Take a deep breath and dive toward the bottom of Hawaii’s sea: an underwater world awaits. (Photo: Alamy)
Finding the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii couldn’t be easier. Honestly, just hit up the closest beach and you’re likely to find a large variety of vibrant marine life wherever you swim. The best part about snorkeling in Hawaii is the opportunity to do so literally at nearly every beach, on any island. But if you really want to find the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii — the ones that have the best views of local sea life — visit these top five underwater hot spots. Dive in! The sea life awaits.
#1. Hanauma Bay: A Snorkeling Show Stopper
Avid snorkelers agree that you can get the most in-depth look at sea life at Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, located on the southeast coast of Oahu. This is an excellent example of how much effort goes into keeping Hawaii the oasis it is. Kids under 12 years old are free and adults are less than $10. Our opinion? Total steal. Also, splurge on the extra $2 per head for the tram going up and down the steep terrain from the facility to the ocean. No one likes lugging fins and goggles while climbing over rocks and brush. Tip: Plan your visit during high tide to avoid scrambling over coral on your way out of the surf. You’ll save yourself a few bumps, bruises and scrapes.
#2. Get Crazy at this Crater: Molokini Crater Snorkeling
Located 25 miles off the south coast of Maui is the crescent-shaped islet Molokini, a partially submerged volcanic crater that attracts a myriad of snorkeling enthusiasts because of its unique situation. The crater happens to be only one of three other volcanic calderas in the world. Only a half-mile wide and 160-feet above the sea level, this islet is the place to go snorkeling to see a variety of incredible underwater marine life.
Hands down, the best snorkeling trip is the Molokini and Turtle Town Deluxe Snorkeling Tour. Sign up for the morning tour, which includes drinks and a breakfast you’ll devour. The high prices are worth it if you keep in mind the SNUBA and video services you’ll get, as well as the onboard amenities you can take advantage of for optimum convenience and comfort.
#3. Not for the Faint of Heart: Shark’s Cove in Oahu
Get to Shark’s Cove in Oahu early as parking tends to get scarcer and scarcer as the day goes on. Around the corner is a little snorkeling rental shop and a supermarket with a coffee shop, so you can get your fins, sandwiches and caffeine fix in a jiffy. When you’re getting out of the water, make sure you get a good footing as the surges coming in often knock over snorkelers. If you don’t get fins, at least make sure you grab some water shoes, since this place should be renamed Rocky Cove. Tip: This is not a spot for beginners, as the current can get fairly strong. Bring smaller ones to one of the other spots mentioned here, instead.
#4. Honolua Bay: Your Snorkeling BAE
The calmest water perfect for snorkeling can be found on the north western end of Maui, at Honolua Bay, a Marine Life Conservation District. Two high, rocky cliffs on either side of the bay keep the wind at a minimum so you can have a peaceful experience gliding over underwater wildlife. When you first arrive, seek out the old cement boat ramp in the center of the beach, dividing the shoreline of Honolua Bay into two parts.
On the left side is a small running stream that makes the water too murky for snorkeling at first, but as you swim further out the water clears and the sand gets whiter for better viewing. On the right side, the shoreline is made of rocks you have to climb over to get to the better snorkeling spots. Once you’re out there, the amount and variety of marine wildlife you’ll encounter is unbelievable. Tip: Stick to the right side of the boat ramp and walk along the rocks before easing your way in slowly. The right side boasts most of Honolua’s coral concentration, so you’ll see more fishies over there.
#5. Tunnel’s Beach: Kauai Snorkeling
This spot is a little hidden – which makes it a total gem for those who want to avoid the crowds while snorkeling. Parking is limited along the little dirt road (fits roughly 10 cars), but you can easily park at the nearby Haena Beach and walk until you see the other snorkelers. While you’re at Haena Beach, take advantage of their bathroom and food vendor truck that’s normally parked close by.
Once you’re at Tunnel’s Beach, get prepared for Kauai Island’s finest snorkeling. Catch sight of one or two turtles, or more famously, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Hawaii’s state fish (and longest native word, we’re assuming). Tip: Plan your trip to this spot in the morning, as water tends to be clearest around then. Make sure you also take a few dives below and check out the caverns underwater – you’ll feel like you’re in a giant fish tank!
Where to Stay:
- The ‘Okina, Autograph Collection
- Courtyard Waikiki Beach
- Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
- Courtyard Kaua’i at Coconut Beach
- The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua
- Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club
- Courtyard Oahu North Shore
- Marriott’s Kauai Lagoons – Kalanipu’u
- The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach
- Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa
- Marriott’s Waikoloa Ocean Club