The Best Snorkeling in Hawaii by Month (plus snorkeling spots!)

by | Mar 15, 2020 | Big Island (Hawaii), Kauai, Maui, Oahu, Planning, Things to Do, What Island?

Every month is a good time to snorkel in Hawaii. That is no joke. But conditions vary by the island so choose the best Hawaiian island to snorkel at by month. 

The best snorkeling in Hawaii during the winter is Maui. Maui provides the most protected bays and coves for snorkeling. During the summer, Oahu and Kauai offer the most unique snorkeling spots. In the spring and fall in Hawaii, the ideal island to snorkel varies per the weather. 

Maui offers the best year-round snorkeling but if you have your choice of Hawaiian island by the time of the year, then why not pick the best island for snorkeling? 

The best snorkeling in Hawaii in February? Hawai’i (Big Island). The best snorkeling in Hawaii in July? Kauai. Read on to get all the best locations. 

 

 

When it is Best to Snorkel in Hawaii

Erica and I love snorkeling in Hawaii. The warm waters, the coves, the kid-friendly spots, and sea life. That sea life. We have traveled a lot, snorkeled all over the world, yet have never swum so often with sea turtles as in Hawaiian waters.

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in May is Kauai

Any time of year is good to snorkel in Hawaii. But, some islands are better than others during certain months.  

The reason being is the snorkeling locations. If the best snorkel spots on an island are on the north shore than the snorkeling will be challenging to nonexistent during the winter. The Bering Sea south of Alaska generates massive waves that batter the northern coasts of the Hawaiian islands. The surfing is epic, but the visibility below the water goes out the window.

Islands like Maui and the Big Island have their best snorkeling on southern and western shores, making them better during the winter months.

Here is what to look for in Hawaii for the best snorkeling by month. 

Hawaii Water Conditions – Temperature and Waves

Hawaii has warm water all year long. Averaging 77 degrees Fahrenheit, Hawaii is ideal for snorkeling without a wetsuit year-round.

During the winter, the ocean temperature gets to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature hits an average high of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. For Erica and me, that is still plenty warm to go snorkeling in our bikini and shorts, respectfully. We can be in the water for an hour or so before feeling cold. 

During the summer months of July and August, the water temperature hits 80. It is almost too hot but who can complain? I love the tropics. 

Hawaii Ocean Temperature Snorkeling

 

Waves are an important consideration when snorkeling. Waves not only mean tough snorkeling and swimming conditions but also poor visibility.

My rule of thumb for snorkeling: Hold off on snorkeling when you see surfers. If surfers are surfing at the snorkeling beach, it will be poor visibility. If you see paddleboarders, jump right in for snorkeling.

The winter season brings winter swells to Hawaii. These swells hit the north shores of the Hawaiian islands. They can also wrap around the island to hit the south shores but the size is greatly reduced. 

West Maui gets better surfing conditions during the summer because the waves are bigger from southern storms. This makes Maui summer snorkeling not as ideal as Oahu’s north shore, for example. 

That is why it is best to check the island by month for the best snorkeling.

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in April Oahu

Watch for signs at beaches for snorkel and swim conditions. This picture is from Waimea Bay on Oahu during a February storm.

 

Time of Day to Snorkel in Hawaii

The best time of day to snorkel in Hawaii is the morning period. In the afternoon, the tradewinds pick up causing rougher seas and decreased visibility. 

You will notice snorkel tours have reduced pricing for their afternoon trips. 

You can still find good snorkeling in the afternoon but make sure it is in a cove or another well-protected spot. 

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in January

The best snorkeling in Hawaii in January is Maui. Maui has the most south and west-facing snorkel spots of the Hawaiian islands. Big waves will be hitting Maui’s north shore but you will find calm, warm waters off of the Ka’anapali and Wailea resort areas. 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in January

Check out the following beaches for the best snorkeling in Maui in January.

🍍 Honolua Bay, Maui

🍍 Kapalua Bay

🍍 Olowalu Beach Park

Kapalua Bay Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in August is Maui

Erica snorkeling at Kapalua Bay, Maui.

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in February

The best snorkeling in Hawaii in February is Hawai’i (Big Island).

The Big Island has its best snorkeling on the Kona Coast. The Kona Coast faces west, shielding it from the winter waves. Plus, the Big Island has well-protected bays and coves shielding you and the fish from wind, strong currents, and the waves. 

The Big Island is an under-rated spot for snorkeling. Its beaches are less crowded and closer to the resort areas compared to Oahu.

Head to Hawai’i for snorkeling in February, you won’t regret the trip.

