These 12 Hawaiian Snorkeling Spots Are Pure Paradise

Hawaii is one of the lushest and lovely places in the Pacific, and since it’s one of the United States, Americans don’t even need a passport to visit. Hawaii is composed of a group of volcanic islands that offers plenty of excellent natural things to do. 

In addition to its gorgeous beaches, Hawaii is also a snorkeler’s paradise. There are so many different sea creatures, coral reefs, and wrecks to explore around this beautiful island archipelago. 

We’ve listed the top 12 Hawaiian snorkeling spots, but a few more gems that you need to check out if you have time. 

Top 12 Hawaiian Snorkeling Spots

Let’s dive in! Get your feet wet at one of these incredible snorkeling spots.

 1. Fringing Reef

Molokai’s south coast is home to Fringing Reef, a great snorkeling spot that can accommodate water enthusiasts of all levels. This reef has an astounding amount of animal life, including hawksbill turtles and majestic eagle rays. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a whale or two. 

For the best experience, visit Fringing Reef between December and March, when you’re most likely to run across a school of whales. 

 2. Ke’e Beach

There’s a reason this Kauai snorkeling spot is so popular; it’s absolutely stunning.  Ke’e Beach is a great place to check out green sea turtles in their natural habitat, and it’s a quiet location where you can bring the whole family. Beginning snorkelers will feel totally at home in Ke’e Beach, but it’s exciting enough for those who have already got their sea legs.

In addition to Kauai’s famous green turtles, you might be able to catch a glimpse of triggerfish, parrotfish, saddle wrasse, sturgeon, or filefish. Occasionally this beach gets strong currents, so make sure that you pay close attention to any warnings before going into the water.

 3. Turtle Town

As the name suggests, this Maui destination is full of sea turtles. It’s also home to a bunch of breathtaking lava formations, so you can swim in what looks like another planet. Although you might run across several turtles on your adventure, it’s important to remember that these creatures are protected. Look with your eyes only.

In addition to the famous residents of Turtle Town, snorkelers might be lucky enough to spot angelfish, moray eels, and octopus. It’s Maui’s most popular snorkeling destination, so that it might be very packed during the busy season.

4. Molokini Crater

The Molokini Crater is undeniably one of Hawaii’s most exciting islands. This crescent-shaped natural wonder is just a few miles off the coast of Maui and is an underwater volcano that’s partially hidden below the ways. It’s shape and the protective nature of its composition makes it an ideal place for all sorts of sea creatures.

Make the trip to Molokini Crater if you want to check out lots of fish. This wonder has roughly 250 species of tropical fish, as well as moray eels and occasionally other animals. Remarkably, the waters around Molokini Crater are also really clear, so you’ll be able to see everything.

Both divers and snorkeling enthusiasts flock to Molokini Crater, so make sure that you book your excursion in advance if you’re planning on visiting during the busy season.

 5. Hanauma Bay

This Oahu treasure is a protected region where you can see tons of different fish and maybe even spot a turtle or two. One of the biggest draws of Hanauma Bay is its emerald-colored waters. This location simply has pristine seas, which makes it really easy to spot marine life.

The bay is actually a volcanic cinder cone, which is where it gets its curved shape. The volcanic composition helps to keep the sea life safe inside the bay and allows it to flourish. Before you can dip your toes into the water, you will need to watch a brief video about the ecosystem and how to enjoy the creatures that live there safely.

6. Coral Gardens

Maui’s Coral Gardens is one of Hawaii’s best-kept secrets, and you can only get there by boat. Book your tour well in advance if you want to get on the list because Coral Gardens is rapidly picking up popularity. The reef itself is made out of lava flow and now contains more marine life than you can imagine. 

Snorkel at this idyllic hotspot, and you will catch a glimpse of the West Maui Mountain Range on the edge of Lanai. Tropical fish, green turtles, and other types of marine life flock to Coral Gardens. 

 7. Kealakekua Bay

Located right on the Big Island, also known as Hawaii, Kealakekua Bay is a great spot to see green sea turtles, tropical fish, and dolphins. The dolphins are undoubtedly the biggest draw here, as is the history. Kealakekua Bay is the exact spot where James Cook landed in 1779, and you can learn all about the history of the Big Island before or after taking a refreshing dip.

Kealakekua Bay has crystal clear waters, so you will be able to spot an abundance of sea creatures with a visibility of 100 feet or more on a good day. It’s also a sacred spot, translating to “pathway of the dogs” in Hawaiian. 

If you love coral, this is definitely your spot, and you can catch it in pinks, purples, and oranges all over Kealakekua Bay.

 8. Hulopoe Bay

Maui’s Hulopoe Bay is a great place to get a picnic and hang out with the family, as well as do some great snorkeling. Most people think it’s one of the best beaches on all of the islands to engage in some underwater exploration because the waters are calm and you can see a lot of different animals.

Check out saddle wrasse, parrotfish, and even dolphins in Hulopoe Bay. It’s a fantastic place to spend a leisurely and fun day.  

 9. Kuilima Cove

Oahu’s Kuilima Cove is a fabulous place to visit during the winter or summer because its reef protects the inner part of the cove from Oahu’s large winter waves. As such, it’s an excellent spot for beginner snorkelers, and you most likely won’t have to worry about riptides or other unpleasant experiences.

It’s close to the famous Turtle Bay Resort, and well-marked, so most visitors will be able to locate it speedily. Once there, make sure that you check out all of the sea life Kuilima Cove has to offer, like triggerfish, needlefish, boxfish, tang, unicornfish, and perch. You might even run across some lobster.

 10. Shark’s Cove

Another Oahu treasure, Shark’s Cove, isn’t most famous for its namesake. In fact, you’re not too likely to see very many sharks there at all. Instead, prepare to feast your eyes on all manner of gorgeous fish, like butterflyfish, needlefish, tang, sturgeon, or even octopuses. 

Be advised that a lot of the sand around Shark’s Cove is rocky and can be treacherous, so it’s best to wear water shoes when exploring in this region. 

11. Honolua Bay

This popular Maui snorkeling destination is a great place to view both fish and coral. It’s protected under the Mokuleia Marine Life Conservation District, so there’s plenty of marine life all over Honolua Bay. Surfers also frequent this area during certain times of the year.

To avoid the surfers and see the best marine life, visit in the spring, summer, or early fall. Since the coast is pretty rocky at Honolua Bay, it’s a good idea to put on some water shoes before venturing out into the water. Once you’re out there, you can spot marine life right away. Most of it is close to the shore.

Many fish frequent this area, including eagle rays, moray eels, lobster, and even spinner dolphins. Go in the morning for the best chance of spotting sea creatures.

 12. Manta Ray Village

The Big Island’s Manta Ray Village delivers just that; tons of gorgeous manta rays and the opportunity to snorkel with them in beautiful, transparent waters. The one caveat is that this snorkeling spot is for experienced snorkelers only because most of the best snorkeling is at night, and you need to swim away from the shore.

If you’re a strong swimmer and feel comfortable that far from shore, Manta Ray Village is a fantastic addition to your Hawaiian snorkeling adventure. Attracted by the floodlights from a local hotel, manta rays flock to this area, especially at night, when they feast on plankton. Most people can expect to see between five and fifteen amazing manta rays on any given night.

(Want to explore more near snorkeling destinations? Try reading; Incredible Snorkeling Spots in Mexico)

A Few More Hawaiian Snorkeling Destinations

(You might also be interested in reading about the Best Snorkeling Spots in Central America)

Next Step: Snorkeling in Hawaii

One of the best things to do in this island state is to check out the marine wildlife. Hawaii is jam-packed with tons of incredible sea creatures like amazing green sea turtles, dolphins, humpback whales, and plenty of colorful fish. If you’re lucky, you might even come across a monk seal or a giant stingray. 

Strap on some fins and get ready to go for a swim at some of Hawaii’s best snorkeling spots.

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