What It’s Like Snorkeling in Hawaii

Emory Capps21 Feb, 2020

Hawaii is known for many things: beautiful beaches, volcanoes, surfing, rich culture, and much more. With each island’s diverse ecosystems, Hawaii is blessed with a rich biodiversity. Bold Earth has been leading teen adventure trips to Hawaii for decades. Unsurprisingly, snorkeling is usually one of our highest-rated activities. 

I’ve led Bold Earth trips in the Aloha State, and below I’ve shared some some helpful tips when it comes to snorkeling in Hawaii. 

Why Hawaii?

One of my favorite parts about snorkeling in Hawaii is that many of the best locations are accessible by shore. You don’t need to hop in a boat and travel out into the ocean to experience the amazing reefs. Once you’ve gotten your fill of swimming, you can simply walk up the white sand beach and take a break in the shade of a palm tree. 

If you are up for a boat adventure, manta ray night snorkeling is an otherworldly experience. Imagine swimming next to majestic, gentle manta rays as they silently glide through the water. It’s just as impressive as it sounds. 

The water visibility is fantastic in Hawaii, meaning that you can see great distances underwater. You can look across the tops or sides of reefs and snap great pictures with an underwater camera (check out this video from our Hawaii trips).

Hawaii also has great depths for snorkeling. With the best snorkeling between 5–25 feet, you don’t need SCUBA gear to see the amazing wildlife, one of the reasons we focus on snorkeling vs. SCUBA on our adventures. Sometimes the coral reefs are very shallow, and you can hover just above the fish. Other times you can dive down to check out sights 10–25 feet below water. 

Where to go

First off, if you are in Hawaii, you are already in the right place. The Hawaiian islands have more than 400,000 acres of living reef. The Big Island and Maui take the cake in terms of the amount of snorkeling available. If you are most interested in exploring massive fields of coral reefs, then head to the Big Island. Maui is known for spotting those incredible sea turtles, but we see plenty of those every year on the Big Island. 


The Kona side of the Big Island has dozens of great spots to check out. On Bold Earth’s Hawaii trips, we visit Kahalu’u Beach Park and some other secret spots off the northern Kona coast that we access by sailboat. 

scuba diving in hawaiiWhen to go

Summer is the best time to head to the islands in terms of snorkeling. Weather is usually the biggest factor in terms of water clarity, and the swells tend to mellow out in the summer months. It is usually a good idea to get out snorkeling in the morning before the winds pick up and an afternoon shower comes along.

What will you see? 

There are about 7,000 known species of marine plants and animals and about 1,250 unique species of marine life found only on Hawaii’s reefs, Every year, Bold Earth groups see spinner dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles, and TONS of fish. The humuhumu nukunuku apua’a is the name of the Hawaii state fish, it is an endemic triggerfish. When you dive below the water you will see a huge variety of orange, yellow, and multicolored fish whose colors cut right through the turquoise waters. 

If you have any other questions about snorkeling, or any other activities that Bold Earth offers on our Hawaii teen trips, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 303-526-0806, or email us at info@boldearth.com.


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