Surrounded by the big ocean blue, we here at Hawaii Ocean Project strive to show you the best of Maui as well as help you avoid any hiccups while on your island adventure. For those families with keiki (children) in tow, we have listed some kid-friendly beaches on the west side to keep in mind as you venture out of your home away from home.

Laniupoko Beach
Just off Honoapiilani Highway, lies a weekend favorite of locals and visitors alike. With the shallow sandbar and a small cove sheltered from incoming waves, Laniupoko is the perfect beach for all ages. From learning how to surf to simply splashing in the water, we are sure that the entire family will easily find some fun here in the Hawaiian sun.

Olowalu Beach
If Laniupoko happens to be a little too populated for your liking, there is another child-friendly West Maui beach just south of the Olowalu General Store. Also off the Honoapiilani Highway, this spot offers no surf and plenty of shade throughout the day. Grab some snacks from the Olowalu store and enjoy a beach picnic with your family.

Baby Beaches
Living up to their names, both of these beaches feature a sandy playground for your little ones. With one in Lahaina and the other on the North Shore of Paia, no matter where you stay there is a baby-proof shoreline for you to lay out.

Protected by a large straight line of reef, the Baby Beach of Paia boasts warm, still waters while the Lahaina Baby Beach offers a low tide with little to no waves.

And if you are staying in South Maui, the Kamaole Beaches feature calm waters and makes a great place to spend the day! We take safety very seriously here at Hawaii Ocean Project and whether you are out on an ocean adventure or relaxing with the palms, we have some safety tips we would like you to keep in mind for you and your keiki.

With all the fun and exciting activities here on Maui, it is no surprise that many adventures take place in the ocean. As an enjoyable experience for all ages, we would hate for you to miss out on the clear and warm Hawaiian waters. So it is important for us here at Hawaii Ocean Project to pass along a few ocean safety tips that we would like you to keep in mind as the waves wash over your feet.

Keep the local lifeguard in your sights
With an understanding of the current condition of the water, it is helpful to pay special attention to any information the lifeguard may announce. Important broadcasts can include information about high surf, rip currents, and dangerous rocks that are hidden due to the tide. It is always a good idea to keep an eye on where the lifeguard is at all times, so pick a spot to set up “camp” that has a clear view of the tower.

Please keep in mind that not all of the beautiful white sand beaches of Maui have a lifeguard on duty, so check out where lifeguard towers are present before you go!

Buddy System
As we mentioned before, the buddy system is crucial in any outdoor activity. Having an extra set of eyes to watch surroundings will prove useful and, besides, who really wants to have all the fun on their own? It is recommended that inexperienced swimmers, as well as children, wear life jackets in and around the water. Children should also never swim alone and should have a watchful adult close to the water in case of an emergency.

Currents and Wave Action
Along with keeping watch for your buddy, it is important to pay close attention to the water. While lifeguards are actively doing this, it does not hurt to be proactive yourself! Here in Hawaii, we are taught from a young age to never turn your back on the ocean and this is something we would like to share with you. Even in shallow water, wave action can easily cause a loss of footing in all ages which could potentially be dangerous.

Rip currents are another hazard that lies beneath the surface. Lifeguards have a pretty good idea of where these lie but should you find yourself caught in one it is crucial to remain calm and to not fight it, the last thing you want to do is exhaust yourself. Swim parallel towards the shore until you are out of the current and, if you cannot make it out, draw attention to yourself by calling for help. Should you see someone in trouble, call a lifeguard or 911 if one is not present.

Whether you are lounging amongst the beachfront palms or on an ocean adventure tour, safety is Hawaii Ocean Project’s number one priority and it is something that we take very seriously. While these tips may be general knowledge, there is value in recalling them before your next day of fun in the sun.

