Ocean Activities

The Ultimate Lanai Snorkel Experience with Ocean Riders

Ocean Riders Maui are a special outfit. They:

  • are the only snorkel tour to circumnavigate Lanai
  • leave from Lahaina, Maui
  • operate a small boat with a limited number of guests
  • pack a great lunch
  • really, really know what they’re doing

We just simply rave about Ocean Riders when we talk about snorkeling tours in Hawaii. Put it like this, if you’re staying on Maui, and want the ultimate snorkel day-trip, we’ll always point you to Ocean Riders. Oh, and you get to go to another island too. Win.

If you’re the adventurous type, looking to find crystal-clear waters where no one else is snorkelling, for the whole day, then here’s why we think Ocean Riders are going to the top of your options list …

Morning on this Lahaina beach, with Lanai in the background

Lanai in the distance: our destination for the day

Lanai is where we’re headed for the day. The sixth largest Hawaiian island, formerly home to millions of pineapples, she is a quiet retreat from the bustle of the some of the busier spots in Hawaii.

The sun rises at Mala boat ramp, Lahaina

Early starts make for glorious sunrises

It’s an early start. Like, crack of dawn early. We were treated to a glorious sunrise as we rolled in to Mala ramp, Lahaina.

If you’re not the early-morning sort, but you’re visiting Maui from the mainland US or Canada, or further east, then why not book this for the beginning of your vacation? You’ll most likely be up early with the jet lag anyway, what not make the most of it?

Red Ocean Riders RIB

Ocean Riders: high-powered fun

Here’s our vessel for the day. She’s small, agile, and very, very fast. The coast guard use these. There’s enough room for us and a few bits of kit, but don’t bring much with you. You’ll need sunscreen and hats and sunglasses. Leave most of the rest of it behind.

Snorkel gear is provided, and we brought our own with us.

Male Boat Ramp at dawn

Dawn breaks over the boats at anchor at Mala boat ramp

With hot coffee in hand the cool early-mornings in Hawaii are a very special time. As the boat launches behind us we soak in the views.

The jetty at Mala boat ramp

Ocean Riders launches from Mala boat ramp, Lahaina

That’s Molokai in the distance, catching the early morning rays.

Sunrise over the West Maui Mountains

Sunrise over the West Maui Mountains

Speaking of sunshine, when the sun climbs it burst dramatically through the tops of the West Maui Mountains. The early purples of the dawn now give way to warm oranges and yellows as the day gets under way.

Cpt. Chads reminds us to hold on. Remember this!

Cpt. Chads reminds us to hold on. Remember this!

And we’re getting ready to go too. Chad, our captain for the day (and Ocean Riders head man) tells us all about holding on at high speeds.

This would not be a good time for you to become distracted by dropping your sunglasses into the water [note to self]. Yes it’s smooth now, but when the boat gets up to speed you will want to hold on.

When we're at speed later, this will come back to you!

When we’re at speed later, this will come back to you!

Really, really hold on!

Wil is stoked to spend the day with Ocean Riders!

Wil is stoked to spend the day with Ocean Riders!

Wil is excited to spend the day on the ocean. He knows what’s in store and has plenty to smile about.

Approaching the Lanai Liberty Ship

Approaching the Lanai Liberty Ship

After leaving Maui and crossing the straight to Lanai we come upon the old Liberty Ship, shipwrecked off the coast.

Buzzing past the Liberty Ship

Buzzing past the Liberty Ship

We pass her at speed, getting up close and staring at a vessel that although battered, has lasted through the elements for quite some time.

YOGN 42 (often called a Liberty Ship) off the coast of Lanai

YOGN 42 (often called a Liberty Ship) off the coast of Lanai

Correctly identified as YOGN 42, this was actually a barge, built like the Liberty Ships. She was being towed when the line between her and her tug snapped during rough weather. She beached off Lanai and has been sitting there ever since.

Can you guess how Shipwreck Beach got its name?

Can you guess how Shipwreck Beach got its name?

We continue down the coast of Lanai, past Shipwreck Beach. There are a number of shipwrecks here, which unlike the ‘Liberty Ship’ are decomposing at a rapid rate.

A quick briefing before our first swim of the day

A quick briefing before our first swim of the day

Right, now it’s time to swim! Our first foray off the boat, and we’ll get the chance to snorkel and then head for land to see what we can find …

The island of Lanai, all to ourselves!

We have the area to ourselves

There is no one else within sight of the boat, either at sea or on land. It seems that all of a sudden the hustle and bustle of life has been replaced by calm and solitude. Excellent.

