You don’t really need a whole lot in order to go snorkeling, so snorkeling can be a great FREE activity in Hawaii.
First, the quick list of snorkeling essentials for Hawaii.
And then a bit more on what to pack in your beach bag for snorkeling in Hawaii!!
What do you REALLY need for snorkeling in Hawaii?!
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Snorkeling is actually a pretty minimalist activity!
So while there is long list of things you can consider…
Really, all you need is to put on a pair of swimming goggles and off you go into the ocean in search of those tropical fish and turtles!
So if you’re feeling like you can’t be bothered with all the “snorkeling things” because you’re supposed to be going on a somewhat relaxing vacation…
What are the top 5 things that could be considered the most important for snorkeling in Hawaii?!
- Swimsuit or swimming shirt aka rash guard
- Swimming goggles or snorkeling mask with snorkel
- Reef-safe sunscreen
- Water shoes
- WATER! (and snacks)
So, with that said…
If you just want to get out in the ocean without thinking much about it…
Get yourself a pair of swimming goggles, put on your swimsuit and sunscreen, and get in the water and go swimming to see those colorful tropical fish!!
I DO think that water shoes should be on a minimalist snorkeler’s packing list… although really, you don’t NEED them.
But there have been SO many times I’ve been happy to be wearing water shoes when snorkeling in Hawaii… and when I wasn’t wearing them, I wish I had them! If you’ll be wearing fins, you might not need water shoes to walk into the water, but you still might like them when you’re walking on those potentially rocky beaches.
You don’t want to cut yourself on sharp rock! Lava rock in particular can be sharp, and so can coral reef. It can cause massive bleeding. (I’ve seen it!)
And the drinking water – Hawaii is hot, so stay hydrated! You may not notice as much as you’re swimming around in water, but it’s still important to keep up that water intake! Also would be GREAT to bring along snacks! Snorkeling is a physical activity after all – so you’ll want to refuel after you get out of the water!
See more below about what to wear snorkeling in Hawaii!
A bit more about the top 5 essentials for snorkeling in Hawaii
1. Swimsuit or swim clothes
If you want to go with what you already have without buying anything new, then you can wear a swimsuit that you have. Plenty of people snorkel in regular swimsuits.
But you may also consider buying a swim shirt aka rash guard. (A shirt that provides a “guard” against getting a “rash” to exposed skin.)
A swim shirt makes it so that your skin is more protected against the sun.
This means that you don’t have to bother with putting on so much sunscreen too… and don’t have to bother with reapplying sunscreen every so often. (Although it would still be good to apply sunscreen to other skin that’s exposed to the sun!)
Swim shirts can be perfect for snorkeling, other water activities, and even if you will just be out in the sun.
These sorts of swim shirts are designed with UV protection.
Shop swimwear for snorkeling in Hawaii:
- Rashguards aka UV protection shirts
- Board shorts aka swimwear bottoms
- Swimsuits for women – amazon
2. Swimming goggles or snorkeling mask with snorkel
So after you’ve got the clothes, you now need something so you can see underwater!
To be very simple, and to take up less space in your luggage, you can bring along a regular pair of swimming goggles like these.
You’ll want clear ones so you can see the colors of the fish well!
A note on wearing swimming goggles for snorkeling
If you’ll be wearing swimming goggles, it does mean that you’ll have to come up for a breath often, unlike if you’re wearing a proper snorkeling mask which serves as your breathing equipment as you swim around so you don’t have to come up for air.
So if you don’t want to have to come up for a breath every time you need to breathe, and instead want to be able to look for fish and turtles underwater uninterrupted, then you’ll want to get proper snorkeling gear that comes with the snorkeling mask and snorkel (the thing that allows you to breathe while you’re underwater).
Shop snorkeling gear for Hawaii
If you’re not used to the strong tropical sun, you might be surprised just how easily you get burned!
Don’t take your chances, and lather up before you head out into the sun for your day’s activities, and throughout the day as you continue to be in the sun!
Ideally, you’ll go for reef-safe sunscreen to help with the ocean environment.
Shop reef-safe sunscreen for snorkeling in Hawaii:
4. Water shoes
Aside from the snorkeling mask, you may also consider getting snorkeling fins.
You can buy snorkeling gear as a set with fins.
Fins or no fins when snorkeling in Hawaii?
Fins do serve to propel you in the water more quickly with less energy, which means that you can cover more ground… er… cover more water… without as much work.
So, you don’t NEED fins, but you can think of it as helping you see more underwater life in less time!
In the case that you’ll be snorkeling without fins, then water shoes can be a good idea.
There are many beaches in Hawaii that have a sandy beach entrance.