As the sun begins to peek over the horizon, we invite you to board Hawaii Ocean Project’s own Lahaina Princess for the unique opportunity to grab an underwater look of a volcanic caldera just off the coast of Maui. Molokini is one of Maui’s premier snorkel destinations due to the clear waters and extraordinary marine life that has made the tiny crescent island their home, so you definitely do not want to miss this!

Join us at the main booth on the north end of Lahaina harbor at 6:30 am and hop on our 65 foot double-deck adventure yacht ready for an unforgettable day of play in the warm Hawaiian waters. At 7:00 am, we will ferry you to the historic Molokini Crater as our first location. And if you missed breakfast due to the early check-in time, we got you covered with a continental breakfast. Once anchored, grab your gear and get to snorkeling in one of the only three volcanic calderas in the world where this is possible!

As lunch time nears, we will hele (go) over to the captain’s choice for our second location and snag yet another chance to glimpse the underwater world. It is here we hope to introduce you to our favorite finned friends; one or more of the five different varieties of turtles you can see in Maui waters! On our way over, you will be served an ono (delicious) deli-style all you can eat lunch.

Unfortunately, your day with us does come to an end. As we head back to the Lahaina Harbor, simply sit back, relax, and take in the majestic beauty of Maui. Upon returning to the harbor, we are happy to give suggestions on how you can spend the rest of your day!

What’s included:

  • Breakfast and lunch along with unlimited water, soda, and juice.
  • Snorkel equipment with instructions from our crew.
  • Flotation devices (including life jackets, noodles, boogie boards.)
  • Reef-friendly sunscreen.

The Hawaii Ocean Project Molokini Snorkel tour is the only one that departs from Lahaina harbor, making it the perfect launching pad for those staying on the west side. Taking sail year round on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, we are sure that your Hawaii vacation itinerary has a spot for a memorable Maui adventure. Book online today and save!

We could not be more pleased and excited with our website’s latest look. Over the last few months, we have been working to craft an even better resource for you to discover your next Maui adventure in an easier to use format.

Massive Overhaul
To better serve you, we have worked especially hard with our design team to create a homepage that gives you a complete first look at what your time with Hawaii Ocean Project will be like. We have simplified our information with a fresh and new Frequently Asked Question section. If you have been wondering about booking a trip, where you can find us, or what to bring, you can now get most of your questions answered with no calls necessary.  And to be in the know before you go, we have created a detailed snorkel Q&A as well as a whale Q&A to have you well prepared for your next ocean adventure.

All New Packages
To maximize your precious time here on the Valley Isle, we have created combination tours to get you double the fun for an incredible price! With the return of our favorite gentle giants, grab a stunning show of the majestic Pacific Humpback Whales followed by a flaming sunset out on the water with our Dinner Cruise & Whale Watch Combo. Rather hop into the water and get a personal look? With our Dinner Cruise & Snorkel Combo, you can glimpse life in paradise above and below the surface!

Get to Know Maui
As part of being your source for all things Maui, we have created a section dedicated to what to do in the Valley Isle. From ocean activities to land activities and everything in between, you are sure to learn the ins and outs of the island before you even step foot off the plane! Looking for exclusive updates on Maui events, places to dine, online promotions, and more? Then join our Maui adventures newsletter and take a little bit of the island with you for when you go!

Take a Look Around
With all the exciting changes that we have made on our site, we could go on and on but we won’t! Here at Hawaii Ocean Project, we feel that there is a little fun in mystery and truthfully there really is too much good stuff to include in just one post. So poke around and stay awhile, you might just discover the adventure you have been looking for!

When is whale watching season on Maui?
Unofficially, whale watching season runs from December 1 – April 30. But you may also see the whales before and after those dates

Where is the best place to see the whales?
Well, we may be a teeny bit biased, but the best place to see the whales is from one of our whale tour boats. We will get you as close to the whales as is safely possible – safe for the whales and you, that is, on the largest and most stable boats in Maui. Book online here and save 10% .

