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10 Best Snorkel Beaches in Hawaii

by tr on August 28, 2012

There are many great snorkel boat tours from harbors on all of the Hawaiian Islands – Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island. These Hawaii snorkel tours are a wonderful way to enjoy the tropical ocean of our island paradise, and a fun way see up-close the breath-taking underwater  marine life of its many reefs. Fees for such snorkel tours on Maui for instance, can vary from about $59 to $189 per person, and include snacks, drinks, lunch, snorkeling gear, instruction and other add-on amenities like underwater cameras, videos and snuba as well.

(Photo copyright by Ron Dahlquist) Source »

But did you know there are many great spots to snorkel right from the shore in Hawaii? In fact, some spots can be snorkeled ONLY from the shore, like world-famous Haunama Bay on Oahu, which does not allow boats. So if you’re a do-it-yourself type, have transportation, snorkel gear and a sense of adventure, then pack a lunch, grab some drinks, bathing suit, towel, snorkel, mask and fins… and head for one of these spectacular snorkeling reefs.

Maui Beach Snorkeling

Kapalua Bay

(Photo above copyright Galen Piehl & Nicole Atkins) Source »

Kapalua Bay is a small crescent beach with pure white sand on the north end of Maui, looking directly across the channel to Molokai. This Bay is a very popular because of its beauty, tranquility and convenience Kapalua Bay retains an un-crowded look and feel so you have plenty of space to lay out your beach towel and enjoy the best Maui has to offer.

This sheltered cove contains two reefs, one on either side, although the right, northerly reef is by far the best for snorkeling. So walk mto the northern end to ensconce, then swim out from along northn edge of the bay staying close to the rocks. The depth along the northern edge averages about 10 feet deep, but the farther out you go the deeper and clearer the water becomes and the more marine life you will encounter as you approach many varieties of healthy coral reef.

(Photo above by Artlog) Source »

Honolua Bay

(Photo above by All the Pages Are My Days)

Honolua Bay on Maui’s northwest shore has a world-class surf break during the winter season, and is a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba year round. The bay is defined by bluffs on either side that shelter it from the wind and keep the water calm. The north bluff also offers a great vantage point to watch expert surfers from a relatively close distance.

During the calmer summer months, Honolua Bay is a popular destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. As part of the Mokuleiaa Marine Life Conservation District fishing of any kind is prohibited, so sea life diversity and density is perhaps the best on the Valley Isle along the reef that runs to the north side of the bay shoreward from the surf break.

There is no lifeguard, restrooms, or showers so remember to bring your own food and drinks; there are no stores nearby.

Olowalu Reef

(Photo above by Maui Blogger)

This small, narrow beach at mile marker 14 along Hoopilani Highway on the way to Lahaina, provides the easiest access to beach snorkeling on Maui. rs.

The beach hereis narrow with ample shade that from the numerous kiawe trees, so watch for thorns where you walk, sit and lie! The reef itself is very shallow, especially at low tides. The reef comes right up to the shoreline, and the bottom remains shallow well out into the ocean.

Be careful to walk only on one of the sandy underwater paths, and not the reef itself. These paths are in shallow water making it easy and convenient to snorkel further out, where the reef ascends from the sandy sea floor almost to the water’s surface.

There are are no facilities here, so bring food and drink. If you do run out of anything, the Olawalu Store is only a mile up the highway toward Lahaina.

Maluaka Beach / Turtle Town

(Photo above by Aloha Nohea Weddings)

Maluaka Beach is south of Wailea and fronts the Makena Beach and Golf Resort (formerly called The Maui Prince), the southerly most resort in South Maui.

It can be accessed from two directions, north and south. Parking lots aat both ends are about 100 yards from the beach entrance, where there are also showers and restrooms.

Maluaka offers a variety of activities because it sits in the leeward rain shadow of Mt. Haleakala, protected from Hawaii’s predominant trade winds. The elegant white sand beach is wonderful for tanning, relaxing, volleyball, weddings and more. That’s why it is also the beach resort guests use as well.

