The Best Places to Go Snorkeling in Hawaii

Green sea turtle | © GE Keoni
Green sea turtle | © GE Keoni
Photo of GE Keoni
25 August 2017

The Hawaiian Islands are a popular vacation destination for ocean-lovers to go surfing, fishing, and snorkeling. Thousands of beautiful marine organisms call Hawaii home and be found with a little bit of exploring. Here are the top 10 spots to snorkel in the islands.

Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay, on the southeast coast of O’ahu, is one of the most popular Hawaiian Islands and best snorkel destinations. The protected bay is perfect for families with young children, and hundreds of turtles, sharks, fish, eels, octopus, and other marine life call this beautiful area home. Don’t worry about the crowds—once you get down to the beach you will see how much space there really is.

Hanauma Bay, O'ahu | © GE Keoni

Laniakea Beach (a.k.a. Turtle Beach)

Turtle Beach, on the north shore of O’ahu, is a popular snorkeling spot to see honu, Hawaiian green sea turtles. Because of the unique rock formations right on shore, the turtles love to congregate here to feed on the seaweed and take naps on the warm sand. Turtles are protected under state and federal law, so please donʻt touch them.

Green sea turtle at Laniakea Beach | © GE Keoni

Molokini Crater

Molokini Crater, an island off the coast of Maui, is a submerged volcanic crater that went extinct thousands of years ago. Its crescent shape blocks currents and waves, allowing avid snorkelers to journey to the little island via boat to see all of its marine life. Hundreds of fish and different marine organisms call this tiny island’s colorful reefs and deep blue water home.

Molokini Crater from above | © Kim Starr / Flickr

Kīholo Bay

Kīholo Bay sits on the Kona side of the Big Island, and hundreds of turtles and fish like to congregate in this protected marine area because of its unique lava rock formation.

Sleeping turtle at Kīholo Bay | © GE Keoni

Hā’ena Beach

Hā’ena Beach, in Hanalei on the north shore of Kaua’i, is a beautiful beach with lots of coral reefs close to the shore. This area is best viewed during summertime as massive waves usually make this beach inaccessible in winter.

Birdʻs eye view of the reefs at Hāʻena Beach | © GE Keoni

Kāne’ohe Bay

Kāne’ohe Bay, on the east side of O’ahu, is completely sheltered by shallow sandbars and fringing reefs, which make for excellent snorkeling and viewing a wide array of marine organisms. Kāne’ohe is most known for being a hammerhead pupping ground, and avid shark snorkelers try to catch of glimpse of these elusive sharks.

Fringing reefs in Kāneʻohe Bay | © GE Keoni


Waikīkī is a very popular tourist destination with wonderful surfing, swimming, and snorkeling. Reefs are close to shore and are home to different marine organisms (mostly turtles, white tip reef sharks, and tropical fish).

Waikīkī Beach beach and reefs | © GE Keoni

Waimea Bay

On O’ahu’s north shore, Waimea Bay is as calm as a bathtub during the summer months. Scattered reefs across its sandy bottom make the bay a perfect spot for dolphins to sleep during the day, turtles to feed, and fish to live. Donʻt forget to bring fins here to swim quite far out and still be protected from the elements. The bay is curved which means snorkelers aren’t too exposed to wind or waits during the summer months.

Waimea Bay | © GE Keoni

Ka’ena Point

O’ahu’s west side is virtually untouched by man, so many animals congregate here at Ka’ena Point: sharks, turtles, rays, dolphins, whales, and various species of fish. This is a popular destination to find the Hawaiian spinner dolphins, which come in close to shore to rest during the day.

Dolphins at Kaʻena Point, Oʻahu | © GE Keoni

Shark’s Cove

Shark’s Cove is home to lava caves, unique formations that provide a home for multiple species—including turtles, fish, eels, and sharks—and allow free divers to explore marine ecosystems.

Shark’s Cove at Pupukea Beach Park | © GE Keoni

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