Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Captain's Blog

Snorkeling at Molokini Crater: What You Need to Know

Molokini Crater in South Maui is known as one of the best snorkeling destinations in the entire world. That’s right – you don’t have to travel any farther than Hawaii to visit excellent snorkeling locations! If you’re planning a trip this summer or have never heard of Molokini Crater, here’s everything you’ll need to know!

What is Molokini?

You might be wondering why Molokini is referred to as a crater. This is because Molokini is, in fact, a volcanic crater. The crater itself is mostly submerged, but part of it does extend up out of the water. The part that sticks out is shaped like a crescent moon, giving it an iconic and unique shape you can’t mistake.

Maui has a tropical climate, making Molokini a perfect habitat for several different species of vibrant tropical fish and exotic ocean life. The crater is made entirely of rock, which prevents any sediment from murking up the surrounding waters. This gives you crystal clear visibility in extremely clean water that you can see farther in than most other spots.

The excellent visibility of the water in Molokini Crater and the abundance of beautiful underwater creatures are what make the location so popular. The location is now world famous and has several different tour boats that visit the crater on a regular basis!

If you’ve never had the joyous experience of tropical snorkeling, then you’re missing out on something that can really change your life! Daily life can be stressful and make it really easy to forget what matters most to you. Taking time to enjoy a peaceful, tranquil environment filled with gorgeous aquatic life you don’t see everyday is great for giving you some perspective and inner peace.

Aquatic Life You’ll See

There are dozens of different species of eye-popping fish you might see during a tour! Depending upon the time of day and how busy it is, you might not see every fish and creature that live there. Here are some of the coolest water animals you’ll run into!


  • Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – with such a fun name to say (go ahead, try it!), there is no doubt the humuhumunukunukuapua’a is also an interesting fish to look at. It carries the Hawaiian name for reef triggerfish because of the unique appearance it has. Its mouth looks a lot like a snout, and it has some gnarly teeth to back it up. These fish are easily identified with their pudgy face and distinct color pattern that displays yellow on the top, bold black coloring in the middle, and a light white on the bottom.
  • Parrotfish – the parrotfish also has a silly name, but it suits the fish quite well. Parrotfish have a face that very closely resembles a parrot, including coloring that makes the fish look like it has a beak! They’re also known for wonderful coloring (similar to a parrot) that can shift during its life. They can come in many different colors but, if you see a colorful parrot-like fish chomping on some coral, it’s probably a parrotfish!
  • Yellow Tang – the yellow tang is very hard to miss, as its name clearly represents the fish. Yellow tangs are bright yellow and look like a flattened lemon with fins and a tail. They’re often kept as aquarium fish, but they can also be seen in schools around Molokini!

Big Creatures

  • Hawaiian Octopus – the Hawaiian octopus is quite an intelligent creature. Hawaiian octopi are much smaller than giant octopi and rarely exceed 10 pounds. The octopi you’ll see around Molokini will be brown in color with mottled looking skin. Often times they’ll be hiding in dens, but eight tentacled arms are always a dead giveaway for octopi.
  • Whale Shark – the word shark might make you a little nervous, but the whale shark is just a big friendly ball of, well, blubber. Whale sharks aren’t a threat to humans and instead choose to feed on microscopic species found throughout the ocean. They’re quite massive, but they also move slowly. You can easily spot a whale shark by the pattern of spots it has all over its back.
  • Manta Ray – the manta ray is an elegant creature and looks unlike any other in the world! The manta ray has a distinct triangular shape with fins that are almost shaped like horns. It does eat plankton, but is a carnivore and prefers to eat other fish. Manta rays are very hard to miss – just look for the giant floating triangle!
  • Sea Turtle – turtles are some of the coolest, laid-back animals you’ll encounter. The green sea turtle found around Molokini is no exception! Sea turtles weigh a few hundred pounds, and can easily be spotted by their large, speckled shell. Turtles are reptiles, so keep an eye out for the scaly skin to see these laid-back pals!

Go Early for Best Results!

Molokini Crater is home to several different fish and large ocean creatures, but you won’t see all of them every time you go. One thing that plays a large factor in this is the time of day you choose to go.

Because of how popular the location is, there are several different tour boats that go out and snorkel in the area. After a few hours, the wildlife will start to become overwhelmed and will tend to hide as the day carries on. This makes it difficult to see much variety later in the day, as you’ll be left with far fewer colorful species to see.

The very best way to ensure you see as many different gorgeous tropical fish and majestic wildlife as possible is to book a Catamaran experience with Kai Kanani! Kai Kanani has tours to Molokini Crater as early as 6 AM, ensuring that they’re the first boat in the area.

This gives you the greatest opportunity to see amazing creatures in their natural habitat before everyone else shows up and scares them away! Check out the Sunrise Deluxe Snorkel and other tour packages available here! Don’t forget to keep an eye out for turtles and octopi!