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8 Best Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii

hawaii
Beautiful young woman diving underwater in the sea.

Hawaii is a tourist paradise and ranks high among the best destinations for snorkeling. No matter what part of the island you plan to visit, make sure to bring your snorkel. Many snorkeling sites have protected marine life, so you can see lots of fish, turtles, dolphins, and even humpback whales.

Hawaii offers lots of snorkeling opportunities. You can enjoy swimming with the turtles in Maui or swim at night with reef manta rays in Manta village for a unique snorkeling experience. Visit Molokai if you prefer white sandy beaches, or head on to Poipu for an adventure in crystal-clear waters.

The island you visit doesn’t really matter. As long as you are snorkeling in Hawaii, you are sure to have loads of fun under the water. We have compiled some of the best spots around the island for your underwater adventure.

1. Turtle Town – Maui

Turtle Town – Maui

Turtle Town is a large area, but when most people talk about this place, they are referring to Maluaka Beach. That’s because the beach is the best snorkeling spot in the entire Turtle Town.

Maluaka is one of Maui’s less known beaches, protected from Hawaii’s trade because of its location behind the Haleakala Mountain. You are most likely to enjoy a relaxed snorkeling experience in the calm water. Plus, you can tan or lounge lazily on the sand after swimming, fishing, or boating. If you are up for some games, bring volleyball and have a great time with the kids or friends.

The southern Maui’s coastline is adorned with a series of underwater lava formations resulting from submarine volcanic eruptions. Here, you will find rich marine life, including octopus, angelfish, and moray eels. But the main attraction here is the high population of green sea turtles – it’s even in the name!

Don’t forget to bring your waterproof camera and capture the best underwater footage in all of Maui. Remember that some of these creatures are endangered, so remember to look but don’t touch them.

Location: Maluaka Beach, at the end of Makena Road, south of Wailea.

Suitability: All skill levels

2. Poipu Beach Park – Kauai

Poipu Beach Park – Kauai

Approximately 25 minutes drive west of Lihue will bring you to Poipu Beach, named among the top 10 best American beaches. One of the reasons this spot is among the best snorkeling in Hawaii is the crescent-shaped beach’s crystal-clear waters. It even has occasional appearances of Hawaiian monk seals that enjoy lounging by the shore side.

Humpbacks are a common sight during whale season, which starts from December through April. While snorkeling, you will likely find sea cucumbers and blue parrotfish. Remember to keep an eye out for Hawaii’s official state fish, the famous and unique humuhumunukunukuapuaa.

Poipu beach is an excellent destination for a family beach day. The amenities here are great and include showers, restrooms, parking, picnic tables, and lifeguard available all-week long.

Location: West of Lihue on the south of Kauai

Suitability: All skill levels

3. Manta Ray Dives – Big Island

Manta Ray Dives – Big Island

Manta village is home to the original manta ray night dive of Hawaii. You can have a unique snorkeling experience and a spectacular view swimming with giant manta rays.

The best time to sight a manta ray here is at night. Tour operators usually attract these plankton-eating giants using waterproof spotlights placed on the ocean floor.

You may have heard or read elsewhere that Manta rays are related to sharks, weigh thousands of pounds, and have very long wingspans that can reach up to 20 feet. All of that is true, but these giant creatures are harmless, and it is perfectly safe to snorkel with them.  If you’re lucky, they might even swim around you out of curiosity.

If you plan to enjoy this activity while you’re visiting Hawaii, book the activity early. Diving and snorkeling tours are quite popular here and can get fully booked several days in advance.

Location: Manta village, south of Kona

Suitability: Intermediate

4. Tunnels Beach (Makua) – Kauai

Tunnels Beach (Makua) – Kauai

Whether you want to enjoy watching spectacular views of the sunset, swimming, beach walking, or snorkeling, you are sure to find what you’re looking for at Makua Beach (aka Tunnels Beach).

The beach checks many boxes for divers and snorkelers, including large coral heads, unique (almost weird) rock formations, and plenty of marine life.

