By Rachel – (Chandler, AZ USA)
We are planning a snorkeling trip to Hawaii in October with two children, 6 years old and 3 years old. We are wondering which island and spot is best for beach snorkeling? One of us will have to stay on the beach with our 3 year old. We snorkeled in Punta Cana last year and fell in love…so we are beginners.
Also where can we find a kick board with a mask? Thanks so much… I have really been enjoying your site.
P.S. I work for the airline so have been talking to my friends at work and they are saying Napili Shores Outrigger for a place to stay on Maui or Kauai. We have no idea but we really want to snorkel.
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Galen & Nicole – Jul 26, 2010 – Best Hawaiian Island for Snorkeling Beginners & Kids
Hi Rachel, good question. Right away we would suggest you don’t go to Kauai. It is a bit more on the wild side for snorkeling, and is much less safe, particularly for beginners in October.
Well, our favorite islands for snorkeling in Hawaii are Maui and the Big Island.
Maui has lots of nice beaches that offer good to excellent snorkeling. And a number of them have resorts on them like, Ulua/Mokapu and Po’olenalena in south Maui and Kahekili, Napili and Kapalua in northwest Maui. (The beaches above with links have descriptions on this site. The others are described in our Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook.)
The best spots of these for beginners and children would be Ulua/Mokapu and Kahekili. The snorkeling on the north end of Maui in October will be more unpredictable with the season change. There can be swell from the north that time of year making Napili and Kapalua not snorkelable.
The wind in Maui is an issue year round. If you go early in the day, you will usually avoid the wind problems though. But, most of the snorkeling in Maui is quite exposed, so be sure it is calm before going out anywhere as a beginner.
The Big Island has fewer beaches, but good to excellent snorkeling as well. There are a few with resorts on them like, Makaiwa Bay, and Mauna Kea. There used to be a resort at Kahalu’u Beach, which is a great beginner spot. (We have a full description of Makaiwa Bay and Kahalu’u in our Big Island Snorkeling Guide eBook.)
For beginners and children, Makaiwa Bay should be okay. The best snorkeling on the Big Island is spread around the island and takes some driving to do thoroughly. The wind picks up in the afternoon on the Big Island too, so go early.
As one more alternative, a snorkeling spot that is excellent for beginners, with a wonderful beach, you may want to head to Oahu and visit Hanauma Bay. It is in a very protected bay, and there are lifeguards. And when on Oahu a good beginner spot is also Ko Olina Lagoons.
Hopefully that helped you more than confused you.
P.S. Those kickboards that have a glass viewing window are not that easy to find for sale. But the snorkel rental companies in Hawaii should rent them (check out Snorkel Bob’s).
Susan – Jul 26, 2010 – Hawaii Snorkeling and Lodging
I have to put in my two cents when Maui comes up. I absolutely love Maui and we’ve been there three times and hope to retire there.
Anyway, I like calm waters to snorkel also and the last time we went, we stayed at a place named Hale Napili. We’ve stayed at the Westin Kaanapali and the Royal Lahaina Resort which were higher end places but fell in love with Hale. It’s on Napili Bay (right on the beach) and Kapalua is within walking distance.
We had bad luck last time because the surf was rough in Napili Bay. Though it was the first place I ever snorkeled and it was so calm then.
However a local told us to go to Mile Marker 14 (I’m sure there’s a name for it) but it was very protected and a great place to snorkel. I got some of my best pictures about four feet out, seriously. You just never know which beach will be calmest from day to day.
We stayed at an Outrigger on the Big Island and it was nice too.
Paul Frenzy – Jul 27, 2010 – Snorkeling With Kids in Hawaii
Hanauma Bay is great snorkeling for kids but, it is too crowded and the corals are already destroyed from the hordes of tourists that step on them. Aside from the crowds, you have to deal with the long lines to get to the video presentation that you have to endure before you are allowed to go down to the beach. Be there before 8:30am to beat the crowds otherwise it will be quite a long wait before you see any fishes.
In my opinion, the best snorkeling spot to take kids is Kahalu’u Beach Park in the Big Island. Easy entry (reef shoes recommended), protected waters, lots of fishes and turtles, lifeguards, and lots of picnic tables and two covered pavilions. The parking lot does get full quickly.
Dave C – Jul 27, 2010 – Hawaii Snorkeling for Young Children
In general, I don’t think Hawaii is an especially good place to take young children snorkeling. A possible exception may be in the summer, when conditions are calmest. Hawaii is located in the middle of the Pacific and most times there is a lot of wave and surge action – that’s why it is good for surfing. Also, most of the beaches quickly drop off to depths of six feet or more just after you step into the water. Hawaiian ocean conditions are not benign, unlike many places in the Caribbean where the ocean can be very calm if you are on the leeward (protected) side of the island.
That being said, there are a few places in Hawaii that are suitable for small children. Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kona on Big Island (someone already suggested this) is a great spot with very clear, calm, and shallow water. Just stay close to shore for safety. This is probably the best shallow water snorkeling spot in Hawaii that is easily accessible from a beach.
There actually are a couple of places on Kauai that are good for children, although for adults they aren’t as interesting. Poipu Beach Park has a small “kiddie pool” with its own breakwater that is very safe for children. Lydgate Beach Park on the eastern side of Kauai has a protected “snorkeling lagoon” that is great for kids, although the visibility may only be about 20 feet.
In the fall and winter months on Maui, the Olowalu area usually has the calmest water and a very gradual drop-off. Many people take young kids there. There are many coral heads, although the visibility is often a little murky and there aren’t as many colorful fish as other spots.
Hope this helps.
More info from Galen & Nicole: Lydgate on Kauai is fully described in our Kauai Snorkeling Guide eBook. And Olowalu (Mile Marker 14) is described in our Maui Snorkeling Guide eBook linked to above.