Snorkeling is one of the most popular activities in Hawaii. Around eight million visitors go to Hawaii each year to explore the islands, making it one of the top snorkeling spots worldwide.
Top 19 Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii
To help you choose which option is best for you, we have researched the many options you have available. In no particular order, here are our choices for the best snorkeling spots around the Hawaiian Islands.
Coral Gardens lies immediately south of Historic Lahaina Town, next to Olowalu Reef. You can only get to this well-known Hawaiian snorkeling site via boat. A lava flow from the Pu’u Kukui Mountains formed the Coral Gardens Reef.
It made fingers, which flowed to the sea, where coral reef shelves are now home to a diverse array of aquatic life. Snorkeling here is undoubtedly a unique and beautiful experience.
Visitors may experience stunning underwater landscapes, large coastal views of West Maui, sights of the outlying Lanai Island, and a spectacular backdrop ornamented by the West Maui Mountain Range.
A large rocky beach along Makena Drive found below Wailea is known as Five Graves. Despite its proximity to Chang’s Beach, which snorkelers can access too, Five Graves has its intended parking lot located south.
With steep rocks, greater depths, and rougher conditions, Five Graves is exclusively for expert snorkelers only.
With big schools of fish, gigantic boulders, magnificent coral reefs, and a high population of sea turtles, snorkeling at Five Graves is truly rewarding. Many tours stop off at the Five Graves region, with several outlying reefs.
You can join a tour that goes into these waters if you want to go farther off the coast. The underwater caverns in this region are also known to scuba divers. You can contact a local diving shop if you’re interested.
Situated on the southeast coast of Oahu, Hanauma Bay is where you can find Hawaii’s largest concentration of fish. Due to its large fish population, quiet waters, and pristine beaches, Hanauma Bay is the most popular among snorkeling beaches in Hawaii.
Additionally, the fish on this spot are the friendliest. This historic volcanic crater is shielded from the largest ocean waves, making it an excellent snorkeling spot for tourists.
At least once, everyone should visit this top snorkeling destination. Hanauma Bay used to have up to 10,000 people daily, which was too much for such a delicate ecology.
Then, the Honolulu City and County started making adjustments in 1990 to address several years of abuse by the people. One of the improvements was restricting visits to only 3,000 a day, which is a more sustainable number.
Paea, commonly known as Two Step, is a well-known snorkeling destination in Honaunau Bay. Honaunau Bay is commonly referred to as the City of Refuge, named after the Puuhonua or Honaunau National Historic Park.
The Travel Channel selected Honaunau Bay as one of America’s most beautiful beaches in 2004. Thanks to its favorable layout, the waters are usually calm and have outstanding visibility for most of the year.
After Captain Cook, this site is often considered the second finest snorkeling destination on the Big Island. The waters are clear, with a depth of approximately 20 feet. Additionally, dolphin pods may often be seen swimming very close to the coast.
Honolua Bay is a great surfing destination during winter due to its big waves, but it’s entirely unsuitable for swimming. Summer, on the other hand, delivers calmer weather. The bay’s coral reefs are home to various colorful schools of fish and beautiful green sea turtles.
If you want to snorkel at Honolua Bay, start from the left end and follow the rocks to Kalaepiha Point. Usually, divers go to the eastern part of greater depths.
Kahalu’u Beach Park is a tiny cove in the Hawaiian town of Kailua-Kona that is brimming with fish and is a favorite hangout for marine turtles. Because most of the area is just a few feet deep, it generally has calm waters.
If you’ve never snorkeled in Hawaii before, this is an excellent spot to start. Swim with many fish species, including tang, porcupine fish, and eels. You can also find fantastic rock tidal pools to explore during low tides.
On the west side of O’ahu, the snorkeling spot “Electric Beach” is right next to a power plant. A few hundred yards from the shore, a large underwater pipe is spitting warm water from the power plant into the ocean.
As a result, large groups of the marine population, such as fish, turtles, and rare sharks, are drawn to the area with temperature differences.
Because it involves a lengthy swim offshore and is occasionally vulnerable to strong currents, this area is only exclusive for experienced snorkelers. So if you are a beginner, it is best to look for another option on the list.
All that Kahekili has to offer is pretty simple. It includes plenty of parking spaces, a lovely grassy area at the sand’s edge, beautiful pavilions, and several restrooms. Snorkeling is no exception. The reef is located just beyond the water’s edge, so you don’t need to swim far to begin snorkeling.
