Save money on your next flight

Skyscanner is the world’s leading flight search engine, helping you find the cheapest flights to destinations all over the world.

With Hawaii’s crystal clear waters, dazzling coral reefs, and marine life for days, snorkeling is a must activity on your Hawaiian vacation.

Here’s a quick answer to your question: For snorkeling in Hawaii, wear a swimsuit, rash guard and swim trunks, reef-safe sunscreen, fins, a face mask and snorkel, and water shoes for board entries.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to choose the perfect snorkeling outfit for your island adventure – from quick dips to full-day boat tours to protect yourself from Hawaii’s strong sun and fragile environment.

Swimsuits for Snorkeling in Hawaii

Swimsuits You Should Wear

When choosing a swimsuit to go snorkeling in Hawaii, you’ll want something that is comfortable, provides sun protection, and designed for water activities. The best options include:

  • Rash guards – These lightweight, stretchy shirts provide excellent sun protection for your back, shoulders, and arms when snorkeling.
  • Swim shorts – For men, quick-drying swim shorts that go to at least mid-thigh are a practical choice.
  • One-piece swimsuits – For women, a sporty one-piece offers full coverage and freedom of movement in the water.
  • Waterproof sun-protective wear – Many snorkel companies in Hawaii provide lycra shirts, shorts, and watersocks to rent or buy.

No matter what swimsuit you choose, look for UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) ratings of 50+ or UV protection claims on the label. Tightly woven, quick-drying fabrics like nylon and polyester are ideal.

You may also want to wear a rash guard under a regular swimsuit for extra sun protection if needed.

Swimsuits to Avoid

On the other hand, there are certain types of swimsuits that aren’t the best choice for snorkeling:

  • Bikinis – Two-piece bikinis don’t provide enough skin coverage while snorkeling.
  • Heavy swimwear – Avoid baggy t-shirts, boardshorts, and cover ups that can weigh you down.
  • Cotton fabrics – Steer clear of cotton which stays wet long after leaving the water.

No matter what swimsuit you wear, be sure to apply water-resistant sunscreen liberally before entering the water. Reapply often, especially on the backs, shoulders, tops of feet and ears that tend to burn easily.

With the right swimwear, you’ll be ready to comfortably explore Hawaii’s spectacular underwater world while snorkeling!

UV Protection is Key

When snorkeling in Hawaii, protecting your skin from the sun’s intense ultraviolet (UV) rays is crucial. Hawaii has year-round warm weather and mostly clear skies, leaving you vulnerable to sunburns, premature skin aging, and skin cancer. Use the following tips to properly safeguard yourself.

Rash Guards / Shirts

Rash guards or snorkeling shirts provide excellent UV protection for your shoulders, back, chest and arms while allowing ease of movement. They are designed for water sports, being quick-drying and made of stretchy, lightweight material like spandex and nylon.

Opt for long-sleeved rash guards and shirts in bright colors for the highest sun protection. Darker colors may offer an SPF of 30-50, while lighter shades score upwards of SPF 50+. The tight-fitting silhouettes also prevent billowing fabrics from getting in your way while swimming and snorkeling.


Vigilant use of broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen is vital. Choose a formula with a minimum SPF 30. For prolonged sun exposure, dermatologists actually recommend SPF 50+. Apply liberally and reapply at least every 80 minutes, or more frequently if sweating or swimming.

When possible, use mineral or reef-safe sunscreens to help protect Hawaii’s delicate coral reef ecosystems. Common chemical UV filters like oxybenzone and octinoxate are toxic to coral.


Hats offer crucial sun defense for your face and head. The best options for water have chin straps and are tightly woven as opposed to straw hats. Baseball caps protect the face but leave the neck vulnerable.

For superior coverage, choose wide-brimmed styles like:

  • Floppy sun hats with brims over 7 inches wide
  • Safari-style and bucket hats with deep crowns and 4+ inch brims
  • Full-coverage visors wrapping fully around the sides of the head past the temples
Hat Type Coverage Area SPF Rating
Baseball cap Face, forehead 5-10
Visor Forehead, brow, nose, cheeks 3-8
Legionnaire-style Ears, neck, face 15-30+
Bucket hat, wide-brimmed Ears, neck, face 30-50+

With vigilant sun protection using rash guards, sunscreen and protective headwear, you can fully enjoy snorkeling Hawaii’s picturesque shores without worry.

Fins, Masks, and Snorkels

Choosing the Right Fins

When choosing fins for snorkeling in Hawaii, you’ll want to consider a few key factors:

  • Flexibility – More flexible fins that are made of lightweight materials like plastic are easier to pack and transport.
  • Fit – Fins should fit snugly but not be uncomfortably tight. Most come in full foot or open heel options.
  • Blade style – For beginners, a shorter, wider blade with vents is easier to use. Longer, narrower blades are built for speed.