I want to see whales every day I’m on Maui! Where’s the best place to see them from shore?
Honestly, you should be able to spot them from pretty much every beach on the south (Kihei/Wailea) and west (Lahaina/Ka’anapali) shores. You can also see them on the north shore (Paia/Ho’okipa). The best place, unfortunately, is probably on Highway 30 connecting Ma’alaea and Lahaina. If you see one while driving, remain calm and try not to accelerate into the driver in front you who just slowed to take a better look!

What types of whales come through Hawaii?
North Pacific Humpback Whales

What do they look like?
They are primarily grey, with some areas of white. Oh, and they’re big. BIG. The North Pacific Humpbacks are the fifth largest whale species on the planet and can grow to 60-feet long and weigh between 25 – 40 tons.

Why do they come to Hawaii?
Good question. They come to mate, give birth and nurture their calves. Hawaii is the only state in the union where they will mate. It’s believed the humpbacks are drawn to Hawaii for its warm waters, underwater visibility, varying ocean depths and lack of natural predators.

How far do they travel?
They swim, pretty much non-stop, about 3,500 miles from Alaska. The journey generally takes 4-to-6 weeks.

Do they arrive in any particular order?
They do! Normally the first to arrive are the mother whales who are nursing their calves. Next up is the juveniles, then the adult males, followed by adult females. The last to arrive are the pregnant females. The pregnant whales bring up the rear because they feed and nourish themselves until the very last minute up in Alaska.

Once they get to Hawaii, where do they go?
They basically go to two different areas. A four-island cluster comprised of Maui, Molokai, Lanai and Kaho’olawe make up the first area. The other area, called the Penguin Band, is a section of shallow water about 25 miles southwest of Molokai. That said, whales have been spotted by residents and visitors on the Big Island, Oahu and Kauai.

How many whales are there?
In 1993, there were an estimated 6,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific Ocean. Of those, about 4,000 came through Hawai’i. Since the signing of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which banned commercial whaling, that number has increased. Scientists estimate there are now roughly 23,000 north pacific humpback whales, with about 12,000 – 14,000 of those coming through Hawaii each year.

How long do Northern Pacific Humpback Whales live?
They live about 50 years, but there have been accounts of some living much longer.

What do they eat?
They survive mainly on small fish, plankton and tiny crustaceans. What’s interesting is they never eat in Hawai’i’s waters. They spend all summer eating in Alaska, then store up the food as blubber, which they then use to fuel their winter trips to Hawai’i.

How long can the whales stay underwater?
While adults can stay underwater for up to 45 minutes, they tend to come up for air every 10-15 minutes. The calves come up about every 5 minutes.

Why do they jump out of the water?
Commonly called breaching, a study published in January, 2017 showed that humpbacks are more likely to breach when they are far apart (2.5 miles or more,) while tail or fin slapping occurs more frequently when they are together. This suggests that the humpbacks breach for long-range communication versus simply water slaps when they are near other whales.

Is there a Hawaiian name for humpback whales?
Yes, the Hawaiian name is kohola

To book a whale watch tour with us, go here. If the boat goes out and no whales are seen, you will receive complimentary tickets for another trip. Book online and you’ll save 10%.

A warm island breeze softly brushes your shoulders while you sit back in your seat to enjoy the soothing rhythm of the Hawaiian waters gently lapping the sides of the boat. Watch as the sun paints the sky intense shades of sunset with a refreshing beverage in hand and loving companion at your side. As the only boat with all premium seating, at no extra charge, we invite you to board Hawaii Ocean Project’s own Maui Princess for an enchanting evening full of love, laughter, and lifetime memories out on the calm ocean water.

Dinner Cruise Highlights:

  • Live entertainment
  • Delicious food
  • Refreshing beverages
  • Impeccable service

Departing at 5:30 pm seven days a week from the historic whaling port of Lahaina, our large luxury vessel makes its home in the West Maui waters. So wander in from the bustling shops of Front Street and check-in at the north end of the Lahaina Harbor between 4:45 to 5:00 pm. The evening’s entertainment will vary each night to ensure that each experience is one-of-a-kind! Paired with the strums of our musicians, the island of Maui forms her own performance as she fades into shades of gold while the sun sets. You might even get to catch a stunning show from our finned friends during the whale season of December to April.

