Definitely one of the best activities you can do on Maui is explore what lies beyond the beach: the amazing clear waters of the turquoise Pacific Ocean. While many will dip their toes in, go for a swim or snorkel, here are three other ways you can explore the seas around Maui. Plus, you might learn a few things, such as why the ocean marine life surrounding the Hawaiian islands is so unique, and why we work so hard to preserve these precious marine habitats.
Learn to paddle an outrigger canoe
When you think of images from Hawaiian history, an outrigger canoe likely comes to mind. These sleek, long vessels were used to discover the islands as early as 400 AD by Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands, 2000 miles away. Outrigger canoes are still in use today for traditional practices, racing or just enjoying the ocean. As such, a raft of companies have sprung up in the islands to teach visitors and residents about canoe paddling.
An outrigger canoe tour with a company, such as Hawaiian Paddle Sports, will not only teach you to paddle out on an more modern version of an outrigger canoe, you’ll also learn about history, marine life and local culture. In addition to a bird’s eye view of corals and marine life, the naturalist guide provides a floating museum-like tour.
Explore the entire tropical ocean in a day
We always share with visitors that Maui Ocean Center aquarium is the best primer to learn about Hawaii’s unique marine life, especially before you go out in the ocean.
The Hawaiian Islands are rich with thousands of marine species found nowhere else in the world. The best place to see the majority of unique marine life in one visit is Maui Ocean Center. This park, with three large indoor exhibit buildings as well as outdoor pools, takes you on a journey from shore to the deepest depths of the ocean. Follow along with printed text panels or an audio guide, not only learning about endemic species, but also about their watery habitats and conservation efforts. A new exhibit center is focused on Pacific Humpback Whales, including an awe-inspiring 3D movie in a dome theater.
Maui Ocean Center has also done an exceptional job of interweaving Hawaiian history and cultural practices as they relate to the ocean, as well as educational displays about the island of Kaho’olawe. Also known as “the bombing island,” Kaho’olawe has had a rough history from early overgrazing to later use by the military for target practice. Learn more about this island, that can be seen off Maui’s South coast, as it undergoes restoration efforts.
Dive Deep into Maui Marine Life
Scuba divers are some of the most environmentally aware ocean users because this behavior is built into the certification training. Companies like Lahaina Divers, a 5-star PADI operation and Hawaii’s longest running facility, is a great example. Divers receive a thorough briefing and instructors discuss Hawaii’s unique marine life before and after dives. There is even a special program where non certified divers can Discover Scuba, making their first dive in the shallow marine environment of Mala Wharf of Maui’s West coast- no certification required!
Two spacious 46-foot dive boats go to more locations around Maui than any other dive operator, with plenty of room to have on-board discussions about marine life, safe diving practices and environmentally friendly “look but don’t touch” policies.