Each of the major Hawaiian Islands has its own draws. From the fiery volcanoes and open land of the Big Island to the romantic, picturesque adventures on Maui, nightlife and North Shore on Oahu and dramatic natural beauty and low-key living on Kauai, there’s something for everyone in the 50th state.
While there are many unique land activities available on each island, snorkeling remains one of our favorite activities, and one we always recommend to visitors looking for an easy way to explore more of the scenery. Below we’ve listed our two favorite snorkeling sites on each major Hawaiian Island, and hope you have the opportunity to explore them all!
Hawaiian Islands Snorkeling Guide
First thing’s first – you’re going to need some gear! Boss Frog’s, a long-running business in Hawaii, offers free online reservations for snorkel gear rentals on the Big Island, Maui, Oahu and Kauai. Rent by the day or week, and get a mask, snorkel, fins and easy-dry mesh carrying bag, all available for pick-up at one of their many convenient locations. Call 808.661-3333 for more information or to reserve!
The Big Island is known worldwide by scuba dive enthusiasts for its year-round manta ray night dives. For those who prefer to see the action from the surface, however, there is an option to join a snorkeling tour from Keauhou Bay. Typically guests will rest on a sort of ‘manta flotation device’ to stay out of the way while enjoying the close-up views of the majestic manta ray population. An experience unlike any other in the Hawaii!
Also known as the ‘City of Refuge’ for the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, snorkelers in this area are also treated to excellent visibility, calm conditions and a plethora of marine life. We recommend arriving early to avoid crowds and rougher conditions as wind picks up in the later hours, and keep an eye out for Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, who are known to frequent the area!
A volcanic atoll located off the southern shore of Maui, Molokini Crater is one of the best snorkeling and scuba diving locations in all of Hawaii. With excellent visibility, a ton of unique marine life, breathtaking views of the surrounding neighbor islands and Maui, and snorkeling on both the inside and back side of the crater wall, Molokini is definitely a can’t-miss on the Valley Isle.
Located at Mile Marker #14 en route to West Maui, Olowalu is home to 450 acres of coral reef. Due to its location, the conditions are generally calm, making it perfect for exploring from shore. Snorkelers will often find plenty of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, as well as eels, octopus, triggerfish, goatfish, and ornate butterflyfish, as well as the occasional manta ray or spotted eagle ray.
While it’s definitely not a secret snorkel spot, there’s a good reason for the crowd at Hanauma Bay. If you’re interested in tropical fish, you’ve arrived at the right place. Known for its massive population of marine life, guests can expect to see over 400 fish during any given snorkeling experience. The conditions are ideal for beginner snorkelers, and the proximity is convenient for those staying in Waikiki. Arrive early!
Located on Oahu’s North shore near the famed Turtle Bay Resort, Kuilima Cove is one of the most inviting beaches and snorkel spots for beginner snorkelers in Hawaii. Lined with white sand and rocks and coral that protect it from incoming waves, several species of marine life can be spotted in the area, including needlefish, orange tang, and humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the state fish of Hawaii.
Makua Beach aka “Tunnels”
For those who are comfortable in the ocean, Tunnels offers some truly epic snorkeling conditions, though it is only recommended in summer months when conditions are much calmer. Here you’ll see plenty of huge coral formations, as well as surrounding populations of marine life. Less experienced swimmers should stay in the inside bay, while strong swimmers can head to the outer reef. The scenery isn’t too shabby, either! Learn more about snorkeling in Kauai.
Poipu Beach Park
A great option for families, Poipu is located conveniently on Kauai’s south shore, making it fairly reliably calm year-round. Snorkelers can expect to see plenty of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles, as well as eel, surgeonfish, wrasse, goatfish, and perhaps even the occasional Hawaiian Monk Seal resting in the sand (keep your distance!).