Are you ready to dive into the world of turtle spotting in Kihei? Imagine swimming alongside sea turtles in the crystal clear waters of Kihei, Maui.
In this post, I’ll tell you all of the best spots to see turtles in Kihei and I’ll give you all the details that you’ll need to plan your own turtle-watching excursion, including the best time of year to visit.
So grab your snorkel gear and let’s dive in!
Where To See Turtles In Kihei
A little known secret is that Kihei is one of the best places in Maui to see turtles (and I’d like to keep it that way).
Kihei is known to be the sunniest part of Maui as it only gets around a foot of rain annually. This attracts thousands of visitors to its shores every single year.
It’s also a great place to learn more about marine life as it’s much less touristy than other parts of Maui like Lahaina (you can see turtles in Lahaina too!).
As there’s less crowds, you’ll get more 1-on-1 time with the turtles and this can really make the whole experience just that little bit more magical.
I personally think that Maluaka Beach (or ‘turtle town’ as the locals call it) is the best place in Kihei to see and swim with turtles. It’s also great for families with young kids.
You can join a snorkeling tour for the best possible chance of seeing turtles. This tour features small groups, a knowledgeable guide and all of your snorkeling equipment.
I’d really recommend doing this if you can as it gives you that unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience of being able to swim right alongside the turtles and really feel like you’re one of them.
Anyway, without further ado, here are all of the best places to see turtles in Kihei (and nearby).
1. Maluaka Beach
Hands down, the best place to see turtles in Kihei is at Maluaka Beach which is also commonly referred to as ‘turtle town’ by many locals.
There seems to be several different ‘turtle towns’ in Maui but the one at Maluaka Beach is one of the best in Hawaii for swimming with turtles.
Here’s where you’ll find it on the map:
This beach is still relatively unknown to a lot of tourists meaning it doesn’t get super busy. That means no fighting with the crowds to get a glimpse of a turtle!
The best spot for swimming with turtles is at the south end of the beach where you’ll find a vibrant coral reef. The water is super clear here which means you’ll get a great view.
As well as turtles, you’ll likely be able to see tons of tropical fish, moray eels, octopus and even humpback whales at certain times of the year.
For the best chance of seeing turtles here, I’d recommend joining a snorkeling tour like this one.
The knowledgeable guides know the exact spots where you’re basically guaranteed to find turtles and it gives you the opportunity to learn more about them from the people that know them best.
This area also has tons of little caves which the turtles love to hang around in. These are super fun to explore.
Insider Tip: The marine life at Maluaka Beach is most active early in the morning so try to arrive as early as you can.
2. Wailea Beach
Just a 10 minute drive south of Kihei is Wailea Beach which is another great place to find sea turtles.
This beautiful beach has a more secluded and wild feel to it compared to many of Maui’s other more popular beaches which feel more commercialized.
It’s a great beach to spend the whole day at as the sand is super wide meaning there is plenty of space for everyone.
Make sure you bring along your snorkeling equipment or try renting a kayak to get an up close view of the turtles.
If you’re new to snorkeling then I’d recommend joining this snorkeling tour for beginners which takes place in Wailea Beach.
Your guide will help you get the most out of your time, helping you to see as many turtles as possible!
For something a bit different, you can join a sea scooter tour like this one. If you’ve never ridden a sea scooter before then you’re in for a treat!
You’ll effortlessly be able to glide along underwater while looking out for sea turtles.
There are plenty of them present in the ocean just in front of the beach meaning you’ll actually have a hard time not seeing one!
The turtles also come onto the sand itself from time to time for a well deserved rest.
As well as turtles, if you’re super lucky you might spot a dolphin too! At certain times of year, you can even go whale watching in Maui at this beach.
3. Makena Landing Park
Another great place where you can snorkel with turtles in Kihei is at Makena Landing Park.
This oceanfront park in Kihei has a soft, sandy beach and is popular with families who come to take part in a range of water-based activities like snorkeling and kayaking.
This beach is pretty famous for its sleepy turtles! Yep, that’s right it’s not uncommon to see lots of turtles napping on the sand at this beach.
You’ll also be able to see turtles if you get into the water yourself. Don’t forget your snorkel gear.
You can join a kayaking tour like this one that includes a snorkeling with turtles activity. This is a super fun way to get out onto the water and meet the turtles face to face.
Here’s the sorts of sights you can expect at Makena Landing Park:
The water here is pretty calm making it ideal for most levels of swimmer. You’ll find the best snorkeling spots around the edge of the bay.
