Sea Turtles Maui | Maui Ocean Center

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Navigating Maui’s Top Spots for Unforgettable Sea Turtle Encounters

February 28, 2024

Best Beaches in Maui with Turtles

Maui is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it’s no surprise that many of them are also great spots to see Honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles). When setting out to see our local Honu, it’s important to be mindful of the natural environment and adhere to any posted guidelines or regulations. Additionally, keep in mind that conditions at beaches can change, and it’s advisable to check local sources for the latest information and any updates on beach conditions. 

Sea turtles are protected under both federal and state laws. Both NOAA and DLNR recommend staying at least 10 feet, or 3 meters, away from the sea turtles at all times. It’s against the law to touch or harass sea turtles, so remember to keep your distance and admire our beautiful Honu from a distance.

Without further ado, here is a round up of some of the best beaches in Maui to see turtles:

1. Ho’okipa Beach (North Maui):

Ho’okipa Beach is considered one of the windsurfing and kitesurfing capitals of the world. The beach’s strong and consistent trade winds, along with its powerful waves, attract professional windsurfers and kitesurfers from around the globe. It’s also known for its large population of turtles. You can spot up to 15-20 turtles napping on the sandy shore at any one time. Afternoons seem to be the best time of day for turtle watching, but you’ll probably see at least a few on the beach in the morning, too.

Ho’okipa Beach Park is open from 5:30 AM to 7:00 PM every day. Parking is free and plentiful. There’s a total of three parking lots available with a combined 170 parking spaces. Please note that the gates will be locked after hours, so make sure you leave before the park closes. 

2. Kū’au Bay Beach Park (North Maui):

Kū’au Bay Beach Park, also known as Kaulahao Beach, is a small beach located on the north side of Maui. This unsung gem of a beach is a more exclusive spot to see turtles. You’ll find sea turtles napping just about anywhere on this sandy beach. The best time to see them is during sunset when they come to rest on the shore and the sky changes color.


The beach is known for its coarse sand and deep blue water, snorkeling is possible from right off the beach so make sure to pack your gear. The beach has a free parking lot but no bathrooms.

3. Black Rock Beach (West Maui):

Black Rock is located at the northern end of Ka’anapali Beach, near the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. It is easily accessible, and visitors can access the area from the beach or by walking along the lava rock path. The beach gets its name from the large lava rock promontory that juts into the ocean. This unique geological feature is known as Pu’u Keka’a and serves as a popular spot for cliff jumping and snorkeling. This beach is a popular spot for snorkeling because of its clear visibility, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse fish species. It’s also home to – you guessed it –  a large population of turtles.


There are three parking options available for Black Rock Beach. The first option is to park at the free parking lot located at the Whaler’s Village parking garage. The second option is to park at the paid parking lot located at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. The third option is to park at the free parking lot located at Kahekili Beach Park and walk south on the beach walk.


If you plan on cliff diving, the best time to visit is during the sunset when the cliff divers light torches along the cliff before jumping off Black Rock.

4. Slaughterhouse Beach a.k.a. Mokulē‘ia Beach (West Maui):

This beach is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s worth the trek to see the turtles. Mokulē‘ia Beach, is a beautiful and less crowded beach located off of Rte. 30 in Mokulē‘ia Bay, directly east of Fleming Beach and directly west of Honolua Bay. 


The beach is at the bottom of a steep cliff, which is covered by heavy vegetation. There is a small parking lot at the top of the cliff, where you can look down and get a glimpse of the beach. Then there’s a long steep concrete stairway with distinctive green handrails, that leads you 88 stairs down to a short rocky pathway, heading to the beach.


Slaughterhouse Beach is a picturesque beach with big waves crashing up to the beach. Though not known as a Maui surfing beach, it’s still fun for experienced bodyboarders. The beach is sandy, unlike the rocky Honolua Bay beach next door. These two bays together make up the Honolua-Mokulē‘ia Bay Marine Life Conservation District.


