Roughly 8 million people visit the Hawaiian Islands each year to discover the beautiful waters, enjoy the sun, and explore the islands, making it one of the top locations to snorkel in the world. There are several fantastic snorkeling spots around the Hawaiian Islands ready for you to experience.
Snorkeling is one of the most prevalent water sports on the Hawaiian Islands. Surrounded by 1,200 miles of coral reef, exquisite, clear waters, and fascinating marine life sightings, Hawaii is the perfect snorkeling location. Popular snorkeling spots include Turtle Town and Hanauma Bay.
It is common knowledge that Hawaii is considered one of the most beautiful island states in the world. What better way to explore its vast coral reefs, marine life, and coastlines than on a snorkeling adventure? Whether you are brand new to snorkeling or have years of experience, discover why Hawaii is the perfect snorkeling destination for you!
Snorkeling In Hawaii
Because of the protected marine areas surrounding the islands, Hawaii is one of the most incredible places to snorkel. There’s practically no place like it, from its crystal-clear oceans, abundant sea life, and tropical, vacation-like weather to all the pleasures a Hawaiian vacation has to offer.
Snorkeling in Maui provides some of the best chances to swim with sea turtles. Snorkelers can access the Rhe Honoiki reef, Hawaii’s largest coral reef, from Anini Beach on the island of Kauai. Swimming with reef manta rays at night on Hawaii’s Big Island is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
In Hawaii, the majority of snorkeling is done on fringing reefs made up of various hard corals. Rather than snorkeling inside safe bays, this usually entails snorkeling around rocky exposed areas between beaches.
Beautiful, robust corals in unique topographical formations characterize the best snorkeling places. You’ll also find a plethora of fish in various shapes and sizes. Turtles and manta rays, for example, are among the surprises. Many sites with great reef depths of 15 feet or less can also be found.
In general, the western sides of the islands are dryer and generally offer better snorkeling experiences than the east parts. This is because it usually rains more on the eastern sides, resulting in muddy waters, poor visibility, and cold temperatures that are not conducive to snorkeling. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but in general, try to schedule your snorkeling trips for the western areas of the islands.
Winter and spring are the most popular times to visit Hawaii. However, to experience the best snorkeling conditions in Hawaii, it is recommended that you travel in the summer months. Summers in Hawaii can be hot and humid at times, but the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. The water that time of year is warm, clear, and peaceful in general.
The Best Snorkeling Spots In Hawaii
There is a vast variety of the most incredible snorkeling experiences available on the islands of Hawaii, something not to be missed by those with a passion for adventure and exploring! We’ll help you in planning your next snorkeling outing by giving you some of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii:
Turtle Town – Maui
Starting with one of the most memorable and exciting snorkeling locations in all of Hawaii. Just off the coast of Maui, world-class snorkeling and diving may be found in crystal-clear seas that support an incredible variety of marine life.
Although it covers a broad area, most people refer to Maluaka Beach when referring to Turtle Town. This is because Maluaka is considered the best snorkeling beach on the island of Maui’s Turtle Town.
A sequence of underwater lava structures formed by subsurface volcano eruptions along Maui’s southern shore provides a safe haven for sea turtles.
One of the best things about Maluaka is the wide range of activities that can be done on the beach. Because it is concealed behind Haleakala, Maluaka is protected from Hawaii’s predominant trade winds. The sea is generally quiet and undisturbed without the heavy trade winds.
Swimming, boating, fishing, and, of course, snorkeling are all made more accessible by the beach’s tranquil water. The soft sand in Turtle Town is also ideal for tanners, relaxers, volleyball players, and children. This is undoubtedly the perfect place for a snorkeling getaway!
Manta Ray Village – Big Island
Snorkeling on the Big Island offers a thrilling experience not to be missed. As the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands, the Big Island has wide lava flats, deep undersea crevices, beautiful weather, and a rugged coastline. Some parts of Big island are only just starting to develop new reefs, meaning that the snorkeling experience offered here will just get better and better.
