Want to enjoy some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii? Keep scrolling for some amazing Hawaii snorkeling tips and hacks for your next Hawaii vacation!
These tips for the best snorkeling in Hawaii was co-written by Hawaii travel expert Marcie Cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, I may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog.
Guest post by Keri Baugh of Bon Voyage With Kids
If you are planning a family vacation to the Hawaiian Islands, snorkeling in Hawaii is hands down one of the best things to do on your trip.
In fact, the waters off of each of the four major islands offer some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the world!
Our family visits Hawaii each summer. And our snorkel experiences have been some of the most memorable for our kids.
From snorkeling near dolphins on the Big Island to the resident sea turtle that lives in Kapalua Bay in Maui to snorkel at Molokini Crater, it has been a great family activity to enjoy and create lasting vacation memories.
Want to skip all the planning and just access my detailed Hawaii Itineraries complete with daily schedules, kid-friendly activities, and travel hacks? Click the button below.
Why Snorkeling In Hawaii Is One Of The Best Family Activities
The warm waters off of Hawaii (depending on the time of year you visit), crystal clear views, and incredible sea life give you an amazing view into the extraordinary world surrounding the islands.
Not only will you feel like you are swimming in an aquarium, with the colorful variety of ocean and marine life, but you can even come in contact with some of Hawaii’s most beloved residents!
Hawaiians cherish and respect the kai (Hawaiian word for ocean) and its many special sea creatures.
Some of the sea life you could see include a green sea turtle (called honu in Hawaiian) or the humuhumu fish (called humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa in Hawaiian and known as the state fish.)
You could even see eels, reef sharks, or rays, sometimes in the shallowest of water, not to mention the incredible coral reef. You might also see Hawaiian spinner dolphins, giant Pacific manta rays, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, eagle rays, and other stunning marine life.
Snorkeling in Hawaii will introduce you to a fascinating underwater world that is sure to add value to your vacation!
Hawaii Best Snorkeling Islands
There are no shortages of beaches with the best snorkeling in Maui. A few of the best snorkeling beaches in Maui include Black Rock, Kaanapali, Honolua Bay, Maluaka Beach, Turtle Town, Hulopoe Beach Park, and Kihei. Wailea beach snorkeling is also quite fun too.
If you are looking for the best snorkeling beach in Maui for beginners, try either Honolua Bay or Black Rock. The best places to see turtles in Maui is either Turtle Town or Honolua Bay. Seeing these Hawaii green sea turtles are so much fun for the entire family!
But, one of the most popular Maui activities is to take one of the many Molokini Crater snorkeling tours offered. It’s by far one of the best places to snorkel in Maui.
It’s one of the reasons why we think Maui is the best Hawaiian island for snorkeling.
MAUI SNORKELING TOURS
Molokini Crater Tour: This is one of the best snorkeling tours in Maui, as it goes to both Molokini Crater and Turtle Town Maui and visits some of the best snorkel spots Maui has to offer. Plus it is the best snorkeling in Maui for beginners. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Coral Gardens Snorkeling Tour: This awesome Maui snorkel tour heads to Coral Gardens on a boat with a water slide, another one of the top Maui snorkeling spots. It offers some of the best West Maui snorkeling. Find the best prices here.
Kihei Snorkeling Tour: Hop in a clear kayak and go for a unique Maui Hawaii snorkeling tour from Kihei. It is the best snorkeling in Kihei you will find and one of the best snorkeling in Maui for families too! Check out the latest prices and more details.
There are tons of places to snorkel in Oahu for all skill levels.
One of the best places to snorkel in Oahu is Hanauma Bay. Because it’s so close to Waikiki, it’s some of the best snorkeling in Honolulu for families.
Besides Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, Electric Beach, Shark’s Cove, and Kuilima Cove are the other best beaches in Oahu for snorkeling.
While there are not many Honolulu snorkeling spots, the best places to snorkel in Honolulu are either Hanauma Bay or Turtle Canyon.
If you want to go snorkeling North Shore Oahu, try Kuilima Cove next to the Turtle Bay Resort or Shark’s Cove.
OAHU SNORKELING TOURS
Turtle Canyon Oahu Snorkel Tour: This easy 2-hour Waikiki snorkel tour is perfect for families looking for a half-day Oahu excursion. It offers the best snorkeling in Waikiki. Find the best prices here.
Hanauma Bay Snorkeling Tour: Hop on this shuttle for some of the best snorkeling in Oahu Hawaii at the famous Hanauma Bay. This is the best place to snorkel in Hawaii, and one of the top beginner snorkeling Oahu offers too. At Hanauma Bay, you will find incredible marine life, including Hawaii’s state fish, porcupine fish, and occasionally Hawaiian greens sea turtles too! Find the best prices here.
North Shore Snorkeling Tour: If you want to go snorkeling in North Shore Oahu, this is a great tour to see turtles, dolphins, rays, and tropical fish. It takes you to some of the best snorkel spots Oahu has to offer. Find the best prices here.
