Hawaii Snorkeling: A Special Travel Guide

man snorkeling with turtle

The Hawaiian Islands provide almost limitless snorkeling destination spots in a dreamy, tropical paradise setting. Hawaii's crystal-clear waters are alive with active and varied marine life. It's impossible to snorkel these areas without spotting hundreds of varieties of tropical fish, green sea turtles, dolphins rays, eels, and coral reefs. You may even spot a humpback whale. You won't have to travel a long distance to enjoy many of these destination spots. So, read on and we will get you prepared to experience the best of Hawaii snorkeling.

Why Is Hawaii Known for Snorkeling?

two women snorkeling

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Hawaii offers some of the best underwater sights, thanks to its reefs, volcanic craters, and protected marine reserves; all surrounding the islands. Cliffs and Peaks are in close distance to beautiful beach areas. Many of these areas provide perfectly calm, waist deep waters good for beginners. However, there's a variety of snorkeling destination spots for any experience level.

Some Hawaii snorkeling spots require the use of a boat tour, however the majority are just a quick drive down the road. Expect to see some of the most beautiful and lively marine life below the surface. It is truly an amazing area to snorkel.

What Are the Best Hawaii Snorkeling Spots?

Hawaii offers some of the best underwater sights, thanks to its reefs, volcanic craters, and protected marine reserves; all surrounding the islands. Cliffs and Peaks are in close distance to beautiful beach areas. Many of these areas provide perfectly calm, waist deep waters good for beginners. However, there's a variety of snorkeling destination spots for any experience level.

Some Hawaii snorkeling spots require the use of a boat tour, however the majority are just a quick drive down the road. Expect to see some of the most beautiful and lively marine life below the surface. It is truly an amazing area to snorkel.

What Are the Best Hawaii Snorkeling Spots?

Hawaii offers some of the best underwater sights, thanks to its reefs, volcanic craters, and protected marine reserves; all surrounding the islands. Cliffs and Peaks are in close distance to beautiful beach areas. Many of these areas provide perfectly calm, waist deep waters good for beginners. However, there's a variety of snorkeling destination spots for any experience level.

Some Hawaii snorkeling spots require the use of a boat tour, however the majority are just a quick drive down the road. Expect to see some of the most beautiful and lively marine life below the surface. It is truly an amazing area to snorkel.

Big Island Hawaii Snorkeling


big island hawaii

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Kealakekua Bay

On the west shore of the Big Island and 12 Miles south of Historic Kailua Village is Kealakekua Bay, location of one of the most beautiful and lively snorkeling spots on the big island of Hawaii. Kealakekua is also a well-known historical site. James Cook (the famous British explorer) landed here in the year of 1779. You will notice the Captain Cook Monument here. The waters here are clear offering almost perfect visibility for snorkelers.

Kealakekua is an underwater marine sanctuary where you will snorkel alongside of dolphins, sea turtles and other marine life found in this area. It's valuable to note that they offer snorkeling boat tours to this secluded marine sanctuary. They offer these tours regularly to vacationers wanting to explore this active underwater oasis.

You can also kayak along the calm waters of the bay. While kayaking, you will enjoy the frequent appearance of spinner dolphins. These animals love to put on a show. Once you reach the protected shoreline of Ka'awaloa, leave your kayak safely behind and snorkel with turtles, eels, reef sharks and sting rays. 

Kahalu’u Beach Park

Kahalu'u Beach park is one of the most popular snorkeling areas on the Big Island of Hawaii. King Kamehameha, the king of Hawaii who reigned from 1782 to 1819, built a protective seawall in this spot so his family could snorkel these beautiful waters. Since that time, it has been well-known and frequented snorkeling spot for centuries. It is also one of the best snorkeling spots due to being a home for near over a 100 different varieties of fish accompanied by sea turtles.

Maui Island Snorkeling


maui island

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Molokini Crater

Molokini is, in fact, a partially sunken volcanic crater. It is a unique snorkeling spot located three miles off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Maui. You will only be able to access this snorkeling spot by boat through a scheduled Hawaii snorkeling tour. 

This ancient volcanic crater is home to well-over 250 species of tropical fish, with 100 foot depth visibility through crystal, clear blue waters. Because of these reasons, this area is popular for both snorkelers and divers. Snorkeling here will leave you with rewarding experiences of marine life found nowhere else on earth.

Kapalua Bay

If you're looking for a snorkeling location great for beginners, Kapalua Bay on the island of Maui is it. The protected sandy beaches and calm waters make it a perfect location for families and anyone else who wants to enjoy the beach and snorkel. You will travel on Highway 30 towards the Napili Plaza. Turn toward the ocean on Napilihau Street. 

When Napilihau Street T's at lower Honoapiilani Road, turn right. Drive a mile down to Napili Kai Beach Club and turn toward the ocean at the "Shoreline Access" sign.

