oven).

Chicken Luau: chicken prepared with taro leaves and coconut milk

Haupia: a coconut custard

More Maui travel information

  • Maui is the second largest of the Hawaiian Islands
  • English is spoken across Maui and the rest of the Hawaiian Islands, but Hawaiian is also an official language here. It’s the only US state with two official languages.
  • Maui was voted as the best island in the world sixteen times by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.
  • Maui is home to the largest dormant volcano in the world, Haleakala
  • Each Hawaiian island has their own flower and color. Maui’s official color is pink and the island’s flower is Lokelani.
  • Hawaiian’s take their shoes off when entering people’s houses, so if you get invited somewhere, take off your shoes inside!

 

More Maui scuba and travel resources

Have you been to Maui? Want to write for us? We are always looking for more articles and guides and stories about Maui, so hit us up with your ideas at Justin@artofscubadiving.com

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