Molokini Crater: The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide


If you are an avid snorkeling or diving enthusiast, then a trip to Molokini Crater is absolutely essential. Not only is it ranked as one of the world’s top 100 diving spots, but its back wall has been acclaimed worldwide for its stunning views and impressive inhabitants.

There is abundant marine life living right inside and around the crater. Due to its sheltered location, you don’t need to venture too far out before encountering some truly majestic sea creatures. 

From coral reef gardens and schools of fish, Molokini Crater offers an experience that makes you feel at one with nature while taking in some incredible sights and sounds.

What Is the Molokini Crater?

Molokini Crater is a volcanic atoll in Maui County, Hawaii. It’s located about 2.5 miles west off the coast of Maui. Spanning 1770 ft in diameter with an area of 23 acres, it’s one of only three volcanic calderas in the world. 

The site offers some of the best snorkeling opportunities and stunning underwater views. This makes it a must-visit destination for anyone looking for an adventure or just some much-deserved relaxation.

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How Was Molokini Crater Formed?

This unique formation was created approximately 230,000 years ago by a hotspot volcano that blew its top, leaving behind what they call a ‘crater within a crater.’ 

During World War II, Molokini Crater was used as a target practice. Even today, you can observe bomb impact craters and markings from bullets and shrapnel. 

Today, the blue waters of Molokini are surrounded by gorgeous coral reefs that are teeming with marine life and vibrant colors. This makes it popular among snorkeling and diving enthusiasts looking for an up-close interaction with exotic sea creatures. 

Is Molokini Crater Deep?

Scuba diver under water
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Molokini Crater in Maui, Hawaii, is rather deep. The partially submerged crater itself drops all the way down to 250-300 feet, although some areas are also accessible for snorkelers at relatively shallow depths. 

If you plan to scuba dive here, you must have the right open water diver certification. There are various types of diving certifications, each allowing you to go to a certain depth. Make sure you have the right one before booking any Molokini Crater tours. 

How Deep Is the Molokini Back Wall?

The Molokini Back Wall has been described as an underwater wonderland, but how far does its splendor actually stretch? Some reports state that the amazing wall plunges all the way to a depth of 300 feet. This is an advanced drift dive and requires advanced certification as you’ll descend down to 100 feet in the beginning of your dive.

Three scuba divers swimming past a coral reef and a school of colorful fish
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From vivid coral gardens, schools of fish, and other sea creatures to mysterious black lava tubes rising from the depths, visitors can experience a world of beauty found nowhere else on Earth. In rare cases, mother humpback whales and their calves have been spotted on the back wall and are an incredible experience.

So, go ahead and take a Molokini back wall dive to discover for yourself just how deep Molokini’s hidden secrets really are!

Are Molokini Crater and Turtle Town the Same?

Many Maui tours take you to visit Molokini Crater and Turtle Town. Contrary to popular belief, Molokini and Turtle Town, also known as Turtle Cove, are actually two entirely different spots on the west side of Maui. 

The former is a crescent-shaped extinct volcanic crater off the west coast of Makena State Park and south of Maalaea Harbor in Maui. It’s become an iconic spot for snorkeling and diving. Meanwhile, the latter is a series of rocky inlets with sheltered bays located close to Maluaka Beach. It offers an abundance of sea turtles. 

Both areas boast incredible sea life, but Turtle Town’s protected shoreline also makes it popular for paddle boarding and swimming. In addition to that, there are no sea turtles at Molokini. Therefore, many tours take visitors to both locations to provide a more well-rounded Maui experience.  

If you’d like to see both, check out tours that combine the two. Your boat will take you on a Molokini snorkeling or diving adventure first and conclude with a snorkel trip at Turtle Town. Tours provide rental diving and snorkeling equipment, and most boats also have flotation devices. 

Sea turtle
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What Can You Do at Molokini Crater?

Molokini offers a variety of exciting activities and things to do, making it the perfect destination for any adventurous traveler exploring Maui. 

Whether you’re an avid scuba diver, simply want to spend some time relaxing on a luxury triple-decker catamaran, or have the best snorkeling experience, Molokini has you covered.

