8 Spots to Find the Best Snorkeling in Hawaii

There is a good reason why Hawaii receives over 10 million tourists per year — there’s just so much to do here!

Whether you’re seeking an adrenaline rush or just wanting to relax, rest assured you can do both.

As you would expect, the beaches are some of the best places in Hawaii to hang out.

The coral reefs in Hawaii are filled with diverse sea life, and the island offers a striking coastline with stunningly clear waters where ocean-lovers can enjoy water-sport activities all day long.

Only a few things in life can compare to the thrill of swimming among a school of tropical fish in warm turquoise water and this island boasts some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii.

The thing with Hawaii is there are so many good spots, so where do you even begin?

Read on for a list of the best Hawaiian snorkeling spots.

1. Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay Oahu
Hanauma Bay, Oahu

Hanauma Bay is among the top destinations in Oahu – one of the most visited beaches in the country and a must-do in the island itinerary.

Hanauma Bay is a former volcanic crater that turned into a protected marine life conservation area in the 1960s. Since then, it’s been one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii and a favorite among snorkeling enthusiasts.

The surrounding hills of this bay were formed as a result of volcanic activity and offer an absolutely breathtaking backdrop.

Though it’s not so much about the beach as the marine life, as Hanauma Bay is home to over 300 different species of fish lurking around the thriving coral reefs.

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is situated approximately 10 miles east of Waikiki.

If you’re visiting, be sure to get here early as the parking fills up fast. Alternatively, you can take a bus or private shuttle to avoid the frustration of finding a spot.

2. Kiholo Bay

Kiholo Bay on Big Island

This beach is an excellent option if you’re looking to ditch the overcrowded touristy spots. If you had to pick one beach in Hawaii, this one’s a sure bet.

Not only is the scenery stunning, but it also offers the best snorkeling in Hawaii on the Big Island. If swimming with sea turtles is on your bucket list, you can cross that off here!

There are tons of other things you can do here — watch the windsurfers perform, stroll around the wide rocky beaches, or spend the day enjoying the water sports and relaxing.

If you’re in this area, make sure you check out the famous black sand beach. You don’t have to be an avid hiker but just know that it’ll take about 20 minutes through moderately difficult terrain to get there, so be prepared.

Take a short walk from the beach and you’ll find a tiny inlet where freshwater runoff meets with the ocean, forming a stunning reserve of turquoise water.

Traveler Tip: Be sure to pack a proper pair of shoes before attempting to hike here!

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3. Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach Kauai

By far, Kauai is one of the most popular destinations as far as snorkeling in Hawaii goes.

The island boasts a number of protected lagoons and the coral reefs here are host to hundreds of fish species, a third of which are native to the island.

Located in the southern tip of the island, Poipu Beach tops the list of the safest beaches in Kauai and is one of the best places to swim, boogie board, and snorkel in Hawaii.

Not only is it home to hundreds of fish species, but it also has some of the cleanest waters on the island which makes snorkeling extremely delightful.

The scenery is spectacular, with stretches of golden sand beaches and it’s the best-loved hangout of the endangered Hawaiian monk seal.

Poipu Beach is divided into two sections and separated by a narrow sand strip, known as a tombola. You’ll find monk seals napping or lounging around here and each side of the beach has a unique ambiance.

If you’re not in the mood to snorkel, Poipu Beach is also an ideal place to lay back, unwind, and watch the palm trees sway — one of the preferred pastimes for many Kauai visitors.

4. Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater in Maui hawaii SP

The crescent-shaped Molokini Crater is a world-famous destination — an impressive volcanic caldera that is one of the best places in Hawaii for snorkeling and diving fanatics.

Situated just a few miles off the shores of Maui, the Molokini Crater sits 300 feet below the ocean’s floor and peaks 160 feet above sea level, with half of the crater submerged in water.

The isolation of the crater makes the snorkeling experience here pretty unique. The waters provide unrivaled clarity and the underwater part of Molokini is a marine sanctuary.

