From No Worries Hawaii, by Jerry & Janine Sprout.
Easiest-entry, fish-filled calm waters to get you hooked on snorkeling.
BEACH HOUSE BEACH
Dreary curbside appeal belies the coral heads, fish, and turtles. Near Prince Kuhio Park, it’s among Kauai’s best.
Easy sandy entry at the beach park. Not tons of fish.
Worth a look: LYDGATE PARK (WAILUA)
HANAUMA BAY NATURE PRESERVE
Looks dreamy from above, but crowds and drab coral keep it a notch from the top.
Man-made pool at Ala Moana Park.
KAMAOLE BEACH PARKS
The rocky tips between the three beach parks in Kihei are home to fish and coral. Nice sandy entries and not overcrowded.
LA PEROUSE BAY-AHIHI COVE
Pristine waters off the jagged shore of Maui’s most recent volcanic eruption.
Nice sandy nooks in front of Wailea’s resorts with easy entry and near-shore coral.
KAHALU’U BEACH PARK
Kona’s beach park is protected by a reef and supports acres of fish-filled coral. The parking lot fills up early.
BEACH CLUB BEACH
Fewer swimmers know the charms of this baby, located at the south end of the beaches at Mauna Lani Resort.
CARLSMITH BEACH PARK
If the sun appeared more often, this county beach park with a huge man-made pool would score even higher.
AND THE WINNER IS…All the islands have choices, but MAUI edges the Big Island for the best snorkeling for beginners.
OVERALL GOOD SNORKELING
The best spots for intermediate to advanced snorkelers.
Coral boils down into a blue channel, off a sandy beach, rimmed by jagged “Bali Hai” mountain. Parking is problematic; show up early or late.
At the Kalalau Trailhead, Ke’e gets hammered with footsteps on nice days. But this big sandy-bottomed oval beneath Napali (The Cliffs) is worth the hassle.
You’ll need to hop a charter at Port Allen and cruise 20 miles to the gin-clear water of this little bird sanctuary next to Ni’ihau.
Worth a look: HIDEAWAYS-KENOMENE BEACH (Princeville); ANINI BEACH, AHUKINI LANDING (Lihue Airport); WHALER’S COVE (Poipu-Kuhio); HOUSE BEACH (Anahola)
MAKAI RESEARCH PIER
Tour companies van people to this easy-entry coral garden on the Windward Side. You swim around near the pilings of the dock house for the little subs used by the University of Hawaii.
THREE TABLES-SHARK’S COVE
Close-together “snorkeling parks” on the North Shore, in Pupukea. Usually summer only. Lots of interesting formations.
A sense of place: beautiful cove at Black Point, near the ritzy mansion of Shangri-La. The fab place was the 1937 vision of heiress Doris Duke, queen of the arts.
Worth a look: LANIKAI BEACH (Kailua); GOAT ISLAND (Windward-north); KAHE POINT (West Side); KAIONA BEACH PARK (Waimanalo); KALUAHOLE BEACH (Diamond Head); ALLIGATOR ROCK (North Shore); and MOKOLI’I ISLAND (Chinaman’s Hat-Windward)
HONOLUA MARINE PRESERVE
After walking down the highway from a parking lot, crossing a stream under a giant banyan, and arriving at a rocky beach, you may have doubts. Then get in the water and go flying over fish-rich coral hillocks.
CHANG’S POINT-TURTLE TOWN
Entry can be chancy from the lava spit, but not bad. Tour boats anchor within 200 feet of shore. Yes, there are turtles.
Join the crew of the flotilla of boats that take the short cruise to the volcanic crescent island three miles offshore Kihei. Visibility and marine life are right up there with the best in Hawaii.
KALAELOA COVE (AQUARIUM)
All that a’a lava (the sharp kind) on shore translates to very clear water. Lots of people, occasionally too many, make the pesky half-mile hike.
Roadside parking and easy sand entry not far south of Lahaina. You’ll have company, including snorkel tours that anchor here. A good option for families.
Experienced snorkelers will want to make the swim to this cove, located at the Lahaina side of the highway tunnel. Check it out from the guardrail above. You may see tour boats anchored.
For adventure snorkelers, this is a find on calmer days. Nu’u is on the isolated south shore. A short walk leads to tiny clear pockets in a low, lava point. Could be the next big thing.
Worth a look: PU’UNOA BEACH (Lahaina), ONEULI (Black Sand) BEACH (Makena), WAIANAPANAPA STATE PARK (Hana), KAPALUA BAY, BLACK ROCK-SHERATON BEACH (Ka’anapali), WASH ROCK (McGregor Point), HALEKI’I Bay (Kaupo)
Tabletop sections of a smooth-lava reef provide entry for the best easy-access snorkeling in Hawaii. Next to Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Park.
CAPTAIN COOK MONUMENT
Kayak, sail, or hike down 1,300 feet to get to this historic spot at the north mouth of Kealakekua Bay—which draws crowds. A wall of coral lines a near-shore drop-off.
WAIOPAE TIDE POOLS MARINE DISTRICT
A marine conservation district on the North Puna Coast is the site of numerous, large tide pools rich in sea life. Otherworldly.
Step down a ladder at the wharf of an old sugar mill in Kohala. Ship wreckage adds interest to the snorkel, as do the occasional harmless ray and octopus.
Experienced flipper fiends can shore-dive where tour boats anchor, from the north end of Kona’s Old Airport Beach.
FROG ROCK-KOHALA WATERFRONT
Only high swells detract from these out-of-the-way snorkeling venues at the south end of the Kohala coast. Not for novices.
KEALAKEKUA HISTORICAL PARK
Pick a day when the bodyboarders aren’t there (lower surf) and you’ll find excellent conditions for the coral hills to the left side of the rocky beach.
Worth a look: BEACH 69 (Waialea Bay-Hapuna), HONOMALINO BEACH (Miloli’i), KEAHOU SUNDECK (near Sheraton), KAHUWAI BAY (Kona Village), NINOLE COVE (Black Sands-Pahala), MOKU OLA (Coconut Island-Hilo), KEAWAIKI BAY-BROWN’S RETREAT (South Kohala), KOAI’E COVE (Lapakahi State Park), MAKAHA CAVERNS (Makaha)
AND THE WINNER IS…Give the edge to the BIG ISLAND in a slugfest with Maui. With no stream runoff, the Big Island’s near-shore waters sparkle. Maui has many accessible, easy-entry spots that are not as far apart. Oahu and Kaua’i tie for third and will deliver the goods—just not in as many places.