Mala Pier is without a doubt one of the top if not the top shore dive on Maui and especially on the leeward side of the island near Kaanapali. The pier is in the middle of Lahina near the Canary Mall. When you are driving along the highway from Kaanapali back towards Kahului you can see the pier on the right just as you start into Lahina. This is an easy boat dive and a moderately easy shore dive. Do not go over the reef on the ocean side of the pier, rather enter on the island side of boat ramp and swim around to the dive site. The Mala Pier dive is between 15 to 35 feet for most of the dive and you can spend well over an hour with no problems depending upon your air consumption. This site is loaded with a large variety of schooling fish, White-tip Reef Sharks, lots of Butterflyfishes, Green Sea Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles and much more making it an excellent site for underwater photography.
Mala Pier Rating: 3.59 out of 5
- Visibility – moderate although sometimes can be very good
- Access – Easy, 15 minutes on a boat outside of Lahaina Harbor, or via shore
- Current – small to weak if any
- Depth to 50 ft / 15 m
- Reef health Hard / Soft Corals – Moderate
- Marine species variety – Good
- Pelagics / Mammals / Turtles / Rays – Moderate, 3+ sightings on a dive, almost always white-tips and sea turtles
Mala PIer was built in the early 1900’s by the Dole Pineapple company to be able to offload pineapples from Lanai and have them processed at the Pineapple Cannery in Lahina which is now the Cannery Mall. The pier for a variety of reasons was never used by the Dole Company but did see service in WWII for loading and unloading supplies. The concrete pier stood until 1992 when it was destroyed in hurricane Iniki. However, the destruction of the pier has been a boon for scuba divers in Maui.
Mala Pier Overview
Mala Pier makes a great morning or afternoon dive and is spectacular as a night dive, but I would recommend that you dive the site first during the day before attempting a night dive. Visibility is usually quite good, from 60 feet and up. There is no current to speak of and the site is quite easy to navigate. You swim out with the remains of the pier and then turn around and follow them back to shore. No worries. There are a few coral mounds in the sand surrounding the pier which are also quite interesting and make for great macro photography but you should be a reasonable navigator to investigate these other sites.
To enter Mala Pier, there is ample parking found at the pier and there is also a place to rinse your gear after the dive at the top of the boat ramp. The dive site can be entered in one of two legitimate ways, entering via the beach on the west side of the pier that is still standing (not recommended) or entering via the small beach on the east or island side of the boat ramp. You can also walk down the boat ramp but it can be a bit slippery….
If you enter from the beach this is best done when there is a high tide as you will have to cross a very shallow reef and will most likely have to walk part of the way out. One suggestion is to float your gear and not put on your fins or BC until you reach deeper water. To understand the tides you can check with Google or go to tides.info and search for tidal information for Lahina. Again I highly recommend entering from the small beach area on the island side of boat ramp and then swimming around to the site.
Once you enter the Mala Pier dive site you will quickly get to about 15 feet of water and can begin your dive. You will notice many Keetail Needlefish around the standing and fallen columns of the pier near the shore. You will also see a number of juvenile fish of a variety of species in this same area. As you move further along the pier you will encounter a variety of corals attached to the pier and a number of different types of Butterflyfishes, Bird Wrasses, Goatfishes, Green Sea Turtles and much more.
If you are looking for sharks you can almost guarantee that you will see several White-tip reef sharks on this dive. There is usually one or more resting under the fallen columns towards the far end of the pier. You will also see sharks resting on the bottom typically on the western side of the pier usually mid-way down to pier to the end of the pier. You can also encounter these sharks as they are cruising around the ruble in search of the next meal. Don’t worry they won’t bother divers unless they are significantly provoked. So approach slowly and then take time to appreciate these marvelous creatures.
Mala Pier is a great dive site and one of my favorite on Maui. Take your time to truly appreciate it. If you need to rent tanks check out Lahina Divers, they are my favorite dive operation on Maui, but you can also rent from a number of other locations.
You can see the complete photo gallery for Mala Pier at stevenwsmeltzer.com as well as more on underwater photography and landscape photography or you can follow me on Twitter @ images2inspire.