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Kauai and Oahu Snorkeling: Coral or mainly fish and boat versus shore snorkeling

Kauai and Oahu Snorkeling: Coral or mainly fish and boat versus shore snorkeling

Old May 22nd, 2006, 04:53 PM
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Kauai and Oahu Snorkeling: Coral or mainly fish and boat versus shore snorkeling

Hi - this is probably a crazy question but I'll ask it anyway. We love to snorkel and have done a lot on St. John, Grand Cayman and Bonaire. All shore snorkeling. We are headed to Kauai and Oahu in September and I've been doing my research. Most descriptions talk mainly about the abundance of fish. Is there a lot of healthy, colorful coral? How does the snorkeling compare to, say, St. John for those of you who have been to both?

We will be looking for shore snorkeling. Will we be missing something great if we don't take boat trips?

Thanks! sue
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Old May 22nd, 2006, 07:24 PM
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The only place I've been snorkeling is Hanauma Bay. It was nice with plenty of fish & coral.

I can't compare it to any other place or from a boat.

This link lists some places you can go on your own:


This site also has some places thet you can go on your own:

www.snorkelbobs.com Scroll to the bottom & click on Map'nTips.

Kuilima Cove at Turtle Bay Resort & Shark's Cove are two favorite places for locals on Oahu.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 06:21 AM
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It's just different. Hawaii's reefs are made of volcanic rock adorned by coral, where St.John and Caymans are coral on coral or limestone.
Both have unique beauty. Hawaiian fish color seems more vibrant to me. There is a cleaner, more pristine look to the reefs, probably because of fewer life forms due to water temp.
Plenty of good snorkeling from shore, no need for a boat.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 09:12 AM
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sueoz, I've been snorkeling on St. John's (Trunk Bay), Grand Cayman, and many other places and thought that all of these places were great. However, Hanauma Bay on Oahu is the best snorkeling I've ever experienced. The reefs that you snorkel around are amazing. There is an abundance of tropical fish that seem to be different than those seen at other spots, not to mention the view of Hanauma Bay is nothing short of spectacular. If you're going to Oahu and plan to snorkel, Hanauma Bay is a must. Hope this helps. Have a great trip!
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 09:52 AM
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Never been to St John but on every tipr to Hawaii, snorkeling is priority #1 for me. We went to Hanauma Bay on Oahu and thought it was just OK. We obviously went to the wrong spots because most people rave about it.

On Kauai, we snorkeled EVERYWHERE. We used the 'Kauai Revealed' book for initial guidance and it was spot on. We saw a decent amount of fish all over but Tunnels was the best. Even close to the shore, there was an abundance of fish. I'm sure the outer reef was even better. Ke'e Beach was great and we saw several turtles there. Poipu was cool and Lawai (next to the Beach House) was good as well.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 09:58 AM
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Hawaii does not have soft, colorful coral like you will see in the Caribbean. The coral here is of the hard variety with not a huge range of colors. As logandog said, both have a unique beauty.

I can't think of a snorkeling tour by boat on Oahu that can beat the snorkeling you can do at Hanauma Bay. Only thing with Hanauma Bay is that it can get very crowded.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 10:26 AM
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Thank you all so much! We can't wait. We love to hike and kayak, too, but snorkeling is first on the list. Sue
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 11:22 AM
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Just one tip to add. I have relatives on Oahu and have been there many times. I have also snorkeled in Costa Rica and the Florida Keys. The best assemblage of fish I have ever seen is hands down Hanauma Bay. It does get VERY crowded in the main part of the bay, and the water can get very silted up. The trick is to walk out along the side of the bay (if you are facing the water follow the trail along the right side of the bay, not the left side which will take you to the "toilet bowl" swimming hole) and get in the water beyond where most people are swimming. You must wear waterproof socks or something to protect your feet on the walk out. The water is deeper and clearer, and the fish are incredible. You can literally swim in schools of fish.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 11:53 AM
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We've snorkeled St. John, Grand Cayman, Isla Mujeres, Oahu, Maui, K`auai, Big Island. From what I understand, up to about 1/3 of the fish one may see while snorkeling in Hawaiian waters are unique to Hawaii and recommend displays at Hanauma Bay on Oahu for figuring them out, and there is a also a great aquarium on Maui (have not visited existing aquariums on Oahu). IMHO, Hanauma bay had the largest fish we had seen while snorkeling but more colorful variety and numbers can be found with convenient boat trips off the South Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. Another advantage of a snorkel boat trip (Big Island) we experienced was the encountering of pods of spotted and spinner dolphins, that we did not see when snorkeling from shore. Aside from the exception of the Big Island, snorkeling from shore was comparable to that from boat on Maui and K`auai.

Agree with the chepar's comments above about visibly better (caribbean) coral on St John and Grand Cayman than Hawaii, and notably also experienced my first shark encounter on St John, while the Grand Cayman (Capt. Marvin) boat excursion to Stingray sandbar with stops at barrier reef and coral gardens was definitely a snorkeling high point in terms of close encounters with a variety of sea life.
Enjoy your stay in paradise!
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Old May 24th, 2006, 09:28 AM
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I like to do a little of both. I've snorkeled on Kauai and Oahu and Maui and the Big Island.

Kauai: Poipu area and Kee Beach areas have largest fish poulation. You can enter right from the beach and it should be pretty clear in September. Speicalized books that I use: Snorkel Kauai and Kauai Trailblazer.

Oahu: Hanauma Bay is a mob scene and when I was there the coral was covered in a whitish silt. Go to Kailua Beach Park or the Makai Research Pier. Don't leave valuables in your car.

My favorite place to snorkel in Hawaii is Molokini Island (off Maui). Go in the morning with the Maui Dive snorkeling tours. There are fish schools galore and my underwater shots turned out great.
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