Marvel at the flourishing coral reef and diverse variety of tropical fish species that cohabitate with other marine mammals. If you’re lucky you may even spot some whales or manta rays!

Traveler Tip: Try to plan your trip here on a calm day and as early as possible for the most enjoyable experience.

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5. Kealakekua Bay

kealakekua bay

The Big Island is home to some of the best spots for snorkeling and hiking.

Kealakekua Bay, also known as Captain Cook, is located approximately a 20-minutes drive from the south of Kona.

It is a marine haven and one of the most popular attractions in Hawaii for locals and tourists alike.

During low tide, you’ll find lots of tide pools filled with tropical fishes, and the beach is known for Hawaiian green sea turtles, breathtaking scenery, docile dolphins and if you’re lucky, you may even spot a humpback whale.

Kealakekua Bay’s proximity to Kona makes it a perfect place for a quick or last-minute snorkel in Hawaii.

There are several ways to get to this snorkeling spot:


Rent a Kayak

A great way to get to the snorkel spot is to kayak towards the Captain Cook monument. Be sure to bring your snorkeling gear, plenty of water, and apply a thick coat of sunscreen as the trip takes approximately 20 minutes.


Go For a Hike

If you’re up for it you can hike to the snorkeling spot by the Captain Cook monument. This is a moderately difficult hike where you’re fully exposed to the strong Hawaiian sun so plan accordingly. Bring enough water to keep you hydrated, wear proper hiking shoes, and don’t forget your snorkeling gear.


Book a Snorkeling Tour

If you have time, an excellent idea is to book a snorkeling tour. These guided tours will take you to the best spots by boat. Depending on the tour provider, snacks and refreshments may also be provided. It’s a great way to snorkel and also learn about the history of Kealakekua Bay at the same time. And on the bright side, you won’t have to spend any effort hiking or kayaking back to shore after a day of snorkeling!

6. Honolua Bay

Honolua Bay

Located on the northwest coast of Maui and barely five minutes past Kapalua, Honolua Bay is a spectacular spot for snorkeling or diving and it’s one of the best places in Hawaii for water sports.

While this destination is awesome to visit at any time of the year, snorkeling activities are best done during the summer months, which runs from May through to September.

During that period, you’re almost guaranteed that the bay is free of surf and your chances of spotting the Hawaiian green sea turtles, parrotfish and blue-striped snapper are pretty high.

Occasionally, you may even encounter the spinner dolphins!

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7. Makaha Beach Park

Makaha Beach

Makaha Beach Park and its long stretch of sandy beach are bordered by Kepuhi Point on the west.

Not only does this beach offer some of the top spots to snorkel in Hawaii, but it’s also a world-famous destination thanks to its surfing waves — a known spot for the most challenging waves in Hawaii and can rise up to 25 feet high during the surf season.

This low key, white sandy beach is perfect for snorkeling during summer when the waters are a little bit calmer.

Makaha Beach Park offers fantastic deep snorkeling experiences in Hawaii with beautiful live coral, a wide range of tropical fishes as well as green sea turtles.

However, it’s best left for advanced snorkeling as you’ll need to swim pretty far before you can reach the perfect snorkeling spots, plus there’s the potential for aggressive waves and currents.

8. Ke’e Beach Park

Kee Beach Kauai

Located at the north tip of Kauai island, Ke’e Beach Park is definitely worth a visit.

The lagoons are perfectly protected by reefs, making it one of the safest places to snorkel in Hawaii.

Keep that in mind that you’ll need to make reservations to visit and the number of visitors are limited for conservation purposes.

Final Thoughts

Hawaii is an amazing destination to visit for top-notch snorkel spots and there’s really no better place in the world to be if you enjoy water sports!

Crystal-clear waters, unique marine life, and unforgettable memories that’ll last a lifetime.

If you enjoy snorkeling, Hawaii should be number one on your bucket list as it is a snorkeler’s paradise.

We hope this list will help you find your favorite snorkeling spot in Hawaii!