Whether you're looking forward to trying it for the first time, or you're already hooked on Maui snorkeling excursions, knowing the associated health benefits can enhance your enjoyment of this wonderful experience. Not only that, but you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by all the good things that snorkeling does for both the body and mind. How often do we find an activity that's gentle on the body while helping to keep us fit and soothing our stress? Yes, snorkeling can do all this for us and more. Here's how.
Breathing: When you're snorkeling, breathing tends to be more deliberate, and requires some extra effort from your lungs because you're breathing through a tube. Think of it as a mild breathing exercise as you explore the underwater world from the safety of the surface. It helps increase the strength of your lungs, and therefor, your maximal oxygen uptake. This is an important part of your aerobic fitness.
Joint Mobility: While there's no end to the land-based exercises that can put stress on your joints, snorkeling opens a whole new world of opportunity for gentle exercise. It's a particularly wonderful option if your mobility is limited because you suffer from joint pain, obesity or stiffness. In the water, your buoyancy prevents the pressure of your weight on your joints. In fact, snorkeling has been recommended by health care experts for those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and conditions that cause inflammation, including neck problems. The snorkel and mask prevents the need for movements that can cause neck pain. As you get more comfortable with snorkeling, you can also increase the duration and intensity of your sessions over time as your fitness improves. Speaking of fitness...
Fitness: Snorkeling strengthens a number of important muscles throughout the body, such as your calves, ankles, quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors, among others. Because it's a full-body exercise, you not only work the bigger muscles, but the many smaller ones that play a vital role in stabilizing your body and preventing injuries. Snorkeling helps enhance your strength and endurance, burning an estimated 300 calories an hour. How do you know whether your session was adequately challenging? Well, falling asleep the minute your face hits the pillow is a good sign.
Mental Health: Not only does the aforementioned exercise enhance the good feelings that endorphins create, but the steady breathing we talked about earlier helps play a role in soothing stress. Some compare it to the effects of meditation, which is also enhanced by the receptive state that you're in when you're exploring a fascinating new underwater world. Observing the natural behaviors of vibrant marine life has been shown to positively influence those with ADHD and anxiety disorders. The steady breathing, gentle exercise and delightful sights come together for a relaxing experience that can ease the mind, and also put the world into a new perspective.
Cardiovascular Health: Because snorkeling combines steady exercise and breathing, along with cooling temperatures, it can greatly enhance your circulation. It increases the heart rate enough to strengthen your heart muscles, decreasing the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and other related conditions. As it increases your lung capacity, oxygenation of the bloodstream can also improve, which helps to fuel the health of your entire body.
With all of these benefits in mind, we hope you'll take the time to do some snorkeling on your Maui vacation, whether you try it at a beach, or join us aboard a Hawaii snorkeling excursion. Mahalo!
Thinking about joining us for a Maui snorkeling tour? Ours can take you to the lovely little crescent island of Molokini, or to the scenic shores of neighboring Lanai island. No doubt you're most excited about the fascinating types of marine life that you'll discover, and aside from the turtles and dolphins that we frequently see on our tours, there are some truly special fish that you may see as you explore these vibrant underwater ecosystems. What makes them special? About 20 percent of the reef fish that live in Hawaii are found nowhere else on Earth. Some are sighted frequently, others on rare occasion. We can't list them all in one blog, so here are five of the most beautiful, recognizable, and uniquely Hawaiian fish that you might spot on our snorkeling tours.
Potter's Angelfish (Centropyge potteri)
Hawaiian Name: None
Sighting Frequency: Rare
Physical Description: Disc-shaped fish that grows to about 5 inches in length. Coloration is vivid orange marbled with turquoise. Rich royal blue tail color with nearly black marbling extends through the middle of the body to the base of the head.
This is the only common angelfish found in Hawaii's reefs, and also one of the most stunning of all fish you might encounter here. Sightings are rare because it prefers branching corals and ledges deeper than 20 feet. Active during the day, it remains close to the shelter of the coral while feeding on algae and detritus typically found on dead coral surfaces.