Don’t forget, you can snorkel year-round with manta rays in Kailua-Kona. Read our Manta Ray Night Snorkeling Guide and Video to get a feel for the experience.

Captain Cook Bay Kealakekua Bay Hawaii Island Snorkeling

Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii offers great snorkeling on the north side of the bay. Spinner dolphins are often seen in the bay.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in February

Head to these Big Island beaches for the best snorkeling in February. These are the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island in February but also year-round.

🍍 Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kailua-Kona

🍍 Kealakekua Bay (Captain Cook Bay)

🍍 Honaunau Bay

 

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in March

The best snorkeling in Hawaii in March is Maui. Maui is the best during the winter months thanks to its well-protected bays and coves. Maui’s March snorkeling will be a welcomed relief from the cold winter you will be escaping on the mainland.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in March

Head to these Maui beaches for the best snorkeling in March. The January beaches are also good but these locations are well protected in March.

Take the ferry over to Lanai to check out one of the best snorkeling spots in the world.

🍍 Airport Beach (Kahekili)

🍍 Hulopoe Bay, on the island of Lanai

🍍 Napili Bay

Napili Bay Best Maui Snorkeling

Napili Bay on the north west shore of Maui in March is a great snorkeling location.

 

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Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in April

The best snorkeling in Hawaii in April is Oahu. April is the spring shoulder season in Hawaii. That means you will find the beaches and the best snorkeling spots less crowded on Oahu. Take advantage of the wonderful Oahu snorkeling on its south-facing beaches during April.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in April

Head to these Oahu beaches for the best snorkeling in April. Hanauma Bay will be less crowded compared to the summer but I recommend you still come when they open to avoid the lines. Electric Beach is near Kapolei and you won’t ever find if busy. 

🍍 Hanauma Bay, Oahu

🍍 Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach), Oahu

 

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in May

The best snorkeling in Hawaii in May is Kauai. Stick to the south shores of Kauai for the best snorkeling. Kauai has kid-friendly snorkeling beaches on its southern shores. They feature restroom facilities, ample parking, and lifeguards on duty (check the beach to confirm the hours).

Now that summer is approaching, you may find good opportunities at Kauai’s best snorkeling beaches on the north side of the island. But in May, these spots will still be hit or miss for visibility and an undertow.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in May

Head to these Kauai beaches for the best snorkeling in May. The water is warm and the fish are ready to say hi.

🍍 Poipu Beach, Kauai

🍍 Prince Kuhio Beach, Kauai

🍍 Salt Pond Beach Park, Kauai

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in June

Oahu. The best snorkeling in Hawaii in June is Oahu. The tourist season is starting to heat up but hasn’t reached the peak. Plus, the north shore waves are non-existent now. June is an ideal time to go to Oahu for snorkeling. 

Erica and I lived on Oahu for two years. We loved to snorkel in June and the rest of the summer when we would escape to Oahu’s north shore for the weekend. Below are our favorite Oahu snorkeling spots for June.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in June

Head to these Oahu beaches for the best snorkeling in June. Get to these spots by 10:00 am to guarantee a parking spot as Oahu gets busy. All three snorkeling spots are on the north shore.

🍍 Shark’s Cove on Oahu’s North Shore

🍍 Kuilima Cove Snorkeling at Turtle Bay Resort

🍍 Pupukea Beach Park

Best Snorkeling Oahu in June Kuilima Bay

Kuilima Cove ia next to Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore, a great place for snorkeling.

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in July

Head to Kauai in July for the best snorkeling in Hawaii. The north shore snorkeling beaches are open for business. The water is finely calm now that summer is here. Grab your mask and fins to hit the amazing spots below to see sea turtles and underwater tunnels.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in July

Kauai’s north shore beaches are dramatic. High cliffs drop into turquoise, crystal-clear waters full of diverse Hawaiian fish. The Kauai snorkeling beaches below make the trip to Kauai worth it in July. 

🍍 Ke’e Beach, Kauai

🍍 Haena Beach Park & Tunnels, Kauai

🍍 Anini Beach, Kauai

Big Island snorkeling water visibility

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in August

Maui. Maui has amazing snorkeling in August. The water is the warmest it will be and the air temperature will be sweltering so head into the water. Maui’s coves and bays will be vibrant with reef fish. 

The waves and current will be non-existent, making Maui the best place to snorkel in Hawaii in August.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in August

These Maui beaches are the best in August for snorkeling. During the summer, these beaches will be nice and calm from undertow more common during the winter months on Maui.

