Best Snorkelling On The Big Island – Hawaii

The Big Island, otherwise known as Hawaii, is the main island of the state and is teeming with opportunities to explore the coastline and the subsequent sea life that reside there.

With so much to choose from, it can be pretty overwhelming, and if you are only in Hawaii for a short time, you want to make sure you’re making the most of your stay and soaking up the best that the island has to offer! 

Best Snorkelling On The Big Island - Hawaii

We’ve done the hard work for you and narrowed down our absolute top spots for snorkeling.

Whether you want something more family-friendly and safe, or whether you want to be far from the maddening crowd, we’ve got you covered with the best spots to start your underwater adventure. 

Let’s get into it!

What To Expect From Snorkelling In Hawaii?

Snorkeling in Hawaii is amazing and pretty world-renowned for a reason! You can expect to find a whole range of fish, large mammals, and other animals on your tours though each area of the island differs somewhat. 

For the most part, you can expect to see turtles, yellow tang, butterfly fish, moray eels, sea cucumbers, spiny lobsters, octopus, and parrotfish just to name a few! 

The main appeal of the Hawaiian islands is that the waters are so clear, allowing you to have an amazing view without having to invest in scuba diving lessons or hire any specialist equipment, though that is always a great option out there if you want to get the very best out of your experiences! 

That being said, there is plenty to see with snorkeling alone. 

1. Kahaluu Beach Park, Big Island

This beach park is known as Snorkel Beach and for good reason. Teeming with over 100 fish species, this reef has fantastic rock formations and a long seawall built by King Kamehameha to prevent riptides. 

2. Kealakekua Bay, Big Island

Another popular site, this bay is home to where Captain Cook was killed and is an underwater sanctuary filled with history, sea life, and beauty. 

3. Manta Ray Village, Big Island

This is a bucket list location that is possibly some of the finest snorkeling in the world. If manta rays are your thing, as the name suggests, you are guaranteed to see them here. Be advised this location is definitely for experienced swimmers and snorkellers. 

4. Kauna’oa Beach, Big Island

Perfect for beginners, this location is calm and clear, allowing you to have incredible visibility. We suggest going in the morning when the visibility is at its absolute best!

Off Of The Big Island 

If you take a trip to the other islands, be sure to explore these amazing locations.

Best Snorkelling On The Big Island - Hawaii (1)

1. Molokini Crater, Maui

This ancient volcanic crater is now a world-renowned snorkeling and diving site. 3 miles from the coast of Maui, it is well worth the trek as you’ll be treated to 100 feet of visible crystal clear waters teeming with marine life.

With sea turtles, dolphins, and over 250 species of tropical fish, including regional ones that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet, this is a dream location to visit. 

2. Hanauma Bay, O’ahu

If you don’t mind the crowds, Hanauma Bay is a perfect place to go with younger enthusiasts as you’ll be able to see tropical fish up close and personal, right by the shore. In water that’s no more than waist-deep, you can explore the clear water without fear.

For those with more experience, you can swim out to Witches Brew and other reefs. 

3. Makaha Beach Park, O’ahu

Another popular spot on O’ahu, you’ll find manta rays, octopus, and turtles all within clear view.

With 40 feet to explore, this area contains secret coves and caverns for the more adventurous to explore.

Safety Tips

Here are a few, non-exhaustive, things to bear in mind before you begin your snorkeling adventure to keep yourself safe, and protect the environment that you are exploring:

  • Safety first– It’s important to not get carried away in the excitement and to remember that you are still in the ocean, a place that is wildly unpredictable and can turn dangerous if you are not aware of your surroundings. 
  • Look up often- It can be easy to get distracted and forget to look up to the surface of the sea. Be sure to look up often and make sure you are staying with your fellow swimmers, and that you are not drifting too far from the shore. 
  • Buddy up – This is especially important if you are swimming with younger enthusiasts but remains true whatever your age or experience. Keep your buddy in clear view so that you can both responsibly enjoy the water. 
  • Check the weather – The ocean is a turbulent mistress if you’re not careful. Be sure to only snorkel on days that are clear and calm. Not only will you see the best views, but you’ll also be far more able to control how far out you wander. 

Here are some tips to keep the environment safe whilst you explore: 

  • Don’t swim with dolphins – It may be on your bucket list, but almost every tour operator that allows dolphin swimming does so dangerously with little care for the wild dolphins or their pods. Stick to seeing them from boats, and keep at least a 20-foot distance from them if you see them when you are snorkeling. 
  • Don’t touch sea turtles or reefs – It’s tempting to touch what you see, but your fingers are dangerous to sea life and you are endangering the wildlife by trying to stroke it. Keep your hands to yourself to prevent stress on these beautiful creatures. 
  • Reef-safe sunscreen – It is illegal to use sunscreen in Hawaii which is not reef-safe, but everybody cannot be policed. It is up to each person to choose sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone and octinoxate as these are both reef bleaching chemicals. 

Final Thoughts 

To protect this fragile ecosystem for generations to come, we must put sealife ahead of our Instagram shots or bucket lists to keep these magnificent ocean creatures safe and free from stress. There are so many amazing places to explore, let’s keep it that way!

Richard Ennis