As a snorkeling enthusiast, one of my favorite parts about visiting Maui is all of its amazing sea turtle-sighting opportunities. And that’s why Turtle Beach — also known as Maluaka Beach in Turtle Town — is always on my must-visit list whenever I’m traveling to the Valley Isle.
If you’ve ever seen a sea turtle in the wild, you know how magical it is to see these graceful green beauties gliding through the water. If you haven’t, don’t worry, visiting Turtle Beach will change that! To help you get started, I’ve put together this guide to Turtle Beach, Maui to give you everything you need to know when visiting this famous spot.
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About Turtle Beach Maui
Turtle Beach or Turtle Town is by far one of the best places to see turtles in Maui. It’s a long stretch of coastline in the southern area of Makena in between One’uli Black Sand Beach and Nahuna Point. Although the exact location of ‘Turtle Beach’ may vary depending on who you ask, most are referring to Maluaka Beach in South Maui.
Maluaka’s sandy bottom and accessible reef make this beach a snorkeler’s paradise. The coral reef is protected and uncrowded, which attracts abundant marine life and, therefore, Maui sea turtles.
Did you know?: Hawaiian green sea turtles are natively known as honu.
How To Get To Turtle Beach Maui
It’s not hard to find Maluaka Beach, as long as you’re in the know! It’s located towards the end of Makena Road as you drive south from Piilani Highway, the main road just south of Wailea. The entrance is just off the main street — 100 meters south of a small parking lot — but because it’s not prominent, many visitors zip on by.
While a popular beach, Turtle Beach is actually less crowded than you might think — in fact, it’s still a relatively hidden gem as far as Maui beaches go. This is great news for visitors that want to enjoy space in and out of the blue water to enjoy everything that Maluaka Beach has to offer.
WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY IN MAUI?
Learn more about the different parts of Maui and the hotels, resorts, and rentals that you should take a look at.
Things To Do At Turtle Beach
As you’ve surely already gathered, swimming with sea turtles is one of the main highlights of visiting Turtle Beach., Since Maluaka is tucked behind grand Haleakala Mountain, the beach is protected from Hawaii’s strong trade winds. The result is calm, iridescent water that’s perfect for swimming, fishing, or simply wading around.
The wide stretch of Turtle Beach’s soft sand also makes for an ideal spot for kids and adults alike to play, relax, sunbathe or play a friendly game of beach volleyball.
There’s also a lot of other types of marine life to discover at Turtle Beach. It’s common for snorkelers to spot a variety of other underwater gems like butterfly fish, angelfish, squirrel fish, butterfly fish, triggerfish, trumpet fish, octopus, moray eels, and more.
If you’re not a fan of snorkeling, sea turtles will often pop their head up from the water so you can watch turtles with ease.
It sure beats going to the aquarium!
Protect Sea Turtles
We all love these majestic creatures in the water but they are need our help. Make sure to respect them and that means, don’t touch them, don’t feed them, stay a safe distance (no harassing), and keep the water clean by wearing reef-safe sunscreen (absolutely no aerosols).
Sea turtles are protected by federal and state law under NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources and Hawai‘i Administrative Rules 13-124: Endangered and threatened wildlife and are also under the Endangered Species Act. Anyone who violates the Endangered Species Act could face civil penalties or criminal charges resulting in up to $50,000 in fines or up to a year in prison.
Sea Turtles Maui Facts
If having an up-close encounter with sea turtles is your main reason for visiting Turtle Beach Maui (and who can blame you?), here are some interesting sea turtles facts that will help you during your search:
Sea turtles like hanging out in shallow water
Only young turtles prefer deeper water where they can feed on living creatures, like jellyfish. As sea turtles get bigger and older and are less susceptible to predators, they move towards shallow water where they eat seagrass and algae.
This is important because it’s a tip to keep your eyes focused on the shallow parts of Moluaka’s coral reef. If you’re looking off into the distance, you’re more likely to miss an opportunity to spot a turtle hanging out in a shallow area right by you!
The shells of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are brown
Green sea turtles get their name from the color of their fat (caused by their all-green food diet) and not by the color of their shell. This is a little confusing but is important to know because — if you’re searching intently for green — you may mistakenly swim past lumps of brown that you assume are rocks!