The diversity of the fish population and Hawaiian green sea turtles make the reefs at Kahekili Beach popular with tourists, inexperienced snorkelers, and beginner swimmers. Shore dives are also a popular activity at Kahekili.
Because the area used to be an airport, Kahekili is also regarded as an airport beach. It was the only site on the west side of Maui to land an aircraft until the runway was transformed up north in Kapalua.
Kapalua Bay is one of Maui’s most beautiful beaches and a great place to visit when visiting Hawaii. Kapalua is a Hawaiian word that means “two borders,” derived from the words kappa and Lua.
It’s ideally situated between Honokahua Bay and Oneloa Bay, explaining its namesake’s central location. Several reports, including Conde Nast Traveler Magazine, have continuously awarded Kapalua Bay as the world’s best beach.
It has also been dubbed the best beach in the U.S. by the Travel Channel. It’s undoubtedly one of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. Kapalua Bay’s tranquil environment is heavenly, and the beach is out of this world, with a sheltered cove suitable for the marine population to gather.
It offers a serene atmosphere for snorkeling in Maui, colorful coral reefs, good swimming conditions, and the perfect setting for relaxation with the entire family under the warm Maui sun.
Kealakekua Bay is regarded as one of the best snorkeling in Hawaii, and it’s the only state park on the Big Island located underwater. It’s a little challenging to get there from the land since the parking lot is around two miles away from the bay.
Getting there requires a long journey down to the water in the blazing heat, followed by a climb back up after you’re done. The best way to get to the bay is by boat, which offers you gorgeous coastline views from the sea, and allows you to visit the region’s greatest snorkeling spots.
Some companies offer boat trips off the Keauhou Region, which include food, drinks, snorkeling equipment, and interesting talks about the culture and history of the bay.
An alternative is renting a kayak and paddle out to reach the snorkeling spots of the bay. You can find sea turtles, spinner dolphins, eels, lizardfish, and coral reefs with excellent visibility.
Ke’e Beach, the Napali Coast’s entryway, provides spectacular ocean views above and below the waters. Before you jump into the ocean, take in some magnificent cliff views.
Various schools of fish and Hawaiian green sea turtles can be found on the reef, located close offshore. The water is often tranquil, like a swimming pool throughout the summer, enabling the guests to appreciate the water landscapes.
Snorkeling in the winter is a bit risky and not advised. In the summer, talk to the lifeguards first before entering the water. While the ocean appears calm, rip currents may still exist.
12. Kuilima Cove
Kuilima Cove is Oahu’s most tranquil and secluded snorkeling destination. It’s one of the greatest places on the islands for beginners. This beautiful, pristine sandy beach is situated behind the Turtle Bay Resort’s eastern border on Oahu’s famed North Shore.
Because the surrounding neighborhood is a part of the hotel, it’s maintained in excellent condition. Kuilima is a lesser-known beach so you will have plenty of area for yourself.
Natural rock formations surround the cove, guarding it against the waves. This place is the perfect spot if the waves on the North Shore are massive, as they are often throughout the winter months. The waters are clear with a neck-deep depth on average.
Corals and giant boulders make up the majority of the bottom. Fish are also plentiful. You’ll think you’re swimming inside an aquarium since it’s so clear and tranquil. Thus, snorkeling at Kuilima Cove is fantastic for children because of all these wonderful opportunities.
Kumimi Beach is among the top snorkeling spots in Hawaii in the eastern part of Molokai. This beach, also known as Murphy’s Beach, is one of the greatest on Molokai Island.
Kumimi Beach, unlike other Hawaiian snorkeling destinations, is best visited during the mid-high tide since the waters are so shallow. However, regardless of when you visit Kumimi, you will be thrilled.
It has lovely, golden-colored sand, and the sea feels refreshing, making it an incredible Hawaii snorkeling spot. Snorkelers may witness various marine populations, such as yellow tang, sea cucumbers, parrotfish, and spiny lobsters.
If you want to experience the best of marine life, snorkel close to the reef. Beyond the reef, the water conditions become more challenging, and they are only suitable for experienced snorkelers.
Swimming with the amazing manta rays is probably the biggest lure for nature enthusiasts visiting the seas of Kailua-Kona. Manta alfredi, or reef manta rays, are the world’s second-biggest species of manta rays and are regularly spotted in Hawaiian seas.
