Updated: December 2017

Pride of Maui Molokini Snorkel Tour

molokini snorkel trip On a recent trip to Maui, we decided to try out one of the Molokini snorkel tour trips. Molokini is a crescent-shaped landmass leftover from an old volcano cone -- the other half collapsed and fell into the ocean ages ago. There are quite a few charter companies that offer half day trips out to Molokini, which is just a few miles off the Wailea area of southwest Maui. We chose the Pride of Maui Morning Molokini Snorkel Adventure. Pride of Maui and the Four Winds are two of the larger powered catamarans that make the trip out to Molokini. The Pride of Maui is 65 feet long and has 3000sf of deck space (on 2 levels) and can accomodate almost 150 passengers - it departs daily out of Maalaea Harbor (north of Kihei and south of Lahaina) at 8:00AM and returns around 1PM. Their docking spot is at the very end of the wharf at the very north end of the harbor - we took the second exit into Maalaea coming from Lahaina and had to make a U-turn to curl back towards the wharf. There is parking all along the wharf - we showed up right at 7:35 and got the very last parking spot near the Pride of Maui, so consider coming a little earlier if you are driving. You need to arrive about 30 minutes ahead of time to check in and board. Tickets cost $79 for adults and $49 for kids (3-12) (these are internet ticket prices, $5-$10 more otherwise - there website is PrideOfMaui.com). The trip heads out to Molokini first which takes a little over 1 hour of cruising time. Once there, you get to spend an hour or more snorkeling and having lunch. Then you head off to Turtle Town on the way back, where you stop for another 30-45 minutes. Then back to the harbor.
Once we got on board, there were some light breakfast snacks offered -- mini muffins, danishes, juice. If you are someone who likes a big breakfast, be sure to get something to eat before you arrive -- this is more of a snack. The downstairs deck (which is covered and offers the only shade) has only limited seating - a few benches in front of a video screen. Downstairs you'll also find the bathrooms, bar, cooking area, and snorkeling supplies. Upstairs is a large open deck with bench seating all around. Overall, we felt there was plenty of room to move around. I think on the day of our trip the guest count was around 100 (vs. a capacity of almost 150). In any event, be prepared for many hours of sun and bring plenty of sunscreen and hats and coverups to avoid sunburn. Once the Pride departs, the crew goes over the details of the trip. Like pretty much everything else on Maui, there are also several "upsell" opportunities offered - there is a photographer on board who will rent you a digital underwater camera (with flash) for $40, with your photos back on CD at the end of the trip. There are Snuba instructors offering Snuba rentals (Snuba is like scuba diving, but with an air-raft that floats on the surface above you and supplies you with oxygen through a tube - no heavy equipment or gear to wear). You can rent a wet-shirt for $10 to keep some of the ocean chill out. We did pay to rent a digital camera for underwater photos - we got a few nice shots of a turtle, about 20 fun people shots, and about 80 not-so-great underwater shots of various fish and reefs. Was it worth $40? Probably, but just barely. However, the photographer was nice enough to let us take the camera out and decide AFTER we used it if we wanted to pay to get the pictures on CD -- a no-lose situation. Anyways, you can pick and choose if you want to spend extra on these things -- to each their own. All the snorkel gear and flotation devices are free of charge. Molokini is about 10 miles from Maalaea and it takes over an hour of powered-cruising to get there. Along the way, if it is whale season, the crew will keep an eye out for these wondrous mammals and stop the boat near any good viewing spots that arrive. On the return trip, we had a great 5 minute stop featuring a mother whale floating on her back and a tiny calf flapping his tail, all accompanied by 2 spinner dolphins leaping through the water! Amazing! We had fairly calm seas on our trip, and since the Pride is a double catamaran, it provides great lateral stability, without all the side to side rocking common in standard-keeled ships. There is still some up and down motion as you move through the waves going forward, but no one on our trip got seasick -- take some Dramamine or whatever just in case if you are prone to motion sickness.

As Molokini grows closer, the crew will get everyone fitted for flippers and masks - that way when you get there no time is wasted. The boat drops anchor near the left side of the crater and turns everyone loose. One thing we liked to see was a lifeguard-type patrol out on a kayak at each stop, keeping an eye on any snorkelers or swimmers that might need help. They also inform you on which areas of the crater are off limits and need to be avoided. In our family, the 2 girls (age less than 10) opted not to swim or snorkel in the open sea and instead enjoyed the view from the boat. They could see a number of fish right around the boat due to the clear water. There is a small area on the bottom deck that is promoted as "glass bottom boat", but it didn't offer a whole lot of visibility so they skipped it. Dad and teen son hopped right into the water and took off snorkeling. The trip photographer scavenged up a hand-size octopus, which was the most exotic thing we saw here. We swam around for about 45 minutes and saw lots of fish, but nothing more than some of the good near-shore snorkeling spots we had visited. The clarity of the water at Molokini was better than you find on beaches though, since there was no surf pounding up sand and muck into the water. And it is definitely an adventure to do some open-water ocean snorkeling vs. shore snorkeling. One note - any time you snorkel in Maui, consider wearing a t-shirt to protect your back from sunburn. An hour floating on the surface of cool water means you don't feel what the mirror surface of the ocean is doing to your tender skin until it is too late -- lots of sunscreen or cover up with a shirt. As we were getting into the water, the crew was preparing for lunch, grilling up chicken, burgers, and hot dogs. We've read some complaints about the food being re-heated and not being fresh, but we found it to be quite good, quite hot, and pretty much ready just in time. There was also enough to go around to allow for seconds for those who wanted it. Coming out of the water, there is a hot fresh water shower available for cleaning up - a nice touch, and did we mention WARM? Felt great after cool ocean water.

So we enjoyed lunch as we cruised back towards the Maui mainland, to what they call Turtle Town. Now, truth is, pretty much every dive or snorkel tour likes to say they visit some kind of "turtle town" during their trips. But, NEWSFLASH, there is no place on a map call TURTLE TOWN. Basically, it is any place where a tour normally has good luck in spotting a few sea turtles. For the Pride of Maui, this meant a region just off the shore from the Four Seasons in Wailea. This was an area of fairly deep water (30 feet?) with some lava flows and coral formations down on the bottom. There were some fish here, nothing spectacular. And lo and behold, right near the end of our snorkel, someone spotted a single turtle right behind us, not more than 10 feet away swimming about 3 feet below the surface. We got a few pictures of him maui sea turtle before he headed for the bottom and disappeared among the rocks. So I would say this second snorkel site was OK, we felt like we lucked out with the turtle -- I guess it is a chance you take, but without a turtle sighting, the snorkeling here was nothing extraordinary.

So back on the boat, back into the warm fresh water shower, then comes a time of open bar drinks and cookies being passed around. We turned our digital camera back to the photographer who promptly cranked out a CD for us to take our photos home with us. We had a drink or two, towelled off, got dressed, enjoyed the peanut-butter cookies, and relaxed on the way back to the harbor (which is when we saw the awesome dolphins and whales mentioned above). And that was our trip. Overall, we'd rate it about a 90 out of 100. It's not a cheap trip for a family of 5, but it is a memorable day and gives the kids something to remember besides just another day lounging by the swimming pool at your favorite Maui resort and hotel. We got some fun pictures and memories, we had good weather, the crew was top notch and very attentive -- all in all, everything was just right. While we can't say we would take the same trip every time we visited Maui, we would certainly recommend these guys if you are looking to take a Molokini snorkel trip - you won't be disappointed. Thanks Pride of Maui.