Molokini crater


Molokini is a rare, partially-submerged volcanic crater.

It is located just a few miles off Maui’s shore and is Hawaii’s only island marine sanctuary. Scientists believe Molokini Crater formed about 150 thousand years ago.

Molokini rises from 300 feet below the ocean’s surface and is just under a half-mile wide and peaks at about 160 feet above sea level with half of it being hidden under the surface of the ocean. Divers and snorkelers flock from all around the world to experience the incredible underwater marine life.



Island marine preserve

The isolation of Molokini Crater creates a unique snorkeling experience. There are significant reasons why snorkeling at Molokini is so special. The quality of the water surrounding Molokini is superior, providing unsurpassed clarity. Visibility is consistently excellent, often in excess of 150 feet. Molokini is rock, with no soil to wash down into the water.

Absent of sediment, the water is amazingly clear allowing excellent sunlight penetration. This enhanced sunlight feeds the algae living inside the coral. Offshore currents bring food, while flushing away what little sediment exists. The result is a uniquely healthy coral reef providing unsurpassed snorkeling. Located in the middle of Molokini, this reef is protected from waves and surges.

Best Molokini Maui Hawaii Coral Reef Snorkel Adventure Cruise Underwater Sea Life Maui Snorkel Experience

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Inside the sheltered arms of the crater, Molokini is an amazing underwater Marine Sanctuary. Underwater at Molokini is a flourishing coral reef, where thousands of fish and marine animals cohabitate. Molokini’s shallow reef is teeming with a wide variety of colorful and fascinating fish and marine animals. You will experience a rare opportunity to closely observe the marine life at Molokini.

Your Molokini snorkel adventure is one you will cherish and not soon forget! Molokini is the ultimate snorkeling experience, and because of its crystal clear sheltered waters, Molokini snorkeling is a safe and unique adventure for the entire family. From its shallow calm waters, diverse marine life and beautiful coral reef, Molokini is superb.

Molokini Island was declared a Marine Life Conservation District in 1977. Since then, with increased concerns and interest in the health of Hawaii’s Reefs, the State of Hawaii in partnership with the University of Hawaii monitors the water quality and coral coverage at Molokini. Commercial operators including the Pride of Maui work together to protect Molokini, removing nothing from its waters.

Passenger vessels are tied to moorings, instead of dropping anchors on the reef. Fish and marine animals are not fed or harassed. From visitors to those of us who make a living by sharing the amazing beauty of Molokini with others, we’re all stewards and our protective measures are vital to the future sustainability of Molokini.

Seabirds crowd the steep slopes of Molokini. There are two primary species of nesting birds, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Bulwer’s Petrels. Over a thousand pairs nest in the rocky cliffs. The vast majority are Shearwaters, which feed at sea during the day, returning to their nests and chicks at night.

Brown Boobies also roost at Molokini, along with large Frigate birds, whose wingspan can reach 7 feet across. The Frigate birds with superior flying skills harass other seabirds until they drop their food, which the Frigate bird recovers in mid-air. Hawaiians named them Iwa birds, which translated means thief.


Which one will you choose?

You can sail to Molokini Crater in two ways. On the smaller Leilani, with a capacity of up to 40 people, or a larger catamaran Pride of Maui for up to 149 people.

Important info to know

Molokini Crater history

During World War II, Molokini was used for target practice. Bombing and strafing left impact craters, shrapnel, and bullets along the slopes of Molokini, still visible today. It is believed that roosting and nesting birds avoided Molokini during the War, because of target practice and strafing maneuvers.

Molokini Crater Maui World History

Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater

Questions about the destination?

Can you walk to Molokini?

No. Molokini is an islet, roughly 2.5 miles away from Maui. It can only be reached on a Maui boat trip.

Can you swim to Molokini?

No, you can’t swim to Molokini Crater. There are a few main areas on Maui from where boats depart. Maalaea Harbor is the most convenient and it’s not far from Molokini.

Are there sharks at Molokini Crater?

Yes, but the sharks found at Molokini are harmless. One of the more common species of shark at Molokini Crater is the whitetip reef shark. This shark gets its name from the white tip on its dorsal fin, and they average 4.5 ft in length. The whitetip shark is docile during the day and can be found cruising along the bottom of the reef.

How deep is the water at Molokini Crater?

Depending on the specific snorkel spot, the depth is 20-50 feet when snorkeling at Molokini Crater. Molokini Crater houses a reef with up to 150 feet of visibility (on the backside and outside of the crescent). This makes Molokini a highly sought-after location for avid divers.

Can you anchor at Molokini?

Anchoring is forbidden. All boats are required to pick up one of the moorings provided by the state. The mooring floats are 3 meters beneath the surface, so someone must dive down to retrieve the pennant.

Can you climb Molokini Crater?