Mantas eat plankton that they sift out into their enormous mouths. The people residing off the coast of Kona don’t move and remain in these tropical seas permanently.
Around dusk, boats depart Kona’s ports and proceed to one of two locations known as “Manta Village” or “Manta Heaven.”
When the boats arrive, they beam lights into the sea and build massive rafts with floodlights pointing down into the seas. The light pulls diurnal plankton towards the surface, attracting groups of manta rays to feast on their evening meal.
Snorkelers cling to the edges of the rafts, watching as these majestic creatures swim and spin in loops, feasting on the plankton soup underneath. It’s an incredible sight to witness. When exploring the Big Island, consider this your top priority.
Mauna Kea Beach, also known as Kauna’oa Beach, is one of the Big Island’s greatest snorkeling spots and is situated close to the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Waimea. This snorkeling spot is ideal for both novice and expert snorkelers.
The nicest part about snorkeling on the Big Island is that the water is nearly always quiet, and the ocean clarity is incredible in the mornings.
The hotel gates provide access to Mauna Kea Beach. If you wish to snorkel here, come early since the hotel only gives you a certain number of parking tickets each day.
Molokini Crater is a few miles off the coast of Maui and is known for its pristine seas teeming with marine life. Swimming around this old buried volcano crater, you can find various species, including Hawaii’s state fish, Humuhumunukunukuapuaa.
Fortunately, there are numerous tour guide companies eager to take you on a boat trip for a fee. Just prepare to share the boat with a lot of scuba divers and snorkelers unless you arrive early in the morning. This location is not a hidden gem.
Scuba Diving Magazine dubbed Sharks Cove among the top twelve shore dives in the world. This little rocky bay, which is a part of Pupukea Beach Park on Oahu’s North Shore, has azure waters and an astounding variety of marine life.
The Pupukea tidal pools are located in the southern part of Sharks Cove. They are a lovely area to explore and enjoy.
Because Sharks Cove is among Oahu’s top diving and snorkeling sites, the area may be busy and populated at times. However, when you’re already in the water, you’ll barely notice the abundance of fellow snorkelers.
The lengthy stretch of shoreline between Black Sand Beach and Nahuna Point is known as Turtle Town Maui.
Even though it covers a wide region, most people refer to Maluaka Beach when they say Turtle Town. It’s because Maluaka is the greatest snorkeling site in Turtle Town and among the best snorkeling in Hawaii.
On warm days, this iconic surfing bay may seem as quiet as a swimming pool, allowing snorkelers to discover the rocks that encircle both sides of the bay.
It’s part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, which regulates fishing and preserves aquatic life in the area. Dolphins are sometimes seen in the bay.
Snorkeling in Hawaii FAQs
Check out some of the most frequently asked questions about snorkeling in Hawaii:
Which island offers the best snorkeling in Hawaii?
In terms of number, quality, and quantity of fish, reefs, and other marine populations, Maui and the Big Island significantly outstrip Oahu and Kauai. If you like large fields of corals, then the Big Island is the best place for you. But, if you want to snorkel with Hawaiian green sea turtles, Maui has the advantage.
When is the best time to snorkel in Hawaii?
Winter and spring are the most popular times to go to Hawaii. However, if you want to go snorkeling in Hawaii, we suggest traveling in the summer. Summers might be hot and humid at times, but the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The water is warmer, clearer, and more serene in general.
What time of day is the best for snorkeling?
The best time to snorkel is early in the morning when the water is calmer with greater visibility and a more lively marine population. Avoid snorkeling in cloudy water at dawn or evening.
Is it OK to use sunscreen before snorkeling?
Yes, but never use sunscreen with oxybenzone. Scientists have proven that oxybenzone, which is found in sunscreen and other cosmetics, is very harmful to coral reefs. The chemical causes coral bleaching and deformities by killing baby corals. Additionally, using too much sunscreen may create an oily film in the area where you snorkel, which is like a little oil spill.
Is there any snorkeling equipment for rent on-site?
Yes, but bring your equipment if you have it. By carrying your own gear, you can save a lot of money and can snorkel in more quiet locations where renting gear isn’t available.
Book Your Hawaii Snorkeling Adventure Today!
Now you know where to go for the best snorkeling in Hawaii. Indeed, Hawaii is one of the greatest places to go snorkeling – thanks to its crystal-clear seas, abundant marine life, and warm weather. Happy travels!