Search for Sea Turtles & Sharks in Olowalu

Peter and I were noshing at 100 Wines, inhaling the best brussel sprouts of my life, when the bartender recommended on of the best things to do in Maui—a kayak-snorkeling excursion, with potential to swim with sea turtles.

My first reaction was that kayaking sounds like a lot of work, especially since we had been alternatively considering a “booze cruise” style catamaran snorkeling trip.

I stuck another brussel sprout in my mouth as she again muttered something about sea turtles. Huh? My ears perked up like a dog who just heard the chip bag being opened. Swimming with turtles, kayaking and seeing a coral reef were all on my bucket list. Done deal.

Olowalu is just five minutes South of Lahaina in West Maui and the tour was setup along the beach at Olowalu Campground. On the drive over to the excursion I decided to Google Kayak Olowalu to see if there was a guarantee of seeing turtles in my future and what came up instead was…shark attacks. My perky ears dropped and my eyes began to ogle my phone screen.
Kayak Olowalu

The spot where we would be snorkeling not only has been the center of numerous turtles sightings, but has also had three shark attacks in the past ten years. Probably decent odds in Las Vegas, not so comforting in Hawaii.

As we were getting fitted with our snorkeling gear, I nonchalantly inquired about the terrifying sharks that were on my mind. “Are there sharks where we will be snorkeling?”

“Yes, unfortunately we didn’t see any this morning on the first tour, but I’m hoping we can find some this trip out.” What? This guy was looking for sharks when in my mind all I could think about was how to keep my extremities intact. He must have sensed my fear, “Don’t worry, they are white tip sharks, relatively harmless.” Do they have teeth? Then, not harmless.
Kayaks in Olowalu

We lined up next to our motorless transportation as our tour guide Barry gave us the five-minute ‘Kayak 101’ lesson.

I have not been so grateful for a tandem ride since skydiving. Peter will be doing a lot of paddling. Poor Peter.

Let’s go find us some sharks and sea turtles…
Kayak demonstration in OlowaluKayaking to the Sea Turtles

Tour guides can make your excursions a billion times more memorable and Barry was that kind of guy; engaging, passionate and knowledgeable.

He knew these waters like the back of his hand, if there were sharks and turtles there was no doubt he would find them. Several times he had us sit on our kayaks motionless, watching the water for emerging sea life needing air.
Kayaking in Olowalu Snorkling in Olowalu

When a spot looked promising, we exited our kayaks to explore on our own.

The coral reefs and abundance of stationary sea life effectively diverted my attention from the search at hand. Only on a couple of occasions did I look behind me hoping a shark was not doing a sneak attack.
Annette White Snorkling Olowalu
Annette White Snorkling Olowalu

I readjusted my mask, before entering our last snorkeling location which was said to be home of a turtle cleaning station.

At these stations, turtles congregate to let their shells be cleaned by cleaner wrasse fish. Vaguely reminds me of getting a fish pedicure in Spain.

Before I even dipped my face into the water, someone hollered “there are turtles over here”. In an instant, I was witnessing several turtles swimming below me.
Swimming with Sea Turtles in Olowalu Maui

After a few minutes of gazing at these mesmerizing creatures near the bottom of the ocean, one started its ascent for a breath.

I immediately followed, swimming side by side with a sea turtle. $65 well spent. 
Annette White Swimming with Sea Turtles

Though we did not see any sharks, choosing Olowalu Kayaks was amongst the best decisions made for this Maui trip.

Have you swam with sea turtles or kayaked?

Kayak Olowalu
800 Olowalu Village
Olowalu, Maui, Hawaii

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2018-12-21T23:04:16+00:00August 6th, 2012|Categories: Hawaii, North America, TOP PICKS, TRAVEL|Tags: , , , |


  1. CeCe August 6, 2012 at 9:12 am - Reply

    I would have peed myself if I saw a shark, "relatively harmless" or not.  The underwater shots are AMAZING, especially the one with you and the turtle. 

  2. Allison August 7, 2012 at 6:23 am - Reply

    Swimming with sea turtles was one of my favorite things about my trip to Hawaii, we snorkeled twice every day at the Kona village resort on the big island- it was amazing!!! I'm so jealous of your wonderful pictures! We just bought a cheepi throw away and they're terrible. What kind of camera were you using? I'm not returning to Hawaii without a very nice camera!!

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey August 7, 2012 at 7:03 am - Reply

      For the above water photos, I am using a Canon Rebel T2i. The underwater photos were actually taken by someone in the group with a high end under water camera. We got really lucky that day!

  3. Juliann August 7, 2012 at 7:37 am - Reply

    No, I've never swum alongside sea turtles, but I did hold a few in the Cayman Islands. I think one peed on my shirt. That was enough for me.  😉

  4. John August 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm - Reply

    Very cool that you had the chance to see so many turtles. Sea kayaking is deceptively difficult, now I have loads of respect for the people who can do it well. I'm not one of those people.

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey August 8, 2012 at 1:13 pm - Reply

      I’m surprised that my shoulders and arms weren’t more sore the next day!

  5. Callie August 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm - Reply

    Ha!  Even turtles get fish pedicures – love it!  Swimming with them sounds amazing…

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey August 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm - Reply

      It was something I will never forget!

  6. Mary @ Fit and Fed August 21, 2012 at 10:05 am - Reply

    I've always had a love for sea turtles and would love to swim with one! Would also love to do one of those volunteer trips where you help the nesting sea turtles by marking/guarding the eggs or helping the baby sea turtles get to the sea safely. That was your first time on a kayak, hope it's not the last! There are other kayaks besides the sit-on-top ones you used on this trip that I think you'll find more fun to paddle (even if your SO does most of the work).

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey August 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm - Reply

      It would be amazing to do a volunteer trip with nesting sea turtles! It’s on my bucket list 😉

  7. Sabrina September 6, 2012 at 7:50 am - Reply

    How cute! Would love to combine kayaking and seeing turtles under water!! Not so sure about the possible shark sighting since you mentioned those shark attacks. Pretty scary!

    • Annette | Bucket List Journey September 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Now that I am back home I wish I would have seen a shark so I could have checked “swim with sharks” off my bucket list, but at the time I was scared!

  8. Bucket List Journey Shark Encounters While Shrimping in Georgia November 12, 2012 at 9:23 am - Reply

    […] BUCKET LISTOLOGY, TRAVEL After my failed attempt to swim with sharks in Olowalu, I put the whole shark encounter idea on the back burner. And it was the furthest thing from […]

  9. […] my failed attempt to swim with sharks in Olowalu, I put the whole shark encounter idea on the back burner. And it was the furthest thing from my […]

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    […] swimming about. At least if I plunged into the water I would have an opportunity to cross off the 'swim with turtles' bucket list goal. As I stepped on the platform, I looked to my left and that's when I noticed […]

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  14. Roatan Fishing Trips September 27, 2013 at 2:13 am - Reply

    Amazing pictures. The dive we did in Roatan put us amongst a variety of tropical fish and sea turtles. We also got to see Seahorses, Barracuda’s, sea turtles, nurse sharks, trumpet fish, starfish, and stingrays. It was an amazing experience.

    • Annette White September 27, 2013 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Sea horses are my favorite and I have never seen them outside of an aquarium! I will have to check out your dive.

    • michael presley May 14, 2015 at 11:56 am - Reply

      Sea turtles and great white sharks.?

  15. Kerry June 21, 2014 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Hawaii is definitely on my bucket list and I love sea turtles. Sounds like Heaven.

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