What to Do In Hawaii: 12 Ways to Get Wet

Shred the surf or just settle in the sand for the perfect shoreline experience at Kauai's Poipu Beach. Dana Nadeau
By Jeanette Foster

Hawaii Day by Day features hundreds of gorgeous color photos of the sights and experiences that await visitors to the Pacific archipelago. Here's how you can get the most out of the islands with our highlights of the best beaches and water sports on Oahu, the Big Island, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kauai.

Photo Caption: Shred the surf or just settle in the sand for the perfect shoreline experience at Kauai's Poipu Beach.
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You can go eyeball-to-eyeball with exotic sea life while snorkeling in crystal clear Hanauma Bay. Marco Garcia
Oahu's most popular snorkeling spot is a curved, 2,000-foot gold-sand beach packed elbow-to-elbow with people year round. Part of an old crater that fell into the sea, the bay's shallow shoreline water and abundant marine life are the main attractions to snorkelers. A shallow reef outside the bay protects the inside from surf rolling in, making the waters in the bay very calm. Hanauma Bay is a conservation district; you may look at but not touch or take any marine life here. Feeding the fish is also prohibited.

Photo Caption: You can go eyeball-to-eyeball with exotic sea life while snorkeling in crystal clear Hanauma Bay.
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Kealakekua Bay at sunset. Frommers.com Community
Probably the best snorkeling for all levels can be found in Kealakekua Bay. The calm waters of this underwater preserve teem with a wealth of marine life. Coral heads, lava tubes, and underwater caves all provide an excellent habitat for Hawaii's vast array of tropical fish, making mile-wide Kealakekua the Big Island's best accessible spot for snorkeling and diving. Without looking very hard, you can see octopi, free-swimming moray eels, parrotfish, and goatfish; once in a while, a pod of spinner dolphins streaks across the bay.

Photo Caption: Kealakekua Bay at sunset.
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Molokini Island, Maui Ron Dahlquist/The Hawaii Tourism Authority
Molokini's marine life park is one of Hawaii's top dive and snorkel spots. This crescent-shaped crater has three tiers of diving: a 35-foot plateau inside the crater basin (used by beginning divers and snorkelers), a wall sloping to 70 feet just beyond the inside plateau, and a sheer wall on the outside and back-side of the crater that plunges 350 feet. This underwater park is very popular thanks to calm, clear, protected waters and an abundance of marine life, from manta rays to clouds of yellow butterflyfish.

Photo Caption: Molokini Island, Maui.
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Murphy (Kumimi) Beach. Frommers.com Community
Just don your gear and head for Kumimi, one of the best beaches for snorkeling on the East End. Here you'll find lots of exotic tropical fish, including long-nosed butterflyfish, saddle wrasses, and convict tangs.

Photo Caption: Murphy (Kumimi) Beach.
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Daring divers leap off the craggy rocks at Hulopoe Bay, where crystal clear water also attracts snorkelers and swimmers. Marco Garcia
Just off the south shore, two of Hawaii's best-known dive spots are found in Lanai's clear waters. The sun lights up an underwater grotto like a magnificent church, hence the name -- some scuba divers claim it is a near-religious experience. Snorkeling is terrific at nearby Hulopoe Beach.

Photo Caption: Daring divers leap off the craggy rocks at Hulopoe Bay, where crystal clear water also attracts snorkelers and swimmers.
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Oceanarium northwest of Hanalei Bay. Frommers.com Community
Northwest of Hanalei Bay, offshore you'll find a kaleidoscopic marine world at Oceanarium, a horseshoe-shaped cove. From the rare (long-handed spiny lobsters) to the more common (taape, conger eels, and nudibranchs), the resident population is one of the more diverse on the island. The topography, which features pinnacles, ridges, and archways, is covered with cup corals, black-coral trees, and nooks and crannies enough for a dozen dives. Snorkelers will be happy at nearby Hanalei Bay.

Photo Caption: Oceanarium northwest of Hanalei Bay.
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Atlantis Submarine. Courtesy Atlantis Adventures
For a Jules Verne-type experience, plunge 100 feet under the sea in a state-of-the-art, high-tech submarine. You'll meet swarms of vibrant tropical fish up close and personal as they flutter through the deep blue waters off Waikiki.

Photo Caption: Atlantis Submarine.
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Sportsfishing Boat, Hawaii's Big Island Anthony Woods
If you want to catch fish, it doesn't get any better than the Kona Coast, known internationally as the marlin capital of the world. Big-game fish, including gigantic blue marlin and other Pacific billfish, tuna, mahimahi, sailfish, swordfish, ono (also known as wahoo), and ulua (giant trevallies) roam the waters. When anglers here catch marlin that weigh 1,000 pounds or more, they call them granders; there's even a "wall of fame" on Kailua-Kona's Waterfront Row, honoring 40 anglers who've nailed more than 20 tons of fighting fish. Nearly 100 charter boats with professional captains and crews offer fishing charters out of Keauhou, Kawaihae, Honokohau, and Kailua Bay harbors.

Photo Caption: Sportfishing boat, Hawaii's Big Island.
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A couple enjoys a picnic overlooking windsurfers, Lower Paia. Tor Johnson/The Hawaii Tourism Authority
Maui has Hawaii's best windsurfing beaches. In winter windsurfers from around the world flock to the town of Paia to ride the waves. Hookipa Beach, known all over the globe for its brisk winds and excellent waves, is the site of several world-championship contests.

Photo Caption: A couple enjoys a picnic overlooking windsurfers, Lower Paia.
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The beautiful Kepuhi Beach in Molokai Hawaii Anne Ackermann
This is the Hawaii of your dreams: waterfalls thundering down sheer cliffs, remote sand beaches, miles of tropical vegetation, and the wind whispering in your ear. The best times to go are late March and early April, or in summer, especially August to September, when the normally galloping ocean lies down flat. Beginners should stick to kayaking the East End, where schools of tropical fish will tempt you to stop and snorkel every few feet.

Photo Caption: The beautiful Kepuhi Beach in Molokai Hawaii.
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Polihua Beach nearly takes on a desert quality. Hawaii Tourism Japan
Polihua Beach, Lanai's largest white-sand beach, is a great spot to look for whales in season (Nov.-Mar.). The beach generally is not safe for swimming (strong currents) and it can be windy here, but it most likely will be deserted and you'll have a great view of Molokai in the distance.

Photo Caption: Polihua Beach nearly takes on a desert quality.
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Poipu Beach is a great place for novice surfers. Dana Nadeau
Hanalei Bay's winter surf is the most popular on the island, but it's for experts only. Poipu Beach is an excellent spot to learn to surf; the waves are small and -- best of all -- nobody laughs when you wipe out.

Photo Caption: Poipu Beach is a great place for novice surfers.
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