Charter boats anchor inside the crescent-shaped Molokini, where snorkelers are treated to an underwater show. ©Hawaii Tourism Authority/Ron Garnett
Legend has it that Molokini was once a beautiful woman transformed into stone by her rival, the fire goddess Pele. Creative as the legend is, the 80-degree turquoise waters and exotic marine life around this tiny crescent-shaped island three miles off the southwest coast of Maui is no myth. Molokini is actually a sunken crater that is now a marine sanctuary attracting up to 1,000 snorkelers a day. The best snorkeling is on the inside of the left tip, with a greater variety of fish species the further you get from the center of the coral-blanketed floor. Be careful of the sunken wall on the right tip as currents can be unpredictable. (Note that it’s illegal to feed the fish.) Molokini’s popularity as a dive destination has compelled the Hawai‘i State Division of Boating to create strict guidelines to offset the damage to the reef from dive boats dropping anchor. A Hawai‘i State Seabird Sanctuary, Molokini also lures amateur and professional bird watchers.