Heading to Maui and want to see some of the incredible Hawaiian sea life? Scroll to find exactly where to see turtles in on your next Hawaiian vacation!
This where to see Maui turtles post was originally written January 16, 2020 and was updated October 30, 2021 and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
When you’re planning your family vacation to the islands, you might be interested in where to see turtles in Maui!
Swimming with the turtles is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Hawaiian green sea turtle is one of the most endangered species on earth, and a vital part of Hawaii’s ecosystem and culture. It’s important that we protect them.
So, keep scrolling to find out where to go for your best chances of observing sea turtles in Maui, Hawaii!
Find out the top 101 Things to do on Maui with Kids!
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Maui Itinerary complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Maui Sea Turtles FAQs
The best time to see turtles in Maui is the summer, hands down. Sea turtles love warm, calm water. This is most likely during the summer months of June, July, and August.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a honu (Hawaiian word for turtle), please don’t touch or feed them! As an endangered species, they’re protected by state and federal law and it’s illegal to touch or disturb them in any way.
Turtle nesting season is anytime between May and October. This is because a sea turtle can lay up to 5 clutches per nesting season, and once eggs are lain, they hatch in about 60 days! So, some will hatch even as late as December.
It’s really simple: leave them alone! Give them space and enjoy watching nature at work! They’ve developed instincts over ions to hatch and head towards the water. But even if you see hatchings heading away from the water, leave them be. If you feel you really need to help, you can contact the Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office.
Hawaiian Green sea turtles are the largest hard-shelled sea turtle in the world! They can weigh between 300- and 400-pounds and are around 4- to 5-feet long at full growth.
What Kind of Turtles Can You Find on Maui?
Sea turtles have been on the island for around 150 million years. They’ve the main reason snorkelers and divers seek out Maui beaches.
There are five distinct species of turtles on Maui including:
- Green sea turtles (honu)
- Hawksbill sea turtles
- Olive Ridleys
The Green sea turtle, or honu, is the most common one found on the island. Next is the Hawksbill sea turtle.
If you want to witness the other three types I mentioned, you need to dive really deep into the sea! They won’t nest on the sea beaches like the other 2, which makes it a bit difficult to see them.
Best Places to See Turtles in Maui
When looking for where to see turtles in Maui, aim for the coastlines of West Maui and South Maui. They offer exceptional opportunities for different kinds of turtle sighting that we’ll go over later!
When people think of where to find Maui sea turtles, they think of Turtle Town. It’s not an actual place, but a nickname!
Some people agree that Turtle town is a stretch of beaches from Maluaka Beach to Five Graves at Makena Landing. Other people refer to Maluaka Beach as the actual Turtle Town location.
You’ll read about each beach inside this strip. Here’s the order:
- Maluaka Beach
- Black Rock Beach
- Keawakapu Beach
- Hookipa Beach
- Ulua Beach
- Polo Beach
- Five Caves
Also, the beaches at Turtle Town are considered some of the best beaches on the island! Seep reading to find out about each location and learn where to see turtles in Maui!
Maluaka Beach is often called Turtle Town in Maui because it has a huge population of green sea turtles! If you’re looking for places where you can snorkel, this beach is ideal.
Turtle Town, Maui is the pivotal location for sea turtles on the island. And it’s probably the best place to see turtles in Maui.
Visitors come from all over the world and find Malauka Beach. It’s a beautiful beach to visit, with serene blue water and colorful marine life.
To see the maximum number of turtles, walk down the southern part of the Maluaka Beach. When you’re at the end of the sand, where the coral reef begins, you’re at the right spot.
If you go snorkeling at Turtle Beach, you won’t just get to see honu in their natural habitat. You’ll also see tons of gorgeous tropical fish and underwater plant life!
Black Rock Beach
Black Rock Beach is in Kaanapali on Maui’s western coast. This is another excellent place to spot the sea turtles in Maui.
The area is popular for snorkeling because of the gentle waves. Other people like to go cliff jumping here. It’s a busy beach with tourists all around the year round. And, of course, another reason people come here is to see turtles on Maui!
This is also where you can find the famous Volkswagen turtles. They weigh around 300 pounds. It’s very common to see them munching on seaweed.
While you’re encouraged to keep your distance when swimming with turtles, they won’t really be bothered by your presence.
Keawakapu Beach is a great option for all snorkelers. It’s often considered the best snorkeling beach, whether you’re a first-time snorkeler or a pro!
The waves are gentle, and you’ll see the stunning coral reef that’s full of fish, coral, and turtles. At Keawakapu Beach, the water is super clear. That means you’ll see the underwater world without straining your eyes!
Apart from the opportunity to swim with a Hawaiian sea turtle, there is a host of other water activities that you can try. Go kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding. Or relax on the beach and watch the kids play in the waves.
The beach is super tourist-friendly with free parking, public restrooms, and restaurants. Plus, the beach is not overcrowded like the usual popular beaches in Maui.
When you want to enjoy the sight of the sea turtles without really getting into the water, Hookipa Beach is the right spot for you. This is another excellen choice for where to see turtles in Maui.
Turtles are visible at the beach throughout most of the day! They back under the sun on the beach, and lots of people take selfies with turtles in the background! Just follow the suggestion to keep a distance of 10-feet.
Hookipa Beach is a picturesque spot with strong waves. People love to come here to fly kites and windsurfing. And you can expect a large crowd here watching surfers. Because of the crowds, parking is limited, but it’s free!