With a stunning backdrop forming, dinner will be served on the open-air upper deck by our attentive staff.
Choose between:

  • Mouthwatering prime rib that is carved on board
  • Delectable roasted chicken
  • Macadamia nut encrusted mahi mahi fillet with a harmonizing buerre blanc sauce
  • Appetizing vegetarian patty with marinara sauce.

Each meal will also include a fresh garden salad with croutons and papaya seed dressing along with potatoes, carrots, dinner rolls, and a refreshing beverage. For guests onboard the Maui Princess, sodas and juices will be unlimited while our full bar will feature three alcoholic drinks included, with additional available for purchase. And those with a sweet tooth, don’t fret! A delightful cheesecake will be served as dessert with a seasonal fruit drizzle to wrap up the dinner service.

But the evening does not stop there! With a full 2.5 hours on board, join your new Maui friends and sway to the beat or kick back to watch the stars appear. As the clock rings 8, our cruise will dock back at the Lahaina harbor but that does not mean that your time with Hawaii Ocean Project has to come to an end. We have a number of ocean activities to add to your agenda and booking online leads to an instant 10% off the full price of all our activities! So clear your Hawaii vacation itinerary and board a Hawaii Ocean Project adventure today!

Unlike diving, where things like water salinity levels, hydrogen sulfide and water temperature gradients can deeply affect visibility, when snorkeling around Maui, most of the external factors that affect visibility are easy to spot. If you notice the water seems unusually murky, then it’s probably not a good time to snorkel. Here are five easy ways to tell if visibility is going to be clear when you snorkel.

A wavy day means that sediments on the ocean shore will be stirring. This is why snorkeling where there’s an off-shore reef blocking waves is advantageous. But, if you’re in an area without a blocking reef, one way to quickly check the wave conditions the night before you’re planning on snorkeling is with a surf app like Surfline or Magic Seaweed, or google “surf forecast at …” (fill in the beach you want to visit). If you see the waves are going to be big (over 4 feet) for surfers in your general area, it will most likely mean the area you’re snorkeling will be wavier than usual. Anything less than four feet and you should be in the clear (pardon the pun.)

RELATED: Best places to snorkel on Maui

The wind can wreak havoc on visibility. On Maui, the best time to get in the water is early in the morning. Not too early, as you want the sun to illuminate the water, but ideally, you’ll be in and out of the water before the tradewinds kick in. The deeper the water you’re going to be snorkeling in, the less wind becomes an issue. This is why a snorkel trip from a boat, like excursions to Molokini and Lana’i are pretty much wind-proof.

It doesn’t happen often, but when a big, steady rainstorm hits, it can definitely affect water clarity. Unless the water is super shallow, the issue is not that the rain kicks up sediments, it’s more because of the run-off from all the water coming down and entering the ocean. After big rains, you may hear there’s a “brown water advisory.” If a brown water advisory hits your beach, you should stay out of the ocean. Not only will the water be murky, but the brown water may contain harmful pathogens and other pollutants that can cause illness.

On the other end of spectrum, sunshine also affects clarity… in a good way! Just like on land, the brighter it is, the easier it is to see. Even on cloudy days, it’s never that dark during daytime hours here, but still, a little sun doesn’t hurt your visibility. Think of it as a spotlight, illuminating the fish around you.

RELATED: Common fish you’ll see when snorkeling Maui

When a snorkeler kicks up the sand or clay at the bottom of ocean, those particles will then cause the water to become murky. That seems obvious. To avoid this, if you’re near the ocean floor, try swimming with just your hands. The force of your flippers is often enough to stir up the ground.

