An archipelago of 19 main islands bathed by the waters of the Pacific, Hawaii is for many people a paradise on earth. Here you will find dream beaches, green cliffs, plenty of volcanoes – and unforgettable snorkeling sessions!

On these recently formed volcanic islands, the coral reefs are relatively recent and have developed beside the coastline (mainly fringing reefs, sometimes protected by a coral barrier). Almost all the snorkeling spots on the main islands (Oahu, Big Island, Maui and Kauai) are accessible from the shore.

It is said that the Hawaiian Islands, lying nearly 2500 miles from the nearest mainland, are the most isolated islands in the world. The result is an exceptional rate of endemism, only equaled by the Red Sea. In fact, it is estimated that of the 70 species of coral and 680 species of fish that have been identified in the Hawaii archipelago, over 25% are endemic and are not found anywhere else on the planet.

While it would be hard to miss the green sea turtles and shoals of yellow tang that can be seen in many places, with a bit of luck you may also come across spinner dolphins or a Hawaiian monk seal, an endangered native species. And although it might look less spectacular, don’t leave the islands without learning by heart the name of Hawaii’s national fish, the “humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa” (or reef triggerfish, rhinecanthus rectangulus).

If snorkeling is one of the main reasons for your trip, you should choose the islands you visit carefully. Of the archipelago’s four main islands, Maui (well known for its green turtles) and especially Big Island (known for its superb reefs, for example at Two Step), have by far the best snorkeling spots. Not to be outdone, Oahu (where Hanauma Bay claims the title of the most popular snorkeling spot in the world) and Kauai also have some very fine spots to explore, as long as you choose them with care.

Want to dig deeper into Hawaii’s fish or bring home incredible memories? We recommend you these guides and cameras :


Snorkeling destinations in Hawaii