Adjacent to Keawakapu Beach, Ulua Beach is a popular spot for snorkeling, swimming, and sightseeing turtles.
This spot is super popular, too, and you’ll have lots of company. I suggest you get there early in the day if you want to find parking.
The good part about Ulua Beach is that the waves are really gentle! It’s a great beach if you have small kids, or if you’re new at swimming or snorkeling. In fact, I suggest coming here if you have kids who will be snorkeling.
I love Polo Beach because it’s a great swimming and snorkeling beach, and it’s really secluded. Not only is it a great spot for turtle watching, but it’s considered one of the best places to go in Wailea.
The views here are breathtaking, but the winds are quite choppy. This causes the sea turtles to hang close to the shore, which is a big plus for you!
Five Graves is a rocky beach at Makena Point Landing, and there aren’t any sandy spots. Plus, the waves are really chopping and there’s a strong current.
Don’t come here for snorkeling or swimming unless you have lots of experience. You can also book kayak tours, or you can enjoy spotting turtles at Five Graves from land.
Take a walk along the rocks, explore sea caves, and spot turtles from above! Initially, you might find it tricky to identify the turtles because they can look like rocks.
Kaeleku Point is on the southwest side of Napili Bay. The area attracts a large number of tourists because of the easily accessible and the calm water. But it’s perfect for both sea turtles and snorkeling!
You can swim with the turtles and have an experience of a lifetime. You can also witness the Hawaiian sea turtle in abundance here, which is why it’s a main spot for where to see turtles in Maui.
Things to Know About Turtles in Maui
Here some of my best advice when looking for sea turtles on the island of Maui:
- Maui turtles don’t seem bothered by the presence of people swimming in the water with them. You taking pictures with them, on the land or in the water. Just don’t use your flash, which can bother them!
- You don’t have to swim or snorkel to see sea turtles in Maui. A lot hang out on the sand at the warmest part of the day, so you can see them from land. Or consider taking a kayaking tour to see them from above.
- While you can find sea turtles on other beaches around the world, Maui tourists come in close contact with the sea turtles that aren’t found anywhere else on the planet!
- Sea turtles are an important part of Maui culture. Honu are considered sacred creatures. They represent good luck, long life, stamina, and protection.
- Chasing, riding, or even touching the turtles is strictly prohibited, and harassing the sea creature any way can land you in big trouble. Fines can be thousands of dollars.
What is the Best Time of Day to See Turtles in Maui?
You can see turtles throughout the day! But the best time to look for sea turtles in Maui between 11 AM and 3 PM, when the sun is the hottest.
For the best chances of seeing turtles, you should keep certain factors in mind. When you go snorkeling or swimming, certain things will influence if you’ll see a lot of a few sea turtles. They include:
- The location of the sun
- The wind
- The height of the tide
- The direction of the tide
- The current of the water
Basically, sea turtles love calm, warm waters. They nest near coves and vegetation, which is why Turtle Town is the best place to see them.
Sea turtles will nest in the sand high above the maximum tide level, and they sunbath when the sun is the warmest. So, you might see them on the beaches between 11 AM and 3 PM.
Visiting the Maui Ocean Center is Worth the Trip!
Not a fan of snorkeling? Are you worried that you’ll miss out on that once-in-a-lifetime experience if you don’t swim with sea turtles? Consider a trip to the Maui Ocean Center.
You can spend a day at the center learning about oceanography and see the largest living tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere.
Check out turtle cove and meet the turtles who live there! Or you can learn about how the center is involved in marine conservation around the Hawaiian Islands.
Snorkeling in Maui is Amazing
I touched on this a bit before, but if you want to enjoy the best underwater experience of your life, there’s no better place than Maui! The beaches are incredible, and you can explore underwater sea caves and gorgeous barrier reefs.
Snorkeling for turtle sightseeing is definitely one of the biggest underwater attractions here. If you’re coming to Hawaii to see sea turtles, you won’t be disappointed with a snorkeling adventure.
See Turtles in Maui While Scuba Diving
Even if you’re scuba diving for the first time, trust that Maui dive masters will have their watchful eyes on you constantly. Plus, scuba diving allows you to go deeper, so you’ll see turtle species and other marine life that lots of people don’t get to see!
Check out the training centers and sign up for this wonderful activity.
Top Tours to See Turtles in Maui
Take all the stress out of your turtle sighting and join a guided tour. A Maui local will take you to the best places to see turtles in Maui.
These are some of the best snorkeling tours that feature turtles:
Maui Morning Snorkeling Tour to Molokini Crater & Turtle Town!
Join this family-friendly Maui snorkeling tour to a sunken volcano! You’ll see thousands of tropical fish in the crystal-clear water. And it includes a continental breakfast. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Book this Maui Morning Snorkeling Tour
Take this full-day tour and learn to kayak, surf, and snorkel off Maui’s coast. You’ll head to specifically Makena Bay in search of fish and sea turtles. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Book this Paddle, Snorkel, and Surfing Package
You’ll love this small-group kayak and snorkel tour. It’s one of the best ways to see Hawaiian green sea turtles on Maui. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Book this Makena Turtle Town Eco Adventure
What to Bring When Snorkeling to See Turtles in Maui
If you aren’t doing a tour that provides all your snorkeling gear, you’ll want to bring a snorkel set and fins.
Maui Turtles Wrap Up
You now know where to see turtles in Maui, Hawaii! You know the best places to see them and what to consider.
Maui honu are a great way to experience island culture. When you see these peaceful, ancient creatures up close, you’ll understand why they’re so important!