For snorkeling, enter the water at the south edge of the beach along this black outcrop and follow it out and around. About 50 yards from shore you will encounter Turtle Arch, an underwater lava arch arch teeming with reef fishes, as well as Honu that swim and frolic beneath it.

 Oahu Beach Snorkeling

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

(Photo above by Wikipedia) Source »

When people think about Hawaii snorkeling, they’re usually thinking about Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve on Oahu – white sandy beaches with shallow reefs surrounded by a perfect volcanic caldera. The colorful marine life, the extraordinary reef and the clear waters make this a special experience for everyone.

Once a favorite fishing spot for Hawaiian royalty, this extinct volcanic crater is frequented by spotted eagle rays, turtles and more than 450 colorful, tropical fish and numerous sea turtles, eels, octopus, crabs, lobsters and Hawaii marine life.

Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, one of the most spectacular natural resources in Hawaii, is now reaping the benefits of over a decade of efforts to re-establish its pristine marine ecosystem. Not a “beach park” but a Nature Preserve dedicated to safeguarding the fragile marine life in the Bay, Hanauma is the first Marine Life Conservation District in the State. Restrooms and showers, food vendors. $7.50 entrance fee. Closed weekends and holidays.

Makaha Beach

(Photo above by Hawaiian Lifeguard Association)

Oahu’s second most popular snorkeling destination, Makaha Beach, is on Oahu’s dry and sunny west side. In the summer months it’s hot and dry so bring enough water and sunscreen. A beach umbrella mightalso be needed because there’s not much shade on the beach.

In summer you’ll snorkel in clear, blue waters with visibility up to 50 feet. There are many under watercaverns, arches and deep tunnels providing a habitat for a rich marine life. Dolphins, turtles, octopuses, manta and eagle rays frequent the area.

Makaha Beach is also a world famous surf break, and can be life-threatening during winter and spring swells. Make sure you check weather and wave conditions. If you want to swim, enter the ocean in the middle section of the beach where there is no reef. Surfers usually prefer the northern end of the beach where the waves break on the reef. Snorkeling is good when surfing is bad.

Electric Beach

(Photo above by ShoreDiving.com)  Source »

Kahe Point Beach Park is located on the west side of Oahu, just north of the Ko Olina Resorts. Kahe Point is also called, Electric Beach because of the power plant located nearby. Water from this plant is clean and warm where it is expelled through cooling pipes offshore. Here the water is several degrees warmer, attracting a wide variety of sea life. But do not dive down in front of the openings to the pipes! The out-flowing water is strong enough to send you head over heels underwater.

The beach is best suited for the intermediate to advanced snorkelers. A moderate swim is required and there are no lifeguards. Electric Beach is very shallow near shore, and gets progressively deeper seaward, so you’ll be able to find the  most comfortable depth for yourself.

Snorkelers enter the water at the small sand beach just to the right of the large pavilion. There’s often breaking waves near shore, so hold your mask and fins tight as you enter.

Kauai Beach Snorkeling

Ke’e Beach

(Photo above by HawaiiGaga.comSource »

Ke’e Beach nestles against the edge of the Na Pali Coastline. The stunning drive to Ke’e Beach passes along some of Kauai’s most scenic panoramas. Summertime provides tranquil waters that are perfect for novice snorkelers and children. Summer weekends bring crowds, so it’s best to arrive early on weekdays if you can.

Ke’e is the end of the road, the last beach accessible by car on the northwest shore. Ke’e’s gentle ocean lagoon is best enjoyed in the calm ocean conditions of the summer. The lagoon is protected from waves by reefs that offer good snorkeling during these summertime calms. A view of the entire Na Pali coast can be seen stretching westward from this beach. Public parking, bathrooms and showers.

Tunnels Beach

(Photo above by HawaiiGaga.comSource »

Tunnels Beach or Makua Beach on Kauai is one of Kauai’s best snorkeling spots. A huge curved reef sits inside a large lagoon provides natural protection from ocean waves for us and marine life.  There are many cavities, crevices and tunnels to explore along the inner and outer reefs. This is also a favorite resting spot for Hawaiian Monk Seals

Makua is known for its gorgeous mountain scenery featured in the movie, “South Pacific.” A great snorkeling beach, Tunnels has something for everyone. The shallow inner reef is great for newbies and children, while the outer reefs are best for more advanced divers and snorkelers. Tunnels gets its name from the surfers entered the tube and divers who have explored the caverns. Public parking, bathrooms and showers are located at Haena Beach Park west of Tunnels.