Green sea turtles get their shells cleaned by surgeonfish
Surgeonfish set up cleaning stations near coral reefs and green sea turtles are some of their top customers! While you’re snorkeling, if you see a group of surgeonfish clustered in one spot, there’s a good chance there’s a sea turtle sitting there getting a pampering session.
You can spot green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles
While green sea turtles are the ones that most people talk about, the other common type of turtle you’ll encounter in Hawaii is the hawksbill turtle. Hawksbill turtles are considered to be critically endangered while green sea turtles are threatened.
In Hawaiian, green sea turtles are called honu while hawksbill sea turtles are called honu’ea or just ‘ea.
Other Insider Tips to Turtle Beach
I’ve included other insider tips in this guide to Turtle Beach in Maui that you’ll find useful during your visit:
- To get to the best spot to find turtles, walk south down the beach to where the coral reef begins. When you get to the rocks where the sand ends, you’ll know you’ve reached the best spot to enter the water.
- There isn’t a rental stand or shop on Turtle Beach. You’ll need to bring your own snorkeling gear or rent what you need before you arrive.
- The aren’t any concession stands in the area since the Westin Prince Hotel closed, so you may want to pack your own cooler with snacks and drinks.
- There’s a shower located in the parking lot, but you’ll find restrooms and more showers at the south end of the beach, in the direction of the golf course.
- There are no lifeguards on duty. Although the water at Turtle Beach is primarily calm, please swim and snorkel with caution.
- Sunset at Turtle Beach is worth waiting for!
- Look but don’t touch – All sea turtles are protected by federal and state law, combined with the endangered species act. There are many reasons why you shouldn’t touch turtles but as further incentive, there’s quite the hefty fine if you get caught and there are many locals that will report you to the Department of Land and Natural Resources if you do.
Bookable Activities Near Turtle Beach
As you can see, planning a trip out to Turtle Beach is easy to do on your own and the chances of seeing green sea turtles is high but if you’d prefer a professionally guided experience, there are quite a number of options that you should consider.
Makena Turtle Town Eco Adventure in Maui – If you enjoy kayaking and snorkeling, this is a fabulous experience that’ll really maximize how many Hawaiian green sea turtles you’ll spot.
Turtle Town Snorkel with Photo and Video – This is an intimate snorkeling tour will help you gently swim with turtles in Turtle Town while they help capture photos and videos of you.
Molokini Crater and Turtle Town – This is how most people get to experience Turtle Town. While you won’t start from the beach, this is the holy grail of adventures in Maui where you start off snorkeling the famed sunken crater and then come to Turtle Town to hang out with turtles.
Scuba Diving – If you’d like to go scuba diving instead of snorkeling, Maui Diving has a great program that also combines Molokini Crater and Turtle Town.
There are plenty of reasons to put Turtle Beach Maui high on your must-do Maui activity list. Feel free to plan for a whole day here, as there are plenty of things to see and do — whether that involves being active or simply relaxing and enjoying the serenity. No matter what you choose, you’re in for a real treat.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is against the law as all sea turtles are protected by federal and state law. The general guidance is to stay 10 feet (3 meters) away from sea turtles. You are also not allowed to harass sea turtles.
Yes, these are effectively in the same area. The minor difference is that Turtle Beach refers more specifically to the sandy beach part and the waters that extend from there whereas Turtle Town is the vicinity from the beach out to further in the water where the turtles hang out.
Yes, when people mention Turtle Beach, they are primarily talking about Maluaka Beach. There are some that consider the entire stretch from One’uli Black Sand Beach to Nahuna Point.
Yes, there is free parking on the north and south end of the beach. However, parking is limited in both so it’s recommended that you go early.
Many will say that Ho’okipa Beach (North Shore of Maui near Paia) is a better turtle beach which may be true but officially Maluaka Beach is Turtle Beach.
If you’re coming to Turtle Beach for snorkelling to see sea turtles, your best bet is to come between 10AM to 1PM because the water is calmer and the weather is the best which is what the turtles prefer.
There aren’t any dramatic cliff features such as at Shipwreck Beach in Kauai so don’t expect to find any good cliff jumping spots.
It’s possible but not as likely as say Ho’okipa Beach.
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