But there are also some snorkeling beaches in Hawaii that have rocky beach entrances.
And some spots may just be a straight up rock entrance!
It’s for these types of beaches that might be a little rocky that you might want water shoes for those rocky snorkeling entrances.
And if you will be swimming directly above coral reef…
While you will very much want to avoid touching coral reef that’s below you as you’re swimming, in case your foot accidentally does hit the reef, water shoes can provide protection.
Again, coral reef can be sharp!
Shop water shoes for snorkeling in Hawaii
- Popular water shoes for swimming
- Popular water shoes for women with thicker soles
- Popular water shoes for men with thicker soles
- More popular water shoes for men with thicker soles
5. WATER! (and snacks)
Stay hydrated in the hot Hawaii weather!
A few more things to bring for your snorkeling excursion in Hawaii!
You can capture those underwater moments with a cheap waterproof phone case like this!
Getting a camera float like this one to go with the phone case can be a good precaution just in case you let go of your phone when you’re in the ocean!
A waterproof phone case can be great for taking pictures underwater, and it can also serve as protection for your phone if you’re taking pictures in rain too.
Small first aid kit
I threw in some supplies into a ziplock bag from an ultralight first aid kit that I had.
It can be a good idea to at least have some bandages of varying sizes, gauze, medical tape, antiseptic wipes, ointment, neosporin, or other such similar items!
They could be items you already have around your house, and then place them into a freezer ziplock bag so it’s a stronger waterproof bag aka beach-proof bag!
You might also accidentally cut yourself on coral reef, lava rock, or even just regular rocks on the beach or off of it.
I was once swimming along barefoot at a snorkeling beach and did accidentally kick some reef. When I got out of the water, I discovered blood on my foot!
So it could be good at least to have a few bandages in your beach bag for emergency. This way, even if you don’t want to pack a whole first aid kith you, it can hold you over until you get to a store.
It could be even better to have some waterproof bandages like these too so you can be in the water without worry even if you do get cut! (You know, that thing about whether it may or may not be true that blood attracts sharks – shark attacks in Hawaii are rare, but they do happen.)
Otherwise, if you’re snorkeling at a beach with a lifeguard, the lifeguard tower should have some basic first aid supplies.
To be clear, this sort of personal buoy float with dry bag isn’t meant as any sort of life-saving device.
But a few things can make this type of thing ultra useful when you’re swimming at the beach.
This is basically a dry bag float with a strap that you put around your waist. (You can also find one without the dry bag part.)
With the dry bag attachment, you can put your valuables inside so that you don’t have to leave them on the beach.
In general, this also makes it so that you can be spotted in the water more easily.
So in a way, this can be nice if you’re not swimming right next to your snorkeling buddy.
Your buddy can look up and easily spot you.
Similarly, if there’s someone in your family who’s staying on the beach and not going in the water, it can be a way for you to be spotted more easily in the water.
You’ll attach the strap to your waist, and then basically you’ll drag the float behind you as you’re swimming. You’ll hardly notice it.
And, not its intended use, but by holding on to it, it can give you a little bit of a break if you’re snorkeling in deep water.
I’d often bring my phone (with waterproof case) into the water with me, and when I wasn’t trying to take pictures, I found it useful to store my phone in this dry bag.
Then if I happened to spot something worth taking a picture of, I can grab my phone.
You can fairly easily put in and take out small things of the dry bag portion, even when the float is blown up.
If this float doesn’t really interest you, you can bring along a waterproof pouch like this one with you in the water to keep your valuables with you.
You can give a try to turkish towels like these for a lightweight towel option. They are multi-purpose, too! (You can use them as a cover-up, among other things.)
And that’s a bit about what to pack for snorkeling in Hawaii!
Best snorkeling spots in Hawaii for beginners
- Hanauma Bay
- Shark’s Cove on the North Shore
- Queen’s Beach in Waikiki
- Honolua Bay
- Kapalua Bay
- Maluaka Beach aka Turtle Town
Snorkeling on Kauai
- Tunnels Beach
- Poipu Beach
- Lawai Beach
Snorkeling on Lanai
HAPPY SNORKELING IN HAWAII!
Watch the videos to see Hawaii in action!If you see an activity you like, look in the description below the youtube video for the individual blog post about that specific activity!
Find amazing things to do on Maui: Watch my Maui videos on youtube
Find amazing things to do on the Big Island: Watch my Big Island videos on youtube
There are affiliate links on this page. As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission from this.
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
More for your Hawaii packing list
- How a cheapo waterproof phone case works
- Why wear water shoes for the beach
- Why a personal swim buoy is an essential for snorkeling and swimming in the ocean
- Essentials to pack for Hawaii
- Best shoes for Hawaii