Shore Diving in Maui

Canoes on the shore under palm trees at sunset

For years we made an annual trip to Maui for vacation, relaxation, and scuba diving. We were members of the San Diego Underwater Photographic Society and right before our first trip to Maui, another member told us of a beach dive on the Island that she really liked. That beach is called Ulua. In Hawaiian, Ulua means Trevally which is one of the most important game fish for the nearshore Hawaiian fishing community. We have always stayed at a condo in Wailea, usually at the same one that we book online. We love to shore diveing Maui.

Ulua Beach

A green signSign pointing towards the beach
Ulua Beach with small, sir, at the shore and palm trees with a mountain in the background

Shore diving at Ulua Beach offers a unique opportunity to explore the underwater world, and experience the wide variety of reef fish, eels, invertebrates, and nudibranchs on its coral reefs and sand flats. Uluas’shallow waters, calm currents, and clear visibility make it an ideal destination for both beginner and experienced divers. The local dive shops bring classes there for their open water dives so it can get busy but get there early and you will have the whole reef to yourself. Many times our car was the only one in the parking lot. In addition, the island’s diverse marine life and pristine coral reefs offer a perfect backdrop for underwater photography.

Ulua Beach with palm trees, lining the shore, and a cloudy blue sky

As you can see in this photo the coral heads of the inner reef are exposed at low tide (left center of photo) and start right at the shoreline. If you follow the inner reef to its end and then continue straight out across the sand flats for 100 yards you will find the outer reef which is much larger that the inner reef.

The area around the beach has changed over the years. When we first started going there the resort next to the beach was closed for renovations which took a few years. There were 2 small parking lots and a turnaround area next to the restrooms where you could drop off your gear before parking. Now, since the resort has opened the parking lots are larger and the restrooms have been enlarged and remodeled.

Two drivers walking through the parking lot with their scuba gear on

I have always found it easier to gear up at our car in the parking lot and take the short walk to the beach rather than dropping off the gear and carrying it down to the beach

The reefs at Ulua offer a wide variety of reef fish that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. From brightly colored parrotfish to well-camouflaged frogfish. Photographing these creatures is a great opportunity to capture their beauty and add to your collection of underwater images.

For a larger gallery go the Hawaiian fish we have seen go to “The Colorful Fish of Hawaii”

Reef Fish

Eels

Eels are another fascinating creature that can be found at Ulua. These mysterious creatures come in a range of shapes and sizes and can be found hiding in the reef or buried in the sand. Eels are generally shy and elusive, making them a challenging subject for photographers. However, with patience and the right approach, photographers can capture stunning images of these unique creatures. We have found many eels, mostly on the outer reef.

Hawaiian Green Lionfish

A little way off the outer reef in deeper water you can find some lone coral heads. This is where we found the Hawaiian Green Lionfish. They were smaller than I thought and hard to spot at first but once you have found a couple they become easier to spot. They are a lay in wait predator in the scorpionfish family and are well camouflaged.

Green Sea Turtles

On every dive at Ulua we have seen Green Sea Turtles. Sometimes one or two and sometimes a dozen. Most of the time you will find them laying on the coral and occasionally drifting up to the surface to breathe. They are an endangered species and it is illegal to harm, harass or kill them. Impeding their path to the surface is considered harassment so you need to be careful when diving around them. On the outer edge of the outer reef, there is a cleaning station where the turtles will lay on the coral and have the small fish clean the algae and parasites from their shells. You can see them lining up waiting to come in for a cleaning.

Invertebrate life

There is a wide variety of invertebrate life at Ulua. We have talked to divers in the past who say they have never seen a nudibranch. You need to slow down and look and will find some amazing creatures. From nudibranchs to crabs and the Trident’s Trumpet Snail the invertebrate life is amazing but you have to be patient and look.

For a gallery of the invertebrates we have seen go to “A Photo Journey of Hawaiis Invertebrates”

Another shore dive we have done is at Makena landing Park. There is a small parking lot with picnic tables. The entrance and exit at this beach are very easy. After submerging follow the rocky shoreline on your right where you will find some small caves and arches. The marine life doesn’t seem as diverse as Ulua but there are many fish and turtles

Divers entering the water with lush foliage along the shore

In conclusion, we have found the shore diving in Maui something we will never forget.

Lorna and Mick on the beach at sunset with trees in the background and a colorful sky
Coral heads, exposed at low tide with a colorful sunset

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