The Pros and Cons of Small, Midsized, and Large Snorkeling Boats

Maui Snorkeling

Snorkeling in Maui is one of the best things to do as a family in Maui. The water temperature, the clarity, the large number of snorkeling boats in Maalaea Harbor, and Maui’s proximity to the Molokini Crater makes it a must for any vacation in Hawaii. There are dozens of snorkeling boat tours to choose from and a little local insight can really help you choose what’s best for your family.

When you begin your search, the first thing to consider is the size of the snorkeling boat for your snorkeling tour in Maui. The options range from very small rafts with 5 people to massive boats with 160+ passengers. (It should be said at the outset, that all boats running out of Maalaea Harbor are safe for the waters of Maui or they wouldn’t be approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.) I’ll outline the positives and negatives of each to help you decide what meets your needs.

Small Boats


  • Easy entry into water – less simple when exiting water
  • Agile – easy to maneuver into tight locations
  • Personal Attention – small customer counts
  • Flexibility – easy to cancel with small numbers of passengers
  • Semi-Private Snorkeling – not 100% private but close
  • Fewer Activity Options – ideal for the “dive-only” crowd
  • Most “in water” time


  • Increased likelihood of sea sickness – Small Boat = More Bounce
  • Limited ability to navigate rough seas
  • Age limitations – May not be suitable for the youngest and/or oldest
  • Fewer meal options – Lack the amenities for meal prep
  • Fewer equipment options – Limited room to carry boogie boards, slides, wetsuit, equipment
  • No Bathrooms – DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE the value of a working “head”
  • No storage space – Personal items limited
  • Limited ability to move around the boat’
  • Tendency to be slightly more expensive

Midsized Boats


  • Calm entry and exit from water – Multiple entry and exit points on the boat
  • Suitable for all ages
  • Personal attention – Less personal than a small boat, but much more than a large boat
  • Able to navigate rougher seas – Heavy boat = Less Rocking
  • More activities and options – Large enough to store supplies, boogie boards, slides, food, beverage, “noodles”, freshwater showers, storage space, cameras, video
  • Meals often included
  • Beverages often included
  • Equipment often included
  • Bathrooms – Working “heads”
  • Increased shade
  • Ability to walk around and move around freely
  • Fishing possible while Commuting
  • Ideal for whale watching – Upper deck for optimal viewing
  • Moderately priced


  • Less private – Up to 50 people at a time
  • Less agile
  • Slower moving
  • All ages of participants
  • General purpose boat – not just snorkeling and diving

Large Boats


  • Various entry points and exit points to the water
  • Cruise ship feeling – Large Spaces to move around
  • Large passenger counts allow the large boats to charge less per passenger
  • Smooth in rough seas
  • More on-boat activities
  • Larger food and drink selection
  • Significant amounts of shade
  • Multiple levels
  • Strong list of non-snorkeling activities
  • More “commercial” experience


  • Crowded in-water experience
  • Lines for activities
  • Lines for meals & drinks;
  • Delayed entry to water as lines of passengers enter the water
  • Delayed exit of water as passengers lineup to exit the water
  • Less personal attention
  • Later departure
  • Less “in-water” time

So, the question was…Does size matter when taking a snorkeling boat in Maui? It’s pretty clear that size does have a dramatic impact on the nature of your Maui snorkeling tour. Neither option is “wrong”. It’s simply a matter of what is “right” for you. We have a strong opinion, but we realize that cost is sometimes more important than privacy and personal attention.

Regardless, we can assure you that Maui offers some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii!

Maui Snorkeling Boat