Just look out for the bright, colorful corals and the turtles will be easy to find. Turtles are super common here and you’re basically guaranteed to spot at least one or two.
4. 5 Graves
5 Graves, also sometimes referred to as 5 Caves, is another great place where you can see turtles in Kihei.
5 Graves is a well known snorkeling spot located along Makena Road in Kihei.
Giant sea turtles are commonly spotted resting on the sea shore or swimming in the ocean. As well as turtles, you’ll get to explore healthy coral reefs and see tons of tropical fish.
I’d recommend joining a kayaking and snorkeling tour to get the best out of your trip. You’ll get the chance to swim with turtles and explore an underground cave! What’s not to like?!
5 Graves can be difficult to navigate for the first time and it’s fairly deep so you’ll want to go with a guide if you’re new to the area.
5 Graves is actually one of the only turtle caves in Maui so you should definitely add this to your itinerary.
Although snorkeling here is fantastic, this area is really well known as being an excellent scuba diving location (the best in Maui according to the locals).
Many divers love it as you can access it from the beach meaning you don’t need to pay for a boat to take you out there.
Most of the best spots are a bit too deep for snorkelers and as a diver, you will need to be prepared to swim a little to reach them.
If you make the effort, you’ll get the chance to explore a series of underwater caves that are home to a variety of interesting creatures (some of which can only be found in Hawaii).
Take a look at what you can see at 5 Graves (or 5 Caves) in the video below:
Whether you want to snorkel or scuba dive, 5 Graves can offer that once-in-a-lifetime experience of being able to swim with turtles.
5. Ulua Beach
Another place where you can swim with turtles in Kihei is at Ulua Beach.
This crescent-shaped beach is one of Kihei’s best kept secrets (shh, keep it to yourself!).
This beach is specifically great for beginner snorkelers and families with kids as the water is super calm here and the turtles come really close to the shore.
You’ll find a rough-looking outcrop at the north end of the beach. This is the best place for snorkeling as you’ll find a healthy coral reef teeming with marine life.
Take a look at the sort of sights you can expect at Ulua Beach in the video below:
This area is pretty shallow which is again ideal for kids and weaker swimmers. You won’t have to swim far out to see mesmerizing ocean life at Ulua Beach.
Whilst this beach doesn’t often come up in lists of the best places to spot turtles in Maui, it definitely should.
Ask any local and they’ll probably tell you that Ulua Beach is the best place to see turtles in Kihei.
6. Kamaole Beach III
Kamaole Beach III is one of the best spots in Kihei itself where you have a high chance of seeing sea turtles.
This popular Kihei beach is a favorite of families. In particular, it’s mostly known for boogie-boarding (essentially bodyboarding).
You’ll see tons of turtles resting on the beach. In fact, this beach is pretty famous for having two enormous resident turtles that live on the beach permanently.
The north side of the beach is the best for snorkeling. Here you’ll find healthy, colorful corals, large shoals of tropical fish and, of course, Hawaiian green sea turtles.
Take a look at the sea turtles spotted at Kamaole Beach III in Kihei in the video below:
You don’t get huge waves here making it an ideal snorkel spot for kids and less confident swimmers.
7. Keawakapu Beach
Another one of the best beaches for turtles in Kihei is Keawakapu Beach.
This scenic and calm beach is a great place to go snorkeling as there’s a large population of turtles that call it home.
Turtles are commonly spotted swimming really close to the shore so if you go for a swim, don’t be surprised if you’re joined by a turtle (or ‘honu’ as the Hawaiians call them).
Here’s what you can expect from Keawakapu Beach:
You’ll also find turtles laying on the sand, taking a rest. Keawakapu Beach is one of the best places to watch turtles from the shore so it’s ideal for those who don’t like swimming.
This stunning beach is one of my personal favorites and is located right at the southernmost point of Kihei, bordering nearby Wailea.
Insider Tip: Stay for sunset as the views from this beach are just magical. You can see the western part of Maui from the shores, it’s so stunning!
8. Charley Young Beach
Another place in Kihei where you can see turtles is at Charley Young Beach.
This little beach isn’t very well known to tourists, it’s more of a local’s secret making it very quiet and peaceful.
And the best part? There’s turtles!
Check out the beautiful turtle spotted at Charley Young Beach in the video below:
The beach itself is located at the northern point of the Kamaole I Beach. It’s kinda difficult to know when one beach ends and the next begins but if you keep walking to the end, you’ll get there.
Hawaiian green sea turtles can often be found laying on the sand on this beach. If you spot one, remember not to get too close and just watch from a distance.
There is also a small coral reef at the far end of the beach where you’ll often find a few turtles swimming around, foraging for food.
9. Chang’s Beach
Chang’s Beach, also known as Po’olenalena Beach Park, is another one of the absolute best places to see turtles in Kihei, Maui.
Turtles can commonly be seen swimming close to the shore, searching for some lunch or basking on the sand in the sun.
The beach features a small cove which is protected from the wind meaning the water is super calm. This provides the perfect environment for snorkeling.
Chang’s Beach, if I do say so myself, is a snorkelers paradise! You’ll be met with vibrant coral reefs, huge squads of turtles, tropical fish and even the odd eel or two.
And that’s not even the best bit. This beach is still relatively unknown meaning it’s usually pretty quiet and virtually never crowded.
You’ll find a small rock pool at one end of the beach which is ideal for kids, especially really little ones.
Insider Tip: There’s no restrooms on this beach (I found out the hard way) so plan accordingly.
10. Ho’okipa Beach Park
If you don’t mind traveling a little bit out of Kihei then another great place to see turtles is at Ho’okipa Beach Park.
This beach park is just a 30 minute drive from Kihei and let me tell you, the drive is totally worth it!
Huge sea turtles resting on the beach itself are a common sight as are turtles swimming close to the shore. In fact, you’ll often see groups of 15 or more resting on the sand at any one time.
You don’t even need to get into the water to observe them here which is great for those who don’t enjoy swimming.
Check out the huge sea turtles resting on Ho’okipa Beach in the video below:
There is also a healthy coral reef located right by the shore where turtles (and other marine life) live meaning you can easily get into the water and swim right beside them if you like.
This beach is also a popular windsurfing destination so it can get crowded at times but if you’re just here to see the turtles on the beach then you’ll still manage to get a good view.
Insider Tip: The waves can be strong here so I wouldn’t recommend swimming at Ho’okipa Beach Park for weak swimmers or small children.
Best Time of Year to See Turtles in Maui
Whilst you can easily see turtles in Maui at any time of year, the summer months from May to September are definitely the best time of year to spot them.
During the summer months, the water is warmer and calmer which provides the ideal environment for turtles meaning their numbers are higher.
Don’t worry if you’re not visiting between May and September though as there are resident populations of turtles in Maui that stick around all year round.
You’ll often spot turtles soaking up the sun on the beaches, swimming close to the shore looking for food or munching on seaweed.
Best Time of Day to See Turtles in Maui
The best time of day to see turtles in Maui is in the morning and early afternoon from around 7AM until 2PM.
This is when the turtles are most active so you have a higher chance of seeing one.
They also tend to be a bit more active around sunset time.
It is definitely possible to see turtles at any time of day in Maui however you’ll have a higher chance of seeing turtles if you visit the locations listed in this post in the morning.
If you book onto a snorkeling tour in Kihei, you’ll find that most of them take part in the morning due to high turtle activity.
Tips For Swimming With Turtles In Kihei
If you’re planning on swimming with turtles in Kihei then there are a couple of things you should know before you jump in.
First of all, all of the different turtle species in Hawaii are endangered so we gotta do our part to make sure we don’t harm them.
Here’s a few tips:
- Don’t be too loud. Try to be quiet when swimming up to a turtle as loud noises may scare them away.
- Do not touch the turtle. Turtles are wild animals and should be respected.
- Wear reef-safe sunscreen. Regular sunscreen damages coral reefs which negatively impacts turtles. Wear a reef-safe sunscreen to protect them.
- Do not get too close. You could frighten the turtle and they could bite you if they get really scared (don’t worry, this is super rare!).
- Do not feed the turtles. They don’t need any help finding food.
- Always approach a turtle from the side. This gives them a clear view of you and a clear path ahead of them so they can swim onwards if they want.
- Don’t disrupt the turtle’s natural behavior. You can enjoy the turtles by watching them do their thing but try not to disturb them.
These key tips aim to protect both you and the turtles so keep them in mind.
So there you have it, that’s all of the best places where you can see turtles in Kihei!
Whether you’re looking to swim and snorkel with these majestic creatures or just catch a glimpse of one in their natural habitat, you’re sure to have the best time.
And don’t forget to bring along an underwater camera to snap some amazing turtle selfies!
Mahalo for reading and happy turtle-spotting!