So you’ve decided to go snorkeling in Hawaii.
There are plenty of snorkeling spots in Hawaii that you can get to on your own, but sometimes a snorkeling tour can increase your chances of seeing some turtles or even dolphins.
Now comes the next part!
Making sure that you don’t make any mistakes as a first-time visitor to Hawaii.
And, that would include making sure you pack for Hawaii what you need to bring for snorkeling! (aka the snorkeling essentials for Hawaii!)
There are affiliate links below. Because you should totally check out some of these things on Amazon.
Also see some of the most popular items bought specifically for a trip to Hawaii – these types of sandals perfect for hiking in hot weather, these types of shoes perfect for snorkeling with rocky beach entrances, this CHEAP waterproof phone case so you can take underwater pics with your phone, the BEST travel guide book series for Hawaii available for every island, and the best sunscreen for Hawaii.
10 things to think about when snorkeling in Hawaii for the first time
1. Should you wear colors that DON’T attract sharks?!
Although shark attacks in Hawaii are relatively rare, there was in fact a shark attack recently in Hawaii – it was at a non-tourist location on Oahu in September 2018 – but does that mean you should take very precaution you can in an effort to NOT attract the sharks?
First, what ARE the colors that are said to encourage sharks to come near you?
As the people at the Florida Museum say, sharks can see contrasting colors well.
This basically means that they can see bright colors in the water.
The same bright colors that a lot of flotation devices are, like a personal swim buoy.
And the same bright colors that you may want to wear so your snorkeling partner can easily spot you… because you will get separated when you each are off chasing the different colorful schools of tropical fish you see!
So it’s a balancing act between wearing the colors that could potentially save your life if you happen to drift out into the vast ocean, or wearing the colors that sharks won’t notice you if one comes near shore.
Know that shark attacks are pretty rare in Hawaii.
2. Can you wear a regular swimsuit when you go snorkeling?
Most people will wear a regular swimsuit to go swimming and it’s perfectly reasonable to do so.
You might want to avoid wearing bikini bottoms with ties
You don’t want your strings to get caught if you’re swimming alongside coral reef.
You also may become ultra sensitive to the feeling of touch when you’re snorkeling (“did I just feel something touch me that could bite me?!”), and you may not like it when your strings keep floating around and brush against your leg.
But you may also consider other types of clothing for snorkeling too.
3. What other types of snorkeling clothes do people wear?
You can find people who wear board shorts:
And you will find people who wear shirts that offer UV protection too. (aka rash guard!)
These kinds of shirts make it so you don’t have to be as concerned about re-applying sunscreen constantly.
And remember that when you’re snorkeling your back is directly exposed to the sun for as long as you’re out there looking for colorful fish and turtles!
- women: short sleeve UPF shirt
- women: long sleeve UPF shirt
- men: short sleeve UPF shirt
- men: long sleeve UPF shirt
UV protection shirts can also be helpful in the case that you are wearing sunscreen that is NOT the best for snorkeling.
4. What’s the best sunscreen to wear in Hawaii?
In short, the best sunscreen for Hawaii is reef-safe sunscreen.
Most reef-safe sunscreen does have the down-side of being harder to rub into your skin, but it’s considered to not be harmful to marine life.
The state of Hawaii recently passed a law that will go into effect in 2021 that will ban the sales of certain types of sunscreen that’s not reef-safe. (A similar law was also passed in the Florida Keys.)
You can take this to mean that locals in Hawaii REALLY don’t want you wearing sunscreen that will damage their fragile marine ecosystem!
So it can be nice to be a good tourist and wear the good kind of sunscreen. 😉
Most sunscreens that are eco-friendly will be mineral-based zinc oxide sunscreen.
But even sunscreen labeled as such might not pass the test of Hawaii’s sunscreen ban.
They offer both sunscreen that’s better for coral reef AND sunscreen that’s NOT reef-safe.
So also make sure you know what to look for so you WON’T be buying sunscreen with chemicals that are a part of the Hawaii sunscreen ban.
5. Do you need to wear fins?
Fins aren’t necessary for snorkeling, but it is considered footwear that can help enhance your snorkeling experience.
Since wearing fins help to propel you through water, it means you can go further with less effort.
This means that if you’re going to a snorkeling spot that requires you swim offshore a little bit, fins can make it easier!
And wearing fins would also mean that overall you need to use up less effort and energy, which can mean that you won’t get tired as quickly.
Because without fins, your legs are doing all the work kicking without any help at all to move you forward.