🍍 Kamaole Beach Park III (Kam III), Maui

🍍 Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach), Maui

🍍 Kumimi Beach on Molokai

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in September

While the summer waves are calm, you will have access to all of Oahu for good snorkeling. Go to Oahu for the best snorkeling in Hawaii in September. 

The crowds will start thinning out at the end of the month but all month will give vibrant marine life and great snorkeling conditions. 

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in September

These Oahu beaches are the best in September for snorkeling. Once again, get to these Oahu snorkeling spots before 10:00 am to get a parking spot and your pick of a beach spot. The top three spots are all on Oahu’s north shore.

🍍 Shark’s Cove on Oahu’s North Shore

🍍 Kuilima Cove Snorkeling at Turtle Bay Resort

🍍 Pupukea Beach Park

🍍 Hanauma Bay, Oahu

🍍 Kahe Point Beach Park (Electric Beach), Oahu

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in October

Maui beaches offer the best snorkeling in Hawaii in October. Maui snorkeling spots are rarely busy but during the fall shoulder season, they are especially quiet. Leaving you to swim with a bountiful selection of fish and lots of Hawaiian green sea turtles.

Go to Maui in October for the best snorkeling. The south, west, and northwest shores have the best snorkeling in October. Waves are small during this time of year and the ocean is still near its yearly high temperatures. 

Big Island best snorkeling in November

Henry and Jordan enjoying a Big Island cove for snorkeling.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in October

The best Maui snorkeling beaches are below for October. Enjoy the smaller crowds and try a snorkeling tour to secluded coves, Molokini crater, or Lanai for a unique experience.

🍍 Airport Beach (Kahekili)

🍍 Olowalu Beach Park

🍍 Turtle Town (Maluaka Beach)

🍍 Napili Bay

🍍 Black Rock at Ka’anapali, Maui

Snorkeling Best Maui Olowalu Beach

To get to the best snorkeling in Olowalu, take a kayak trip out to the pristine Olowalu reef.

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in November

The best snorkeling in Hawaii in November is on the Big Island. You may even have a chance to go snorkeling on the Hilo side of Hawai’i. The Kohala Coast, north of Kailua-Kona, is also ideal in November for snorkeling. 

Big Island Best Snorkeling Beaches by Month

Honaunau Bay or “Two Steps” is a great place to snorkel on Hawaii. Picture shows only a part of the bay.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in November

Below are the best snorkeling beaches in November on the Big Island. November usually still has calm seas so more of the island and its good snorkeling is available. Always check surf and wind conditions as the northern areas on the Kohala Coast can get bad weather during November. 

Plus, you can always go night snorkeling with manta rays in Kona in December.

Kona Coast Snorkeling Beaches in November

🍍 Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kailua-Kona

🍍 Magic Sands Beach Park (La’aloa) in Kailua-Kona

🍍 Honaunau Bay (Kona Coast)

Kohala Coast Snorkeling Beaches in November

🍍 Mauna Lani Resort – Makaiwa Bay and Honokaope Bay (Kohala Coast)

🍍 Hapuna Beach (white sand beach)

🍍 Lapakahi State Historical Park (southern part of the cove is best)

Hilo Snorkeling Beach in November

🍍 Richardson Ocean Park near Hilo

 

Best Snorkeling in Hawaii in December

Maui has the best snorkeling in Hawaii in December. As the winter waves pick up on the other islands, Maui’s reefs on the south and west-facing shores are the best December snorkeling in Hawaii.

Enjoy the holiday season on Maui with some epic snorkeling. 

Best Hawaiian Snorkeling in December is Maui Coves

When snorkeling, go to the rocky areas to find sea turtles. Coves are perfect for sea turtles.

 

Best Beaches to Snorkel at in December

The best beaches for snorkeling in December in Maui are the following:

🍍 Honolua Bay, Maui

🍍 Kapalua Bay

🍍 Olowalu Beach Park

 

The Best Snorkeling in Hawaii by Month

Maui holds the title for having the most months for the best snorkeling in Hawaii. One can’t ignore the number of protected bays, coves, low crowds, and south-facing shores on Maui. these contribute to good snorkeling year-round in Maui.

Hawaii is full of epic snorkeling locations. You can find numerous places to snorkel on the islands recommended above during your holiday. Picking the right island for the right time of year requires a few considerations. Snorkeling and calm beaches should be on your list.

Enjoy your trip to Hawaii and be safe in the water. 

Always check the weather and surf conditions before you head into the water.

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Jordan Fromholz

Jordan Fromholz

Author

I'm the co-founder, with my wife Erica, of The Hawaii Vacation Guide. We live on Maui with our toddler Henry and our sweet but quirky dog Hattie. I have a thing for photographing pineapples and learning to surf.

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