Despite being near twice the size of the other four Hawaiian Islands combined, the Big Island interestingly only accounts for about 15% of the state’s overall population. Those wishing to snorkel Hawaii away from the busyness of the crowds will find Big Island’s 266 miles of shoreline to be an absolute paradise.
Snorkeling in the waters of Manta Ray Village on the Big Island is one of the most exciting and unforgettable Hawaii snorkeling adventures anyone could possibly experience, even once the sun has gone down.
At night, waterproof spotlights are placed on the ocean floor to attract plankton, which attracts enormous Pacific manta rays in droves. Don’t worry though, snorkeling with them is absolutely thrilling and completely safe, even though they are closely related to sharks, have wingspans of up to 20 feet, and may weigh up to 3,000 pounds.
It is worth noting that this nighttime snorkeling spot is only recommended for more experienced snorkelers. It is essential to feel confident and at ease when swimming in the open ocean late at night.
Fringing Reef – Molokai
Hawaii’s longest barrier reef can be found on Molokai’s South Shore. These breathtaking underwater gardens stretch for roughly 28 miles, and a variety of tropical species can be spotted here.
You will undoubtedly be left in awe by Hawaii’s longest-fringing reef, where exquisite marine life like hawksbill turtles and spotted eagle rays can be seen while snorkeling. Plan your vacation during the whale-watching season, which is between the months of December to March.
Tens of thousands of whales congregate during this time, so there will be plenty of beautiful whale songs to be heard.
Hanauma Bay – Oahu
Because of its large fish population, quiet shallow water, and white sand, Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is the most well-known of Hawaii’s snorkeling beaches. The fish found here are the friendliest in all of Hawaii.
This historic volcanic crater is protected from all but the largest of ocean swells, making it a fantastic snorkeling spot for beachgoers of all ages. At least once, everyone should visit Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.
This volcanic crater on Oahu’s east shore serves as a marine life conservation area that is protected from ocean surges and teeming with fish. It goes without mentioning that it is an extremely popular area, so be prepared for crowds. While making friends with damsel fish, squirrelfish, porcupine fish, and trumpet fish, explore nooks and caves.
To get to the clear water, swim a little distance out from the sand. Once you’re out over the coral reef, there are plenty of crevices and caverns to explore. The fish will be all over you, seemingly unconcerned by your presence. The water depth over the shallow coral varies from around waist-deep to 15 feet, with the deeper water growing deeper, the further out you go.
Hanauma Bay has had to become a conservation zone after years of use and countless amounts of visitors, and it has therefore had to close every Tuesday to allow the marine life to feed and rest.
Sharks Cove – Oahu
Another exciting snorkeling spot on the Hawaii Island of Oahu is Sharks Cove. Sharks Cove is one of the island’s most popular snorkeling spots. Because it’s a succession of tidal pools, it’s popular with newbie snorkelers who want to experience the safety of being away from the open sea, which also makes it ideal for those that are snorkeling with children.
Scuba Diving Magazine named Sharks Cove one of the “Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World.” This small rocky bay, part of Pupukea Beach Park on Oahu’s world-famous North Shore, boasts turquoise water and an astounding variety of sea life.
Large smooth stones and coral heads make up the bottom, producing little caves and ledges where marine life might shelter. The adjacent cliffs create calmer water, which attracts schooling surface fish. Turtles, eels, butterflyfish, and various types of crustaceans are just some examples of marine life that you can expect to see at Shark Cove.
Kealakekua Bay – Big Island
If trying to pronounce the name of this exquisite area isn’t fun enough for you, we are confident that a snorkeling adventure here will be!
Kealakekua means “pathway of the gods” in the old Hawaiian language. The historic Captain Cook Monument is located in Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay, which is an underwater State Park and a marine life sanctuary. It is recommended that visitors should schedule a snorkel tour of Big Island to get the most outstanding snorkeling experience at Kealakekua Bay.