Snorkeling fins can come as a part of a snorkeling set like this one, or you can buy them separately too.
Or, you might consider buying a snorkeling set WITHOUT fins like this one, if you want to save on luggage space – fins might take up more space than you’d like in your suitcase.
If you don’t bring fins to Hawaii with you, you can likely find some at the ABC stores, THE Hawaii convenience store you’ll come to know especially if you’re taking a trip to Oahu.
In Waikiki, ABC stores are located pretty much on every corner. You can find them on Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island too.
This is also a good place to buy your Hawaii souvenirs!
6. Should you wear water shoes if you don’t wear fins?
Once again you don’t need water shoes when snorkeling. (Fins ARE the better option for the best snorkeling though.)
There might be a couple of reasons that you would want to wear water shoes like these when snorkeling though.
If you’ll be snorkeling at a spot with a rocky beach entrance (like Shark’s Cove on Oahu) it can be helpful to have on shoes.
Or if you’re swimming with coral reef right under you (like Hanauma Bay on Oahu) where you can accidentally kick the reef as you’re swimming along.
Reef is sharp and it can cut you!
7. Should you wear a snorkel vest?
This is another piece of snorkeling gear that you don’t NEED but you may want to consider in some cases.
One of the main reasons you may consider getting a snorkel vest like this one is if you don’t think of yourself as a strong swimmer, or if your fitness level isn’t great.
It can give you a chance to rest a little bit if you’re out snorkeling in deeper water, and it can also help you to use less energy when you snorkel so you won’t tire as quickly.
Snorkel vests like this one aren’t the same as wearing regular life jackets, but for snorkeling they can provide an added level of security.
8. What type of snorkeling mask should you wear?
So there are basically 2 types of snorkeling masks:
- The regular mask with snorkel tube that you probably think of when snorkeling comes to mind
- A full-face snorkel mask that literally covers your whole face
Full-face snorkeling masks have become a popular alternative to the regular snorkeling masks over the past few years.
Beginner snorkelers in particular have really loved the ease of snorkeling with a full-face mask.
But even more recently there has started to become a bit of controversy around them with reports of the risk of CO2 build-up in the mask.
There are companies that say they’ve addressed this CO2 issue, including this company, but of course, it’s best to do your due diligence so you can make your own decision.
And, the absolute cheapest “snorkeling” gear you can buy as an alternative to both of these type of masks?!
As long as you don’t mind coming up for air frequently when swimming, regular swim goggles.
And as cool as the mirrored tinted goggles look 😉 if you do choose to go with swim goggles, you’ll want to go with clear goggles so that you can see all the underwater marine life in full color!
9. What do kids wear snorkeling?
You can basically find all of the above for kids too!
10. What can you wear to keep your valuables safe?
If everyone in your group or family will be going snorkeling, and you’d rather not leave your valuables unattended on the beach, you can wear a waterproof pouch like this one and take those valuables with you when you’re swimming.
And of course you’ll want to take your phone with you so you can capture all the underwater marine life you see!
If you don’t already have a waterproof case for your phone, this phone case is a cheap option!
The quick list!
Quick packing list for snorkeling in Hawaii:
- Sun shirts with UV protection (for women and for men) so you have to wear less sunscreen
- Popular water shoes (for women and for men) for the hidden rocks on the beach
- This standard snorkeling set
- This CHEAP way to make your phone waterproof so you can take amazing underwater photos!
- This type of waterproof pouch so you don’t need to leave valuables on the beach
- Sunscreen that’s NOT a part of the Hawaii sunscreen ban
And for hiking in Hawaii…
- Hiking sandals (for women and for men) will do for most trails in Hawaii!
- But trail running shoes (for women and for men) or hiking shoes (for women and for men) work too!
And don’t forget the absolute BEST guide to making the most out of your Hawaii vacation – available for every Hawaiian island
What to do in Hawaii?!
There are lots of FREE and cheap things to do in Hawaii.
But there are also lots of worthy paid tours too!
Have a look to:
HAPPY SNORKELING IN HAWAII!
If you're headed to Hawaii soon, see some ideas for top essentials to pack for Hawaii. And for Oahu travel tips, see this 3 day itinerary, this 2 week itinerary, and then some more things to do on Oahu. And if you're headed to the Big Island, be sure to see things to do on the Big Island along with this 7 day itinerary that includes black sand beaches, waterfalls, a lava cave hike, turtles, and tons of scenic drives!