Molokini Crater Snorkeling 

If you’re looking for a unique snorkeling experience, a Molokini snorkel tour should be at the top of your list! What other spot out there offers the combination of dramatic volcanic views and crystal clear waters teeming with sea life? 

Snorkeling around this crescent, you’ll get close to some of Hawaii’s most exotic species of fish, as well as other marine animals and plants. 

An unforgettable Molokini Crater snorkeling adventure is guaranteed. Be sure to bring your snorkel gear to experience Molokini and its hidden gems! 

Scuba Diving

Scuba diving
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The waters surrounding the Hawaiian island of Maui are a fantastic destination for anyone looking to go scuba diving. The sunken crater of Molokini, which juts out from above the waves near the shore like an alien spacecraft, is a very unique and sought-after diving spot. 

For scuba divers, this place provides plenty of options. You can dive into the crater itself as well as explore the depths of its back wall. So, if getting up close with Pacific Ocean wildlife sounds like fun, then why not give it a try? If the current isn’t too strong, your dive guide may take you to the reef’s end to view the drop-off into the blue, where pelagic mantas and whale sharks can be spotted on rare occasions.

If you’re an Open Water dive student, training dives 4 and 5 may be conducted; however, you will not be able to complete the initial dives due to the risk of damaging the delicate coral.

Whale Watching

Humpback whale jumping over the sea
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Even though it’s known mainly as a diving and snorkeling paradise, Molokini is also the ideal spot to whale watch from a boat in the winter months. 

From December through March, which is winter in Maui, majestic humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Maui and Molokini and put on quite a show. These whales come here to breed and give birth in these warm sheltered waters, and you can be right there to witness it! 

Local tours aim to make sure you make the most of your time here. So, after glimpsing some of nature’s most remarkable creatures and feasting your eyes on their unforgettable breaching and tail-slapping performances, you can also enjoy a Molokini snorkeling experience and see amazing aquatic life afterward.

What Can You See at Molokini Crater?

Molokini Islet provides visitors with breathtaking views and an aquatic paradise. At this incredible diving and snorkeling destination, you can find some of the clearest waters and most vibrant coral reef ecosystems in the world. 

With these perfect conditions, a wide variety of sea creatures have made it their home, from bright tropical fish and moray eels to manta rays. There’s even the chance that you may spot humpback whales breaching during winter months. 

The possibilities are truly endless at Molokini Crater. So, bring your dive or snorkel equipment and your camera. You’ll want to memorize what you see!

Are There Sharks in Molokini Crater?

Many want to enjoy the breathtaking views of the Molokini underwater world. Yet, one of the most common questions many people have when they’re doing research on Hawaii is whether there are reef sharks in Molokini Crater. 

The answer is a shocking yes! At Molokini, scuba divers can expect to encounter reef sharks, such as the gray reef and white-tip shark, but they most likely won’t come too close. 

Are There Dolphins in Molokini Crater?

Pod of dolphins
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Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins can be spotted around Molokini as they make their way through the sometimes choppy waters. From quickly leaping out of the water to gracefully turning upside down to get some air, it’s exciting to watch the impressive acrobatics of these playful creatures. 

Whether backpack across Maui Island or take a boat ride or a Molokini snorkel trip, keep your eyes peeled for a few special guests that may have come to say aloha!

Is Molokini Crater Worth It? 

Molokini Crater is an amazing experience worth having, especially on a clear day! Offering visibility of up to 150 meters and a whopping array of marine life, it guarantees an endless adventure beneath the surface. 

With its crystal-clear waters and vibrant coral reefs, the island is perfect for snorkelers and divers alike. 

Whether you’re a first-timer or a veteran diver, it’s sure to take your breath away. So, why would anyone want to miss out on this beautiful opportunity? 

When Is the Best Time to Visit Molokini?

September, October, and November tend to be the best months for Molokini snorkeling and diving adventures. Since kids are back at school, there are fewer tourists, and temperatures are still relatively warm. 

If you plan to watch whales, come during whale season, which is between November and May.  

For the ultimate Molokini experience, book a trip to the sought-after sunken caldera in the early morning, just after sunrise. It’s most likely that there will be few (if any) other people around. It’s also when the sun casts a brilliant golden hue on all its wonders. 