Open heel fins with adjustable straps allow you to wear them over water shoes or booties which is handy for snorkeling from sharp, rocky beaches. Full foot fins may be warmer in cooler water temperatures.

Face Mask Considerations

Having a properly fitted mask is critical for an enjoyable snorkeling adventure. When selecting a mask for Hawaii snorkeling:

  • Get measured at a shop to find your precise size and the best fit.
  • Choose a low volume mask to allow for equalization as you descend.
  • Look for tempered glass lenses which won’t shatter and offer crystal clear views.
  • Consider a mask with adjustable straps so you can tweak the fit.

You’ll also want to apply defog solution before entering the water to prevent fogging issues.

Getting the Correct Snorkel

For Hawaiian snorkeling, a J-shaped snorkel with a contoured mouthpiece allows for the most comfortable fit. Features to look for include:

  • Dry top valve snorkels prevent water from entering when submerged.
  • Purge valves make it easy to clear any water out with a quick exhale.
  • Flexible tubes move more naturally with your head position.
  • Bright colors increase visibility for boats to avoid running you over!

Adjustable mount straps allow you to position the snorkel correctly while wearing your mask. And choosing a quality brand made of durable materials is wise in Hawaii’s elements.

For more details, check out this informative Hawaii snorkeling guide.

Water Shoes for Safety and Traction

When going snorkeling in Hawaii, having the right footwear is crucial for comfort and safety. Water shoes specifically designed for water sports are the best option to wear.

Traction is Key

The ocean floor and rocky tidal pools can be slippery, with uneven surfaces and sharp coral that could cut your feet. Water shoes have thick, grippy rubber soles to prevent slipping and provide protection from scrapes and cuts. Their tread helps give stability even on wet, algae covered rocks.

Features to Look For

The best water shoes for snorkeling will have these features:

  • Thick rubber sole with deep tread for traction
  • Secure closure like laces, Velcro, or zippers to keep them firmly on
  • Durable upper material that dries quickly
  • Toe protection to guard against stubbing toes on rocks

Better Than Sandals or Flip Flops

Sandals can easily slip off in strong wave surge or when climbing over rocks. Flip flops provide almost no traction or protection for feet. Water shoes are a far superior choice to prevent injuries.

Snorkeling Specific Options

Some water shoes are designed specifically with snorkelers in mind. These will have ankle straps to securely fasten fins, along with stiffened rubber at the toes and heel to make kicking more effective. The uppers will also be lower cut to avoid trapping water.

Popular quality brands for snorkeling shoes include ScubaPro, Aqua Lung and Seavenger. Or try budget friendly models from Decathlon.

Protecting your feet while snorkeling leads to a more enjoyable and safer experience while admiring Hawaii’s incredible marine life.

Additional Tips and Recommendations

Try on Everything Beforehand

Before your Hawaii snorkeling adventure, try on your entire outfit including mask, snorkel, fins, wetsuit or rashguard, and water shoes if needed. Make sure everything fits comfortably without any pinching, rubbing, or chafing. Test adjustability features on your mask and snorkel.

The fit should be snug but not tight or restrictive. Trying gear beforehand ensures you can move freely and focus on the incredible underwater sights rather than fidgeting with uncomfortable equipment.

Carry a Dry Bag for Belongings

Bring a waterproof dry bag to store non-essentials you want readily available like sunscreen, sunglasses, a towel, phone, wallet, and car keys. Quality dry bags from reputable outdoor brands like REI or NRS keep belongings dry even if accidentally submerged.

Compact 5-10 liter bags easily clip to your body or board while snorkeling. Consider waterproofing electronics like phones and cameras in a dedicated waterproof case or pouch as an extra precaution.

Pack Extra Layers

Having some extra layers makes it easy to adjust to variable weather and ocean temperatures while snorkeling. We recommend packing:

  • A rashguard to layer under a wetsuit for warmth
  • A lightweight hooded jacket for warmth when out of the water
  • Waterproof pants or windbreaker to block wind chill
  • An extra towel to quickly dry off if needed
  • Non-cotton cover up for layering and warmth post-snorkel

While Hawaii is warm and sunny year round, temperatures and wind can fluctuate, especially when hopping in and out of the cool ocean repeatedly. Packing versatile layers gives you flexibility to stay comfortable in changing conditions.

Website Key Info
Hawaii Guide Hawaii’s average year-round temperatures range 78-88°F. Ocean temps vary across islands and seasons, averaging 72-80°F. Trade winds blow consistently.
Prana Recommended packing extra layers like hoodies, pants, towels to stay warm post-snorkel.


With rugged lava coastlines, stunning beaches, and an abundance of marine life, Hawaii offers world-class snorkeling for all ages and skill levels. By choosing UV-protective, durable equipment and reef-safe products, you’ll be ready to safely explore Hawaii’s spectacular underwater paradise.

We’ve covered all the essentials in this guide – now it’s time to slip on those fins and enjoy the islands’ dazzling turquoise waters!

Sharing is caring!

Similar Posts