Kauai has some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii islands. Many visitors head to the South Shore to enjoy Poipu Beach snorkeling, which is perfect for kids and beginner snorkelers.
But, Kauai Tunnels Beach up in North Shore Kauai is definitely one of the best places to snorkel in Kauai for experienced swimmers. Kauai’s North Shore will offer you great snorkeling spots filled with tropical fish, and coral reefs you will love to explore.
Some of the other Kauai snorkeling beaches include Haena Beach Park, Anini Beach Park, Ke’e Beach, and Poipu Beach Park, amongst others.
KAUAI SNORKELING TOURS
Na Pali Coast Snorkeling and Sailing Tour: Enjoy the spectacular views of the Na Pali Coast before jumping into the water to explore the sea life. The Na Pali Coast is another one of the best snorkeling beaches in Kauai. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Lawai Beach Snorkeling Tour: If you’re looking for kid-friendly snorkeling in Kauai, Hawaii, this tour is perfect for families and is one of the best snorkeling in Hawaii for beginners. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Niihau Snorkeling Tour: This epic Kauai snorkel tour takes you to the forbidden island of Niihau. You will spot some spinner dolphins, Hawaii’s state fish, and tons of Hawaiian green sea turtles, among other marine life too. Check out the latest prices and more details.
Snorkeling Big Island
The best snorkeling in Hawaii Big Island can be found at Honaunau Bay, Kahalu’u Beach Park, and Kealakekua Bay.
Kona usually offers the best places to snorkel on the Big Island, including the Captain Cook Monument. One of the top snorkeling spots on the Big Island is to do a night manta snorkel tour. You will find the best manta ray night dive Kona offers down below. Seeing these reef manta rays is unlike anything else!
Mauna Kea Beach, located right behind Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, also offers another snorkeling spot on the Big Island.
KONA SNORKEL TOURS
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Hawaii: This is one of the most popular Big Island snorkeling tours, as you get to swim with Manta Rays at night. This is the best manta ray night snorkel Kona offers too! Find the best prices here.
Captain Cook Snorkeling Tour: Cruise through Kealakekua Bay for some of the best snorkeling in Kona, Hawaii. Snorkel alongside turtles, see the stunning coral gardens, reef fish, and other marine life too at another one of the top snorkeling spots! Find the best prices here.
Snorkel and Dolphin Tour: Enjoy a scenic cruise to look for spinner dolphins before jumping into the water to check it out under the sea. It is the best snorkeling Big Island offers as it takes you to Red Hill in Kona. Find the best prices here.
What You Need To Know Before Snorkeling In Hawaii
Having the opportunity to snorkel in Hawaiian waters is a tremendous privilege and a chance to see amazing wildlife.
But it is also a living and breathing ecosystem that requires proper knowledge, preparation, and safety to enjoy it.
Before you go snorkeling in Hawaii, here are 15 helpful tips to keep in mind.
15 Helpful Tips For Snorkeling In Hawaii
1. Make sure you have or rent quality gear
Because you will be in the ocean, you want to make sure you have or rent quality equipment.
You don’t want to be snorkeling with gear that has a broken seal, fogs up too much, or in any way isn’t suitable to use in the ocean.
If your mask does fog up, be sure you know how to clear it.
Pro tip: Scuba divers sometimes use a bit of baby shampoo diluted in water in a spray bottle to help reduce fogging. They spray it in the mask, swish it around, and then rinse it right before putting it on.
2. Practice in a pool if you haven’t done it before
You should be able to swim well and be in very good physical health (check with your doctor in advance) before attempting to snorkel in the ocean.
It is a physically demanding activity, and being a strong swimmer is really important for your safety.
There are also strong currents in Hawaii’s waters, so when snorkeling in Hawaii, you really need to know how to swim well and be physically able to swim back.
You may want to practice snorkeling in a pool in advance to get comfortable with using a mask and snorkel before entering the ocean on any of the Hawaiian islands.
3. Wear sunscreen
Your back will be facing the sun when snorkeling, and you can be exposed to the sun’s rays more than you realize.
4. Only snorkel with a buddy
You should never snorkel alone, and personally, I like to snorkel where there are a lot of people.
Hawaii’s waters can have currents, and the weather and ocean conditions can change quickly.
It is important to make sure you have at least a buddy, if not more people around for added safety when snorkeling in Hawaii.
That’s another reason why going on a snorkeling tour is so nice because you will be surrounded by people to help in case you need it!
5. Be aware of currents
Because of Hawaii’s ocean currents, you can get farther out from shore than you planned.
It is important to be aware of currents (see tip 4), pay attention to signs, ocean, and weather conditions, and follow the advice of the local officials.
6. Be aware of changing weather and swimming conditions
It is important to watch the weather and ocean conditions before snorkeling in Hawaii and be aware of any potential for change.
The weather patterns can change quickly, and it can make the water unsuitable or unsafe for snorkeling.
Many of the snorkeling spots are safer to visit, but it is always best to know the ocean as best you can.
7. Be sure to obey warning signs and ocean condition flags
If you see flags that note the ocean is unsafe or signs that warn of riptides, it is important to pay attention.
