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Where To See Turtles In Lahaina, Maui – Complete Guide

Are you ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Imagine swimming alongside sea turtles in the crystal clear waters of Lahaina, Maui. 

In this post, I’ll tell you all of the best spots to see turtles in Lahaina 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 Lahaina

Lahaina is actually the best place to see turtles in Maui (in my opinion).

Located on Maui’s northwestern coast, Hawaii’s ex-capital city is now a tourist hotspot known for its beautiful beaches and charming streets which are lined with shops, restaurants and art galleries.

Lahaina is also an excellent snorkeling and diving location meaning you have the unique opportunity to be able to explore an exciting underwater world here!

You can swim with turtles in Lahaina at several different spots and locations (I list them all below).

For the best chance of swimming with turtles, I’d recommend booking onto this snorkeling excursion which includes all your snorkeling equipment, lunch and a guide.

It also includes a whale watching activity if you book during the winter months (Dec-April)!

If you’d prefer not to get too wet then you can join this kayak tour in Lahaina instead and watch the turtles from the comfort of your kayak. 

You’ll glide up and down Lahaina’s impressive coastline searching for turtles, eagle rays, dolphins and more.

Below I’ll go into depth on the exact spots and locations where you can see turtles in Lahaina.

Turtle Town

Hands down, the best place to see turtles in Lahaina is in Turtle Town which is a snorkeling site located inside Lahaina Harbor.

If you ask anyone where Turtle Town is you’ll likely get 5 different answers. It seems that there are several different snorkeling spots in Maui that the locals call ‘Turtle Town’.

Lahaina’s Turtle Town is generally considered to be just in front of Mala Pier. It is difficult to access alone so you will need to join some form of tour to reach it.

Here’s what you can expect when snorkeling in Lahaina’s Turtle Town:

I personally recommend joining this snorkeling tour which takes you to Turtle Town, provides you with all the necessary snorkeling equipment and even includes lunch.

For something a bit more fun and unique, you can actually join a sea scooter tour instead!

If you’ve never ridden a sea scooter before then you’re in for a treat. You’ll be able to effortlessly glide through the ocean with little effort at all whilst admiring the ocean life as you go.

Map showing the location of Lahaina's Turtle Town.
Map showing the location of Lahaina’s Turtle Town.

Olowalu Reef

Olowalu Reef is another one of the absolute best places to see turtles in Lahaina (it’s actually my personal favorite on this list!).

Olowalu Reef stretches for over 3,000 ft meaning that it’s actually Maui’s largest reef. As you can imagine, it’s packed to the brim with interesting marine life.

Here’s what it looks like:

If you choose to snorkel at Olowalu Reef, you’ll be able to see Hawaiian green sea turtles, manta rays, monk seals and maybe even black tip reef sharks (don’t worry, they’re harmless).

This area actually has the 4th biggest manta ray population in the world! If that’s not worth a visit, I don’t know what is.

Additionally, the Olowalu Reef is home to some of Maiu’s oldest (and healthiest) coral reefs. You’ll find several giant coral head formations that are over 500 years old here!

The easiest way to visit this reef is by joining a kayak and snorkeling tour. It can be tricky finding this reef on your own so going with a guide makes it so much easier.

As well as snorkeling with turtles and tropical fish, you’ll get to explore Maui’s coastal scenery and the incredible views of Ukumehame Valley.

Map showing the location of Olowalu Reef.
Map showing the location of Olowalu Reef.

Airport Beach

Airport Beach, also known as Kahekili Beach Park, is considered by many locals to be the best beach to see turtles in Maui.

As it doesn’t get anywhere near as busy as some of Maui’s other beaches, Airport Beach provides the perfect atmosphere for swimming with turtles as you won’t have to fight the crowds to see them.

My favorite thing about Airport Beach (apart from how quiet it is!) is that it has super calm waters all year round. 

I’m a bit of a nervous swimmer and a lot of Hawaii’s beaches have big waves so this beach is absolutely perfect.

As well as being an excellent snorkeling location where you can swim with turtles, at certain times of year, you can even go whale watching!

Check out the beautiful turtle spotted at Airport Beach in the video below:

The water here is super clear so you’ll get an excellent view of the famous Hawaiian green sea turtles (or ‘honu’ as the locals call them). 

Moray eels, tropical fish and colorful coral are also common here.

Map showing the location of Airport Beach.
Map showing the location of Airport Beach.

Launiupoko Beach Park

Another one of the best places in Lahaina to see sea turtles is at Launiupoko Beach Park.

This area features a natural pool that is surrounded by a lava rock wall which shelters it from the wind meaning the water is always pretty calm.

It’s especially ideal for families with kids and it’s actually a really popular place to learn to surf for the first time!

Whilst there isn’t a reef here, turtles pop up all the time to say hi to the surfers and swimmers.

Map showing the location of Launiupoko Beach Park.
Map showing the location of Launiupoko Beach Park.

Black Rock Beach

Black Rock Beach is another top location where you can see turtles in Lahaina. It’s very easy to access as it’s right next to the main resort area of Lahaina.

A resident population of turtles call this place home year round meaning it’s pretty easy to see them. 

They spend their days lounging around on the beach and munching on seaweed. 

Take a swim in the water itself and you might get that once-in-a-lifetime experience of being able to swim alongside one!

Check out the sort of sights you can expect at Black Rock Beach in the video below:

Insider Tip: The turtles at Black Rock Beach are most active during the mornings and early afternoon.

The main downside to this beach is that it does get very busy. 

Due to the large turtle population and its proximity to the main resort area, this beach gets packed so you may find it hard to get a good view of the turtles.

At this point, the turtles that live here are used to the people but it’s still a good idea to give them some space.