Honolua Bay

10 miles north of Lahaina along Highway 30, on the northwest shore of Maui, is Honolua Bay. It is another marvelous Maui snorkeling spot surrounded by rocky cliffs that shelter the area from wind. Honolua Bay is home to a wide variety of tropical fish and an underwater world decorated with colorful and unique coral formations. This bay is part of the Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District.

Because this bay is a marine life conservation area, you have a great chance of experiencing diverse marine life. You will notice butterflyfish, snapper, puffer fish, unicorn fish and sea urchins. It is popular during the summer months for snorkelers; however if you visit this area during the wintertime, the surf is high.

Oahu Island Snorkeling


hanauma bay

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Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay, on the east side island of Oahu, is one of the best and most popular areas for Hawaii snorkeling. This volcanic crater is a favorite amongst visitors (and slightly crowded), but it is well worth your time. This popular spot sees about 3,000 visitors a day, but it is for a great reason. This sheltered bay and beautiful beach is easy to access. The waters in this bay are crystal clear, warm and calm.

This protected area is home to a wide variety of tropical fish that swim close by. You will experience viewing many species of reef and inshore, friendly fish known to Hawaii in waist deep water. Some species include damsel fish, squirrel fish, porcupine fish and trumpet fish. Viewing these lively and shallow waters from the beach is spectacular. 

This snorkeling spot is great for all levels of snorkelers, but beginners may find this is really the perfect spot to get in and explore. For those with more curiosity and experience, take the passage through the reef to the Witch's Brew (a turbulent cove) and to outer reef areas.

Makaha Beach Park

35 Miles from Honolulu on Farrington Highway, Makaha Beach Park is Oahu's second most popular snorkeling site. Its waters are clear, aqua blue with gentle currents, offering perfect snorkeling conditions. Snorkelers visit this location during the summer for the crystal-clear visibility and viewing of dolphins, tropical fish, green sea turtles, octopus, eels and manta rays. Makaha is home to deep underwater caverns and tunnels. The underwater caverns, arches, and tunnels run as deep as 40 feet.

Kauai Island Snorkeling


poipu beach and park

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Poipu Beach Park

25 minutes west of Lihue on the island of Kauai's south shores, Poipu Beach Park is popular Hawaii snorkeling destination spot. The beach is a sheltered cove providing perfect conditions for any snorkeling level. However, it's ideal for beginners. You will easily spot blue parrotfish and sea cucumbers. You will find the best snorkeling on the far right side of the beach. 

On the shore side, you spot resting monk seals and Tikes digging up the shallow-water lagoon. The wildlife here is spectacular. It's also common to see humpback whales during whale season.

Tunnels Beach


ke'e beach

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On Kauai's north shore, off Highway 560, and about a mile west of Hanalei Colony Resort you will find Tunnels Beach.Tunnels Beach has crystal clear blue waters in a stunning environmental setting. This beach is a great area to bring the whole family, relax and sunbathe. The best snorkeling areas are in the shallow inner reef spots. 

You will easily find unique rock formations, large coral heads, caverns, channels and tunnels. Marine life includes goat fish, filefish, green sea turtles, moray eels, trumpet fish and wrasse. It's safely enjoyable during the summer when waters are calm. But, during the winter, surf is high.

Ke’e Beach

At the end of Route 560 on Kauai's north shore in Haena State Park is Ke'e Beach. This beach is popular during the summer when waters are calm, and it's beautiful above and below water. The picturesque towering cliffs of Kauai's Na Pali Coast can be seen in the near distance. 

It's a lush tropical setting vegetated by ironwood trees, coconut palms, ti and guava. Snorkelers will easily sight green sea turtles and colorful tropical fish. It's one of the best Hawaii snorkeling spots for any level of snorkeling.

Anini Beach

Getting to Anini Beach is easy. You will take Kuhio Highway (Route 56) north to the northern Kalihiwai road. There you will turn right, staying to the left on Anini Road. You will arrive quickly at Kauai island's largest reef, Anini Beach. This protected cove's reef packed full of tropical fish, provides ample areas for snorkelers to enjoy. However, beginners should exercise caution here, as outgoing tides can be strong. So, play it safe.

Water is shallow in some areas, however the reef is extensively long. It appears to extend on forever at this scenic beach. You will easily spend hours exploring underwater nooks, crannies, rock formations and marine life up to the reef's edge.

Conclusion

woman snorkeling in blue water

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The islands of Hawaii are lush, tropical, and filled with life above and below the water. We hope this article has motivated you to grab your snorkel gear and experience the best Hawaii snorkeling. Please note, we listed the best and most popular snorkeling destination spots in this article, however there are many to discover and explore. Enjoy!

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