These warning signs and flags are there for your safety and are there for a reason.
Hawaii’s waters can be unforgiving, so be sure to check these important notices to safely enjoy your experience.
8. Stay close to shore
When our family snorkels in Hawaii, we prefer to stay close to shore. There are many places where you can snorkel and see quite a lot of sea life in very shallow water (as in knee-high water!)
You don’t have to go far out, and personally, I am more comfortable staying close to shore. I don’t even like to be the farthest person out in case of an emergency.
In the shallow tide pools, you will see many diverse sea critters, so you don’t have to worry about finding a snorkeling spot too far out at sea.
9. Only snorkel in clear water
Hawaii’s sea life includes a variety of wonderful animals, including sharks. It also can have a lot of sharp coral and things that bite.
I only like to snorkel where I feel comfortable, and that includes snorkeling in clear water where I can see my feet.
This way, I can see everything, so I can enjoy the sea life and can stay safe at a distance.
10. Respect the ocean and its inhabitants
When you are snorkeling in Hawaii, you are a guest of the ocean and all of the creatures that live there.
It is important to look from a respectful distance so you do not harm or disturb the natural patterns of the animals. It is also very important not to litter in any way.
11. Keep distance from sea life
The state of Hawaii protects its sea life, especially the Hawaiian green sea turtles.
While you may have an amazing opportunity to see Hawaiian green sea turtles or even a dolphin on your snorkeling adventure, it is recommended you stay at least 10 feet from turtles and 50 yards from dolphins.
You are also not permitted to touch or harass them in any way. It is for their health and safety and also for your safety, as these are wild animals, after all!
12. Look but don’t touch (and remember your waterproof camera!)
While you can and should enjoy all of the beauty when snorkeling in Hawaii, you want to look but not touch.
You also do not want to stand on the coral or even hit it with your fin, as it can damage the coral and all the animals living in it.
The coral reef can be sharp and cause injuries to you, so it is a good idea to look from a distance as you are out on the ocean on any of the Hawaiian islands.
13. Set yourself up for success by having floaties and knowing your ability
Know your swimming ability, and remember snorkeling requires physical exertion.
Both adults and kids might consider snorkeling in Hawaii with life vests, noodles, fins, and floaties because you are in the open ocean.
You may encounter currents, waves, and passing watercraft that can make the water choppy.
These tools can help to keep your body horizontal and so you can just relax and enjoy the scenery.
14. Only take snorkel boat trips with a reputable company
Many tour companies offer snorkel tours in Hawaii. It is important that you research the company and its safety record in advance.
In Maui, our family has loved the eco snorkel adventure at Molokini Crater with the Pacific Whale Foundation.
It is a great experience for families and one of my top things to do in Maui with kids.
15. Have fun!
Snorkeling in Hawaii can be such a wonderful experience that will surely mesmerize you!
It is a special way to enjoy the island and a great activity to include on your vacation.
Have fun exploring the kai!
Snorkeling in Hawaii FAQs
Either Kauai or Maui is the best island for snorkeling in Hawaii. There are tons of Kauai snorkeling tours off the Na Pali Coast or even to nearby Niihau, but there are also many fantastic snorkeling beaches on Kauai. On Maui, there’s the added option of taking a boat to Molokini Crater or even to nearby Lanai Island for epic snorkeling.
It can be very dangerous to snorkel in Hawaii. In fact, more Hawaii tourists die from drowning while snorkeling than any other outdoor activity in Hawaii. So, it’s really important to watch ocean conditions and the weather and always snorkel with a buddy.
Late morning or early afternoon tends to be the best time of day for Hawaii snorkeling. If you are an early riser, you can definitely snorkel in the early morning to see more sea life.
While you can snorkel year-round in Hawaii, summertime (May-September) has some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. The waters are usually calmer, so you can see the ocean floor and marine life more clearly.
Yes you can! There are plenty of Big Island or Maui snorkeling beaches, along with plenty of snorkeling spots Oahu and Kauai offer to enjoy on your own. Just bring your own snorkeling gear or rent some and enjoy any of the snorkeling spots along the beach in Hawaii!
Final Thought About Snorkeling In Hawaii
Each of the Hawaiian islands offers such a special and unique experience that is worth returning to year after year.
There is so much to explore both on the land and in the sea, which is a very special part of the Hawaiian experience.
Snorkeling in Hawaii is a great way to discover the underwater world that surrounds these islands and a great family experience to create lasting vacation memories.
Whether you want to see some sea turtles at Turtle Town, hit up a black sand beach, see some coral reef and sea cucumbers at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, or explore some shallow tide pools, you can discover so much while snorkeling in Hawaii!
Keri Baugh is a USA-based family travel blogger for Bon Voyage With Kids. She, her husband, and three children travel often and have been to Maui eight times. In addition to often traveling to Europe, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and throughout the USA, Keri and her family love to snorkel, scuba dive, hike, horseback ride, and ski together. They love creating family memories and opening their kids’ eyes to the world through travel.