Hawaii is known for its crystal-clear blue waters and the wildlife that lives within them. As a result, one of the most popular pastimes on the island for locals and visitors alike is snorkeling. This shallow form of diving provides the best glimpse into sea life with the added benefit of snorkelers being up close and personal with any potential marine life. Hawaii is known for being home to animals that are not shy, as well as reefs and colorful flora that display the true beauty of the Pacific.


When it comes to choosing the best island on which to explore this stunning marine environment, many people get stuck on where they should go. Each island is home to its own underwater habitats but there's one island, in particular, that's known for its snorkeling experience - and it's also one of the most popular islands to visit, in general.

Related: Reef Adventures: Places Where You Can See An Entire Underwater World Just By Snorkeling

The Best Hawaiian Island For Snorkelers

It's a well-known fact that Hawaii is home to the best snorkeling in the U.S., but Maui is home to the best snorkeling within the state. There's no competition between this island and the others thanks to the number of protected bays, year-round good weather, and incredible marine life. There are many other reasons why Maui is the best (more about that later) but its proximity to smaller islands nearby and the ease at which one can navigate its waters are also huge factors in why the snorkeling is so phenomenal here.

Speaking of which, Maui is with a short boat ride from several islands that are also great for snorkelers - and for first-timers in the water. Those islands are:

  • Molokini Crater. The geography of Molokini Crater is what makes it such a unique and scenic place to visit. It's actually a partially submerged volcano crater, which serves to protect the bay at its center. The walls of the crater help to keep the waters calm and tranquil, making it a great spot to see the island's best marine life.
  • Lanai. This small, remote island has gained more attention in recent years after its history as a pineapple plantation. It's the least-populated island in Hawaii and thus offers waters that are rarely (if ever) crowded.
  • Molokai. The marine life around Molokai is abundant in nature and this is due to all of the finger-like coral that extends around it. It's home to one of the longest continuous fringing reefs in the world, making it a unique place to see some beautiful marine environments. Green turtles, manta rays, and reef-dwelling fish are all part of the experience in Molokai.

Maui Makes Snorkeling Easy

One of the best parts about snorkeling in Maui is the fact that the waters around the island are almost always clear. With great weather much of the year and few crowds in snorkel spots to disturb the water, swimmers will find that snorkeling becomes much easier. It's easy to spook the fish around the reefs if snorkelers come up quickly on them, but with fewer people in the water, this is less likely to happen. Visibility in many of the snorkeling locations around the island is great to perfect, meaning there are practically no bad spots for doing so.

Tips For Snorkeling Around Maui

  • Try to avoid going snorkeling during inclement weather or if the beaches are experiencing more waves than usual. This will lead to sand being kicked up and will reduce visibility, thus becoming dangerous but also somewhat of a waste, since snorkelers won't see much, anyway.
  • Many access points to snorkel-friendly beaches are off the main roads in Maui. When staying at a resort or a hotel, don't be afraid to ask for advice when snorkeling in well-known spots. The front desk can also help with any directions needed to find a spot - especially if it's an island secret!
  • Don't be afraid to board a boat and head to a nearby island. Molokini Crater arguably has the best snorkeling, with more than 250 fish calling this environment their home.

Respect The Waters In Hawaii

There's nothing worse than a tourist visiting Hawaii and not respecting the rules of both the island and its waters. One of the reasons that Maui is so prized for its snorkeling is due to its native population of green turtles, which are a beautiful sight and one that also needs a little help from humans to ensure its survival. Snorkelers should be cautious when swimming up to any type of marine life - turtles included - so as not to spook them. Snorkelers should also avoid touching marine life and should be careful not to bump into any reefs or take pieces of reefs with them.

Snorkeling Rules To Follow

  • Be aware of Hawaii's sunscreen law: Visitors must have reef-safe sunscreen which can be purchased in Hawaii.
  • Be still in the water when there's tons of marine life around - the smallest movements can spook them.
  • Be aware of one's surroundings and remember that snorkelers are in their home, not the other way around!

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