From the chilly heights of the "House of the Sun" Mount Haleakala through the lush rainforest beauty of the Road to Hana to the unique seascape of crescent-shaped Molokini Crater, Maui comes with all of the elements of paradise that bounce through our imaginations. Maui is also considered to have the greatest variety of diving in the Hawaiian Islands. Sea turtles and sharks are plentiful, and carnivals of wildly emblazoned fish characterize Maui's underwater world.
Humpback whales revel in Maui's warm waters during their birthing season. When they breach close to shore, locals and tourists alike bring traffic to a standstill to watch the acrobatic displays.
Diving the nearby island of Molokai is like descending into a thrilling, unpredictable, barnstormer kind of dive portal. During most dives, lemon butterflyfish accompany divers like bright-yellow tickertape at a welcome-home parade. The night diving off Maui can only be described as dramatic and dazzling. Electric-red Spanish dancer nudibranchs launch themselves like magic carpets, while tiger cowries, reef octopi, bull's-eye lobsters and a host of other nocturnal hunters keep your lights stabbing into the shadows throughout the dive.
A second home for Maui divers is the nearby island of Lanai, which seems to exist solely for the pleasure of underwater explorers. Here you'll find First and Second Cathedrals, where shafts of light pierce the caverns like a thousand radiant swords. The areas near those two holy blue shrines are thick with a great diversity of marine creatures. The nearby site known as Pyramids gets its name not from the topography but from the sheer number of pyramid butterflyfish that flutter over the top of the pinnacle.
At Fish Rock the underwater Who's Who includes menpachi, pipefish, viper morays and whitetips enough sea life to have even the most seasoned traveler flipping through marine ID books well into the night. And that's just on the reef. Look to the open water and watch for spotted eagle rays, manta rays and passing sharks, and from November to March, perhaps even humpback whales.
There are plenty of dive shops on Maui, and we showcase four of the best on the following pages. Just name your adventure.