Maui Week 1: Dive, Snorkel, Dive, Snorkel, Shark Dive!

Who gets up at 4:30 a.m. when they’re on vacation? Well, if it means getting to do some scuba diving, it’s us. It also helps that there is a three-hour time difference from L.A. to Maui, so it was really like getting up at 7:30 a.m.—much more civilized. When it comes to tropical locations, we have limited interests—it’s all about looking for critters in the water. Our first week on Maui gave us lots of opportunities to find critters large and small. Here are a few:

Boat Dive to Lanai (Lighthouse and Shark Fin dive sites):
We saw all the usual Hawaiian suspects, including butterflyfish, Moorish idols, yellow tangs, moray eels, surgeonfish, triggerfish, and sea urchins. Some of our pictures aren’t great because we’re usually grabbing screen shots from video—hopefully they still give you an idea of what we saw during our first week.

Hank hanging out
Moorish Idol
Yellow tangs
Yellowmargin Moray Eel
Sea urchin
Threadfin Butterflyfish
Shark Fin Dive Site
The dive boat to Lanai

Highlights at Lanai included: a pincushion seastar, a spotted eagle ray, a ghost shrimp, and bandit angelfish. All were new or rare sightings for us.

Pincushion Seastar
Ghost shrimp
Bandit Angelfish
Spotted eagle ray

Snorkel at Mokapu/Ulua (South Maui):

We still love snorkeling and saw a zebra moray and a snowflake moray at this site near all the fancy Wailea hotels. A note to fellow snorkelers: When we got there at 7:00 a.m., we easily got parking and were the second and third people in the water. When we got out at 8:30 a.m., the beach and water were packed!

Zebra Moray Eel
Snowflake Moray Eel
Ulua Beach
Milletseed Butterflyfish

Makena Shore Dive
Boat dive trips were really booked up, so we supplemented our boat dives with a guided shore dive to Makena (South Maui). Though the visibility was not great, we enjoyed viewing several sleeping turtles (in Shark Cave), an undulated moray eel, and an octopus! We also appreciated the relatively-short walk with 35-pound aluminum tanks plus gear to get into the water. Shore dives in Southern California have been so difficult that we rarely do them, but this site was pretty easy! And of course, on almost every dive and snorkel, we saw Hawaii’s state fish, the humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua’a (or just call it a wedgetail or reef triggerfish and that will work).

Makena Landing Park
Octopuses are rare sightings and tough to film!
Undulated Moray Eel--a new species for us.
Turtles were sleeping in Shark Cave. They didn't get the memo!
Spotted Boxfish

Okay, we did a few other things besides dive and snorkel. An obligatory trip to Costco helped us stock up on meals, we sampled shave ice from Surfing Monkey, and we enjoyed a wonderful lunch at Duke’s Beach House Maui in Ka’anapali (thanks to Amy and Hugh for this wonderful treat). All the restaurants in Hawaii are experiencing heavy demand, so dinner reservations are impossible to get, but you can usually walk in for breakfast and lunch—problem solved!

Walking around our condo complex at Maui Sunset

Snorkel in Honolua Bay (Northwest Maui)
This was a perfect morning in this bay north of Ka’anapali. Ideal snorkeling conditions gave us the opportunity to stay in the water for well over an hour. Giant bluefin trevally hunted along the reef, while trumpetfish, cornetfish, and tons of butterflyfish and triggerfish entertained us. But the highlight was a Great Barracuda that was by far the biggest barracuda we have ever seen (it had to be 6 feet long). It was a little scary looking at its menacing teeth as it swam around schools of Hawaiian flagtails and convict tangs looking for a meal.

Honolua Bay is popular with snorkel boats, but we just walked down from the road.
Bluefin Trevally
Pacific Trumpetfish
Bluespotted Cornetfish
Multiband Butterflyfish
Fourspot Butterflyfish
This great barracuda was 6 feet long!
Convict tangs trying to get away from the Great Barracuda

Boat Dive to Molokini Crater (two dives on the back wall):
Molokini Crater is about 10 miles off the coast of Maui and was created when an undersea eruption blew lava and ash into the air, creating a tuff cone. Over time, the northern half of the cone has been eroded by waves, so this crescent-shaped reef provides shelter for lots of coral and critters. We snorkeled the inside of the crescent many years ago, but today we got to dive the back wall!

The inner crescent of Molokini Crater
Frigate birds over the back wall of Molokini
Hawaiian spiny lobster

This was a long-anticipated trip, and it did not disappoint. A Hawaiian spiny lobster was an early sighting, along with a Blue Dragon nudibranch, and a Crown of Thorns seastar.

Blue dragon nudibranch, a new species for us
Crown of thorns seastar

This was our first sighting of a Gilded Triggerfish (stunning color), but the highlights were the spotted eagle ray and the gray reef sharks. Though the pictures aren’t great (you’ll have to wait for Hank’s video to see better footage), watching these giants right near us was an amazing thrill.

Gilded Triggerfish
Gray reef sharks

Our thanks to Maui Dreams Dive Shop and Maui Diamond Boat crews for their excellent guided dives. We promise that in Week 2, we will do something else besides dive, snorkel, and watch Dodger games, but it was so great to get back in the water after 1½ years of COVID exile!

Cindy diving the back wall of Molokini Crater
A gray reef shark hunts for a meal.

8 thoughts on “Maui Week 1: Dive, Snorkel, Dive, Snorkel, Shark Dive!”

  1. I am constantly amazed at all you do. Your knowledge of the fish, moray eels, and surroundings is so helpful.
    It especially is refreshing as I sit in Illinois looking out a cold and wet window with rain predicted for the week. Have fun! Enjoy!
    Love, Adrienne

    • Hi Adrienne,

      Well, truth be told–I owe my knowledge of critters to two sources, the dive guides who help us identify animals before, during, and after a dive, and the fish identification books that accompany us on every trip. I spend most afternoons watching all our video footage and writing down the fish and other animals we see in the books. That helps me get to know their names and faces. Sorry you’re experiencing crummy weather in IL, and hope you’ll get to travel soon. Thanks for reading and writing!


  2. Great pictures and so nice to hear all about your adventures. I agree with the other comment about your knowledge of the many species of ‘critters’ that you see. To me, they’re all fish, and that’s about it. Can’t help but be in awe of the creativity of our God. Enjoy the rest of your stay. So glad that the COVID exile is behind you/us.

    • You’re right, Lori. God’s creation is so varied, and that’s one of the things we love about getting in the water–we never cease to be amazed at the variety of things we see. We hope you get to join us one of these years!


  3. What a fun time!! I love the underwater pics!! You both look like you are having a blast! After watching ‘My Octopus Teacher’ and all the underwater filming, it is so fun to see your pics.

    • Hi Mindy,
      We have been having a blast–thanks for looking through on pictures. We loved “My Octopus Teacher” and highly recommend it to everyone. Of course, our filming doesn’t come close to what they do in all those nature documentaries, but we keep trying to improve little by little. Thanks for writing!


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