Map showing the location of Black Rock Beach.
Map showing the location of Black Rock Beach.

Kapalua Bay

Another great spot near Lahaina where you can swim with turtles is in Kapalua Bay which is just a 17-minute drive from Lahaina meaning you can easily visit on a day trip.

The bay itself is a horseshoe shape meaning that the water in the middle is partially protected on each side by lava rocks. This makes it ideal for beginners and kids as the water is pretty calm.

Kapalua Bay is excellent for snorkeling and swimming. It’s definitely worth the 17-minute drive from Lahaina!

Sea life is so abundant here. In fact, you’ll have a hard time not seeing green sea turtles and various species of tropical fish.

Check out the sorts of sights you can expect at Kapalua Bay in the video below:

Not only is this beach great for swimming with turtles but it’s often voted as ‘America’s Best Beach’ due to its beauty. It’s like something straight out of a travel brochure to be honest!

To see the turtles, head just off the shore where you’ll find an area filled with coral and seagrass. You’ll usually find the turtles searching for some lunch here.

Insider Tip: Kapalua Bay can get super busy so if you’re driving, I’d recommend arriving as early as possible to get a spot in the car park.

Map showing the location of Kapalua Bay.
Map showing the location of Kapalua Bay.

Honolua Bay

Another place where you can snorkel with turtles near Lahaina is at Honolua Bay.

Honolua Bay is just an 18-minute drive from Lahaina so you can easily visit this area on a day trip.

This historical harbor is now one of Maui’s top snorkeling spots and it’s easy to see why.

Ask anyone on the island and they’ll probably tell you that Honolua Bay is the best place to see turtles in Maui.

Within the bay, you’ll find a vibrant coral garden and thick seagrass beds which make an ideal habitat for green sea turtles.

Check out the beautiful sea turtle spotted at Honolua Bay in the video below:

As well as turtles, you’ll get the chance to swim alongside huge shoals of fish, octopus, eels, sea cucumbers and more.

In the summer months, you’re basically guaranteed to see turtles here! In the winter, snorkeling can be a bit more difficult due to the strong waves (but surfing is still an option).

Insider Tip: Make sure you wear water shoes whilst snorkeling at Honolua Bay as the seafloor is made of rock and not sand.

Map showing the location of Honolua Bay.
Map showing the location of Honolua Bay.

Can You See Turtles at Kaanapali Beach?

I’m often asked if you’re able to see turtles at Kaanapali Beach in Lahaina and the answer is yes!

Kaanapali Beach is actually my favorite place to see turtles from the shore in Maui.

Just take a walk along the shore and you’ll likely see many turtles basking in the sun, resting on the rocks. Look closely as some blend into the dark colored rocks!

If you want to see turtles on the beach in Maui then Kaanapali Beach is your best bet.

Map showing the location of Kaanapali Beach.
Map showing the location of Kaanapali Beach.

Slaughterhouse Beach

Although its name is a bit icky, Slaughterhouse Beach is another one of the best places to swim with turtles from Lahaina.

Don’t ask me where the name comes from as I don’t know (and I don’t want to know).

It’s just a 17-minute drive from Lahaina Town meaning it’s super easy to visit on a day trip.

Your chances of seeing turtles here are not just high, they are huge! In fact, you’ll likely be swimming with tens of turtles as soon as you arrive.

I love this beach because it’s much quieter than many of Maui’s other more popular beaches so you can find a bit of peace and quiet here.

Map showing the location of Slaughterhouse Beach.
Map showing the location of Slaughterhouse Beach.

💡Helpful Tip: If you’re looking to escape the crowds then why not stay in Kihei instead. It’s like Lahaina but quieter and there’s tons of places to see turtles in Kihei too!

Hanakao’o Beach Park

And last but not least, another great place in Lahaina where you can see turtles is at Hanakao’o Beach Park.

It’s located near to the hugely popular Black Rock Beach (which has a large turtle population) but is much quieter so you’ll get more 1-on-1 time with the turtles here.

Come in the morning and you’ll likely spot some turtles swimming around close to the shore or munching on some algae.

Check out the huge turtle sunbathing on Hanakao’o Beach in the video below:

I like to think that some of the turtles from Black Rock Beach come over here when they’ve had enough of being ogled at by tourists as it’s much less crowded.

You can also usually spot migrating whales from this beach during the winter months (from December to April).

Map showing the location of Hanakao'o Beach Park.
Map showing the location of Hanakao’o Beach Park.

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 see them.

During the summer, 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 during the summer though as there are resident populations of turtles in Maui that stick around all year long.

You’ll often spot turtles basking in the sun on the beaches, swimming close to the shore looking for food or munching on seagrass.

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 still 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 time.

If you look to book onto a snorkeling tour in Lahaina, you’ll find that most of them take part in the morning due to high turtle activity.

Tips For Swimming With Turtles In Lahaina

If you’re going to be swimming with turtles in Lahaina then there’s a few things you should know.

Remember that all of the different turtle species present in the waters around Hawaii are endangered so it’s really important that we do all we can to protect them.

Here’s a few tips:

  • Don’t be too loud. Try to be as quiet as possible when swimming up to a turtle as loud noises will 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. This might scare 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 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 if they want to swim onwards.
  • 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 there you have it folks, that’s all the best spots to see turtles in Lahaina! 

Whether you’re looking to swim and snorkel with these gentle giants or just catch a glimpse of them in their natural habitat, you’re sure to have a turtle-tastic time. 

Just remember to respect their space and never touch or feed them. 

And don’t forget to bring your underwater camera to snap some amazing turtle selfies! 

Mahalo for reading and happy turtle-spotting!

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Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

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