Saddle Wrasse (Thalassoma duperrey)
Hawaiian Name: hīnālea lauwili
Sighting Frequency: Common
Physical Description: A long-bodied fish reaches up to 11 inches in length. The body is predominantly dusky green. The head typically features a deep royal blue hue, followed by a bold orange vertical stripe, which is also followed by a soft white stripe in males.
This fish is one of the most common, recognizable sightings that you can find in the reefs around the main Hawaiian islands, including Molokini and Lanai, where we operate our tours. This opportunistic feeder can be found gliding around the reefs, pecking at invertebrates, fish eggs, and algae. They can sometimes be seen spawning in groups in spring and summer afternoons during new moon phases in low tide. The behavior involves the group darting upward and releasing clouds of sperm and eggs before descending back to the reef.
Bandit Angelfish (Apolemichthys arcuatus)
Hawaiian Name: None
Sighting Frequency: Rare
Physical Description: Disc-shaped fish that grows to about seven inches. Easily distinguished by the thick black bar running from its eyes to the end of its body just above the tail. The body is cream colored above the bar and pure white below the bar. Another thick black streak runs along the end of its tail and down to the anal fin.
One of the most vivid of Hawaii's reef fish because its bold white and black coloration, this fish is hard to miss when you're in its habitat. You will not often spot one of these while snorkeling, but if SCUBA diving, you may find it feeding on sponges at 70+ feet in depth. Interestingly enough, this fascinating fish is found in depths as shallow as 25 feet around the cooler Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaiian Sergeant (Abudefduf abdominalis)
Hawaiian Name: mamo
Sighting Frequency: Common
Physical Description: Disc-shaped, and growing up to 9 inches in length. A silvery blue fish with vertical black stripes and a splash of yellow at the center of the body for adults (top of the body for juveniles).
The Hawaiian Sergeant is one of the more common attractive species that you can find in many shallow reef environments while snorkeling. The sergeant tends to be found in aggregations just above the reef outcrops and ledges. In these areas, they feed on zooplankton carried by the current.
Fantailed Filefish (Pervagor spilosoma)
Hawaiian Name: 'ō'ili 'uwi 'uwi
Sighting Frequency: Rare
Physical Description: Football shaped fish growing up to about 7 inches in length. The body is predominantly yellow, mottled throughout by small black spots. The head comes to a sharp point at the mouth, which is white at the tip. The tail is bright orange and shaped like a fan, with a black stripe and a yellow stripe at the end. A pronounced dorsal spine is located at the top of the head, directly above the eye.
This versatile species can be found between 30 and 60 feet, but have also been found in both deeper and shallower waters among the coral reefs. An opportunistic feeder, this species will dine on everything from algae to invertebrates. Sightings tend to be rare because you never know when or where this flashy fish will pop up, and their population cycles could be described as boom-or-bust. Let's hope you're out snorkeling with us during one of their booms.
We hope to see you aboard one of our Maui snorkeling tours soon so you can enjoy the beauty of Hawaii's stunning coral reefs and the many beautiful species that make their home there. If you have any questions about the many creatures that you see, feel free to ask our knowledgeable crew about them. We're happy to answer any questions you might have. Mahalo!
Trying to figure out which beaches are worth a visit on your Maui vacation? When it comes to the Valley Isle, you'll have access to more choices than any other Hawaiian island, with over 30 miles worth of beaches to enjoy. That means whatever your preferences, your favorite beach is out there somewhere. It's just a matter of finding the one that suits you best. This handy guide to the top 10 beaches in West Maui is a convenient way to narrow down your search, especially if you're staying at West Maui accommodations. Most of the following beaches are good for swimming and soaking up the sun, so along with describing their character, we'll highlight whether they're especially good for snorkeling, surfing and families with kids. To keep things simple, we'll start at the southernmost beach at Olowalu and work our way north to end at Kapalua.