Please remember when snorkeling to respect your environment. Just as you don’t want anyone to stand on your face, never stand on coral. If possible, keep those legs flapping and try to stay off the ground. Mahalo!

Snorkeling in Maui is fun. When you enter our waters, you’re liable to see fish of all colors, turtles, sea urchins, and maybe even (harmless) sharks and rays. But when snorkeling, don’t overlook the coral. Coral are beautiful, living ANIMALS. Coral has a unique, symbiotic relationship with other sea creatures and plants, and helps “power” our beautiful reefs. However, many corals are dying out due to rising sea temperatures and poisoning from popular sunscreens. See our sunscreen guide to learn more about how sunscreen poisons the reef and what to look for when purchasing reef-friendly sunscreens. Here are four common corals you’ll see in Maui. For fish, check out our Fish Guide for Snorkeling Maui.

Lobe Coral
Found in a variety habitats, lobe coral is one of the most common corals in Hawai’i’s oceans. It’s mostly seen in depths from 10 – 45 feet, though it can also be seen in shallow tide pools and can thrive as deep as 150 feet. They grow less than a centimeter a year, yet lobe coral can become massive entities, up to 20 feet across. Only the outermost layer, about 1 millimeter, is actually alive. There are several species of lobe coral in Hawai’i. You’ll often see yellow, greenish and tan varieties off of Maui’s shores.

Cauliflower Coral
The most common species of coral in surge-zone slopes of shallow reefs less than 10 feet deep, the cauliflower coral ranges in color from tan to pink. It can also be found in depths of 90 feet or more. Cauliflower coral is unusual in that it can only grow to maximum length of about 12-to-15 inches, whereas most corals do not have a capped size. The living portion of cauliflower coral is the outermost layer, roughly 2 millimeters deep.

RELATED: Best places to snorkel on Maui


Rice Coral
In still-water habitats, rice coral can be the dominant species of coral. It tends to live below the reef, where it is blocked from the effects of wave surges. One unique aspect of rice coral is its ability to take on a variety of shapes, depending on its proximity to light. If it is in direct sunlight, it tends to grow into spiked peaks, whereas in shady or deeper waters, it’s more flattened out. You can even find both forms of the coral in one seabed when spiked pinnacles, blocking the sun, live over the flat-type of coral. Rice coral, generally, ranges in color from solid cream to dark brown with lighter branch tips. However, the flat, blue rice coral, endemic to Hawai’i, is popular amongst snorkelers due to its bright blue color. Rice corals can grow to several feet in diameter.

Finger coral
Living in wave protected, shallow waters to 100 feet, finger corals are very common in Hawai’i’s waters. It derived its common name because the coral grows out and up, forming appendage-like structures. The “fingers” tend to be flattened at the tips. Finger Coral are light-brown/grey to yellow in color. It’s slow-growing, but it is believed there are colonies over 1,000 years old! (Image credit: By James St. John [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

RELATED: Maui Snorkeling Q&A

Known for the warm, clear waters and colorful marine life, it would be a shame if you missed the unique opportunity of snorkeling in Maui. Enjoyable for all ages, snorkeling offers the chance to glimpse at a whole other world built just under the water’s surface! Whether you are snorkeling just off the shore of one of Maui’s white sand beaches or on one of our snorkel boat tours, we wanted to pass on some ‘ike (knowledge) when it comes to snorkeling safety!

1. Buddy System
It should come as no surprise that when it comes to any outdoor activity, the buddy system is key. Two pairs of eyes are truly better than one and it is definitely helpful to have more than one person check the surroundings (tip #2).

2. Keep an Eye on Your Surroundings
The ocean can be, at times, unpredictable which is why it is important to be aware of what is around you. With that in mind, while snorkeling it is best to avoid alcohol to keep your senses sharp! If you are swimming close to the beach, keep in mind that you should only be snorkeling in clear water. It not only offers the best underwater sights, but it allows you to keep a watchful eye on what is around you! Weather and surf conditions can affect your overall experience snorkeling, especially if you are trying it for the first time, so it is imperative to avoid large surf and high wind when looking for a spot to snorkel.

