Escape to Maui – Day 4-6 – Turtles! Turtles! Turtles!

Lanai Snorkel
Lanai Snorkel

As my escape to Maui was coming to a close, I had seen many wonderful waterfalls, beaches, natural pools, sunsets, plants and flowers, taken challenging hikes, and eaten fantastic food, but I had yet to spend a day with a single turtle. We started out looking for that elusive turtle that I knew was somewhere in the waters of Maui. Our first stop was at Mokule’ia Bay or as the locals call it “Slaughterhouse Beach”.  After finally finding a park along the highway, we took the long staircase leading down the cliff to the beach. This is a lovely beach lined with interesting looking trees and a great area for body boarding and surfing. I would recommend wearing water shoes if going into the water because of the sharp rocks and lava fingers close to shore. 

Next it was time for a scheduled snorkel trip out to Lanai from the Lahaina Harbor. Our tour guide took us to two different spots to snorkel and we then finished the tour with a barbeque lunch on the boat on the ride back to the dock. Although the current was rough while snorkeling, I was still able to see vibrant colored fish swimming in the reefs and get some great pictures. I was sad not to see a turtle yet but kept my hopes up for our next stop.

We were then off to Honolua Bay. Parking as usual on the island is limited to a small dirt lot or finding a park along the road. You need to be careful and stay on the path to the beach because much of the area is private property. The short pathway feels like walking through a jungle with lush hanging vines and dense trees along the way. The beach is mostly made up of large rocks. I was surprised to see so many chickens everywhere. They are some of the prettiest chickens I have seen anywhere and acted rather boldly by coming up close to beg for our snacks. The beautiful reef starts a bit further out into the water extending past the rocky area. This bay is reported as some of the best snorkeling around the island. I swam with huge schools of brightly colored fish and lost time until I my fingers and toes were water-logged. Suddenly I saw in the distance a few large dark bodies feeding at the reef. As I swam closer to one of the dark bodies I saw it was a turtle! Getting closer I saw two more and then another group of them. I was finally in turtle heaven and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming with turtles. It was hard to leave but it was getting late and I was a wrinkled mess. That evening we ate at a great little place close to our hotel named Dollie’s Pub and Cafe. They have a huge menu with all sorts of appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and more for a very good price. 

Turtle Friend
Turtle Friend, Napili Bay

The next day we drove to Napili Bay. We spent most of the day snorkeling there in the beautiful blue water searching for turtles. Parking at Napili Bay is the most challenging we had encountered yet because the small parking lot fills fast. We parked along the road and hiked down to the beach. I hopped in the water and was immediately surrounded by thousands of fish.  I even saw some eels swimming out of their pits. I then spotted a few huge turtles that were at least three feet long. Young turtles were swimming around the large ones and I counted at least a dozen turtles. I had finally found the perfect spot and the turtles were really putting on a show for me. Remember to never touch or ride on a turtle. If you swim above a turtle it can become panicked and not come up for needed air. When turtles are respected and let to swim in their natural environment without distraction, it can be an amazing experience. I had to be pulled out of the water at this point but the day was getting late and we wanted to go back to Lahaina Town on our last full day in Maui. If you get to Lahaina Town make sure to go see the largest banyan tree on the island located in Banyan Court Park. The tree has quite a fascinating history. It is a nice walk to take through the downtown area with lots of cute shops, bars and restaurants. I was excited to spot a Wyland Art Gallery and ran inside. I am a huge Wyland fan and have a small collection of his artwork. We snacked on green tea and coffee shaved ice with a scoop of coconut ice cream at the bottom. Yum!  That evening we decided to attend a luau. I had never been to a luau and thought it would be fun to partake in this traditional  Hawaiian celebration at the Royal Lahaina Luau. It really was a lot of fun and they put on a great feast and show. Afterwards we watched another beautiful Maui sunset from the beach at the luau.  

It was hard to leave Maui on our last day because of all the amazing things we had seen but unfortunately I had to return to work so that I could start preparing for my next outdoor escape. On the way to the airport we stopped at Mama’s Fish House Restaurant. The dining room is on the beach with a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. We splurged on crab guacamole and chips, grilled fish, and guava cheesecake. Even better than the food we had just finished was the best surprise to find out that sea turtles are known to come out of the water onto the beach in front of Mama’s dining room area. What a perfect way to end my escape to Maui by taking selfies on the beach with a beautiful turtle!





Akumal Beach, Mexico

One of my best experiences snorkeling was with sea turtles at Akumal Beach, Mexico. While staying at Playa del Carmen we were told about a great place for snorkeling and lots of turtles. Even though our schedule was packed, I quickly researched Akumal Beach and squeezed some time in for the trip. Since I love turtles so much, swimming with them in Mexico was a must. The beach was about 20 miles south of Playa del Carmen and the same distance above Tulum, which we had already planned visiting for the day. When we arrived there were lots of vendors trying to recruit us for their tours. We went ahead and booked a tour which made it easier for us to store our personal items in a locker, use a life vest, and shower after the swim. Our guide was very good and not only did we see a lot of turtles, but also stingrays and beautiful coral reefs. I took my iPhone inside a LifeProof case and my GoPro Hero 4. The LifeProof case worked wonders and I was able to use my phone for taking underwater pictures for over an hour. Of course my GoPro took amazing pictures. The turtles were so beautiful swimming around us eating grass on the bottom of the sea, coming up every few minutes for air. If you plan to come here remember sea turtles are endangered so DO NOT TOUCH THEM as this can do irreversible harm. Parking along the beach is a little dicey so just drive around until you can find the cheapest and safest place to park. Obviously do not leave any valuables in the car. Rental cars in Mexico are huge targets because they have a large paper plastered on them designating they are rental and most likely belong to tourists. This was one of my favorite snorkel experiences except for what happened to my hair after we were finished. Even though I had it in a braid and bun, somehow during the swim it got loose. When I got out of the water, it was in a gigantic tangled ball.  We ran around town trying to find conditioner and after finally finding some I put an entire bottle in my hair. It took three hours to separate the hairs one by one until the knots were all out. I learned a lesson about ocean swimming from this terrible ending. I now put a lot of heavy conditioner in my hair, leave it in, make many braids, and then a bun. After done swimming I wash the goo out of my hair and it’s much better.