Good For: Snorkeling
Olowalu Shoreline includes numerous little beaches that are the first you'll see as you drive from Central Maui to West Maui. Take your pick! These beaches are easy to spot because they're so close to the main road, Honoapi'ilani Highway. Yes, you'll have the sound of cars going by while you're on the beach, but once you've donned your snorkeling gear and begun exploring the incredible coral reefs at this location, you'll forget all about the road. Between the fish, shrimp, urchins, crabs, octopus and other reef dwellers that live amongst these corals, you never know what exciting new sighting to expect. The reefs in this area are shallow, and come very close to the surface, but there are sandy channels you can follow to and from the beach. For the best results, pick your spot bright and early on one of those sparkling clear mornings when the water is barely rippling. Just be careful of the thorns dropped by the kiawe trees.
Kamehameha Iki Beach Park
Good For: Surfing
Just before you reach historic Lahaina Town with its many charming shops and restaurants, you'll find this convenient little beach. From this stretch of sand, you can easily see the scenic Lahaina Harbor not far from its northern end. Also known as Armory Park, Kamehameha Iki is known best for its historic significance, and its two shore breaks. As such, you'll often see surf classes being held here. The south break is best suited to the advanced surfer who is already familiar with it, while the north break provides consistent, small waves suited to beginners. If you'd rather go for a swim, opt for the middle of the beach on calm, clear mornings. If you like watching the surfers, go in the late afternoon, nestle into your beach chair or towel, and enjoy the show!
Good For: Snorkeling
This mile-long stretch of gorgeous white sand is a lovely place to swim, lay out on the sand, and watch the people go by. At its north end, you'll find Black Rock, which anchors plenty of reef for snorkelers to explore. The rock is also used by some adventurous folk for cliff jumping. Kaanapali Beach is home to no less than seven resorts, as well as Whaler's Village, which offers a high-end shopping experience, and several dining options. This beach is best if you want convenient access to food and shopping, and if you enjoy the active buzz of the crowd while still having plenty of space to pick out your own spot on the sand. If you prefer the tranquility of an uncrowded beach, you'll want to skip this one.
Kahekili Beach Park
Good For: Families, Snorkeling
Just north of Kaanapali Beach, you'll find this quieter, less commercial stretch of beautiful sand. Although the beach is soft, you'll find shallow reef as soon as you enter the water. This makes it an excellent place for beginning snorkelers, including young ones. The reefs protect the beach from waves, helping to block currents and keep conditions calm. It's not so ideal for swimming, unless you're snorkeling, but the beach itself is perfectly pleasant for lounging. You'll often see beginning diving classes held here because it's such a nice place to learn, and there isn't much depth to worry about. Green sea turtles frequent the area, and there are plenty of fish and other marine life to see when exploring the reef.
Honokowai Beach Park
Good for: Families, Snorkeling
This cozy little beach is scenic and calm. The reefs lie along the shoreline, forming a safe little pool that young children find delightful to play in. The lush canopy of trees along its edges provide nice spots where parents can sit in the shade chatting, admiring the views and watching the little ones. The beach itself is on the narrow side, but one of the pluses is the gradual slope out in the water. Because it's shallow for quite a long distance, waves don't tend to get very far. The reefs house a lovely array of marine life as well. Nearby, there are several great places to grab food that you can bring with you. To add to its family-friendly quality, this beach is alcohol-free.
Good For: Families
Relatively uncrowded, Napili Bay provides a charming, crescent shaped beach with a moderate slope and a sandy bottom. Although it can be a bit tricky to find parking, but the waters are frequently calm, making it convenient for families with children. As with every beach, conditions can get rough sometimes, usually as the day progresses, so just avoid the water if there are any waves. Sea turtle sightings are common, as there is some reef further out from shore. Being that it fronts a residential neighborhood with some condos, one of the perks is that you get to avoid the commercial elements and the hustle and bustle of the hotels. That being said, there are conveniences at this beach, including bathrooms, a general store and some nearby restaurants.