Dare to swim on the outer reef or play along the inner reef and look for hogfish, trumpet fish, goatfish, moray eels, and even green sea turtles. No doubt; this is one of the best snorkeling in Hawaii.

The Haena Beach Park offers the best parking, just in case you are driving. One thing, though; you want to steer clear of Tunnels Beach in winter. The waves can be quite difficult and even dangerous at that time of the year.

Location: Off Highway 560 on Kaui’s north shore, close to Haena Beach Park

Suitability: Advanced (outer reef), beginners (inner reef)

5. Fringing Reef – Molokai

Fringing Reef – Molokai

If you are ready to be wowed by one of the most attractive snorkeling locations in Hawaii, then hop on a canoe or kayak and prepare to get blown away by the longest continuous fringing reef on the entire island.

When it comes to the best snorkeling in Hawaii, Molokai offers some of the richest waters in the Pacific. The living aquarium under the ocean is very inviting, making it a good snorkel dive spot for divers and anglers.

This spot doesn’t only attract visitors who want to “get away” from other crowded beaches, but it also beckons to thousands of whales, especially from December through March, which is the whale-watching season.

Under the clear blue ocean, you’ll find a swirling rainbow of reef fish, monk seals, hawksbill turtles, spotted eagle rays, and natural finger coral, all of which make for fantastic scuba diving and snorkeling.

Location: South coast of Molokai

Suitability: All skill levels

6. Honolua Bay – Maui

Honolua Bay – Maui

There’s one word to describe snorkeling Honolua Bay, and that’s spectacular! The bay is part of a marine life conservation area, meaning you have a good chance of finding a variety of marine life. But that’s not all. The site is by rocky cliffs, so you are sheltered from the wind.

This isn’t a drive-by snorkel; you need to have basic swimming skills to enjoy snorkeling at the “two harbors” site (by the way, that’s the literal Hawaiian meaning of Honolua). The beach is rocky, and the shoreline is not exactly where you want to tan yourself.

However, it is a fairly huge bay and swimming a bit out gives you good visibility. Plus, there are plenty of scuba and snorkeling opportunities here. Keep an eye out for unicornfish, pufferfish, butterflyfish, and even sea urchins.

You can get into the water on the left side because it is not as rocky, or walk a bit farther along the rocks on the right and access the water after the boat ramp. This entrance (the rocky path) is more forgiving on beach shoes.

Location: North of Lahaina, along Highway 30

Suitability: Intermediate

7. Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – Oahu

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve – Oahu

There’s a reason Hanauma Bay is usually crowded; it is the ideal snorkel dive spot for people of all ages visiting Oahu. The white sandy beach, calm shallow water, and a high fish population are hard to ignore, at least for those who love recreational water activities.

The old volcanic crater is home to the most fish in all of Hawaii. There are no aggressive or dangerous fish species here; only the tamest guys live in Hanauma Bay, a marine conservation area protected from the ocean swells.

The shoreline comprises mostly white sand and is very calm, making it easy to get into the water. Swimming a short way out bring you right into the crystal clear water that looks like a living aquarium.

Enjoy peeking into the caves and crevices of this living museum and make friends with all types of fish, including porcupine fish, damselfish, trumpet fish, squirrelfish, and more.

Location: Southeast of Oahu, near Hawaii Kai

Suitability: All skill levels

8. Hulopoe Bay – Lanai

Hulopoe Bay – Lanai

The long, crescent-shaped Hulopoe Bay is Lanai’s most popular picnic and swimming spot. The beautiful, crystal clear water is an open invitation for snorkelers to take a peek into the rich reef marine life underneath.

The bay is a marine life conservation site, so you can only take pictures of bandit angle fish, green sea turtles, and acrobatic dolphins that usually frolic in the water. You might even get to see a good number of humpback whales, especially in the winter.

But surf and current are likely to pick up in the winter, so make sure to stay away from rough conditions in the colder months. Besides, the water is more enjoyable during the warmer months where you can swim for as long as you want with the dolphins.

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Written by Staff Editor

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