The Best Snorkel Tours in Hawaii

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The Hawaiian Islands are an ocean adventurer’s dream destination. With crystal clear waters, colorful reefs, deep blue hues, gentle giants, and tiny reef critters, there’s so much to explore.

If you’re planning a trip to the Aloha state for a great Hawaiian snorkeling vacation, these are the best snorkel tours around Hawaii.

The Best Snorkel Tours in Hawaii: Quick Picks

  1. Manta Ray Night Snorkel in Kona
  2. Molokini Crater Snorkel
  3. Waikiki Turtle Canyons Snorkel Excursion
  4. Coral Gardens Snorkel
  5. North Shore Shark Cage Snorkel
  6. Haleiwa Cage-free Shark Snorkel
  7. Lanai Island Snorkel
  8. Whale, Dolphin and Reef Snorkeling Combo in Kona
  9. Sail and Snorkel in Captain Cook Monument
  10. Ocean Safari Snorkel in Kona

The Best Snorkel Tours in Hawaii: Reviewed

Manta Ray Night Snorkel in Kona

Duration: 2.5 hours

Of all the snorkel tours in Hawaii, snorkeling with manta rays at night is the most popular. While snorkelers are always amazed by how colorful the reefs are during the day, night snorkeling with the 5th largest fish in world is something out of the ordinary.

From Kealakehe Harbor in Kona, you’ll hop onboard your boat and cruise for a few minutes going to the site while gazing over the great Hawaiian sunset. Once you arrive, the crew will prepare your gear and once the lights are turned on, manta rays will start to converge as they are attracted to this type of illumination. When you are geared up and ready, you will be guided to a tethered platform. After which, all you need to do is breath, relax, hold on to the bar and let the manta rays do their nocturnal show. Be prepared to have an up-close and personal experience as these winged giants will come close to the surface platform.

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Molokini Crater Snorkel

Duration: 2 hours

Together with its crater, volcanoes are always picturesque. In the case of Molokini, a submerged dormant volcano towers proudly offshore with its crater exposed out of the water. Despite sustaining severe damage from World War II, Molokini Crater is still the best snorkeling site in Maui.

Located 2 miles offshore from Maui’s southern coast, Molokini crater is a flooded volcanic caldera that has one of the clearest visibility in Maui and the rest of Hawaii. From the mainland, you will hop onboard and take a 15-minute boat ride towards the protected cove of the crater. Once you start snorkeling, you will appreciate how clear the waters are. Visibility runs from 30 to 40 meters and that’s how clear it is. With the perfect visibility, you have a clear panoramic view underwater. You will see corals and a teeming population of reef fish like surgeonfish and Moorish idol.

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Waikiki Turtle Canyons Snorkel Excursion

Duration: 2 hours

Waikiki is a popular hangout for both tourists and sea turtles. While the beach is for the tourists, the reef is for the sea turtles. Just half a mile from Waikiki Beach, sea turtles hangout in a reef that is aptly called Turtle Canyons.

From Waikiki, you get onboard your boat and cruise towards the reef. When you get there, you will already see turtles swimming at the surface. When you enter the water and start snorkeling, you will realize why this reef is named turtle canyons. The massive reef limestone is a representation of the canyons and see turtles swim within the perimeter. Swimming with over 20 sea turtles in a single trip is normal. This is because the reef in this part of Waikiki is considered a cleaning station for sea turtles. Each sea turtle is taken cared by small tropical reef fish cleaning their carapace against algae and barnacle growth.

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Coral Gardens Snorkel

Duration: 3 hours

The shores of Pali on Maui’s west coast is not just gifted with a narrow stretch of white sand, but also a vibrant reef called the coral gardens. Once you start snorkeling, you will see a garden of massive coral heads that is also teeming with reef fish like surgeonfish and butterflyfish. While you can visit coral gardens via car as it is located near the road, we highly recommend you sign up for a boat tour. Snorkeling in coral gardens is offered either as a standalone destination or combined with the Molokini crater tour.