Good For: snorkeling
In Hawaiian, Oneloa means "long sand," which is appropriate, given it's a quarter of a mile in length. For all its space and beauty, you'll find that it tends to be uncrowded. The eastern end of the beach is home to a shallow reef near the parking lot path, but the western end has a pleasantly sandy bottom. You can find nice snorkeling areas on both ends. Its finest feature is its peaceful atmosphere. Most people overlook it, although it can be conveniently accessed by the Kapalua Coastal Trail, which fronts the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort. If you're looking for a quiet, tranquil place to settle down on the sand and watch the sunset, or go for a peaceful morning swim, Oneloa Beach is a real gem.
D.T. Fleming Beach Park
Good For: surfing
Although this beach can sometimes get crowded, there is plenty of space down its long, sandy expanse. The gradual slope is ideal for lounging and sunbathing. Conveniently, the ironwood trees offer shade, and there are shower and restroom facilities. It also features grills and picnic tables if you want to cook up your food or bring some with you. Although the beach is popular, it isn't nearly as touristy as Kaanapali Beach. The north swells bring good surf, and it's not only a preferred spot for surfers, but also for bodyboarders. Although conditions can kick up powerfully, there are lifeguards. As always, stick to clear, early mornings to enjoy lovely swimming conditions.
Good For: Surfing, Snorkeling
This is the one beach we're suggesting that's too rocky for good sunbathing or swimming. That being said, it's absolutely amazing for snorkeling when conditions are calm, and surfing when the swells are up. Honolua Bay is part of a Marine Life Conservation District, so taking anything is strictly prohibited, and that includes everything from fish to broken pieces of coral to rocks. When you go snorkeling here, you'll find out why it's such an important place for good stewardship. At this location, you'll discover a rainbow of gorgeous fish, and probably spot some turtles as well. As long as you opt for one of those calm, clear, early mornings, you're guaranteed to discover some truly amazing marine life. The visibility tends to be best away from the shoreline, even though it's rocky. Although this bay is relatively large, its whole expanse is just teeming with life, especially on the western side. In the winter, the swells bring amazing waves, which is why it's widely considered one of the best surf breaks in Maui waters, and even the world. Conveniently, it features an overlook on the east cliff where you can watch the surfers tackle the mesmerizing waves.
Good For: Surfing, Snorkeling
Before you start to worry, this beach didn't earn its name from its conditions, but from the Honolua Ranch slaughterhouse that was once located up on the cliff. Its Hawaiian name is Mokule’ia, which means “district of abundance.” People come to surf and to admire the wild, dramatic scenery from this pleasant stretch of sand. When the swells are up, the waves can get dangerously large in the winter, even for advanced surfers. The waves are much milder in the summer, and better suited to beginners. If you prefer uncrowded beaches, this one offers plenty of space for basking in the sun or sitting in the shade cast by the trees and cliffs above. If you'd like to go for a swim, opt for calm, clear, early mornings for the safest and most peaceful conditions. The same is true if you'd like to snorkel. Both ends of the beach feature an exciting collection of marine life. Just make sure to respect the ocean, and make your way back to the land as soon as conditions start to get rough. You'll find a small parking lot here, and a set of concrete stairs (with railing) to take you down the 100-foot-cliff to the beach.
When you're ready to take your Maui ocean adventures a step further, we hope you'll join us aboard one of our tours. We'll be happy to have you join us aboard our Maui sunset dinner cruise, and we can take you on a snorkeling tour to Lanai or Molokini. Mahalo!
One of the first things to expect on your Maui vacation is the variable weather conditions. Although the island is just 727 square miles, it features plenty of microclimates. The reason why is because within that relatively small range of miles, you can go from sea level to an elevation of 10,023 feet at the summit of Haleakala. Not only that, but the presence of the West Maui Mountains adds even more dynamic to the weather patterns of the aptly nicknamed Valley Isle.