There’s a good chance you’ll find turtles on the beach, and an even better chance you’ll see some in the water. Turtles are more likely to be seen while snorkeling near rocky outcrops or coral formations. They may be more active during certain times of the day. Early mornings or late afternoons could be good times for wildlife viewing. Keep a respectful distance and observe them without disturbing their natural behavior.

5. Five Graves (South Maui):

This beach is a secluded spot that’s perfect for a quiet day of turtle watching. Five Graves, also known as Five Caves, is a popular snorkeling and diving spot located in South Maui. The site is named after the small family graveyard located just south of the beach believed to be the final resting place of a family that lived in the area in the early 1900s . The graves are located on a small hill overlooking the ocean, and are surrounded by a low rock wall.

The area is home to a variety of aquatic life, including Pacific snake eels, schools of needlefish, and Honu. The site is accessible by boat or kayak, but it can also be reached by swimming from Makena Landing around the point. The area is recommended for experienced snorkelers and swimmers due to currents, rocky shoreline, and distance to swim.

6. Maluʻaka Beach (South Maui):

Maluʻaka Beach is known as Turtle Beach because of the abundance of sea turtles that can be seen swimming in the area. Maluaka Beach, is located in South Maui and is known for its golden sand, clear blue water, and excellent snorkeling opportunities.


For the best chance at seeing turtles, snorkel near the rocky shore at either the north end or south end of the beach. Just watch out for the rogue wave that might push you into the rocks. Mornings are typically better for avoiding high surf conditions while snorkeling at Maluʻaka Beach. 

To get to Maluʻaka Beach, you can park at either end of the beach. There are parking lots, restrooms, and showers available at both ends of the beach, which are connected by a paved walking path. If you are coming from Wailea Alanui Road, take the turnoff to go to Keawala’i Church and Makena Landing. Where the road splits to go to Makena Landing or the church, turn left to reach Maluʻaka Beach

turtle mating season

The Hawaiian green sea turtles mating season typically occurs during the summer months. The exact timing can vary, but it generally spans from June to September. During the mating season, male green sea turtles actively pursue females in the water. Mating often involves courtship behaviors, with males attempting to mount the females. Once mating is successful, female turtles come ashore to nest.


Nesting season for Hawaiian green sea turtles usually begins in late spring and continues into the summer. Female turtles crawl onto sandy beaches, dig a nest, and lay their eggs. After laying the eggs, they carefully cover the nest before returning to the ocean.


It’s important to note that observing sea turtles during their nesting season should be done with great care and respect for these protected species. Many areas with known sea turtle nesting sites have guidelines and regulations in place to protect the turtles and their habitats. Always follow local guidelines and consider joining organized tours led by knowledgeable guides who can ensure a responsible and educational experience.

Visit Maui Ocean Center’s Turtle Lagoon

Lastly, Maui Ocean Center’s Turtle Lagoon is a great place to visit if you want to see Hawaiian green sea turtles up close and personal. The exhibit features up to six Hawaiian green sea turtles that are showcased in both above and underwater views, allowing visitors to get a closer look at these magnificent creatures.


The Maui Ocean Center is committed to the conservation and protection of these turtles. The Turtle Lagoon is a dedicated area designed specifically for the care and exhibition of sea turtles. The turtles are raised at Sea Life Park on Oahu and are brought to the Maui Ocean Center when they are hatchlings. They are raised for roughly two years until they have grown large enough to be released into the wild. The lagoon itself features a spacious and carefully maintained habitat that closely mimics the turtles’ natural surroundings. It incorporates elements such as rocks, plants, and a sandy bottom to create a realistic and comfortable environment for the turtles.


In addition to the exhibit, the Maui Ocean Center offers educational programs and interactive displays at the Turtle Lagoon. These initiatives aim to raise awareness about sea turtles, their conservation, and the threats they face in the wild. The Maui Ocean Center also implements monitoring and research initiatives to track the progress and well-being of the released turtles!


Reserve your tickets today and receive a $5 discount on your admission fee by booking online!


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