Hawaii Snorkeling - Best Spots & Beach Guide

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Hawaii Snorkeling - Best Spots & Beach Guide

Snorkeling is done by swimming on the surface of the water while wearing a mask or goggles and a shaped breathing tube called a snorkel. Flippers, or swim fins are also used to propel you along the water with less effort, and allow you to cover longer distances with each flip of your flipper. The mask allows you to have a clear view of the area under the surface of the water, while the snorkel allows you to breathe underwater while your face is submerged.

No special training is required to snorkel, or a high level of fitness, making snorkeling a possible activity for many tourists to Hawaii.

One of the most enjoyable benefits of snorkeling, besides what you are seeing and experiencing, is the ability to take photographs or movies of the underwater world as you explore. All you will need is a waterproof camera to capture the marine life, and your travel companions as they snorkel with you.

Snorkeling can be accessed easily by entering the water from a beach or rocks, or for more hard to reach locations, by taking a scheduled snorkeling tour. The best place to snorkel in Hawaii is on Maui, but snorkeling Hawaii Big Island locations are also very popular and well worth investigating. There are some very beautiful reefs with colorful fish on the Big Island to explore.

Some of the best Big Island snorkeling spots are found on the west coast beaches where the water is clear and the waves are small. Try Kealakekua Bay or Kahalu’u Beach Park for your Big Island snorkeling adventures. Remember to put on reef-friendly sunscreen as the sun will be strong. Reef-safe sunscreens are the law in Hawaii as we all want to help protect the reefs.

Maui Snorkeling

Maui is the best island for snorkeling in Hawaii, with its protected bays, and many year-round opportunities to explore the underwater world. There are many snorkeling beaches on Maui, and unlimited opportunities to snorkel with sea turtles. Hawaiian green sea turtles are found in the reefs and outer walls of the quiet bays and coves, and can be seen swimming, eating algae, and enjoying the warm tropical waters. Keep your eyes out for them as they can blend in well with the landscape. If you see one turtle, there are probably more nearby. Turtles in Maui are protected, and it is important to practice sustainable snorkeling. Do not disrupt a turtle’s natural behavior, and always approach turtles from the side. Do not chase, touch or swim directly above the turtles, taking care to keep your distance, staying quiet, and just enjoy this opportunity.

Maui has over ten very excellent snorkeling beaches that you can access directly from your car. Turtle Town Maui is a long stretch of coastline between Black Sand Beach and Nahuna Point in the Makena area. Maluaka Beach is the best snorkeling beach in the area, and one of the best places to snorkel on Maui’s south shore, with a large population of Hawaiian green sea turtles and calm blue water filled with fish and marine life. This beach is located at the end of Makena Road south of Wailea, with the entrance off of the main street. The best snorkeling in Maui is at the coral reef near the rocks at the end of the sand beach.

While snorkeling in Maui, if you are fortunate to be traveling during the humpback whale season, you may be lucky enough to be serenaded by whale songs! These can be heard from as far away as 20 miles, and can be heard from underwater.

A few more of the best snorkeling beaches in Maui include Kamaole Beach Park III on the south shore in Kihei, as well as Black Rock, Airport Beach (Kahekili, Olowalu Beach Park on the West Shore, and Napili and Kapalua Bays on the North West side.

The best snorkeling spots in Maui for beginners would be at beaches with lifeguards present. Look for state parks to find lifeguards, and be very cautious as some beaches are not as safe for beginners.

Molokini Snorkeling

For a once in a lifetime experience, you may want to take a quick boat ride to Molokini crater, or the Islands of Lanai or Molokai. Lanai and Molokai are also great hot spots for snorkeling, and can be accessed by boat tours. They have reef areas that are less visited, and can provide more varied colors and reefs as well.

Molokini crater in Maui is a partially submerged volcanic crater. As one of the original seven volcanoes that formed the Maui county island, this crescent shaped islet protects snorkelers and scuba divers from currents and waves. There are a variety of over 250 species in and around this crater. The best time to visit here is early morning when the waters are at their calmest, and visibility can reach 150 feet deep. Most of the best snorkeling spots are 20 to 50 feet deep. Many sea turtles frequent this area, as well as eels, reef sharks and many other species.

Located about 2.5 miles offshore from Makena, this crater is about an hour boat ride, but can be faster depending on the size and speed of the boat you are taking. Molokini crater snorkeling will give you a chance to view the Coral gardens, and check this world-class snorkeling destination off of your bucket list.

Oahu Snorkeling

The calmest conditions for the best snorkeling on Oahu are on the South and Southwest shores, as the waves are flattest here, and you are farther from the deep ocean swells of the windward shores. Turbid sea waters are caused by rainfall and water run-off into the ocean, making for murkier waters – and the leeward coast has the most consistently clear water for your Oahu snorkeling adventures.

Hanauma Bay, Oahu is most people’s favorite snorkeling destination due to its large fish population, and proximity to Waikiki. Kuilima Cove is a great spot for beginners with its perfect water conditions. If you are looking for more advanced Oahu snorkeling conditions, take a look at Kahe Point, with its clear and deep water. Further away from the city you will find Kaena Point State Park, with a beautiful sand beach.

If you are staying on the north shore, one of the most famous Oahu snorkel and dive beaches is Sharks Cove, rated by Scuba Diving Magazine as one of the “Top Twelve Shore Dives in the World”. This is a small rocky bay, part of Pupukea Beach Park, with large smooth boulders and coral heads that form small caves and ledges where marine life can hide. Snorkeling North Shore Oahu enthusiasts will love this spot. Because the North Shore is known for its big-waved surf spots, such as Waikea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline, make sure you plan to snorkel here on days where there are no large swells. Summer months are the safest time to snorkel here.

Turtle snorkeling Oahu spots would include Laniakea Beach also known as Turtle Beach, Electric Beach, or Kahe Point on the west side, and Cockroach Cove (Kaupo Bay) on the South Shore,

Kauai Snorkeling

Kauai has roughly 50 miles of white sand beach on its coastline, with easy access to the ocean. Lots of family friendly spots are available to give you the best snorkeling in Kauai.

The keiki, or children’s pond at Lydgate Park is the perfect place to try snorkeling for the first time, as the water is protected from the surf year round by a man-made rock wall. A great way to practice with your mask and snorkeling gear without worrying about ocean currents or large waves.

For those staying on the South Side, Poipu Beach Park is good for beginners when there are no large swells. You may even be lucky enough to see a Hawaiian monk seal lying on the beach nearby.

If you are staying in the Hanalei area, Tunnels Beach offers the best snorkeling on Kauai. Try to arrive early as the parking lot fills fast – take your Kauai rental car and pack it for the day. The best snorkeling is the center portion of the beach with its half moon shaped reef. This area is teeming with tropical fish of all sizes, and yes, you may encounter sea turtles.

Enjoy your trip to Hawaii, and remember to always respect the ocean, and know your own abilities.