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Hawaii is truly considered to be a world of its own, a vibrant sparkling gem, hidden amidst the waters of the Pacific Ocean. With about a thousand miles separating it from the nearest piece of land and about 2400 miles to the mainland USA, Hawaii boasts unique tourism opportunities and an abundance of picturesque places for outdoor activities. Water activities are undoubtedly at the top of the list, and the reasons for that are as clear as the water surrounding this volcanic archipelago. The Hawaiian marine world is every inch as vibrant as the islands themselves, only with a different color palette and sights to behold. Snorkeling in Hawaii is one of the ways to have a look at this magnificent kingdom of corals and its myriad denizens. You don’t need any complicated equipment or training to enjoy this activity. Snorkeling in Hawaii is a very beginner-friendly endeavor that can be pursued by anyone capable of swimming and holding their breath. The time you’d spend on practicing, you can spend on deciding on the places to snorkel, and believe you us, they are plenty. If your time resources are limited, picking only a few options might be a tough call. But that’s why we are here, or, to be more precise, you are here.
In our search for the best place for snorkeling in Hawaii, we came to the conclusion that this mission is indeed impossible, unlike that from the respective film series. We had to neglect many wonderful things lest this article should take half an hour to read. There are six main islands here, and every one of them has much to offer. With a strong-willed decision, we decided to take three islands and cover one or two places on each.If you were looking for the best island in Hawaii for snorkeling, know that every one of them deserves that title.
Snorkeling in Hawaii: Oʻahu, The Gathering Place
Despite being only the third biggest island in the family, Oʻahu houses the majority of the Hawaiian population. It is often said to be an island of contrasts, a crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures, a concoction of the ancient and the modern. This variety makes discovering Oʻahu everything but mundane. Whether you find yourself amidst the familiar buzz of a bustling city, in a tranquil laidback surf town, or immersed in coastal waters, having a good time won’t be a problem.
Hands down the most popular spot for snorkeling in Oʻahu, Hanauma Bay is a must for every island visitor. Being part of the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve, this is a place of both leisure and education. When you are done admiring the spirited coral reefs and local scaly (and less so) dwellers, you can visit an education center to learn about marine life and reef conservation. Be respectful of the local laws, and you’ll have a chance to witness a mesmerizing underwater kingdom while helping to preserve this fragile beauty by behaving yourself. Beginners can explore numerous lagoons close to the beach area, while experienced snorkelers are free to pay a visit to one of the outside-the-channels areas. Once either of them pays an entrance fee, of course.
From the southern shore of Oʻahu, the wind carries us to its northern beaches. Sharks Cove is a relatively shallow series of tide pools frequented by snorkelers who have recently taken up this hobby. Don’t be fooled by its name, for there are as many sharks here as anywhere else on the island. The spot is pretty popular with both local residents and tourists, so early risers will have more chances to admire local marine flora and fauna in tranquility, at least compared to more busy hours. The fish species you can come across here are so numerous you could compile a small encyclopedia. Butterflyfish, needlefish, parrotfish, blue spine unicornfish, pretty-much-anything-else-fish, white-spotted surgeon, tang, wrasse – the list goes on and on. Sharks Cove is a great place to start your morning and leave once the beach becomes too crowded.
Maui, The Valley Isle
Maui is a crowd’s favorite, cherished for its miles-long beautiful beaches, farm-to-table cuisine, and attraction both on land and in water. The second-largest Hawaiian island has been voted “Best Island in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler many a time. It takes visiting the island yourself to fully understand why.
The brightest spot in the endless expanse that are Maui sky blue waters, a crescent-shaped islet is a rare sight to behold. The Molokini Crater is another heir of a volcano whose form, though certainly eye-catching, is nonetheless not the main of its merits. The surrounding waters teem with over 250 species of endemic Hawaiian tropical fish, while the islet itself is a part of the Marine Life Conservation District Seabird Sanctuary. Over 100 species of algae and 35 hard coral species are the cherry on top of this cake that every snooker should take a bite of. 2.5 miles make for a challenging swim distance, so be sure to reserve a boat trip. Unless you are an open-water swimming champ. If so, the ocean is yours.
Coral Gardens are a live example of the fact that any destructive force is powerless against the restorative power of life. The Coral Gardens reef was created from a lava flow from the West Maui Mountains. The ocean water cooled lava fingers flowing in it to later embellish them with coral reef shelves. Today, this place abounds in colorful coral reefs and sea creatures that made them their home. If you found yourself here during winter months, a boat can take you to watch humpback whales migrating to Hawaiian waters with the spirits lifted higher than the tallest mountain on the archipelago. Underwater swimmers might be lucky enough to catch the notes of whales’ singing, and their song is hard to forget. If you come here for a summer trip, you can play tag with Hawaiian spinner dolphins, frolic and cheerful. Whatever the season, life never freezes here, and coral dwellers never leave their homes for too long. If you are in for lasting impressions and vibrant memories, pack your underwater camera and hop on a boat, then Coral Gardens won’t disappoint you.
Molokaʻi, The Friendly Isle
Molokaʻi is a peaceful haven for those tired of the bustle of cities. Small, but proud. This island boasts the highest sea cliffs in the world and the longest continuous fringing reef but natural formations are only one of its treasures. The population of Molokaʻi is mainly Native Hawaiian, and people cherish the rural lifestyle and pass this tradition from generation to generation. Should you want to give your aquatic adventures a break, be sure to get acquainted with the locals.
Kumimi Beach is a place of primal beauty untouched by civilization. Its easy-to-get-to location is both a blessing and a curse: you won’t have any trouble reaching the place, but neither will other interested snorkelers. The golden sand beach neighbors shallow ocean waters, so we suggest visiting during mid or high tide to get the most from this trip. The most picturesque sights are to be found near the reef. Here, in addition to our well-remembered tropical fish, you can also come across Hawaiian spiny lobsters, an important member of the reef community. If you manage to arrive early in the morning when the beach is not yet too occupied and in high tide, Kumimi Beach will surely leave many a good memory.