Molokini is considered to be one of the top 10 dive spots in the world. Snorkeling, scuba, and scuba tours depart from Maʻalaea Harbor and Kihei Boat Ramp. Molokini's crescent shape protects divers from waves and the channel's powerful currents. However, experienced scuba divers will also drift dive off the 300 feet (91 m) sheer outer wall, using the channel currents to carry them along. The crater houses a lush reef with excellent visibility as deep as 150 feet (46 m). Molokini is home to about 250 species of fish, many endemic (see Ecology below). The best conditions occur in early morning.
According to Hawaiʻian legend, Molokini was a beautiful woman. She and Pele, the fire goddess, were in love with the same man. The jealous Pele cut her rival in two and transformed her into stone. The woman's head is supposedly Puʻu Olai, the cinder cone by Makena Beach.
During World War II, the United States Navy used Molokini for target practice because its shape is somewhat similar to a battleship. In 1975 and 1984 the US Navy detonated in-place unexploded munitions found within the crater, resulting in the destruction of large areas of coral. This resulted in a public outcry. A thorough search and risky manual removal of unexploded munitions to deep water was carried out by volunteer divers as a result. A 2006 survey found no evidence of unexploded munitions on the islet itself.
Molokini crater is home to approximately 250 to 260 distinct marine species. Most commonly observed among these are the Black Triggerfish, Yellow Tang, Moorish Idol, Parrotfish, Raccoon butterflyfish and Bluefin Trevally. Due to constant exposure to park visitors and the long history as a conservation district, the fish of Molokini are extremely comfortable with the presence of nearby divers. Small Whitetip reef sharks and Moray eels are occasionally seen in the crater.
38 different hard coral species can be found in the waters of Molokini, as can approximately 100 distinct species of algae.
Restrictions on Access and Activities
Molokini islet itself is federally owned and is a state seabird sanctuary. Thus unauthorized landing is prohibited. Permission to land must be obtained both from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
The Wailea Molokini Challenge in 2011 was a charity swim and charity paddle event that benefited Best Buddies Hawaii and Ka Lima O Maui. The 12-mile event raised money and awareness for the diverse population of people with disabilities on Maui.
Karen Gaffney swam from Wailea Beach on Maui, circumnavigated Molokini crater island 6 miles away, and then paddled back. Gaffney was accompanied by Hawaiian channel swimmer and Maui resident Mike Spalding. The benefit paddle/swim circumnavigation of Molokini included stand up, OC-1, OC-2 and traditional outrigger canoe in teen, adult and senior age divisions.