One mention of Molokini to locals and tourists alike elicits thoughts of prolific sea and bird life, turquoise waters, and astoundingly good snorkeling and scuba diving. Situated 6 miles from the Kihei Boat Ramp and 10 miles from Ma’alaea, this spectacular geologic formation is called a tuff cone and was created when lava and ash blasted loose from an undersea vent held closed under pressure by the weight of the ocean above.
Molokini was originally, as the name implies, shaped in a full cone, but over time the northern half has slowly eroded away under the relentless crashing of the waves. Likewise, the horizontal notch in the belly of the crater’s curve was eroded by wave cuts as well. In a fascinating look at the earth’s history, divers can descend to 250 feet below this notch and spy another similar wave cut, supporting evidence that sea level was once substantially lower.
Molokini is a marine sanctuary, so walking on the crater or feeding fish is illegal. Snorkeling or diving over a colorful coral garden, being approached by many fish, and sharing the space with hundreds of other snorkelers is to be expected, but our best advice: disregard preconceptions, because actually experiencing Molokini will surpass them all.
To get to Molokini requires a motorboat—though 6 miles might seem doable to strong kayakers, trade winds and strong currents can easily get boaters in over their heads. Because it’s such a popular dive and snorkel spot, though, there are many tours daily, and we’ll wager that your experience will be much more enjoyable if you hop aboard. Most tours depart from Ma'alaea Harbor and Kihei. Expect that most tours will be a minimum of five to six hours round trip, and others may require a full day's commitment, which may include a visit to a number of other fabulous sites.
Departing from Ma'alaea Harbor:
Departing from Kihei: