Snorkeling is a favorite activity for many travelers when they visit Hawaii. They get to explore the world underwater and witness sea life in its natural habitat. This has a lot of travelers wondering, what is the best Hawaiian island for snorkeling?
Maui is the best Hawaiian island for snorkeling. It is safe, clean, and has great visibility. This island has snorkeling spots to please everyone from first-timers to experienced snorkelers. People can explore bays, volcanic coves, and more exciting areas while snorkeling here. Another amazing thing about snorkeling from Maui is getting to hear whale songs while you’re underwater.
There are many benefits to choosing Maui as your Hawaiian destination for snorkeling. However, some of the other islands have great snorkeling spots as well.
Today, we’re going to tell you about some of the best spots in Hawaii for snorkeling. We will also go into more detail about how you can have an amazing snorkeling adventure in Maui. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know.
- Why is Maui The Best Hawaiian Island For Snorkeling?
- Best Places To Snorkel in Maui
- Best Snorkeling Tours in Maui
- Tips For Your First Time Snorkeling in Maui
- Other Places in Hawaii For A Great Snorkeling Adventure
- Which Island in Hawaii Has The Clearest Water?
- When is The Best Time To Snorkel In Hawaii?
- What To Avoid Doing When Snorkeling In Hawaii
- Most Dangerous Places in Hawaii For Snorkeling
- Why Some Travelers Prefer Snorkeling At Kauai
- Why Some Travelers Prefer Snorkeling At Oahu
- Why Some Travelers Prefer Snorkeling On Hawaii Island (The Big Island)
Why is Maui The Best Hawaiian Island For Snorkeling?
Maui has the best selection and conditions for snorkeling in Hawaii. It’s an excellent island to consider for all skill levels. There are tours offered for beginners, families, and people that want to explore more spots.
It’s not just the selection of snorkeling locations that makes Maui stand out as the best in Hawaii. Everything that this island has to offer for snorkeling is just right. The water is crystal clear with perfect temperatures year round. There’s plenty of sea life to witness and the water isn’t crowded.
Are you interested in learning more about why Maui is the best island in Hawaii for snorkeling? We’re going to go into more detail about some of the top reasons below.
Beaches For All Skills Level
Maui is the best location for snorkeling in Hawaii because it’s safe for everyone. A lot of people travel here to experience snorkeling for the first time. Travelers have a selection of safe beaches to choose from for the activity. These beaches have trained lifeguards on site.
Kapalua Bay and Napili Bay are both great spots for beginners to try out snorkeling. They are both protected bays with calm water. It’s important for beginners to stay in calm water. Choppy water with more waves should only be explored by people with plenty of experience.
People also have more options when it comes to their snorkeling adventure in Maui. There are several guided tours on a boat with professionals. However, travelers that want to snorkel on their own watch can find plenty of beaches to explore.
Related Read: 25 Best Molokini Snorkel Tours
Easy To Access Snorkeling Beaches
There are several snorkeling beaches in Maui that people can get to without any difficulty. One of the great things about Maui is that the shoreline goes on for miles. You can find swimming beaches all over the island with excellent snorkeling spots just 40 feet or more away from the shore.
As long as you are confident in your swimming skills, the snorkeling locations are easy to access. There are no obstacles in the way to get to these areas, just a quick swim. Travelers can visit as many of these places as they want without having to wait or pay for a tour guide.
Best Weather For Snorkeling
Maui has the best weather conditions for snorkeling. The sunny tropical weather that this island gets year-round is a big reason why the snorkeling conditions are top of the line. Sunny weather makes for great snorkeling conditions.
It’s rare to come across a cloudy day in Maui. When it’s cloudy, it’s difficult to see underwater. With the beautiful sunny days in Maui, snorkelers have a crystal clear view of what’s underneath the water.
Maui also has very calm weather. The wind is another factor that can cause poor snorkeling conditions. This is because the wind makes the water rough and choppy, which is unsafe. Luckily, that’s not something travelers have to worry about in Maui.
Related Read: Best Hawaiian Islands for Families
Swimming With Sea Turtles
Maui is the best island in Hawaii for swimming with sea turtles. If you want to see sea life in its natural habitat, you will have more opportunities in Maui. Snorkelers on this island often get to swim with sea turtles.
In Maui, you are more likely to come across the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle while snorkeling. These turtles can be found in snorkeling spots all across the island. When snorkeling from other Hawaiian islands, you may only see a few turtles. However, in Maui, you will likely see them every time.
Your best bet for finding Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles is along rocky areas and reefs. You will need to keep an eye out for them because they blend into the scenery easily. They can also be found along the coves where they are able to feed on algae.
Hear Whale Songs
One of the most magical parts of snorkeling in Maui is getting to hear the whale songs underwater. Don’t worry, you won’t have to worry about coming face to face with a whale while snorkeling. The humpback whales are roughly 20 miles away from Maui.
You will have to swim pretty far to see a whale underwater. However, even from a distance, you will be able to hear the songs of a humpback whale. This is something you won’t get to experience on the other islands in Hawaii.
The best time to visit Maui to hear the whale songs is between December and April. This is when large groups of whales have migrated to Maui.
More Places For Snorkeling
When you go snorkeling in Maui, you will have many options for places to go. There aren’t just a few places reserved for this activity. In fact, travelers can find excellent snorkeling locations all throughout this island.
Visitors can choose from one of the many beaches throughout Maui to have an underwater adventure. There are also several protected bays throughout the island. Bays are some of the best places to go snorkeling because they are calm with active sea life.
Maui also has several coves that are amazing to explore underwater. Many visitors look forward to snorkeling at the volcanic coves.
Related Read: How Much Does A Trip To Hawaii Cost?
Best Visibility in Hawaii
The visibility in Maui is perfect for snorkeling. That nice sunny weather is just part of the reason that people can see so well underwater here. After all, with so little rain throughout the year, it’s easy for the water to stay clear.
Another reason the visibility in Maui’s water is high is that the current is calm. It’s especially calm in bays and coves. The current is just strong enough to wash away debris without causing poor visibility.
The water in Maui is also very clean. It has low pollution, especially compared to some of the other islands. Oahu and Hawaii Island have more traffic, which causes more pollution in the water there.
You can enjoy snorkeling in Maui without crowds of people surrounding you. Maui isn’t as popular for tourism as Oahu or Hawaii Island (The Big Island). While it still receives many visitors, popular locations don’t get too crowded.
Best Places To Snorkel in Maui
Travelers will be able to find great snorkeling locations no matter where they stay in Maui. There are so many beautiful spots that you won’t be disappointed where you stay.
To give you a better idea of where you should go, we’ve rounded up 6 of the best places to snorkel on Maui.
1. Turtle Town
Turtle Town is the top place in Maui to go snorkeling if you want to see Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. This small swimming spot is located in south Maui. There is an abundance of coral reefs in this area that is absolutely stunning to view.
What makes Turtle Town unique is that it’s formed by underwater lava formations. These were the result of volcanic eruptions that happened a very long time ago.
Related Read: Best Time to Visit the Big Island
2. Molokini Crater
Another great spot for snorkeling in south Maui is Molokini Crater. This location is approximately 2.5 miles away from the shore. While it does take a bit of a journey to get there, it’s very well worth it.
The Molokini Crater is an underwater volcano islet. The crater has formed a crescent shape, which makes this place unlike any other in the world. It’s a large area for snorkeling and there’s a good chance that you will see tropical fish among the coral.
3. Honolua Bay
Honolua Bay is one of many travelers’ favorite locations for snorkeling. Not only is the view underwater breathtaking, but the scenery on land is stunning as well. This is one place that never disappoints travelers.
Visitors should be prepared for a rocky entrance to get to this snorkeling hot spot. Once they are in the bay, they should keep a look out for sea turtles and tropical fish.
4. Coral Gardens
Coral Gardens is a beautiful spot for snorkeling. This is the place to go for a colorful snorkeling experience. You will get to see plenty of brightly colored tropical fish and unique reef formations.
We love this location because it’s very easy to access. It has a sandy entrance, so you don’t have to wear water shoes to get there.
5. Five Caves
Five Caves is one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii for experienced scuba divers. There is a rocky entrance that can be more challenging, especially for beginners. Once you get to the location, you will get to swim with marine life.
This is a popular spot for snorkeling because there are several caves and arches to explore. While sea turtles and fish are common here, divers may also see eel, octopus, and reef sharks.
6. Napili Bay
Napili Bay is a calm and quiet spot for snorkeling. This bay is located in a small community in west Maui. While it may not be as popular of a tourist hot spot as the other locations on this list, it’s a hidden gem for snorkeling in Maui.
This is one of the best spots for beginners in Maui. The water is very calm with clear visibility. It’s not too deep, with the main snorkeling areas only being 3 to 8 feet underwater. If it’s your first time snorkeling, we highly recommend this spot.
Best Snorkeling Tours in Maui
Snorkeling tours are available all throughout Maui. People of all skill levels can enjoy these tours. These tours are guided by professionals that are familiar with the water in Maui. They take guests out to the best snorkeling locations that can only be accessed by boat.
If you’re interested in snorkeling in Maui, we strongly recommend booking one of these tours. Not only will you get to see a one-of-a-kind area, but you will also get to see more marine animals.
A snorkeling tour is a great way to spend the day in Maui. If you’re interested in booking one, you may be wondering what the best tours are. Let’s take a look at some of the top-rated snorkeling tours in Maui.
Maui Snorkel Tours
Maui Snorkel Tours is a shore-based guided snorkeling experience. This is an excellent tour to consider if you have kids with you or if it’s your first time. The tour starts on shore, where the guide teaches people the steps of snorkeling.
Not many tours are set up to equip people with the knowledge they need for snorkeling. That is what makes this tour a preferred choice for families. People get to enjoy themselves and leave with snorkeling knowledge.
Maui Adventure Tours
Maui Adventures Tours offers a kayak and snorkeling tour. You don’t have to have any experience to enjoy this adventure on the water. With a guide, you will get to paddle out to different snorkeling hotspots in west Maui.
This tour starts on Lolwalu Beach. As you go out in the kayak, you will stop at some of the prime locations for spotting marine life. If you visit during whale season, this tour may even bring you to a spot where you can see them.
Kai Kanani Maui Adventure Sunrise
Kai Kanani Maui Adventure Sunrise is the best snorkeling tour that heads to the Molokini Crater. The Molokini Crater is one of the most popular snorkeling locations in Maui. If you join this tour, you will get there by boat and be one of the first to arrive.
Another reason this tour is a hit with travelers is that it allows them to see the crater before there are any crowds. The crater is absolutely beautiful when nobody else is out there. The tour also takes people directly to the crater, so they save time getting there and get more time for snorkeling.
Four Winds II Molokini Snorkel
Four Winds II Molokini Snorkel is a fun family-friendly tour. This is one of the largest boats that head out to the Molokini Crater. One of the things that set this tour apart from the other is that the guide focuses on making the tour fun and engaging for children.
On top of snorkeling, there are many other things to enjoy about this tour. There’s a glass bottom viewing area on the boat. It also includes a water slide, that is just as much fun for adults as it is for kids.
Maui Custom Charters
Maui Custom Charters offers private snorkeling tours. This is a great way to get away from the crowds and ensure you get a snorkeling location all to yourself. You can arrange this tour for a group of six or fewer.
During this tour, you will get to visit two special snorkeling spots that can only be accessed by boat. This tour will take you to Coral Gardens and the Olowalu Reef. The pristine waters here will not disappoint.
Redline Rafting Molokini Back Wall Tour
Redline Rafting is a great tour for adventurous divers to go on. This tour isn’t recommended for a beginner. While several tours in the area offer Molokini Crater tours, this one takes it to the next level and takes guests to the back wall.
Why is this tour only recommended for advanced snorkelers? Well, the back wall is 300 feet deep. Of course, you won’t have visibility all the way to the bottom of the water. However, it will give the illusion that you’re falling into a bottomless ocean.
Tips For Your First Time Snorkeling in Maui
Snorkeling is an activity that even first-time divers can pick up easily. However, in order to make the most of your experience, you should always be prepared. That is why we want to share some of our top tips for first-time snorkelers in Maui.
Book A Tour
If you have never been snorkeling before, we recommend booking a tour. This is because you will be guided by a professional that knows the safest snorkeling methods and is familiar with the body of water you’re exploring.
These professionals will be able to share expert tips with you on how to stay safe and enjoy your time in the water. They will also be able to give your great advice when you spot marine life.
Never Go Alone
Once you are more confident in your snorkeling skills, you can hit a beach and find snorkeling spots. However, no matter how strong your skills are, you should never go snorkeling alone. Always have a friend with you when going underwater.
Having a friend with you is important because you guys can both keep an eye on each other. If anything goes wrong, there is someone there to help with the situation.
Breathe Through Your Mouth
Snorkeling causes people to change how they breathe for the activity. You shouldn’t breathe through your nose in your snorkeling gear. If you do, your mask will fog up and you won’t be able to see. It may take some practice, but you should only breathe through your mouth.
It’s also recommended that you put a defogger on your snorkeling mask before you go in the water. This will prevent it from getting foggy while you’re exploring. If you don’t have a defogger product, baby shampoo will do the trick.
If you’re a beginner, you should use a floatation device. This isn’t something you should feel ashamed of. Many advanced snorkelers will use devices to stay safe. After all, a lot of these devices actually make snorkeling more comfortable.
You can use a life jacket, pool noodle, or floatation device for snorkeling. Even if you’re confident in your swimming skills, this is a good idea for your first time in a body of water. It will help you adjust to currents that you’re not used to.
Choose A Landmark
Before you go snorkeling, choose a landmark on shore. This will be your marker so you can judge how far you’ve swum from shore. While this may not seem like an important step, it’s actually very helpful to ensure you don’t drift off too far or in the wrong direction.
Keep An Eye On Your Surroundings
It’s natural to want to look straight down while you’re snorkeling. This allows you to see reef formations, fish, and more. However, it’s important that you also look around you and stay aware of your surroundings.
By looking around you, you will avoid collisions. This way, you won’t bump into rocks or other swimmers. You will also be aware of any boats that are in the area. If you stay looking down the entire time, you could run into a sharp reef or rock.
Always move slowly when you’re underwater so you don’t scare the marine life away. The fish, turtles, and other creatures under the water are more afraid of you than you are of them. If you move too quickly, they will scurry away.
Approaching the area in a calm and quiet manner is the best way to see what’s underwater. You will have a better chance of seeing eels, octopuses, and other marine life.
Be Careful With Your Fins
Swimming fins can help you improve your posture and pick up speed while snorkeling. While fins have their fair share of benefits, they can become a hassle if you’re not using them right.
We recommend waiting until you get in the water to put them on your feet. Trekking across the beach in them can be very tiresome. It’s also important to remember that swimming fins aren’t designed to protect your feet. If you step on a reef, you can hurt yourself.
Make sure you’re very careful when underwater. If you hit the coral reefs with your fins, you can cause damage to their system. Always keep your feet close to the surface of the water when swimming with fins.
Other Places in Hawaii For A Great Snorkeling Adventure
While Maui may have the best snorkeling places in the US, there are many other great places in Hawaii for snorkeling. If you’re already planning to visit one of the other islands, snorkeling isn’t off-limits. Let’s take a look at some of the other places to snorkel in Hawaii.
Fringing Reef (Molokai)
Fringing Reef is one of the most interesting places to snorkel in Hawaii. This hotspot can be found on the south coast of Molokai. The reason travelers are interested in snorkeling here is because of the giant reef.
The longest fringing reef in the world is located here. In order to get here, you will need to kayak or take a boat. Once you get to the reef, you’ll be able to witness all the marine life that the giant reef attracts.
Another great thing about the Fringing Reef in Molokai is that it’s safe for all skill levels. Even newbies can enjoy this unique snorkeling area.
Night Manta Snorkel (Hawaii Island / The Big Island)
Night Manta Snorkel is one of the most exciting snorkel tours on Hawaii Island. While this tour is appealing to a lot of people, it’s only recommended for experienced snorkelers. It is located at Keauhou Bay and can be accessed from the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa.
Why is this snorkel tour exciting? There are waterproof lights installed on the ocean floor. These lights attract plankton, which attracts giant Pacific manta rays. Some of these manta rays have wings that span over 20 feet.
Watching manta rays is fascinating. They flip and move around as though they’re putting on a performance for the snorkel tour. While these manta rays may be huge, some as large as 3,000 lbs, they are safe to swim with.
Poipu Beach Park (Kauai)
Poipu Beach Park is a great snorkeling location for kids and beginners. This area is located west of Lihue. It’s a great spot for newbies to try out snorkeling because it’s a shallow lagoon with calm water.
This is also an exciting area to go snorkeling. You can see a variety of different marine animals, like sea cucumbers, blue parrotfish, eels, sea turtles, and more. It’s also common to come across monk seals lounging along the shoreside.
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve (Oahu)
Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is one of the most popular spots to snorkel in Oahu. While it’s likely that you’ll come across some crowds at this place, once you get in the water you’ll see why.
One of the things that makes this place a snorkel hotspot is that it’s a volcanic crater with many crevices to explore. A lot of different fish can be found in this area. This includes trumpet fish, damsel fish, porcupine fish, and more.
North Shore (Oahu)
North Shore snorkeling is a great way to swim with the sharks (sort of) while staying safe. You will get to go on an adventure with Ocean Ramsey’s research team to an area you can see sharks from a safe distance.
One thing to know about this snorkeling tour is that you will be going with a team of professionals. The breeds of sharks you could witness are calm and not a threat (as long as they aren’t provoked). These sharks aren’t interested in hunting humans.
So, what sharks could you see if you snorkel at North Shore? This area is known to have hammerheads, Galapagos, sandbar sharks, and more.
Which Island in Hawaii Has The Clearest Water?
Kauai has the clearest water in Hawaii. However, you can expect clear beaches throughout all of the islands in this state. But, Kauai is known as the prettiest island in Hawaii. You will see clear water in the ocean and vibrant greenery on land.
There are fewer visitors making the trip to Kauai compared to places like Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii Island. The population is only 67,000 on this island as well. Since there are fewer people around, there is less pollution in the water than on other islands.
If you’re on the north end of Kauai, you should visit Hanalei Bay Beach. This is one of the cleanest beaches in Hawaii. One of the reasons people love this beach is because of the clear turquoise water.
When is The Best Time To Snorkel In Hawaii?
Morning hours are the best time to snorkel in Hawaii. Early risers catch the best snorkeling conditions, so it could be worth it to set an alarm clock on your vacation. However, if you don’t make it until the afternoon, you will still get good conditions.
There are two main reasons why morning is the best time of day for snorkeling. The first is that marine life is more active in the morning. You will have a better chance of seeing more fish, sea turtles, eels, and other animals.
The other reason that morning is the best time for snorkeling is that you will have the best visibility. In the afternoon, there is often a slight wind. This wind is enough to affect the clarity of the water.
Hawaii is a great place to snorkel all year round. However, May through September are the best months for snorkeling. This is during the peak of Hawaii’s dry season, so it’s less likely to rain and ruin visibility.
What To Avoid Doing When Snorkeling In Hawaii
Always avoid touching what you see when your snorkeling in Hawaii. The “do not touch” rule should be followed to keep marine life protected and for your own safety. Some of the things you see while snorkeling are beautiful, but they are very dangerous to touch.
Never touch the coral reef. The beautiful formations are very fragile. If you touch one, you can do a lot of damage to its entire system. Coral are also known to bite when they get touched, which is very painful and difficult to treat.
Some of the marine life underwaters are endangered species. Never bother these creatures. Not only are you likely to scare the animals away, but there are also fines in place for people that touch the endangered species.
Most Dangerous Places in Hawaii For Snorkeling
Unfortunately, there are several places in Hawaii that are dangerous for snorkeling. Safety should always be your top priority when you snorkel. This means having proper gear, someone with you, and picking out a safe location.
