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Fun in the Sun

A Maui vacation is a time to try something new, whether it's your first snorkeling plunge...getting the hang of surfing, or strapping yourself to a parasail. Maui's waters welcome watersports beginners, as well as the experienced and the pros. All the equipment you need can be rented from local outfitters, and classes and private lessons are available. Nearly every conceivable watersport is at your fingertips on the island.

Surfing: If you're an experienced surfer, head for Honolua Bay, Napili Bay, Ma'alaea Beach, Baldwin Beach Park, or Ho'okipa Beach Park. If you want to learn more about hanging ten, contact one of the outfits which offer private lessons. You'll usually be standing on a board by the end of your first lesson. Click here for Maui Surfing Providers.

Boogie boarding and Bodysurfing: Surf spots can also be great with boogie boards, but with or without a board, you can ride the waves at a number of great spots including Napili Bay, Kamaole Beach Park, Polo Beach, Wailea, Ulua, Makena, and Baldwin Beach Park.

Jet skiing: Here's something to try if the waves just aren't fast enough for you. You can rent a Kawasaki or Yamaha Wave Runner in Ka'anapali or Kihei. Click here for Maui Waterskiing and Water Sports Providers.

Parasailing: No experience necessary for this exciting sport. It involves you connected to a parachute, which is connected to a speed boat. Soar above the waves, except during whale migration season when disruptive boats are prohibited to protect the humpbacks. Click here for Maui Parasailing Providers.

Kayaking: You can rent one, two, or four-person kayaks for fishing or paddling in calm waters. Click here for Maui Kayaking Providers.

Island Snorkeling

People of all ages can indulge in the fascination of an underwater world by donning a mask, snorkel, and fins. They are available for rent at numerous places throughout the island.

If you're new to the sport, you can ask for some instructions, but it won't take long to get the hang of it. Soon you'll become familiar with many of Hawai'is spectacular reef fish -- colorful tangs, exotic Moorish idols, varieties of wrasses, parrot fish, and humuhumunukunukuapua'a, the official state fish.

Although there are many great places to snorkel, you'll need to check the current ocean conditions, usually determined by the time of year. Waters are usually calm in the winter months around Ka'anapali and Lahaina, but rougher in Kapalua, where summer is the best season. The best year-round conditions are on the south side -- Kihei and Wailea -- but high surf hits there as well.

Maui's best snorkeling spots include Kapalua Beach, Honolua Bay, Napili Bay, and Mokule'ia Bay, all in the Kapalua area. Black Rock, at the Sheraton-Maui Hotel at Ka'anapali, is best for beginners, especially in the winter months. Further south, Olowalu has a well-populated reef.

Two of the Kamaole Beaches in Kihei have great rock formations. The Wailea Beaches have interesting rocky fringes. Depending on water conditions, Hana Beach Park also has a good snorkeling setting.

Remember, always snorkel side by side with a buddy, and don't stray too far from shore. Strong, unpredictable ocean currents can catch you and carry you away!

Click here for Maui Snorkeling Providers.

Deep Sea Diving

Take a tour of the Maui most people don't see -- coral reefs, caverns, and colorful tropical fishes under the sea. Some of the best dive spots in the islands surround Maui, places as scenic as the land itself. If you are a PADI or NAUI certified diver, be sure to bring your card along, because you'll need it to rent equipment at the dive shops. Unless you're an expert diver, you should probably take a dive boat underwater tour.

The best dive tours are Molokini Crater, a crescent-shaped islet off the west coast; the island of Lana'i, where you can explore some fabulous caves and a sunken U.S. Navy submarine; and Nahuna Point near Wailea, also an underwater cave site.

Shore diving is available in a marine reserve at Honolua Bay near Kapalua, but waters can be rough in winter. There are some other great spots for very skilled divers only -- ask at the dive shops.

Night dives are also available. Many dive boat operators are very knowledgeable about ocean ecology and underwater life, and will educate you as well.

For less experienced divers, or folks just taking up scuba, many resort hotels provide free lessons, or you can take a certification or refresher course from a dive shop.

Introductory dive sites include Molokini, Honolua Bay, Mokule'ia Bay, Napili Bay, Black Rock, and Olowalu in West Maui, Kamaole in Kihei, and Wailea, Ulua, and Polo beaches in Wailea.

A new alternative to scuba is snuba -- instead of carrying tanks on your back you're attached to a sort of "sled" which holds the breathing apparatus. You can swim along the surface or dive down 20 feet.

A thrilling feature of winter-diving in Maui are the songs of the humpback whales. They can be heard for miles, so stay tuned.

Click here for Maui Scuba and Diving Providers.

Island Wind Surfing

Only on Maui is windsurfing both a participatory and a spectator sport. Even if you wouldn't think of dashing and thrashing through the waves, you can get a thrill watching the pros do it at Ho'okipa Bay, just outside of Paia town.

This windy spot, legendary in the short annals of windsurfing, is generally considered the preeminent boardsailing spot and is the site of wave sailing championships.

As for windsurfing at Ho'okipa, you should be experienced and prepared to compete with some aggressive guys. There are other great windsurfing spots for those looking for a less competitive scene. Kanaha Beach Park, near Kahului and Kealia Beach in Kihei, is easily accessible to beginners.

Equipment and instruction are available from several shops, and they can brief you on current beach conditions.

Click here for Maui Wind Surfing.

Better Safe Than Sorry: Some Water Safety Tips

The waters around Maui have an undeniable allure. However, everyone who plays in and around the ocean and rivers needs to realize that there are dangers, some obvious, others not so obvious. So along with your sunscreen, pay attention to and follow these tips, for a trouble-free time on the beach.

  • Never swim alone. Always stay with children: flotation devices do not substitute for real swimming ability.
  • Check for and obey warning signs posted before you enter the water.
  • Check with lifeguard (there are only a few on Maui) on beach and surf conditions. If there are no lifeguards around, ask any residents in the area about rip currents, Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, or other dangers.
  • Locate the lifeguard station, emergency phone or rescue surfboard when you arrive at a beach.
  • Don't swim in shorebreaks
  • Don't dive into water of unknown depth or into shallow breaking surf.
  • Never turn your back on the ocean until you're well above high tide line.
  • Be careful at beaches with high surf. Riptides are most common in these conditions. If caught in one, don't fight the current. Wait until it subsides, then swim to shore. Don't panic and exhaust yourself by fighting it.
  • Check with the National Weather Service for surf advisories. 808-245-3564.

Check with the National Weather Service for surf advisories. 808-245-3564.