Maui is known as The Valley Isle, but it might as well have been called The Wild Isle due to just how many stunning creatures grace its rainforests, shores, and underwater landscapes. This is an island full of rich beauty and one of the jewels in its wild crown is the amazing amount of green sea turtles that call Maui home.
Despite the thousands of people that slip into Maui’s coastal waters every day, the green sea turtles here remain relatively unafraid of humans. So much so that snorkelers and swimmers often report the big green turtles lazily swimming just beside them! These large green turtles are often sighted in Maui’s coastal waters, but there are also a lot of places where visitors can view them on land as they bask in the sun.
Eager to see some giant modern-day dinosaurs lounging in the sun? Make sure to put the following locations on your Maui vacation itinerary:
1. Makena Landing
People most often associate green sea turtles with napping on hot sands, but they also enjoy a good pebble bedding. Makena Landing features black rocks of every size that really absorb the heat and serve as an attractive heating pad for Maui’s green turtles. Just about any day, you’re sure to see at least one (if not five to ten) sea turtles napping at Makena Landing.
2. Keawakapu Beach
Here, you want to get into the water to see the turtles. The coral reefs just off of the shoreline at Keawakapu Beach are teeming with fish, coral, and giant green sea turtles.
3. Ulua Beach
Ulua Beach is another fantastic spot to snorkel alongside green sea turtles (remembering to respect their space), which should not be too surprising as it is less than a mile south of Keawakapu Beach. This beach, however, offers a bit more amenities with an established park and beach trail. Sea turtles here can sometimes be seen sunning themselves on the beach, but they are best spotted in the water near the rockier outcroppings just offshore.
4. Kaanapali Beach (Black Rock)
Kannapali Beach is a popular tourist beach as it is located along a big strip of resort hotels in Lahaina and features gorgeous sand. Here, you are not likely to see green sea turtles on the beach due to the crowds, but they can frequently be sighted in the water. Just take care as the currents further from shore can get pretty rough and we don’t recommend this location for beginner swimmers.
5. Kapalua Bay Beach
For those who are not strong swimmers, or who otherwise like a more relaxing swimming and snorkeling experience, Kapalua Bay is just for you. The coral reef here is just off the beach and the currents are much more relaxed than at Kaanapali Beach and elsewhere in Maui. Amidst those coral reefs, you’re apt to see at least one if not several green sea turtles swimming about. This beach is also a nice one simply to lounge at as there is a series of trees growing just along the edge of the sand that offer nice shade for when you want to take a break from the sun.
6. Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay is one of the more remote locations on this list of best places to see green sea turtles in Maui. To reach this snorkeling spot, you will park at a small lot along Honoapiilani Highway and then walk down an access path to the secluded beach area. This beach area is more rocks than sand, but it does offer a nice spot to get into the water and explore the coral reefs and rocky outcroppings just a few swimmer lengths out. The waters here are home to a ton of fish, eels, and giant green sea turtles. Just make sure to take off any jewelry or anything that’s otherwise shiny as barracudas are often also seen lurking here.
7. Maluaka Beach
Also called Turtle Town, Maluaka Beach is a fantastic spot to sight large Maui green sea turtles both on the shores and in the water. This is also a pretty comfortable spot to spend the entire morning, afternoon, or even full day, as there are full restrooms and showers as well as food trucks nearby. What’s really cool about Maluaka Beach is that long ago lava flows created underwater caves and crannies that today have become fascinating underwater environments that sea creatures like green turtles just love. It’s a must-go for snorkelers wanting to see a unique side of Maui.
A Few Words of Caution
Before we sign off, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention a couple of notes about being respectful to Maui’s wildlife. Most importantly, it is illegal to touch or otherwise harass green sea turtles as they are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. The definition of harassment here includes swimming after them or otherwise chasing the turtles. It also most assuredly means not touching them on land or in the water! Instead, enjoy their beauty from afar, and should they come close to you in the water, appreciate the experience with your eyes and not your hands.
Also, do not try and bring non-reef-safe sunscreen into Hawaii. First, it is illegal and if it’s found in your bag at the airport or cruise dock, it will be confiscated and you will risk a fine. Plus, you just don’t want to wear this type of sunscreen at all if you value the environment as it contains chemicals that break down coral, thereby destroying the environment that sea turtles and the animals they eat need to survive.
Learn More About All Maui Has to Offer
We hope the above premium green sea turtle-sighting locations have helped to inspire your upcoming travel itinerary. But before you finalize those vacation plans, make sure to check out our other pages to learn more about any of the above locations and about the local stores and restaurants that can help take your travels to the next level.