If you don’t want to wake up before dawn for an early morning tour, wait until sunset. You’ll be able to witness a sky full of stars above Molokini’s majestic cliff. 

Rest assured, though, that regardless of what time you choose, it’s sure to be an unforgettable adventure!

How Can You Reach Molokini Crater in Maui?

Checking out Molokini when you’re visiting Maui is a surprisingly simple endeavor! It involves taking a scenic boat tour, complete with welcome cocktails, continental breakfast, buffet lunch, or light snacks, and lots of new friends! 

Most boats depart from Makena and Kihei Boat Ramp in Maui’s southwestern coast and take a zigzag route near caves, lava tubes, and other interesting ocean formations on the way. 

Some companies provide full-day tours packed with swimming, paddling, and exploring before returning to land. Make sure not to forget your sunblock!

Can You Swim to Molokini Crater?

No matter how strong of a swimmer you are, swimming to Molokini Crater from Maui is not possible. You’ll need to get on a boat from Maui if you would like to explore Molokini Island. 

Anchoring at Molokini is forbidden because it can damage the coral reef, and commercial boats have to secure a permit for mooring. Since there are limited mooring spots, so is the number of boats that offer tours there. 

Make sure to book early so that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the Molokini Crater.

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Molokini Wildlife Conservation Efforts

Molokini is home to 250 species of fish and other marine creatures. As a result, it offers some of the richest biodiversity in the Hawaiian Islands.

As such, visitors to this protected site must remember to visit respectfully so as not to disrupt the fragile balance of its delicate ecosystems.

Molokini Shoal Marine Life Conservation District

A few years ago, the state of Hawaii created the marine preserve around the crater to help protect it from human harm. As part of this effort, commercial fishing, as well as any kind of watercraft, except dive and snorkel tour boats, are strictly prohibited. 

In addition to that, Molokini Crater is also a federally owned and protected Hawaii state seabird sanctuary. Several nesting bird species can be found here, and landing is prohibited. 

The goal is to keep this oasis pristine, allowing people to marvel at its splendor without damaging anything in the process.

When visiting, no fishing, gathering, or souvenir-taking is allowed in order to preserve the habitat. Likewise, boating, hunting and even diving should be done responsibly and with endangered species conservation in mind.

So when you go on a trip to Molokini Crater, don’t forget that Molokini’s unique and exquisite animal life needs our protection and care.

5 Tips to Have an Unforgettable Molokini Experience

Here are our top tips to have an unforgettable Molokini experience:

Do Your Research Ahead of Time

Plan out the activities that you are most interested in. This will help ensure that you have a well-rounded Molokini experience, with plenty of opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, sighting nesting birds from afar, and exploring the beautiful marine life that calls this area home.

Use Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Make sure you use coral reef-safe sunscreen when diving or snorkeling at Molokini. Regular sunscreens contain chemicals that can be damaging to the delicate ocean environment. 

Avoid the Temptation to Climb Molokini Crater

It is a truly unique area full of nesting birds, fascinating plants, and marine animals. So, you shouldn’t do anything that would alter its pristine environment. Not only could you be facing a hefty fine, but it’s also morally wrong to disturb the area and leave a trace.

Listen to Your Tour Guides and Instructors

Reputable boat tours are led by professional guides and instructors who know all the ins and outs of this incredible nature reserve. So, sit back, relax, and trust them to equip you with all the knowledge you need to get the most out of your exquisite Molokini experience.

Book a Tour or Boat Ride Early

Make sure to book your Molokini snorkel or dive tours before you head to Maui. It’s not possible to see this closely-guarded spot without a tour, and most boat tours fill up quickly. 

Last but not least, arrive early so that you don’t miss your boat,

Explore Molokini Crater with WildVoice

If you’d like to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience and travel respectfully, WildVoice can be your guide. We offer a wide range of Maui tours, including exclusive Molokini Crater snorkeling and diving tours so that you can explore the marine reserve. 

Our sustainable practices help keep the stunning environment of this gentle Hawaiian paradise pristine and unspoiled. Don’t miss out on a prime opportunity to explore with us. Book your excursion to the amazing Molokini today!

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