small bug icon  Hawaii 2017 [sea]

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One of the great things about snorkeling around the islands of Hawaii is the abundance of colorful and unique fish. Some are only found in the Hawaiian Islands. The pictures below a grouped by island, but most of the fish can be found on all of the islands. It is just a matter of when you a lucky enough to see them with camera in hand.

We’ve been to the four main island multiple times so have a pretty good idea when some of the better snorkel spots are. But it is always worth the effort to look for new ones. Morning snorkeling usually work best. The ‘sweet time’ is just when the sun is high enough to begin lighting up the depths of the water.

Be sure to see our companion photo album which concentrates on the dry land portions of our trip.

hawaiian honu

We felt particularly lucky this trip with the variety of marine life that we saw ‘up close and personal’. As you’ll see in the pictures, our sightings ranged for small box fish, to a reef shark, to monk seals, giant manta rays and even a distant whale tail!

  1. Maui
  2. Hawaii [Big Island]
  3. Kauai
  4. Oahu


Our condo was very close to Kamaole III beach so we stopped there several time. We explored several other beaches to the south all the way down to Makena. .

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We do most of our snorkeling on the west side of the island. On this visit, our condo was located almost within walking distance of one of our favorite sites -- Kahalu'u Beach. Since our condo was also several miles south of Kona, we were closer to 'Two Step', which is adjacent to the Place of Refuge. On both days we visited, we snorkeled early, then walked around the Place of Refuge.

Giant Manta Rays

Our night snorkel with the giant manta rays was a definite highlight on the trip. I had done a scuba dive with them back in 2014, and talked so much about it, that Sonia was encouraged to do it as a snorkel experience. The ocean was a bit rough the evening we went out to a spot just west of the Kona airport, but we did see a total of 6 giant manta rays. Even though we had wet suits on, it still got very cold for the last 10 minutes of our hour-long snorkel.

Back to regular snorkel pictures...

The variety of fish in Hawaiian waters continues to amaze me. I was particularly happy to be able to find and watch a number of turtle swimming and foraging for food. When I spotted the white tipped reef shark, I wisely waited to tell Sonia until after we were out of the water.

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Although the areas around Princeville were usually drizzly and overcast, those around Poipu were great for snorkeling. Our favorites were Lawai'i Beach and Poipu Beach.

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There are plenty of fish to see in Hanuama Bay. We just happened to be there on a day when the water was a bit cloudy, and not the best for taking pictures. The Visitor Center at Hanuama Bay has a mandatory video about reefs, their safety, and the safety of visitors. It was very good. The fact that Hanuama Bay is only a short ride from Honolulu also means that there are usually a lot of first time snorkelers there. Trying not to be cruel, but they are sometimes fun to watch!

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Copyright © 2017 Michael Botos. revised: 09/11/2017

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