Diving in the ocean can be an exhilarating and super fun experience, but obviously this comes with a lot of risk. In Hawaii, diving has become part of the culture among locals alongside skating and other outdoor activities popular with young and old Hawaiians.
If you have ever been to Hawaii you will always see local lads jumping from the cliffside with no hesitancy and the confidence of a veteran diver. You may wonder how they find these spots, and what preparations they take to have such fun without the anxiety.
Here’s a guid to some great diving spots in Maui, and how to prepare safely.
Maui, or ‘the Valley Isle’, is the second largest island in Hawaii at 727.2 square miles. Maui is the largest island of the four which form the county, Maui County.
Maui is one of the most densely populated islands in Hawaii, just behind Oahu, both for its geography and financial influx of tourism. Kahului is the most populated city on the island and is its commercial and financial seat.
Maui is known as the ‘Valley Isle’ due to its volcanic makeup. Maui is essentially two volcanoes either side of the island that are divided by a valley, this provides an extremely varied geography and climate that you can explore.
As a result, the west side of the island, an area recognised as West Maui, is on the ‘leeward’ side of the island, which means it's generally drier and has better weather. On the other side is the windward side of the island on the east which is generally a lot wetter and more troublesome.
If you’re willing to brave some rocky heights and blue depths in return for the most breathtaking aquatic and volcanic views on offer in our big blue world, as well as the adrenaline boost of a lifetime, then taking the plunge might be for you.
Black Rock at Ka’anapali
Located in Ka’anapali, Black Rock or ‘Keka’a’ has a specific place in the heart of the Hawaiian Islanders. It’s believed that Black Rock was one of the last places to be formed by the lava formations that formed the island thousands of years ago.
It is held by many Hawaiians that this is where our souls depart into the spirit world after we die, those who don’t make it are turned into rocks - so never take home a volcanic rock in Maui as it could be a lost soul.
Only 10 minutes away from Lahaina this doesn’t require a crazy drive to reach this popular spot.
What You Will See
A natural rock outcropping means that the area is teeming with aquatic life. Expect to encounter friendly sea turtles, manta rays, eels, lobsters and much more animal life.
This spot is particularly famous for night diving, as when you dive at night the natural luminescence and light emitted by the animals can be an alien and out-of-this-world experience.
At around 32 feet in depth, you must be careful when diving to this far down. It’s important to keep an eye on the current so you don't get swept away, especially as there are many beginners who brave this dive.
Obviously, there is potential shark danger in this area so keep an eye out for the eels and stingrays too! Diving at night requires a lot of preparation and gear, so don’t brave it alone and always remain cautious while still having fun.
Molokini Black Wall
While this is a 40 minute boat ride from Maui it is totally worthwhile if you are into diving. Due to a sunken volcanic crater just off the island, the Molokini Wall can boast up to 80 feet of diving possibilities.
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a beginner dive and to really experience it best this should require a two tank dive. One tank takes you to the crater and back wall which is awe inspiring. Your next tank takes you into the deep ocean and into the crater itself.
What You Will See
For what can be a big undertaking, the Molokini Wall has some of the best aquatic life on show in the whole of Hawaii. Since 1977 the crater has been considered a Marine Life Conservation District due the numerous rare and unique fish and coral species found here.
The crater has one of the most pristine coral reefs in the world which becomes rarer and rarer as time goes on.
There are over 250 species of fish in the crater, many of which are unique and native to the area. This is an ideal spot for a veteran diver who enjoys underwater photography - this would be an unforgettable experience.
For those who want to brave colder temperatures, the winter season welcomes Humpback whales in this area during their migration. There’s a low chance of actually seeing them, but if you do you will get a rush that will last a lifetime, although you will definitely hear them.
As mentioned, this is an intermediate to veteran dive. As this dive requires two tanks and some diving skills, a beginner could struggle and put themselves at risk. At 300ft+ the crater is extremely deep, so if this freaks you out maybe consider returning to shallow water.
This depth allows the diver to go around 80ft deep, which can be scary for even the most seasoned diver.
A 40 minute boat ride to go to a 300ft crater could certainly ward off even the most dedicated tourist, but if you have the diving skills this is an unmissable sight that will mark your holiday forever.
The Five Caves At Makena Landing
This is another diving spot for the seasoned diver that promises a wealth of reward for some potentially hard dives. This dive requires beach entry and once you find the caves getting in and out can be troublesome for a beginner, it can often be best to take a guide with you.
Underwater arches and caves provide some amazing views and swim throughs for confident swimmers. The underwater topography is shaped by the volcanic fingers that hark back to the island's original geological formation.
One highlight is the bubble cave where you can surface and remove your regulator.
What You Will See
Sea turtles and white tip reef sharks are synonymous in this area and love to swim through the lava tubes and fingers. Sea explorers will love to investigate the aquatic life present in the caves such as pufferfish and coral to name a few.
The geologists among us may also enjoy this dive particularly as you get to see firsthand the geological marks where the volcanic island was formed, not to mention the interesting geological phenomena present in these caves such as the bubble cave.
This dive can require a lot of swimming as well as some awkward dives, only partake in this dive if you are happy to swim for long periods of time as well as being comfortable with deep dives into caves and lava tubes.
Most of the caves are too deep for snorkelers to get in and out safely so a scuba kit will be required to reach the treasures that lie deep in Makena’s caves.
As long swims are required, you may want to wear something over your bathing suit to hold in your body heat in these colder waters - due to long swims you could get cold and uncomfortable if not prepared.
There are no lifeguards on this part of the beach, and parking can be troublesome, so only partake if you are a confident swimmer and diver.