While snorkeling along Kealakekua Bay, keep an eye out for Hawaiian spinner dolphins that are known to be confident and playful creatures. Once you’ve arrived at Ka’awaloa’s protected shoreline, you can snorkel among turtles, eels, reef sharks, and rays.
For the full experience, bring along a picnic lunch and sit beside the monument to British explorer Captain James Cook. What could be better than a snorkeling adventure filled with great food, rich history, and some of the best scenery to experience.
Kaanapali Beach – Maui
As a final entry to our list, but by no means the end of all the snorkeling spots available in Hawaii, we have Kaanapali Beach. Kaanapali Beach is a three-mile stretch of picture-perfect white sand on Maui’s western shore. Numerous travel publications have named it one of the top beaches in the world.
The best place to snorkel at Kaanapali Beach is the section known as Black Rock. The rest of Kaanapali Beach is fantastic for tanning and swimming, but the fish are around the Black Rock region.
Around Black Rock, the water begins at around 8 feet deep and progressively rises to about 25 feet or more as you travel north around the point. You’ll be snorkeling primarily over sand, but you’ll also be following a beautiful, underwater lava rock ledge.
Snorkeling Tours In Hawaii
One of the freeing parts about snorkeling in Hawaii is that you do not necessarily need a tour guide to snorkel the exquisite spots on offer. They are free to access and require no permits or scheduled times. However, going on a snorkeling tour is one of the sure ways to guarantee that you get the most out of each spot.
Because of how popular snorkeling is in the state of Hawaii, there are several snorkeling tours and guides that are available. We’ll show you some of the popular ones that offer luxurious snorkeling adventures.
Alii Nui – Maui
Alii Nui is a luxury tour company based on the island of Maui. They specialize in events like snorkeling excursions, sunset sails, weddings, whale watching, as well as private charters. What sets Alii Nui apart is that they offer so much more than a guided snorkeling tour of the waters. Instead, the company offers a luxurious snorkeling experience.
Alii Nui offers a variety of snorkeling tour packages. We’ll focus on their “Deluxe Snorkel Excursion” package, which includes:
- A six-hour luxury snorkel sail through two locations.
- They provide full catering for breakfast, lunch, as well as snacks and also include various beers, wines, and sparkling wines.
- They offer premium snorkeling equipment for you to use.
- Free transportation is included for the duration of the excursion.
All of this will cost roughly $249 per adult, $189 per child between the ages of 4 and 12, and children three years old and younger can join for free. There are also smaller snorkeling tour packages available, starting at roughly $139 per adult.
Maui Snorkeling is another exciting tour company that offers a total of ten snorkeling trips every week, seven days a week. Their all-inclusive options are available from Monday through Sunday and include morning snorkeling excursion runs from 7 a.m. to midday, with both morning and afternoon tours available.
Snorkeling is at the heart of every trip at Maui Snorkeling, and they pride themselves on being the best in the industry. All of their snorkeling, whale-watching and diving adventures are family-friendly and suited for people of all ages and abilities. Every excursion offered by Maui Snorkeling includes all the equipment that you will need, as well as food, snacks, and beverages.
One of their popular packages is the five-hour morning snorkeling tour which includes two snorkeling locations.
The first location is the world-famous Molokini Crater, followed by the ever-popular Turtle Town. Snorkelers will have the opportunity to observe the majestic Humpback Whales as they migrate through the Hawaiian waters en route to these excellent Maui Snorkeling spots.
The boat that you will be transported on has a 25-foot water slide, so there is a whole lot of fun to be enjoyed while en route to the snorkeling spots. The cost for their five-hour package is $146 for adults 18 and older and roughly $100 for children. Again, children three years old and younger can join for free.
Snorkeling in Hawaii promises the adventure of a lifetime. All you need is to organize a plane ticket, rent a car, travel to the beach, put on your snorkeling gear, and get in the water! The best part about snorkeling in Hawaii is that there are no schedules! Enjoy the perfect island life and adventures that Hawaii has to offer.