It is also essential to avoid ocean currents, but should you get caught in one do not panic! Swimming against it will most likely just tire you out (tip #3) and the best way to get out of it is to swim perpendicular to the current.

3. Avoid Exhaustion
Whether you are an experienced swimmer or a beginning snorkeler, swimming is an activity that can easily tire you out. Sticking relatively close to the shore or boat is the best way to ensure that you only have a short swim back to rest. If you are out in the ocean blue, it might be worthwhile to have a flotation device with you as well as communicating with your snorkel buddy! The coral reefs are fragile microenvironments that are best admired from afar along with other marine animals and organisms. So should you find yourself getting tired on your offshore excursion, head back to where you can stand on the sand and not on the convenient rocky reef.

Hawaii Ocean Project takes safety seriously and while all of these tips are generally common sense, there is worth in repeating before you head out. So rub on some reef-healthy sunscreen, throw on your fins, and get ready to go on a Maui adventure

Sunscreens have been making headlines lately due to their contribution to coral bleaching and ocean acidification. Coral bleaching is the phenomenon whereby coral loses its color and rejects symbiotic organisms, essentially killing the coral. While rising sea temperatures are the main culprit behind coral bleaching, researchers believe oxybenzone, a UV blocker used in many popular sunscreens, is aiding in the destruction of coral reefs as put forth in this 2015 study: “Toxicopathological Effects of the Sunscreen UV Filter, Oxybenzone (Benzophenone-3), on Coral Planulae and Cultured Primary Cells and Its Environmental Contamination in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

While the researchers focused on oxybenzone, it’s not the only ingredient in sunscreen that is harming the coral. Here are the five ingredients you need to avoid when purchasing sunscreen:

  1. Oxybenzone: used in over 3,500 different sunscreens worldwide
  2. Octinoxate: which lasts longer on the body than oxybenzone, but is used less frequently by manufacturers because it’s known to be even more dangerous to the ocean
  3. Octocrylene
  4. 4-mehtylbenzylidene: 4MBC, which is banned in the U.S., but not in Canada and parts of Europe
  5. Butyparaben

Zinc oxide and organic sunscreens, especially those that are 100% biodegradable, while still possibly damaging, are believed to be much better alternatives than those using the five dangerous compounds listed above.

The best choice, though, is to avoid sunscreen altogether. Instead of sunscreen, we recommend you simply cover up when swimming in the ocean. Sun protection shirts and rash guards are cool looking and do a good job of protecting the skin. Wearing a hat to the beach is always smart. Using umbrellas and tents to create shade are also excellent ways to avoid direct sunlight.

We realize, however, that covering up isn’t always practical. You came to Hawai’i to play in the sunshine! The non-profit, non-partisan Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a fantastic Sunscreen 101 guide that lists over 250 reef-safe sunscreens, including the best kid-friendly ones. They’ve even built a little Amazon store so you can purchase these products online. Additionally, there are a few locally made, reef-friendly sunscreens. Three examples are Raw Love, SolKine and Mama Kuleana.

On Maui, reef-healthy(er) sunscreens can be found at health food stores (such as Hawaiian Moons in Kihei, or Whole Foods in Kahului), as well as surf shops. Be sure to carefully read the active ingredients listed on the bottle because some manufacturers will say they are “reef-friendly,” but then go ahead and use harmful ingredients. Again, avoid the five dangerous ingredients listed above, and you’ll be doing your part to help save the coral reef.

The Hawai’i state legislature attempted to ban oxybenzone from our waters, but the bill stalled on the last day of the 2017 session. State lawmakers are already working to pass the bill in 2018. If it passes, Hawai’i will become the first state in the union to ban oxybenzone.