Poipu Beach Park

(Photo above by Ahh! Aloha) Source »

Poipu Beach Park on Kauai’s south shore, has three coves protected by an outer shoal and outer reef. The beach park is also famous for dolphins, Hawaiian Green Turtles and Humpback whales seasonally.

The protected coves are great for novice snorkelers and small children. The right side of the coves offers better snorkeling for more advanced snorkelers. Poipu Beach Park is also hosts a popular boogie board beach, and during summer months can be very crowded. This beautiful beach park has a something for everyone.

Surfers and boogie boarders come to this park for the regular surf and wild conditions over to the constantly changing sand bar. The half mile long beach is a used  for jogging, dog walking, kite flying, and bon fires. There is public parking and new restrooms plus sheltered picnic benches completed in 2008.

Big Island Beach Snorkeling

Hapuna Beach

(Photo above by State of Hawaii Wiki PermitsSource »

Snorkeling is good at either end around the rocky points. The visibility is often lower than other snorkeling locations around the Big Island. Since this beach is also more exposed than others, the waves can get larghe enough to make snorkeling Hapuna Beach dangerous.

This beach is for more advanced snorkelers b ecause it requires a fairly long swim to the live coral reef. Like most places in Hawaii, mornings are the best time for snorkeling.

This sandy beach makes the water entrance very easy. Walk to the end of the beach you intend to snorkel and get in. Do not snorkel if the surf is up; leave this location to the boogie boarders and head elsewhere.

 Kahaluu Beach Park

(Photo above by KonaOntheBeach.comSource »

Kahaluu Beach Park is one of Big Island top snorkeling beaches because  its abundant marine life, sheltered cove, and

The Beach Park is nestled against a small sheltered cove on the west side of the Big Island in the town of Kailua Kona. The cove is  surrounded by a partially submerged rock wall that keeps larger waves out while allowing the gentle ocean currents to flow freely in.

Kahaluu Beach has restrooms, showers, picnic tables, and two large pavilions. It’s also one of the few beaches with a lifeguard on duty. The parking lot can fills quickly so the earlier you go the better. Since you are in the town of Kailua Kona everything is conveniently located nearby.

Kaunoa Bay

(Photo above by  Lonely Planet) Source »

This out-of-the-way cove is considered by many to be the most picturesque and relaxing beach on the Big Island. Also called Mauna Kea Beach, it is listed on  The Travel Channel’s “The World’s All Time Best Beaches” list.

Beach access parking is provided by the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, but there are only about 25 parking spaces for non-guests,which keeps the crowds to a bare minimum.

As you snorkel out on the coral flats near the point, stay along the rocky ledge. Like most bays, the center of the bay  has a  sandy bottom, and the rocks and coral ralong the ledge provide food and shelter for reef fish. Almost all the underwater marine life in the can be seen along this ledge.

Showers and restrooms are located at the bottom of the path from the parking lot to the beach. The resort facilities can be handy if you don’t bring your own food and drink. The Mauna Kea Beach Resort’s beach-side bar has bot… and you can always eat at one of their classy restaurants.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry August 29, 2012 at 6:40 pm

you left out Pu’uhonua o Honaunau or Place of Refuge on the Big Island. we have tried most of the beaches in the book on the Big Island and this is the one we like the best for snorkeling, not for the beach. Thanks for the above info.

Jen January 27, 2013 at 5:00 am

Your blogs are always so great to read! I hadn’t seen one in quite a while so I’m glad that you’re back. Where have you been and when can we look forward to the next write up?

Thanks for the info

Greg January 27, 2013 at 5:05 am

As you know from My previous comments, I love to snorkel! I had no idea there were that many snorkeling spots from the actual island and off of the beach. I always thought that you had to go on a boat trip or snorkeling tour. I’m trying to plan my next trip to Hawaii now and I will definitely have to bring my snorkel gear with me. Thanks ….

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