Overall, the weather on Maui tends to be pleasantly warm throughout the year, because the ocean acts as a temperature buffer that helps prevent excessive heat and cold. It also helps that Hawaii is closer to the equator than any other state in the nation. That is, if you enjoy warm weather. The waters around Maui are so hospitable that humpback whales consistently show an overwhelming preference for its southern and western coastlines in the winter months when they come to breed and give birth to their offspring.
Aside from these general qualities, many visitors have found themselves surprised by five minute spates of rain thrown down from relatively blue skies near the North Shore, or by the freezing cold temperatures at the summit of Haleakala at night. If you enjoy sightseeing, you'll want to know the basic weather trends of Maui, so you can avoid any inconvenient surprises.
Before we plunge into the weather patterns of various areas, it's important to know that the winter months tend to be the wettest, thanks to the prevailing trade winds that come from the north. For reference, winds coming from the south are known as Kona winds. Wetter months tend to arrive around mid-November and persist until late March. Of course, this varies year to year, and it's also worth keeping in mind that any part of the island can get rainy or crystal clear days in the winter. Now, let's talk about typical weather patterns in specific areas.
1. If you're looking for the warmest, driest conditions on the island, you'll find them in South Maui, which gets the lowest rainfall and provides many miles of gorgeous white sand beach, along with a number of outstanding snorkeling spots. This area includes Kihei, Wailea, and Makena, in that order as you proceed south, down the coastline. When the trade winds are blowing from the north, this is one of the last areas of the island that those winds reach. This also means that the waters along this coast are protected from the swells that come with the trade winds. When the much less prevalent Kona winds come from the south, conditions are windier and the water is choppier.
2. West Maui tends to be almost as dry, and includes Lahaina, Ka'anapali, and Kapalua, in that order as you head north along the coast. The further north you get, the more likely you'll get some rainfall. Kapalua, which is the most northerly of the group, tends to be the greenest of the three, but you have to go quite a bit further north to find rainforest. Because the trade winds tend to come from a northeasterly direction, you'll find calm waters off these shores, unless a Kona wind from the south is kicking up the swells.
3. Central Maui tends to be dry, but Kahului is close enough to the North Shore that rain clouds will sometimes get blown in by the trades. Above Kahului, on the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains, you'll find Wailuku, which features a lush landscape and frequent showers. Clouds regularly gather at the peaks above, fed in part by the humidity of the jungle environments that are established in that area. The rain tends to form its own cycle at this location.
4. North Shore Maui features regular showers, particularly in the winter months. They often consist of no more than drizzle, coming and going suddenly, which makes this part of the island a great place for rainbows. The regular but inconsistent rainfall is owed to the trade winds, which bring storm clouds to North Shore before they get to the rest of the island. That is, if they get to the rest of the island. Although the elevation of the North Shore is low and not much of an obstacle, these clouds will often drop their rain there and dissipate as they move inland, away from the ocean humidity that formed them. Some of the island's finest surfing locations are found here because of the swells delivered by the trade winds. In fact, the North Shore is considered by many to be the windsurfing capital of the world because the conditions are so ideal for the sport.
5. Upcountry includes a wide variety of microclimates because it describes several areas on the slopes of Haleakala, facing Central Maui. Toward the northern and rainier side, you'll find Makawao, with Olinda perched above it. In the middle, there is Pukalani, with Kula up above, both of which tend to be dry. Last but not least, on the south side, you find Ulupalakua, which tends to get little rainfall, unless the less prevalent Kona winds bring storm clouds in from the south. Another distinct quality of the Upcountry areas is the pronounced temperature change that you'll discover as you climb in elevation. You'll find the air cooler and less humid the farther up the mountain you go. At the top of the mountain, temperatures can reach freezing levels at night in the winter. Even if you visit the Crater during the day in summer, you'll want to wear some layers. The air is not only cold, but thin at about ten thousand feet, so be careful not to overexert yourself.
6. East Maui is dominated by Hana and a rainforest microclimate. The trade winds bring storms not only to the coast, but up against the slopes of this remote side of Haleakala. Hana can get around 80" of rain per year, but those levels fluctuate quite a bit depending on the location within this expansive area of the island. When traveling from North Shore Maui to East Maui, you'll pass through Haiku, which is another of the rainiest regions of the island, thanks again to the trade winds.
