As a beachy hangout spot, Honolua Bay is mediocre at best. The rocky coastline, periodically smelly conditions thanks to nearby agricultural areas, and murky waters near the shore don’t recommend themselves to casual beachgoers. But as a snorkeling or SCUBA destination, Honolua is almost impossible to beat. Many visitors leave the area firmly convinced that they’ve found paradise.
As a snorkeling destination, Honolua Bay is most accessible during the summer months, when the water remains as placid as a lake. Snorkelers will particularly enjoy exploring the western edges of Honolua Bay, and the aquatic life is most impressive and easily enjoyed a bit further from the shore. The water can be murky right up against the coast, but venture 15 yards out or more, and you’ll be met by crystal-clear waters and a world of coral, colorful reef fish, and sea turtles.
Toward the eastern half of Honolua Bay, the waters are deeper and more conducive to SCUBA diving. Here you’ll find unique coral formations to explore, along with an effusion of color and aquatic life.
During the winter months, Honolua Bay transforms into a surfer’s Mecca, with some of the best shore breaks on Maui (or elsewhere in the Hawaiian islands. During this time of year, snorkeling and diving are more or less out of the question, but it’s still a gorgeous spot to go try to catch a wave (if you’re adventurous/experienced enough) or to watch the professionals do their thing.
Parking is a bit limited at Honolua Bay and in this area, auto break-ins are common; the best advice is to leave nothing valuable in your car, and to leave doors unlocked so you don’t come back to a smashed window. You’ll find a few pull-off parking spots off of Honoapiilani Highway, as well as a couple of free parking lots for access trails that take you through a longer but more scenic walk to the coast.
Honolua Bay is a bit of a drive for most Maui visitors; it’s located on the island’s north shore, just a few miles across the channel from the island of Molokai. You’ll find a few food trucks in the surrounding area, restaurants up the road in Kapalua, and nearby snorkel outfitters where you can rent gear for a day.
-Don’t expect developed facilities or lifeguards here. You will find a few portable toilets, but no brick-and-mortar bathrooms or changing areas.
-The surf can be very high during the winter months. When in doubt, don’t brave the winter waters; even experienced surfers and swimmers have died here during particularly rough surf. During the summer, the water is typically very calm.
-Keep an eye out for food trucks across the highway from Honolua Bay; some of the island’s best shrimp, burgers, and smoothies can be found at trucks along this stretch of highway.