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Who knew a jealous battle for love in Hawaiian mythology would result in one of the world’s top snorkeling destinations? When fire goddess Pele and Molokini – who took the shape of a moo (gecko) – fell for the same prince, Pele cut her in two, turned her to stone and threw her into the ocean. Today, Molokini Islet is said to be the lizard’s tail. The Puu Olai cinder cone, a prominent geological landmark on Maui, is said to be her head.
If you want the geological version of its creation: Molokini is the result of volcanic activity more than 200,000 years ago.
I had the opportunity to snorkel waters surrounding the crescent-shaped islet of Molokini last year. We took a tour boat from the nearby Maalaea Harbor in Lahaina and traveled about three miles to Molokini before dunking into its insanely blue waters. Snorkeling turned out to be pretty nice because the islet blocks most of the wind and waves from entering its cove. And unlike some snorkel spots, where it’s a hit or miss when it comes to seeing cool stuff, this exploration didn’t disappoint.
I remember schools of black trigger and trumpet fish brushing against me as I made my way to shallower waters. Small rolling waves rippled off of anchored tour boats and rolled in the direction of snorkelers, gently nudging them closer to the islet. I took notice of how the colors changed underwater as the ocean floor ascended from the cove’s center to the sandy inner edges of the island; a gradient of deep, royal blues faded subtly into a light periwinkle before transcending into a pure aquamarine color, almost as magnificently vibrant as the gemstone itself.
Molokini’s beautiful baby blue waters.
The most memorable part was steadily approaching the islet by boat. It seemed to be stretching as wide as the vast horizon, but when we finally reached it, the island appeared to have recoiled back into its tail-like formation; perhaps it was Molokini’s method of self-defense or just my imagination.
People aren’t allowed to step foot on Molokini because it belongs to a State Marine Life and Bird Conservation District and protects 260 fish and 38 coral species. Also because there still may be shell fragments and casings left over from when the U.S. military used Molokini as a bombing target during World War II.
There’re many boat tours that will take you to Molokini. Our’s provided snacks, lunch and this super-cool slide!
Overall, visiting Molokini is a must if you’re on Maui. During the winter, you might also see whales on your way out. While it can be a bit pricey, depending on which tour company you choose, it’s still well worth the experience!
MOLOKINI ISLET • Off the southwestern shores of Maui • Visit by boat