Best places to view sea turtles on Maui
Graceful reptilian residents of Maui’s coral reefs, Hawaii’s sea turtles appear to be almost unafraid of humans. Encountering them in the wild is part of the fun of snorkeling or diving on Maui.
But please take note: Be sure to give them space to avoid scaring them away or interfere with their need to go to the surface to breathe.
What are Maui’s best places for viewing sea turtles? Check out these spots:
1. Makena Landing (South Maui)
2. Maluaka Beach (South Maui)
3. Keawakapu Beach (South Maui)
4. Ulua Beach (South Maui)
5. Kaʻanapali Beach’s Puu Kekaa (Black Rock) – (West Maui)
6. The point between Napili Bay and Honokeana Cove (West Maui)
7. Kapalua Bay (West Maui)
8. Honolua Bay (West Maui)
9. Ho’okipa Bay (Northshore) – to view sea turtles basking on shore
What kind of turtles will you see?
The turtles that you’re most likely to encounter are Hawaiian green turtles (Chelonia mydas). Named not for the color of their shells (which feature radiating streaks and dappled shades of black, grey, brown, gold and green), these turtles are called “green” due to the color of their fat, tinted green by their herbivorous diet of algae and limu.
Adult green turtles can weigh 300 to 350 pounds. No matter their size, green turtles are graceful swimmers, with strong paddle-like flippers and a streamlined carapace (shell). Small fish sometimes congregate around their shells to pick off bits of algae for food.
Protect the turtles
When watching turtles, please stay back at least 20 feet.
Hawaii’s green sea turtles are protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act as a threatened species; it is illegal to harm, kill or harass these animals. Harassment includes touching, attempting to ride on or trying to feed turtles.
While they can hold their breath while resting on the ocean floor, swimming sea turtles must frequently come to the surface to breathe. Never crowd them or block their way to the surface.
Sea turtles are just some of the residents of the coral reefs of Maui Nui. Enjoy watching these intriguing marine reptiles and join Maui Nui Marine Resource Council in our work to protect coral reefs, restore clean ocean water and bring back an abundance of native fish to our nearshore waters.
Check all local ocean conditions carefully before entering the water. If surfers are present, the surf is likely too big for safe snorkeling. Always swim with a buddy. Our list of “Best Places to View Sea Turtles” is based on the likelihood of seeing turtles, and does not imply that conditions are safe or recommended for swimming, snorkeling or diving.
Who to call if you see an injured, sick or dead turtle:
- Lanai: State of Hawaii DLNR-DOCARE Lanai (808-565-7916)
- Maui (Kihei Area – Maalaea to Makena): Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute (808-286-2549)
- Maui (All Other Areas): Maui Community College – Marine Option Program in partnership with NMFS (808-286-2899)
- Molokai: State of Hawaii DLNR-DOCARE Molokai (808-553-5190)
- Visit NOAAʻs injured turtles website at https://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/marine_turtle/strandings.php