Prime 5 Most Standard Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii

View of Makana Peak (also known as Bali Hai) from Tunnel Beach

The best way to see some of Hawaii’s most colorful people is to put on a mask and dive into the ocean. But the best place to go? This is a little more controversial.

So we turned to our HAWAII Magazine Facebook reader ohana and asked: What is your favorite snorkeling spot in Hawaii?

Hundreds of you have voted and narrowed the state’s 750-mile coastline to 78 ocean entries. When we asked our Facebook Ohana the same question in 2012, popular snorkeling spots like Maui’s Kaanapali Beach and Honolua Bay, as well as Kauai’s Tunnels (aka Makua) and Kee Beaches were high on the list. They didn’t do it this year. You need to read on to find out what did!

If you would like to take part in our next Facebook Ohana poll in HAWAII magazine and vote together with our Facebook family with 140,000 readers, visit the Facebook page of HAWAII magazine and “like” us. In return, you can share your answers on all of our future “Favorite Hawaii” poll questions as soon as we post them, know the poll results when all of the votes are counted, and all of our daily questions get photos and features.

We will be posting our next Ohana poll on the HAWAII magazine Facebook page in the coming weeks. If you haven’t already, “like” us now.

Until then, this year’s top 5 countdown of the most popular snorkeling spots on our Facebook ohana in Hawaii is here.

Snorkelers in the Honaunau Bay. Photo: Kirk Lee Aeder / Hawaii Tourism Bureau.

# 5: Honaunau Bay

Hawaii Island

The protected sea water of Honaunau Bay offers excellent visibility most days of the year. So it’s no wonder that this beach in front of the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park, about 20 miles south of Kailua-Kona on the east side of the island of Hawaii, is a top choice among our Ohana Facebook readers. The coast of the bay of Honaunau is lined with black lava stones that have been smoothed by years of wave movements. Tip from local snorkel expert Grant Kailikea: stick to the south side of the bay for shallower waters and a better chance of spotting sun-loving species like turtles. The north side drops off 30 to 100 feet and is home to some deeper residents – if you’re lucky you might even spot spinner dolphins here!

Snorkelers enter the water near Shark’s Cove on Pupukea Beach. Photo: Tor Johnson, Hawaii Department of Tourism.

# 4: Pupukea Beach


Pupukea Beach, a marine reserve on the north coast of Oahu, has two different snorkeling spots – Shark’s Cove and Three Tables. Both are named for offshore reef rocks that peek over the waves. Entering Shark’s Cove through a bouldering field and a sometimes heavy tidal surge can be challenging, but it’s well worth the effort. The beach’s white sand bottom highlights colorful fish that shoot out of the nooks and crannies of the reef and the area’s tiny underwater caves. Three tables south of Shark’s Cove has mostly sandy shore and shallower water. The best snorkeling here is three tables around the namesake. Pupukea Beach is exposed to the famous winter surf on the north coast, so snorkeling is best in summer when the sea is calmer and clearer.

Kealakekua Bay. Photo: Hawaii’s Big Island Visitor Bureau (BIVB).

# 3: Kealakekua Bay

Hawaii Island

This Marine Life Conservation District 12 miles south of the Kailua-Kona area is famous for its snorkeling, diving, and kayaking as well as its history. Captain James Cook sailed into the bay in 1779 – a year after he was the first European explorer to make contact in the islands. A white obelisk in Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park marks the spot where Cook was killed in a clash with Hawaiian residents of the bay on February 14, 1779. Colorful corals and schools of reef fish are just off the coast of the monument. Be sure to check the horizon for spinner dolphins enjoying the deeper waters of the bay.

An aerial view of the Molokini crater. Photo: Ron Garnett / Hawaii Tourism Authority.

# 2: Molokini

Maui County

Molokini, a 23-acre, crescent-shaped volcanic atoll three miles off Maui’s southwest coast, is a state marine life and bird sanctuary. The shape of the island is all that is left of an eruption that is believed to have occurred about 230,000 years ago. Today, Molokini’s crescent bay protects snorkelers and divers from waves and strong currents. Excellent visibility in the crater – sometimes up to 150 feet – makes it easy to spot the 250+ fish and 38 hard coral species that make Molokini home.

Overlooking Hanauma Bay. Photo: Heather Titus / Hawaii Tourism Authority.

# 1: Hanauma Bay


Hanauma Bay, a wildlife sanctuary and a wildlife sanctuary, took first place in our two polls for the “Top 5 Most Popular Snorkeling Spots in Hawaii”. This collapsed volcanic crater on the southeast tip of Oahu protects an estimated 450 species of fish, octopus, crabs, and eels. Due to the traffic that the bay attracts, many of your fish have gotten used to their presence, which makes for fun encounters. However, visitors to this popular location are urged to take extra care to ensure that the bay’s fragile ecosystem is preserved. At Hanauma Bay and snorkeling spots on the islands, make sure you don’t touch all of the marine life. This will help keep all of these places as beautiful and vibrant as they are now for future generations.

Click the links below for the top 5 results from our previous HAWAII magazine Facebook Ohana survey questions:

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