We’ve mentioned some of the top safe locations for snorkeling in Hawaii. That only covered a thumbnail of all the safe places where you can swim and snorkel. However, we think we should mention some of the places you should never go snorkeling in Hawaii.
Sandy Beach (Oahu)
Sandy Beach is a place where even experts should avoid snorkeling. This beach is popular for bodyboarding but can be dangerous for other activities. Locals have nicknamed it Break Neck Beach because there are multiple injuries here every year.
The conditions of the water are very important for a good snorkeling experience. This is why experts always recommend choosing a calm body of water. Sandy Beach has a very strong current and the waves are too rough for snorkeling.
Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach (Maui)
One of Maui’s most popular hiking spots is Kailhalulu Red Sand Beach. Travelers come from all over the world to see this beautiful beach. The red sand makes the beach look magical.
However, this location is much safer for hiking than snorkeling. The water at Kailhalulu Red Sand Beach is very rough. Snorkeling is off-limits here because the current is too strong. On top of that, there are no lifeguards on site.
Hanakapiai Beach (Kauai)
Before hikers arrive at Hanakapai Beach, they will notice a sign warning them of drownings at this beach. This sign shouldn’t be ignored. While this is a beautiful beach for exploring or enjoying a picnic, it’s not safe for snorkeling or swimming.
Hanakapiai Beach can be deceiving. After a hike, it might be tempting to jump in the water, especially if it looks calm. However, this beach gets unexpected waves that can be very strong. These waves can be dangerous for even advanced swimmers.
Makena Beach (Maui)
Makena Beach isn’t a safe place for snorkeling because this location is known for sharks. It’s recommended that travelers avoid this beach altogether unless they are just going for a hike.
Ocean Safety officers will often close this beach when sharks are spotted in the area. This is a common area for tiger sharks because they hunt in shallow waters.
Unprovoked shark attacks on humans are very rare. However, with a creature that weighs over 1,900 lbs, it’s better to be safe than sorry. A bite from a tiger shark can be fatal. This is why you should always avoid snorkeling in areas where they have been spotted.
Lumahai Beach (Kauai)
Lumahai Beach is very dangerous because of the undertow. The waves at this beach are too strong and it can be hazardous for snorkeling. This beach is near an open ocean, which is why the current is so powerful.
While this beach may not be safe for swimming or snorkeling, it is beautiful to explore. If you do go on a hike along this beach, make sure you bring your camera.
Why Some Travelers Prefer Snorkeling At Kauai
Kaui is the next best place to snorkel in Maui. Many travelers prefer to visit this island because it’s a lot quieter and the scenery is breathtaking. While there are fewer places to snorkel, what is available has the ideal snorkeling conditions.
The water is a lot more clear in Kauai, making for better visibility than any of the other islands. You will also be able to see a variety of colorful tropical fish on this island. This includes the Hawaii state fish, humuhumunukunukuapua’a.
If you want to snorkel in Kauai, there are great places all over the island. The time of year you visit plays a role in which area is best. During the winter months, beaches on the south shore are ideal for snorkeling. In summer, the north side provides better snorkeling conditions.
Why Some Travelers Prefer Snorkeling At Oahu
Oahu offers many great locations for snorkeling. This is the most popular island in Hawaii for tourism. There are more attractions and activities for people of all ages in Oahu. This island also features more restaurants, shops, and annual events.
A lot of people are worried that there are too many travelers for good snorkeling in Oahu. While there are more crowds, it doesn’t ruin the snorkeling experience. This is because there are over 100 miles of coastline along this island.
No matter where you go on this island, you will be near a good location for snorkeling. There are enough places for all travelers to explore without crowding each other.
Why Some Travelers Prefer Snorkeling On Hawaii Island (The Big Island)
The Big Island is preferred by some travelers for snorkeling because of the sheltered volcanic bays. Marine life is thriving on the Kona side of this island. People can find some of the most stunning coral and tropical fish in this area of Hawaii.
Many people prefer Kona for snorkeling out of all the areas in Hawaii because of the calm water. There are also several beaches that make it easy to get to prime snorkeling areas.