Like the breathtaking marine life, Molokini Crater is a fantastic experience. Trust us, you will want to climb on it, but don’t! Molokini is a partially submerged volcanic crater that forms a small, uninhabited islet and is protected from contact with the general public.

Is Molokini an active volcano?

Molokini islet is the southern rim of an extinct volcanic crater. The shallow inner cove is the crater’s submerged floor. It is the remains of one of the seven Pleistocene epoch volcanoes that formed the prehistoric Maui Nui island during the Quaternary Period of the Cenozoic Era.

Who owns Molokini?

Molokini Crater is owned by the federal government and is a protected Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary, as well as a Marine Life Conservation District. It is home to two species of nesting birds, Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Bulwer’s Petrels. Shearwaters have thin beaks and feed on fish and crustaceans. Bulwer’s Petrels have very long wings and feeds on plankton.

What does Molokini mean in Hawaiian?

Molokini, meaning “Many Ties” in Hawaiian, is an uninhabited islet between Maui and Kahoolawe.

How many species of fish are at Molokini Crater?

There are an estimated 250 species of fish at Molokini, many of them being native to the area. Molokini is also home to an estimated 100 species of algae and 38 hard coral species.

Where is the best snorkeling in Maui?

Snorkeling is possible on all corners of the Island of Maui. For visitors, the best snorkeling is found in the protected coves of South Maui and West Maui. For the ultimate Maui snorkeling experience, visitors can book a #1 Rated Maui Snorkel Tour with Pride of Maui. Our tours visit top Maui snorkel spots like Molokini Crater, Turtle Town, Olowalu, and Coral Gardens.

Is Molokini Crater snorkeling worth it?

Molokini Crater is one of the most incredible places to snorkel in the world! Yes, it is worth it! The best way to snorkel at Molokini is on a guided tour with a Maui boat tour company outfitted with professional and experienced staff.

Is Lanai or Molokini better for snorkeling?

Both Lanai and Molokini offer fantastic snorkeling opportunities. There isn’t a way to compare them because they are unique. Molokini is best reached by boat and easily traversed when staying on the Island of Maui. If you’re visiting Lanai, research the best local snorkel tour guides.

Is Molokini Crater good for snorkeling?

Yes, Molokini Crater is excellent for snorkeling! It’s one of the few volcano islets globally and is famously known for its diverse underwater ecosystem. Molokini is also a rare sea bird refuge. Take advantage of all opportunities to snorkel at Molokini when visiting Maui.

How do you snorkel in Molokini Crater?

The best and only way to snorkel at Molokini is on a Maui boat tour. (Unless you are a marine biologist or oceanographer!). On the Pride of Maui or Leilani, our guests explore snorkeling with experienced Maui snorkel guides on a professional and eco-conscious boat tour. Guests learn about this rare volcano islet and the marine species that dwell in its protected crescent.

How long does it take to snorkel at Molokini?

From our boat slip at Maalaea Harbor, it takes an average of one hour to reach Molokini Crater. Pending wind conditions, the journey can be quicker. Our #1 Rated Molokini Snorkel Tours are 5 hours in total. They allow guests time to experience Molokini best aboard a world-class catamaran.

Is Molokini Crater safe?

Yes, Molokini Crater is very safe when visiting with an experienced captain and crew. When choosing a Maui Snorkel Tour to Molokini Crater, choose a boat company that provides an expert crew, state-of-the-art snorkel, and safety gear. Aboard our world-class catamaran, our guests traverse to Molokini in style, and with stability and comfort always being a priority.

How deep is the water at Molokini Crater?

Molokini Crater houses a reef with up to 150 feet of visibility (on the backside and outside of the crescent). This makes Molokini a highly sought-after location for avid scuba divers. The depth is 20-50 feet when snorkeling at Molokini Crater, pending the specific snorkel spot.

Can kids snorkel at Molokini?

Yes, of course, kids can snorkel at Molokini Crater! Aboard Pride of Maui’s #1 Rated Molokini Snorkel Tour, guests are provided snorkel instruction with an expert-level crew. Our snorkel gear, safety vests, and flotation devices are state-of-the-art, sanitized, and maintained between every use.

Is Molokini Crater safe for kids?

Yes, Molokini is safe for kids. Safety protocols in and out of the water are our #1 priority. Our guests visit this rare volcano islet in comfort and amongst a professional staff. We have that rare insider’s perspective to make your Maui snorkel tour one of the most memorable moments of your life!

Are there sea turtles at Molokini Crater?

The waters surrounding the island of Maui are abundant with sea turtles, and Molokini Crater is no exception. It is possible to snorkel with turtles at Molokini on any morning or afternoon. For the best Molokini snorkeling experience, book a morning tour so you can snorkel when the ocean is at its calmest. Calm conditions allow for better visibility and more opportunities to see Maui’s sea turtles thriving in their natural environment.

Pride of Maui tours

A woman exploring a coral reef on a Maui snorkeling cruise