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North Shore Shark Cage Snorkel

Duration: 2 hours

Many of us fear sharks simply because they are apex predators. This is the reason why they are often portrayed as fearsome animals in movies. However, in the North Shore of Oahu, you can conquer galeophobia or the fear of sharks by swimming with them in their wild habitat. Of course, you will be inside a cage the entire time. This floating metal structure will keep you safe and separates you from the sharks.

From the shore, you will hop onboard and cruise 3 miles offshore towards a shark infested area. Once you get there, the floating cage will be deployed. You will be assisted by an expert guide in going inside the cage. As you get inside the cage with your mask on, you will see that sharks will start to come close. Some of the species that you will see are Galapagos sharks and Sandbar sharks.

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Haleiwa Cage-free Shark Snorkel

Duration: 2 hours

If you want to overcome your fear of sharks, then swimming with them in the wild would help you conquer galeophobia. While you can do it with a cage, opting for a cageless interaction will take your conquering factor to the next level. You can do this if you sign up for a Haleiwa cage-free shark snorkel tour offered exclusively in the North Shore of Oahu.

From the marina, you will go on a 3-mile cruise offshore and arrive in an open ocean environment. Your open ocean tour will be led by a safety diver and you will follow your lead to an area where sharks are thriving in abundance. Sandbar sharks, Galapagos sharks, tiger sharks, grey reef sharks, whitetip sharks and hammerhead sharks are some of the shark species you can see and interact.

Now, here’s the thing with this tour: since you are swimming in an open water environment, expect that you can see other large pelagic species like dolphins and whales.

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Lanai Island Snorkel

Duration: 5.5 hours

From a favorite exile island for Maui’s lawbreakers, to an agricultural mecca for pineapple plantation, Lanai island has seen several transformation including to what it is now – a snorkelers paradise.

Although there is a ferry boat going to Lanai, we highly suggest you do your Lanai island snorkeling with a boat tour. Aside from going near the site where a pod of dolphins thrive, you can maximize the number of snorkeling sites you can visit. Lanai island has over 13 snorkeling sites like the Monolith (a lava ridge with a 40-foot pinnacle) and a fish-laden mound aptly called Fish Rock.

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Whale Dolphin and Reef Snorkeling Combo in Kona

Duration: 3 hours

The Big Island has big attractions. Literally. For this particular tour, you will go reef snorkeling and do onboard observation with the giants of the ocean – whales and dolphins.

From the coast of Kona, you will get onboard and cruise towards a reef near the shore. In there, you will go snorkeling with reef fishes like surgeonfish and butterflyfish. But wait, don’t get too excited. The real action begins once you get back onboard and start your whale and dolphin watching. Cruising further offshore, you will be surprised by the sudden breaching of humpback whales or the simultaneous run of a pod of dolphins, all presented in a great panorama of the Pacific Ocean.

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Sail and Snorkel in Captain Cook Monument

Duration: 3 hours

Captain Cook is a British explorer and is considered the first Westerner to set foot on Hawaii. After his death in 1779, an obelisk was enshrined at the site where he and his men were stabbed to death. This monument now stands at the rocky shores of Kealakekua Bay. Aside from tourists visiting the monument, this site has also become a reference point for snorkeling as a nearby reef thrives.

When you go snorkeling, some of the reef fishes that you can see includes angelfish, parrotfish and wrasses. Conditions are very conducive for snorkeling as visibility is clear and the waters are calm. If Captain Cook knew about this reef, then he would have gone snorkeling and evaded his death. What do you think?

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Ocean Safari Snorkel in Kona

Duration: 4 hours

Most of the snorkel tours in Hawaii have an itinerary. But how about if you go on a trip with no exact destination. Instead, your trip will depend on where the most number of wildlife can be seen. This is the case when you go in an ocean safari snorkel tour.

After leaving port in Kona, you will have no fixed itinerary as the tour will depend on where the abundance of marine life is. Don’t expect to swim with reef fishes. The target species of this tour are the gentle giants like dolphins, sea turtles and whales. In some cases, you will swim with sharks. But don’t worry about safety as you are closely supervised with an experienced safety and snorkeling guide.

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