We hope that this handy guide will help you prepare for the weather conditions that you might encounter on Maui. It could also help you decide where you want to find accommodations, and areas where you might like to try some Maui tours and activities. Our Maui ocean tours operate from Lahaina Harbor, one of the calmest, sunniest locations on the island. As for questions about our tours, you'll find our contact information at the top of the page if you need our assistance. Mahalo!
Hawaii's marine life comes in a rainbow of colors, from the black and yellow hues of our butterflyfish to the red and blue tints of our parrotfish. These vibrant creatures keep guests coming for our Maui snorkel tours time and time again. Their flashy colors wouldn't exist without the sunlight, and all its various wavelengths bouncing around and reflecting back at us. But what happens in the dark? Light can only penetrate to 656 feet into the ocean. Now, consider that the average depth of the ocean is about 14,000 feet. You can just imagine how much of the ocean's residents live in complete darkness. Well, almost complete darkness. As it turns out, glowing marine life is more common than scientists originally thought.
Based on some recent discoveries, scientists have found that an incredible three-quarters of marine animals create their own light, which is known as bioluminescence. On April 4, 2017, a study published in the journal Scientific Reports helped to quantify how many species are capable of producing light.
It turns out that the majority of sea life can glow, including jellyfish, squids, worms, and many others, not just the popularized angler fish that lures prey with their little flashing lights. Scientists are also starting to look more carefully at which species are bright versus dim. Most are subtle with their glow, which made their abilities easy to miss, especially given the limitations of many camera types. Also, when you're in an environment with no outside light source, a little of your own goes a long way. Most of these creatures are careful with their light levels, because they don't want to attract predators by being too flashy. In fact, many can turn their lights off when they're feeling cautious.
One of the most fascinating aspects of these recent discoveries is that the researchers found that bioluminescence included approximately 75 percent of creatures across all layers of the ocean, not just the deeper waters. This was just as surprising to scientists as everyone else, because it was commonly assumed that deep dwellers were more likely to glow. Since their research has only been performed in Monterey Bay, off the coast of California, there's always a chance that the percentages will shift as more locations are studied around the world. That being said, if depth isn't a factor, we may soon find out that the vibrant Hawaiian marine life that flourishes in our coral reefs is a little more brilliant than we thought.
The study found that the largest of these bioluminescent creatures were the jellyfish and siphonophores (like the Portuguese man 'o war). In fact, 99 percent of the species in those groups were found to produce light. As if people didn't find jellyfish mesmerizing enough! The biggest share of the glow found specifically between 4,920 feet and 7,380 feet actually came from marine worms. Below 7,380 feet, around half the bioluminescent organisms were larvaceans, free-swimming little filter feeders.
Another exciting part of the study to consider is that bioluminescence may be able to help marine scientists estimate the number of animals in the deep ocean. Once they find out the proportion of animals that glow, they could possibly measure the brightness of the surrounding bioluminescence to estimate the total number of individuals in the area.
If you happen to be a fellow marine life enthusiast and you want to learn more, you can read about the study published in Scientific Reports. In the meantime, we hope to see you aboard one of our Hawaii snorkeling tours.
The Health Benefits of Snorkeling
Whether you're looking forward to trying it for the first time, or you're already hooked on Maui snorkeling excursions, knowing the associated health benefits can enhance your enjoyment of this wonderful experience. Not only that, but you may find yourself pleasantly surprised by all… Continue Reading
Thinking about joining us for a Maui snorkeling tour? Ours can take you to the lovely little crescent island of Molokini, or to the scenic shores of neighboring Lanai island. No doubt you're most excited about the fascinating… Continue Reading
Trying to figure out which beaches are worth a visit on your Maui vacation? When it comes to the Valley Isle, you'll have access to more choices than any other Hawaiian island, with over 30 miles worth of beaches to enjoy. That means whatever your… Continue Reading
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