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Molokini, Maui

Molokini Island [Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) /Ron Dahlquist].

Three miles off the coast of Maui’s southern shores lies Molokini, one of the most popular islets in Hawaii. Shaped in a perfect crescent, this volcanic island is located in the Alalakeiki Channel, between the islands of Maui and Kaho’olawe. Appearing almost unreal in its blue surroundings, this uninhabited islet spans nearly 23 acres of a sharp green ridge reaching 160 feet above sea level.

Molokini is the result of a volcano believed to have erupted over 230,000 years ago. There have been many archaic fishing tools collected on Molokini, proving that ancient Hawaiians would make the canoe journey to this small island.  There they would also have access to hundreds of eggs lain by nesting birds on the island as well as the beautiful plumage which would be been collected for decorative feathers.

Today, the submerged volcanic crater that created Molokini is prized as one of the most beautiful snorkeling locations in Hawaii and a prime spot for scuba as well as for snuba, a diving system that bridges the gap between snorkeling and scuba diving for those who are not licensed divers. The crescent shaped islet and submerged crater create a natural harbor protected from strong currents and heavy waves, preserving the calm waters for diving and communing with marine life. For those who want to dive in the deeper waters housing hundreds of marine species, there are caverns nearly 350 feet deep and coral reefs of astounding clarity with visibility down to 150 feet.

Locals and tourists alike flock to the still waters that teem with vibrant tropical fish. Some lucky deep-divers have ventured off the back side of Molokini to witness whitetip reef sharks, moray eels, dolphins and octopi. Molokini has also proved to be a great location to for whale watching as the underwater crater is near to some of the busiest whale migratory paths. Visitors have spotted humpback whales on boat tours to and around Molokini which depart daily from Maui.

Molokini marine life

Molokini marine life [Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/ Kirk Lee Aeder].

The crescent-shaped island is also home to the Hawaii State Seabird Sanctuary, where seabirds, such as the Bulwer’s petrels and wedge-tailed shearwaters, are known to nest. The 77 acre expanse of underwater seascapes surrounding Molokini is also recognized as a Marine Life Conservation District. This area houses around 250 species, including the kikakapu (raccoon butterflyfish), uhu (parrot fish), omilu (bluefin trevally), kihiki (Moorish idol), lau’i pala (yellow tang) and the humuhumu’ele’ele (black triggerfish). Some visitors have even captured images swimming with the whale shark, a gentle plankton eating creature who poses no threat to humans. Because of the frequency of boat traffic to Molokini harbor, as well as the number of daily divers, the fish here are well accustomed to humans and are not as skittish as in other snorkeling locations.

Note that in order to land on Molokini, visitors must first receive permission from the US Coast Guard as well as the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife. All fishing, feeding the wildlife or removing any natural resources is strictly prohibited, as is dropping anchor in the harbor which could damage fragile coral reefs. Despite rules and limitations, all travelers to Hawaii who enjoy swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, should certainly add Molokini to their itinerary.


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