Snorkeling is one of our favorite Hawaii outdoor things to do – so here are Hawaii snorkeling tips based on what we’ve learned in our many years of snorkeling here.

Hawaii snorkeling tips #1 – Fins are necessary

Most people forget to bring fins when snorkeling because it’s not considered an essential item. Typically only a snorkel mask is needed for snorkeling, but I beg to differ. Fins are essential for snorkeling because they propel you through the water much faster than without them. Henceforth, you see more underwater because you’re traveling faster. It makes the experience worth it.

It’s also fun to have fins when you’re chasing a fish to get a better look. It wouldn’t be possible to keep up with them without the fins! Although the fins can be a cumbersome to water with from the shore, it’s worth it. A trick for getting into the water with fins on are to walk backwards from the shore down to the water. We always see people walking a little funky by trying to walk forward with fins on – it’s funny.

Hawaii outdoor things to do

Fins turn you into a fish.
Diver diving fins by Pexels is licensed under CC0 1.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Hawaii snorkeling tips #2- Hanauma Bay

Hanauma Bay is a state-owned conservatory for marine life on the East side of O’ahu. All beaches in Hawaii are public land, except for this one. Hanauma Bay is maintained by the state to conserve the marine life in this bay. The bay is actually an extinct volcano that’s fallen in and created a beach.

My dad would take my sister and I to Hanauma Bay at least once a week to go snorkeling. It’s a premiere tourist destination and also for locals with young children. The water is calm and safe for novice swimmers. It also offers some of the best snorkeling around with lively coral ecosystems.

Hanauma Bay offers snorkel and fin rentals at the beach – convenient for traveling tourists! The beach charges a price to non-residents. It’s a small fee. Locals with valid IDs get in for free. All others have to pay. I can assume that revenues from the fees go towards maintaining the park’s conservatory. The park is closed one day of the week for maintenance. Parking can be limited because the lot fills up fast and once it does, the park is closed off to any newcomers. They re-open the park once there is vacancy in the parking lot. We have found that the magic time is 2 pm because the early-morning beachgoers are leaving right around that time.

Hanauma Bay by 34128007@N04 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original.

Hawaii snorkeling tips #3 – Don’t step on the reef!

One of Hanauma Bay’s mottos is “don’t step on me!” with a picture of a reef. Hanauma Bay requires all of its’ beach goers to watch an educational 15-minute video on how to care for the reef. It emphasizes not to step on the reef. It also emphasizes not to leave trash behind and to clean up after yourself.

The video can be redundant for locals to watch because we were raised to protect and care for the reef. The video is just a re-iteration of everything we already know. That’s one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of going to Hanauma Bay personally. When I was a kid I didn’t care, but now that I’m grown up, I don’t like wasting 15 minutes of my time. Weird how that happens when you grow older!

 May Hawaii outdoor things to do

The reef ecosystem is delicate and amazing.
Coral Reef at Palmyra Atoll National Wildlife Refuge by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Image may have been resized or cropped from original

Hawaii snorkeling tips #4- The “secret beach” Alan Davis

Alan Davis is a “locals” beach that attracts many residents. It’s also on the Eastern shore of O’ahu, about 15 minutes away from Hanauma Bay. It can be difficult to access because the shoreline is about a mile of a walk from the parking lot. That’s why it’s mainly locals at that beach. It’s one of my favorite places to hang out on my list of Hawaii outdoor things to do.” 

The beach offers a “protected” reef because the waves are “broken up” by nearby rocks. In other words, it’s fairly calm waters because the incoming waves crash on nearby boulders. These waters are not nearly as calm as Hanauma Bay, so I wouldn’t recommend it for young children that aren’t familiar with ocean waters. When my sister and I were young, we were fine in the water, but we also grew up swimming in the ocean. Ocean waves can be overwhelming for young children who lack experience in them.

Hawaii outdoor things to do

Alan Davis is one of my favorite beaches. Photo Copyright CyberCom, Inc.