With its sandy beach, vibrant reef, and wealth of tropical marine life, Hulopoe Bay is one of Hawaii’s best snorkeling spots. Named “Best Beach in America” in 1997, Hulopoe Bay is a sprawling, white sand beach that is the epitome of Hawaiian paradise. In addition to an incredible beach, Hulopoe boasts easy accessibility to a healthy coral reef that thrives just offshore.
Once you have your gear on the beach, head towards the middle of the bay where you’ll enter the water. Follow the reef out from the shoreline and to the left where you can swim one large loop in a counterclockwise direction. Be sure to spend extra time along the left-hand side of the bay where the coral is most vibrant.
Hawaiian spinner dolphins often frequent Hulopoe Bay, and their chirps, squeaks, and groans are easily heard underwater. Keep in mind, though, that dolphins are federally protected. Be sure to keep your distance and do not purposefully swim or interact with them. Spinner dolphins enter Hulopoe Bay to rest and relax between nighttime feedings. It’s best to simply enjoy dolphins from a distance and consider yourself lucky if they decide to swim over and join you out by the reef.
When entering the water at Hulopoe Bay, remember to always keep an eye out for waves breaking on the shore, and never turn your back to the water when you stop to put on your fins. Waves tend to be largest in summer, whereas winter typically offers pristine conditions.
If you’re visiting Hulopoe with young children or beginner snorkelers, there’s a series of tide pools on the left side of the bay. One of the pools is both deep and large enough for snorkeling. Rather than walking on slippery rocks, though, follow the road and dirt trail to the set of stairs that leads directly down into the tide pools. The pools are only accessible on days with no surf. Be sure to avoid the tide pools on days when the surf is up and waves are breaking into the pools.
When you do venture out to the main section of reef, be sure to always stay in water that’s at least six feet deep. This ensures that you stay deep enough where you won’t kick or hit the reef – which could cause injury to both yourself and the coral. It’s easy to lose your bearings underwater, so be sure to constantly pop your head up to check your location relative to the beach. If you can’t see the sand from where you first started, it means you’ve gone too far.
Finally, the best conditions for snorkeling at Hulopoe are usually in the morning. Not only are ocean conditions typically calmest in the early morning, but you can also beat the crowds of visitors traveling from Maui. Late afternoon is another great time for grabbing your mask and snorkel. Whether it’s watching a bluish green parrotfish intently nibble on the reef, or swimming amongst the convict tang, there’s a vibrant magic to the ocean life that’s just beneath Hulopoe’s surface.