Olowalu Reef, also known as Turtle Reef, is one of Hawaii’s most diverse reef systems, with about 24 species of coral and numerous species of fish. Located off the island of Maui, a few miles south of Lahaina, the reef is home to one of the largest congregations of Hawaiian Green turtles and dozens of them can be seen at the cleaning station at a time. The turtles can be seen in the mornings and afternoons when they feast on algae and seagrass.
The turtles’ shell is sensitive and since they tend to grow algae on it, they require gentle cleaning from time to time. That’s when the surgeonfish, wrasses, tangs, and toby fish come in to help them out. Other marine creatures you may spot here include black-tip reef sharks, tiger sharks, manta rays, sea urchins, parrotfish, triggerfish, goatfish, octopus, and peacock groupers.
Olowalu Reef is suitable for beginners. The site is shallow, with a maximum depth of about 12 meters/40 feet, but the hills and valleys of coral and marine life are spectacular. However, due to plankton growth, visibility is not that great.
The reef can be dived year-round. The turtles’ favorite time to feed is during the summer (approximately April through October), but the humpback whales visit Maui by the hundreds between November and May. The winter season (November through March) tends to be rainier and cooler, but the rain only lasts for a short while.
Access is possible from the beach, but it is not recommended, as it can damage the reef. It’s best to go by boat.