8 Spots to Find the Best Snorkeling in Hawaii

There is a good reason why Hawaii receives over 10 million tourists per year — the beaches are some of the best places to hang out!

With a diverse spread of sea life, countless islands and stunningly clear waters, there isn’t a shortage of options for anyone wanting to enjoy some good snorkeling.

Dive into the undersea world and experience the thrill of swimming among schools of tropical fish; here are the best spots for snorkeling in Hawaii.

1. Hanauma Bay, Oahu

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 for your Oahu itinerary.

Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay is like an adventure in a marine paradise – a perfect oasis of glimmering waters, volcanic hills as a backdrop, and plenty of sea life to explore.

Thanks to some forward-thinking conservation efforts that began in the 1960s, Hanauma Bay has become one of the best spots for snorkeling on Oahu, with over 300 species of fish that call the nearby coral reefs home!

Located just 10 miles from Waikiki, this aquatic safari is sure to make any budding marine explorer jump with joy.

If you’re visiting, be sure to get here early as the parking fills up fast. Alternatively, you can join a guided snorkel tour and everything will be taken care of for you!

2. Kiholo Bay, Big Island

Kiholo Bay on Big Island
KIHOLO BAY, THE BIG ISLAND

If you had to pick one beach to snorkel at in Hawaii, Kiholo Bay is a sure bet; it’s an excellent option if you’re looking to ditch the overcrowded touristy spots. 

Not only is the scenery stunning, but 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.

Make sure you check out the famous black sand beach while you’re here. 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, Kauai

Poipu Beach Kauai
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, Maui

Molokini Crater in Maui hawaii SP
MOLOKINI CRATER, MAUI

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, Big Island

kealakekua bay
KEALAKEKUA BAY, THE BIG ISLAND

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, they’ll 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, Maui

Honolua Bay
HONOLUA BAY, MAUI

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!

Make sure you check out our guide on the best snorkel spots around Lahaina and Kaanapali in Maui.

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7. Makaha Beach Park, Oahu

Makaha Beach
MAKAHA BEACH PARK, OAHU

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, Kauai

Kee Beach Kauai
KE’E BEACH PARK, 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 and swim in Kauai.

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!