Snorkelling off Lanai from Ocean Riders boat

Snorkelling off Lanai

The visibility here is good, like 100-feet-plus-good. No sunscreen build up in the water (we’re thinking of Black Rock, Ka’anapali right now) and the waves have been quiet, leaving the seabed undisturbed.

Beach landing with Ocean Riders

Setting foot on a sunning, completely quiet Lanai beach!

After splashing around we soon head for land. The prospect of swimming on to Lanai is vastly appealing and as we clamber up on the beach we confirm we are completely alone.

We’re in Hawaii, on a majestic beach, with no one else. We let that soak in for a while …

All alone on Lanai

We have the entire beach to ourselves!

Those footsteps are our own. Those specs in the distance are our fellow snorkelers. The beach really is ours!

South side of Lanai coast, featuring sea cliffs

The south side of the Lanai coast is stunning

We swim back to the boat and get on board and soon we’re under way again, heading around the island and soon discovering sea cliffs, blow holes, and caves.

Ocean Riders circumnavigating the island of Lanai

Passing the cliffs at speed

Thanks to the speed of the boat, we can get the whole way around the island in one day, plus stop multiple times to snorkel.

This boat is fast. If you’d forgotten the briefing telling you to hold on before the departure, you quickly learn the fact for yourself. The sea is calm, but the bumps are felt as we skim over it at serious pace.

Top tip – if you think you may suffer from seasickness, then take some dramamine (or similar) before you leave. When at speed the boat is pretty comfortable, but when it slows down and comes to a stop, even a little swell will make this smaller boat bob a little bit.

Snorkelling at Shark Fin Rock, Lanai, from Ocean Riders

The Ocean Riders boat sitting calmly by Shark Fin Rock

After another snorkel spot we pull in to Shark Fin cove, next to Shark Fin Rock. So called because the rock looks like an, erm, shark fin.

We’re promised excellent visibility here, 200 feet place. So we jump in and had straight for the rock.

Excellent visibility when snorkelling with Ocean Riders off Lanai

Visibility is exceptional in the waters of Lanai

The underwater visibility is remarkable The big rock towers up from the seabed and is home to many coral of different shapes and colors, which in turn attracts a lot of other marine life.

So many fish in pristine waters next to Shark Fin Rock

The undersea life at Shark Fin Rock was breathtaking

We swim around to the west side of the rock and I’m suddenly stopped in my tracks. All of a sudden it’s as if I’ve been thrown in to an aquarium. The sea is teeming with fish, they’re everywhere! It felt as if I was in the 90’s computer screensaver.

I pause underwater, memorised by what I sea. I’ve snorkelled a fair amount around Maui and neighbouring islands, but that view was a new high for me.

Fish, fish, and more fish!

So many fish!

It’s easy to lose track of time – in fact all normal concerns really – when in this sort of environment. It is a truly majestic experience.

The fish swim slowly, paying me no attention, this way and that, just doing their thing. When I close my eyes now I can see that sight, and I smile as I recall what I was feeling at the time.

Well, at last we must return to the boat, and we head back to Maui. What a day that was. We proceed at pace, around the Lanai coastline, hugging the shore closely before swinging for Maui and making the dash across the channel back to Lahaina.

Everyone on board thoroughly enjoyed their time. Captain Chad took great care of us, with excellent snorkelling advice, Hawaiian history, an amazing deli lunch, and an easy manner which matched the stress-eliminating activities of our adventure. We landed tired, happy, relaxed and went and celebrated with a cold beer. It really was a perfect day.

Book your Lanai snorkel adventure with Ocean Riders. You won’t be disappointed!

Our Ocean Riders Snorkel Adventure in Video

We took our GoPro with us and as well as grabbing some of the photos above, we got some excellent video footage too. Enjoy!

Book Your Adventure with Ocean Riders


Ocean Riders Snorkel Tour of Lanai

From: $134.95

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4 thoughts on “The Ultimate Lanai Snorkel Experience with Ocean Riders

  1. Teresa Sackett says:

    I have a question about the boat. Does it have a ladder for getting back into while snorkeling?

    Thank you.

    1. Jonathan says:

      That’s a great question Teresa, and a useful point of clarification! After swimming sessions, a little rope ladder is deployed towards the back of the boat, along the side. It’s right next to the canopy structure.

      The captain of the day is always there to provide a helping hand up and to help you find the upright rail when you climb aboard too.

      Thanks for asking 🙂 Aloha.

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