The Lanai Cathedrals are a must see attraction if you are a seasoned aquaphile. Only a 40 minute boat ride to Maui’s neighbouring Island Lanai, untouched reefs, a healthy fish population, and natural underwater architecture makes this dive an unmissable one.
If you are ready to brave the two tank dive, then you will be rewarded with Lanai’s crown jewel, its underwater cathedrals.
Obviously there is no real church hidden within these cavers, rather the natural debris of rock from the ceiling has created holes through which light seeps through.
In addition to the natural arches that are in the caves, the way the light shines through is reminiscent of a stained glass window and has always been referred to as the Lanai Cathedral by the local Islanders.
What You Will See
The natural underwater topography of Lanai’s ‘cathedral’ is an extremely unique piece of geology and is one of many cavernous structures you can explore.
The normal sea life present in Maui also enjoys these sights alongside you, creatures such as the sea turtle and reef shark. Even if you don't leave the boat you will still encounter the friendly and ancient dolphins and whales that circle the island.
There are some pristine coral reefs present in the caverns which become a rarer sight by the day as climate change takes over. As well as a thriving fish population, some of which are quite rare.
Another two tank dive means that if you aren’t a seasoned diver then you might not get to see all the sights on show. The usual strong current of Maui’s coast can be a tough issue for beginners, although you can still enjoy the caves from the surface, or even a shallow dive.
The caves change from 50-80ft so if you enjoy a more relaxed dive you can still enjoy some of the sights.
Hammerheads At Molokai
Molokai has another dive that could throw off even the most experienced divers, but those who chose to brave the shark infested waters of Molokai will be rewarded with some once in a lifetime sights.
Off the coast of Molokai is one of the only sites on the planet where divers can witness the elusive and beautiful hammerhead shark swimming in large groups.
What You Will See
Hammerhead sharks are a common sight on this dive which is a very rare occurrence. Beyond the hammerhead the ocean is teeming with other kinds of rare marine life such as tiger sharks, black tip sharks, and even thrasher sharks.
The coast of Molokai is also home to interesting fish such as the unicorn fish, pyramid butterfly fish to name a few. A few Hawaiian monk seals may even join the party if you are lucky.
This is a drift dive for the physically fit and experienced scuba diver. You must have good buoyancy control and good air consumption to enjoy this trip, most charters will require some proof that you are an experienced diver with a good amount of dives under your belt.
This dive should not be undertaken by the beginner, diving skills are required not only for your safety but the safety of the animals. Most charters require the diver to do a test to verify they can exit and enter the water with ease and proficiency.
FAQ About Maui Island
Do I Need To Bring My Own Scuba Gear To Maui?
Sure, if you have the luggage space to fit your scuba gear and you want to bring it then you are welcome to use your own gear in most situations. Yet, you aren’t required to bring your own gear on most chartered dives.
On most dives there is the option to rent you brown scuba gear at a certain price, or this may be included with your payment
Could I Enjoy These Dives Alone?
If you are a professional and experienced diver who completes deep dives regularly, then potentially you could do these dives without guides.
It is highly discouraged to try to go into these caves without the watchful eye of a local and professional diver who knows the risks of the areas.
You are paying these charters for a reason, for both directions and safety in numbers. Deep water and strong currents are certainly no joke, especially in the pacific ocean.
Do You Need To Be An Experienced Diver To Enjoy Maui’s Dives?
Not necessarily, but if you want to enjoy all the sights present in Maui then you will need to be a proficient diver with some experience.
Of course, there are dives for all levels of skill and even with the more advanced dives you might still have the chance to get your feet wet and enjoy some of the sights.
Diving in Maui can be a good way for beginners to transition into intermediate divers. As long as the chartered covers are okay with it, you might be able to join the riskier dives if your charter allows. This means that your next diving trip will be more enjoyable than the last.
Do You Need A Car To Get Around The Island?
Unless you are prepared to do a lot of walking, taxiing, and preparation, then you will probably need to drive around Maui. A lot of Maui is covered in indigenous greenery and forest areas which can’t be driven through.
The roads already present in Maui are pretty rough and ready anyway, this is to preserve the natural beauty of the island without building massive highways across it.
So if you want to explore the island, then a car is the best way to get around while seeing the sites. Although, many dive spots don’t have ample parking so be prepared for some map reading and common sense when it comes to finding parking spots.
Do You Need A 4x4 Or Off-Road Vehicle To Get Around Maui?
Not necessarily. If you aren’t a confident driver, an off road vehicle might give you the confidence you need to drive safely on Maui’s roads.
However, a regular car can quite happily get around the island, a lot of the potential risks are overestimated and dramatised by unprepared tourists.
If you know what you are getting into, and are confident with driving, a regular rental car will do the job. People often forget that there are lots of indigenous communities in Maui that can get around the island perfectly fine everyday.
Is Maui Island Dangerous?
Not at all. Yes, the roads and cliff sides of Maui can potentially be dangerous but if you are aware of the risks and aren’t being stupid the you will be perfectly safe. The main cause of damage and risk in Maui is often the tourists themselves.
It is the fearful driving of tourists that often causes the roads to deteriorate, let alone the traffic caused by tourism - especially on the Highway to Hana. Including the effect of tourism on the natural wildlife and traditional cultures of Maui Island.
Divers, and drivers, who aren't prepared for the potential risks of island life can often end up in situations where the island’s natural beauty is at risk as well as the person’s reputation, this is why it is so closely guarded.
In general, if you are prepared for the potential risks, respect the road as well as the natural environment of Maui and practice the correct sun protection and ocean safety protocols then you can enjoy Maui without the anxiety of bad reviews on travel sites, don't let them put you off an island that affords adventure, beauty and wildlife!