Continuously hailed as the best island destination among travelers, Maui’s pristine and diverse beaches offer the perfect coastal playground for many water sports and activities. Much of the Valley Isle’s beauty can be seen both above and under the sea. Vibrant reef systems reveal abundant marine life from harmless reef sharks, bright yellow tangs, and tongue-twisting humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Hawaii’s colorful state fish. Consistent north shore winds provide kite boarders and windsurfers with ample power to jibe and execute dizzying aerial tricks.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
A fairly new water sport that has grown wildly popular in the last decade is stand up paddling. From families enjoying a laid-back paddle on calm waters to an extreme enthusiast on a 30-mile an hour downwind run off of north shore’s Maliko Gulch, the beauty of this sport is that it suits many ages and skill level.
Kayaking is also a fun and “green” way to explore the ocean with a more intimate group. While some hotels offer rentals that launch right off their beach fronts, kayak companies usually depart from Olowalu and seasonally at D.T. Fleming’s on the west side, or at South Makena Landing on the south shore. Read more
The trip generally consists of two or three snorkel sites.Boat trips can take you snorkeling, whale watching when in season or simply sunset sailing. They depart from Lahaina or Maʻalaea harbors, and a handful of companies also board right on the Kaʻanapali shore or Wailea Beach. Favorite snorkel spots on the west side include Honolua Bay and Olowalu. Most south Maui snorkel trips involve the world-famous Molokini crater, and from Kihei to Makena are a myriad of snorkel sites accessible from the shore.
And for those who want to get even deeper, scuba diving can be magically serene while discovering many of Hawaii’s endemic marine species. Whether it’s at Nahuna Point (also called Five Graves or Five Caves) on the south, Molokini crater’s back wall, or the Cathedrals in Lanai, Maui’s ancient volcanic formations make for a fascinating undersea exploration of aquatic creatures, sea caves and lava arches.
Surfing is no less a spiritual experience for most. Newbies flock around Cove Park in Kihei or Lahaina’s Breakwall to get initiated, while the rest pretty much drive to the nearest shore and pull over where the good waves are. Then there are the surfing elites who bravely charge Peahi or Jaws, or catch major air while windsurfing and kitesurfing at Hoʻokipa or Kanaha Beach. Along the west side’s Highway 30, you’ll spot many surfers and paddlers starting from Ukumehame Beach (also known as Thousand Peaks) all the way to Launiupoko Beach. The legendary Honolua Bay draws surfers and spectators during the winter months, and the occasional world competition among pros.
Whale season generally begins in December and lasts until May, peaking by late January through March. The gentle giants can be seen spouting and breaching from the shore, or, better yet, hop aboard a whale watch catamaran or a motorized raft for a close encounter. Rafts can be more exciting as they maneuver fairly quickly towards whale pods and the vessel’s small size also makes one realize the enormity of these beloved humpbacks.
A Few Tips for Enjoying Maui Water Activities
While enjoying any water activity, err on the side of caution. Though every water activity and sport promise awe and wonder, weather condition and skill level are crucial factors to consider before taking the plunge. Finally, the Hawaiian word “malama” which means “stewardship” or “to care” encourages all who enjoy Hawaiian waters to treat the ocean with respect.