As a line of people forms along the edge of slip 44 in Maalaea Harbor, anticipation is evident in the sea of smiling faces. With a 7 a.m. check-in time, there is a chill in the air that visitors to Maui rarely experience. Tiny silver fish flit back and forth in the water next to a white catamaran called the Quicksilver. The visitors are waiting for a snorkeling adventure! Snorkeling along the coastlines of the Hawaiian Islands provides visitors with a unique look at the coral reefs that help sustain the local marine ecosystem and gives toddlers a chance to explore the open sea.
Swimming in a volcano
Once on board, the crew provides guests with a breakfast of pastries, muffins, local fruit and juices. As you eat, the boat surges over the choppy waters toward Molokini Crater, a partially submerged volcanic crater sticking out of the dark blue water less than three miles from the island. Visitors will begin to feel exhilarated as the curve of the crater grows larger on the horizon. Be sure to lather up on sunscreen to avoid sunburns during your day at sea. As you arrive, the crew explains how to use the snorkeling equipment and offers wetsuit and underwater camera rentals. Once you’re confident that your child’s gear is on correctly and you’ve grabbed floaties and a pool noodle, head down the built-in slide into the warm water.
Because of the lack of sediment on the crater, the visibility of the ocean at Molokini is outstanding. The reef is home to over 200 species of fish, colored with black, white, yellow, blue and orange markings. Your toddler will delight in how close the fish come to you while you watch them through your snorkel mask – it will be hard to get them back on the boat to head to the next snorkeling spot.
Submerging in Turtle Town
The next stop – Turtle Town – is off the coast of the popular beach town of Wailea. This is another place that will thrill little ones who love sea creatures. The reef is deeper here, but hidden among the coral are Hawaiian green sea turtles. These turtles sometimes look like rocks when they are not moving so toddlers may need help spotting them at first, but once they do, they will be absolutely exuberant. It can be just as pleasing for adults to try to spy the turtles down below.
A whale of a tale
After you return to the boat, head to the upper deck to grab a chicken or pulled pork sandwich (or pasta, if you prefer it). The food will taste wonderful after working up an appetite on your snorkeling adventure. The crew gives you time to eat as they take you on a boat tour of the southwestern part of Maui. The captain provides guests with an in-depth background on the island’s geography, including the history of volcanic activity. He will take you past an ancient lava flow before turning to head back.
If you are on this adventure between December and April, humpback whales will be exploring the area to mate and find food. The captain will head back through an area known for whale activity and if you are lucky, you will get to see whales breaching the waves. The enormous splashes they make as they fall back into the water will have the little ones shrieking gleefully.
After a day filled with the ocean, marine life and sunshine, your toddler will be ready for a nap.