Hawaii Travel Guides

Safety Tips for Snorkeling in Hawaii

Here are some easy ways to make sure you stay safe and have fun snorkeling along Hawaii’s coast, where you can see dozens of indigenous and endemic species enjoying the reefs along with you.

Check the conditions 

If the water is murky, it’s not a good day to go snorkeling. Good snorkeling water is clear, without white caps or too much wind. Gentle waves near shore are fine, but if people are surfing, it might not be the best spot to try to find fish.

Don’t step on the ocean floor or coral 

Hawaiian ‘wana (sea urchins) have incredibly sharp spines, and stepping on one is similar to being stung by a bee. To avoid it, swim over reefs rather than walking on them. This also protects the coral, which is actually alive. Stepping on the coral can damage it and kill the current layer of coral reef and slow down its growth. Also, don’t reach your hands into coral reefs, as eels may be living inside.

Stay in the bays 

snorkeling in honolua bay

Honolua Bay, Maui is a great snorkel spot

If you are snorkeling inside a bay, like Honolua Bay, stay inside the bay. There are currents that can drag you far out to see outside many north-facing bays on Maui. Besides, these sheltered bays have calmer water and less wind than the unsheltered open water outside. By the way, if you’re on a snorkeling tour, the captain will let you know the best places to find fish and turtles.

Let the animals be

snorkeling with Green Sea Turtle Hawaii

Green Sea Turtles or Honu (Hawaiian name)

Fish move pretty fast, as do sea turtles, and its just not a good idea to try to chase them down. Touching turtles is illegal, and from a safety perspective, you can’t be sure which fish might bite. Sea animals are aware of splashing, noise, and quick movement, so if you observe from the surface, swimming at your own comfortable pace, you’ll actually get a better view!

Wear your sunscreen 

Sunburns happen faster in water than out of it, as the water acts as a focusing crystal (think of a magnifying glass on the sidewalk). Wear reef-safe sunscreen to help preserve the reef for fish and future visitors!

Take a snorkeling tour 

Many of the best places for spotting marine life aren’t accessible from the shore. Book on a snorkel tour and let the experts whisk you off to Hawaii’s best snorkel spots. All the tours welcome beginners, and the pros onboard will be watching out for you and helping you to keep safe in the ocean. They provide you with all the right gear too.

Watch our video from the Ocean Riders Lanai Snorkel Adventure.

Wondering where to snorkel in Maui? Take a look at our recommendations.


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2 thoughts on “Safety Tips for Snorkeling in Hawaii

  1. Brooke Propernick says:

    I always wanted to go to Hawaii and snorkel with the dolphins I hope I can go to Hawaii someday

    1. Jonathan says:

      It’s an amazing experience! We hope you can travel here soon! Aloha.

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