Snorkeling is an easy way to look below the surface of the water, especially in Hawaii. Unlike scuba ping, it takes no special training to encounter the beautiful fish that populate the waters around the islands.

Snorkeling in Hawaii is like swimming in a giant aquarium. The fish look just like those you would see in a large tank: many different colors, shapes and sizes. They are relatively oblivious to humans, not trying especially hard to dart away but wary nonetheless. This is the perfect opportunity for an underwater camera.

I had never gone snorkeling until my sister visited. That would put us both above 50 years of age. We visited Hanauma Bay: a unique area, geologically significant and beautiful. It is also very accessible from Honolulu hotels. We took a tour because they provided hotel pick up and drop off, as well mask and fins. It is not difficult to catch a bus and bring your own equipment — every grocery or convenience store in Hawaii carries an inexpensive mask and fin combination package.

If you are going to Hanauma Bay, it is good to arrive early because it is a very popular destination. The later in the day that you arrive, the more people have already stirred up sand and clouded the water. We were not out at the crack of dawn, we arrived about mid-morning and had a wonderful experience.

People also snorkel at local beaches. (The people in the picture above are at Lanikai.) Anywhere with a coral ridge is good because fish like to hang out there. Any place you are staying will know of good snorkeling spots nearby. The important part is that it is not physically demanding. You put on a mask that allows you to look down, a mouthpiece that allows you to breathe while looking down, and a pair of fins that allow you to glide among the fish. If you can float and paddle your legs, you’re good. As with all ocean experiences in Hawaii, go in pairs, watch out for one another, and don’t explore beyond your swimming abilities.


  1. I love snorkeling and it really is so simple. There are many areas on each island where you can snorkel right off the beach. North Shore Oahu has some great snorkel spots and you oftentimes see the Honu. I just snorkeled at Molokini and Coral Gardens in Maui which was amazing!

  2. I love snorkeling!! I like to just float and let the waves bobble me about! So very relaxing. I’m from the mainland so sometimes I get a little sacred but that’s no big deal because my adventurous husband holds my hand!! The fish are amazing!!

  3. On Maui there isn’t one bad place to snorkel on the South West coast, didn’t get to do much on Oahu, but the shallow water and coral scared me a bit at Hanauma Bay – it IS beautiful. And the fish plentiful.

    Bonus of age, I’m more bouyant in sea water. Snorkeling with divers off Oahu at the Sea Tiger wreck, I saw a full-sized barracuda swim by 15 feet away with a school of little fish – the divers didn’t see it, but we had been briefed that one had been seen in the area. Stunning predator that could care less about me, but I wasn’t going to get close. In Maui, our dive operator took along a couple of snorkelers (yay us) and we were dropped out at the edge of Molokini and swam in. I could stay there all day. Early early in the morning, there are teeny silvery barracuda at the surface of the water – you’ll think you’re hallucinating – I even saw a ray that the tank divers did not. Such a great experience. Clarity when I was swimming in, so deep you can see the sea cucumber trails (and frequently them) in the sandy bottom. I have a digital waterproof camera now – so many great shots I could have taken, but was limited by the disposable camera.

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