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


(5 spots online)

Maui is the second biggest island in Hawaii and one of the most visited. Along with Big Island, it is one of the best snorkeling destinations in the archipelago. Its 120 miles of coastline are home to dozens of snorkeling sites for all levels, most of them with free shore access. Maui is certainly t (...)

(4 spots online)

Oahu is the most populated and urbanized of the Hawaiian islands. Its sheltered waters and easy-to-access snorkeling make Oahu a popular choice among visitors. Hanauma Bay, a gorgeous turquoise bay located only a few minutes drive from Honolulu, is by far the most visited snorkeling spot in Oahu, bu (...)
Big Island

(4 spots online)

Where else could you meet turtles and schools of tropical fish in healthy coral reefs, or snorkel at night with huge manta rays, or get face-to-face with a pod of spinner dolphin in shallow, clear blue water? The Big Island is full of surprises and delights - maybe the best snorkeling destination in (...)

(2 spots online)

With its canyons, breathtaking cliffs beaten by the ocean and luxuriant vegetation, Kauai amply desserves its nickname, the Garden Island. For many people, it is the one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Snorkeling in Kauai is not considered the best in the Hawaiian archipelago, but the is (...)