Molokini is one of only three volcanic craters in the world, forming a crescent atoll that’s rich with aquatic biodiversity. The atoll (or ring-shaped reef) has been fished, bombed and is now a marine life sanctuary where you’ll see a rich array of aquatic life.
Molokini was formed over 150,000 years ago when a volcano erupted and breached the surface of the water. The volcano’s rim forms a crescent island that rises 160 feet above sea level, and the waters below plunge downward to 300 feet at their deepest immediate points. Inside the atoll where the volcano’s crater lies, though, are much shallower waters that showcase a rainbow of various fish, coral, and other species.
You’ll see something different at each of Mokolini’s eight different anchoring locations, as each location is uniquely suited to promote a localized marine ecosystem. Tropical fish, manta rays, reef sharks, butterflyfish, and hard coral are just a few of the different creatures you might witness.
The smallest fish, manta rays, and octopuses are most common along with the four interior locations near the shoreline, but don’t assume small is less captivating. These are some of the most colorful locations, and almost everything is nearer the surface of the water.
Further out at Molokini but still in the protected waters, you might see reef sharks (harmless) and butterflyfish depending on where you get in. The descending caves, cliffs, and coral slopes are also themselves geological features to behold (not to mention they’re what make these locations preferable for different fish).
Should you brave the waters on the atoll’s exterior, large and exotic ocean life inhabits the depths at 50, 80, and 250 feet below. Whale sharks (also harmless) have been known to pass by the cliffs where starfish, eels, and other exotic species regularly reside. Just be sure you have the stomach for this area, as the waves can be as large as some of the fish that live here — one section is called “the elevator” because of how much you can go up and down.
Wherever you go in, you’re assured of clear visibility that’ll let you see upwards of 150 feet in the water. Not only can you see a long way in front of you, but much of what’s below is also visible even if you’re snorkeling along the surface.
Molokini is literally just a slice of the ocean — the island looks like a crescent moon — but few places compare with its rich biodiversity. Snorkel or scuba here, and you’ll boat away with a new appreciation for how many species inhabit even a small part of the vast seas.
A few of our favorite locations at Molokini include:
Tako Fats is a long, gradual sand channel that lies in Molokini’s most protected location. Octopuses and manta rays are some of the most common inhabitants, although you’ll certainly see plenty of fish and coral too.
Middle Reef teams with tropical Hawaiian fish that weave in and out of hard corals. A sheltered location that has perhaps the most fish, this is an especially popular place to snorkel.
A deeper location for scuba divers, the Shark Condos’ cascading caves make perfect houses for harmless reef sharks. Take a dive to 130 feet, and you’ll see a veritable village of sharks swimming around.
Flying Sea Cliffs
An exterior location that literally caters to divers of different levels, cliffs at 50 and 80 feet serve as ledges where different species about. Being an exterior location, many of the fish on these ledges are larger and more exotic than what you’ll find inside the atoll even at 130 feet.
Edge of the World
Dive to almost the bottom of the volcanic caldera, reaching as deep as 250 feet. What lies in the shadowy waters at these depths you’ll have to see, but it’ll be inspiring (and maybe a little concerning) no matter what swims by.
Look for a longer tour at Molokini that visits both an interior and an exterior location. You’ll see a greater variety of aquatic species, and even the exterior locations are interesting to boaters because the water below is so clear.