MAUI - Underwater

An entirely different Maui greets anyone with a face mask, snorkel, and fins. Under the sea, you'll find schools of brilliant tropical fish, green sea turtles, quick-moving game fish, slack-jawed moray eels, and prehistoric-looking coral. It's a kaleidoscope of color and wonder.

Black Rock: This spot, located on the Kaanapali Beach just off the Sheraton Maui Resort, is excellent for beginner snorkelers during the day and for scuba divers at night. Schools of fish congregate at the base of the rock and are so used to snorkelers that they go about their business as if no one were around. If you take the time to look closely at the crannies of the rock, you'll find lion fish in fairly shallow water. At night (when a few outfitters run night dives here), lobsters, Spanish dancers, and eels come out.

Olowalu: When the wind is blowing and the waves are crashing everywhere else, Olowalu, the small area 5 miles (8km) south of Lahaina, can be a scene of total calm--perfect for snorkeling and diving. You'll find a good snorkeling area around mile marker 14. You might have to swim about 50 to 75 feet (15-23m); when you get to the large field of finger coral in 10 to 15 feet (3-4.5m) of water, you're there. You'll see a turtle-cleaning station here, where turtles line up to have small cleaner wrasses pick off small parasites. This is also a good spot to see crown-of-thorns starfish, puffer fish, and lots of juvenile fish.

Hawaiian Reef: Scuba divers love this area off the Kihei-Wailea coast because it has a good cross-section of topography and marine life typical of Hawaiian waters. Diving to depths of 85 feet (26m), you'll see everything from lava formations and coral reef to sand and rubble, plus a diverse range of both shallow- and deep-water creatures.

Third Tank: Scuba divers looking for a photo opportunity will find it at this artificial reef, located off Makena Beach at 80 feet (24m). This World War II tank acts like a fish magnet--because it's the only large solid object in the area, any fish or invertebrate looking for a safe home comes here. Surrounding the tank is a cloak of schooling snappers and goatfish just waiting for a photographer with a wide-angle lens. It's small, but the Third Tank is loaded with more marine life per square inch than any site off Maui.

Molokini: Shaped like a crescent moon that fell from the sky, this islet's shallow concave side serves as a sheltering backstop against sea currents for tiny tropical fish; on its opposite side is a deep-water cliff inhabited by spiny lobsters, moray eels, and white-tipped sharks. Neophyte snorkelers report to the concave side; experienced scuba divers, the cliff side. Either way, the clear water and abundant marine life make this islet off the Makena coast one of Hawaii's most popular dive spots.

Ahihi-Kinau Natural Preserve: Fishing is strictly kapu (forbidden) in Ahihi Bay (at the end of the road in South Maui), and the fish know it; they're everywhere in this series of rocky coves and black-lava tide pools. The black, barren, lunarlike land stands in stark contrast to the green-blue water, which is home to a sparkling mosaic of tropical fish. Scuba divers might want to check out La Pérouse Pinnacle in the middle of La Pérouse Bay; clouds of damsel- and triggerfish will greet you on the surface.