Molokini questions answered

Via social media, email and comments, we’re asked the same questions over and over.  So, we’ve answered them more thoroughly below.

Is your Molokini Crater question not answered below?

Let us know in comments and we’ll add more!


How deep is Molokini when snorkeling?

Most Molokini snorkeling is done within the protected crescent, which starts from the apex at around 10 feet deep and slopes down to 25 feet+ (3 to 8 meters).

The Molokini Back Wall (on the other side of Molokini) reached down past 250 feet pretty much straight down.  This is a popular area for scuba divers.

What is Molokini Crater?

Molokini Crater is a crescent-shaped islet famed for it’s protected waters and incredible visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving.

It was likely formed from volcanic eruption 230,000 years ago, and has had a long tumultuous history.

Currently, Molokini serves as a Marine Conservation District and Bird Sanctuary further making it a boon for ocean lovers.

Where is Molokini Crater?

Molokini Crater is located 2.5 miles (4 km) off the southern shore of Maui, Hawaii. The closest Maui coastlines are on Makena and Kihei/Wailea.

Learn more about Molokini’s location.

How do you get to Molokini Crater from Maui?

There are a number of permited commercial vessels leaving from Maalaea, Kihei, and Makena taking passengers to Molokini daily. 

Choose from some of the best Molokini tours.

How far is Molokini Crater from Maui? How long is the boat ride to Molokini?

Molokini is 2.5 miles (4 km) from the closest Maui coastline (Makena.)

The boat ride duration depends on where you depart from.  From Maalaea Harbor, it’ll take about an hour. If departing from Kihei Boat ramp or Maluaka Beach, it’ll take you less than 30 minutes. See Maui harbor maps.

We discourage leaving from Lahaina Harbor.  It’d be a long boat ride.

Is snorkeling at Molokini safe?

Yes. Though there’s risk of injury anywhere in the ocean, there are several reasons why snorkeling at Molokini is considered safer than from the shore.  

  • Commercial vessels mooring at Molokini have a lifeguard in the water during snorkeling.  
  • Commercial vessels allowed to moor at Molokini have permits for a reason. They’re trusted to watch over their guests.
  • Snorkeling from the shore can be dangerous due to swell activity and no one to watch and guide visitors to the safest spots.
  • Visibility is higher here than anywhere else on the island (usually 100-150 feet), so being able to see makes it safer.
  • The inside of Molokini Crater is protected from swell from most directions.
  • Molokini tours have equipment to help those less experienced with snorkeling.  They also won’t run a tour if the weather is dangerous.
Are there sharks at Molokini Crater?

 Yes.  Reef sharks spend most of their time on the backside of the crater, but we sometimes see them close to the bottom in deeper waters within the crater. 

Are they dangerous? Though shark attacks are incredibly rare, and the chances are tiny, sharks do mistake humans for food.  It’s so rare, you’d have to be either dead or trying to ride one for them to attack you. You’re far more likely to win the lottery than be attacked by a shark.  

Is Molokini worth it?

YES! Visibility is incredible and the ocean life is vibrant and plentiful.  See some of the top Molokini tours to book your reservation. They book up well-ahead, so do that now.

The only negative reviews we’ve ever read have been from people that went during extremely stormy weather.  Most boats will refund you before sending a boat out in bad weather.  That being said, their snorkeling experience was most likely far better than they would have had along the coast at that time.

Do I need reservations for Molokini?

Yes.  There are no boats that take walk ons. As of this writing (May 21st, 2021) capacity on boats has just been lifted from 30% to 70% due to COVID regulations loosening up, but many boats are still sold out 2 months ahead.  Make your Molokini reservations as soon as you know you’re coming to Maui.

Are there turtles in Molokini?

It’s pretty rare to see turtles within Molokini Crater.  They prefer to spend time along the shoreline, which is why most Molokini boats will also take you to “Turtle Town” after Molokini, in order to get you the best of all Maui snorkeling worlds.

What will I see at Molokini Crater?

Not only is Molokini Crater a Marine Life Conservation District, but it is also a Hawaii State Sea Bird Sanctuary. This means you can bird watch and see amazing marine species all in one place!

Common birds you may see are Bulwer’s petrels, wedge-tailed shearwaters, and the occasional Brown Booby. See if you can spot them while you take a break from snorkeling.

Molokini is also home to more than 250 species of marine life, including tropical fish, algae, coral, eels, octopus, and more! You might even see a Humpback whale on your way if you visit during whale season (November – April). Some tropical fish you will see at Molokini can only be found here in Hawaii, like Black Triggerfish, Moorish Idols, and Parrotfish.

Can you kayak to Molokini Crater? Can you swim? Can you walk?

It’s possible to kayak, but DON’T DO IT!  There are currents and people have been lost at sea FOREVER trying it.

And don’t swim it.  Even if you can swim a 5 mile round trip, currents will likely take you to the Big Island or to Japan.

Can you walk to Molokini?  It’s an islet.  Hard to believe we get this question still. Unless you can turn water into wine and have a cool beard, book a boat trip.


Do you get sea sick on the Molokini boat tour?

Depending on the weather and the vessel, those prone to getting sea sick should take precautions.  For those that are prone, here are some suggestions.

  • Bring medication. 
  • Stay above deck, towards the front and keep your eyes on the horizon. If you feel nauseous, go to the back. 
  • Go early.  The wind usually doesn’t come up until a little later in the morning. The earliest trip available is also one of the best:  Kai Kanani’s Molokini Sunrise Deluxe snorkel tour is great because you’ll be the first ones and only ones snorkeling at Molokini for the majority of your session.  They also have a large, stable catamaran.
  • Choose a fast boat that gets there fast and has a short overall trip.  The fastest trip is from the Kihei Boat Ramp with Redline Rafting on  a 2-hour Molokini rafting adventure.
Do you need a wetsuit to snorkel at Molokini?

This depends on how you handle our water temperature.  If you get out of the water when at a Maui beach because you’re chilly after 20 minutes, opt for a wetsuit. 

Most boat trips offer wetsuits. We suggest siding with caution.  Might as well be comfortable.

Where are the best spots to dive at Molokini Crater?

Molokini is home to some of the best diving in Hawaii. Most notable is the Molokini Backwall, a 300-foot sheer wall busy with exotic sea life and excellent clarity. Tako flats, middle reef, and reefs end are also enjoyable spots to dive. Check out a full dissection of dive spots at Molokini Crater.

Does Molokini Crater have a star and crescent?

No.  Molokini has naturally formed into a crescent above the surface.  If you see images like this with crescent island and star, it’s Photoshop.

crescent and star island