Snorkeling is one of the most common water-based activities performed in Hawaii by tourists and locals alike. The aspects of snorkeling missed by many, however, are the different creatures and ambiance present underwater during the night hours. Because no beaches in Hawaii are privately owned, night snorkeling can only take place at specific locations or at your own risk, and the beaches and reefs allowing night snorkeling can be difficult to find.
Hanauma Bay, on the island of Oahu, is a protected nature reserve area formed by the sea level rising and filling in a volcanic crater. The only access to the bay is through paid admission, and the area has multiple facilities and lifeguards. On the second Saturday of each month the bay is open for special night snorkel sessions, with professionals on-site to answer questions and lead tour groups into the bay. This is the only snorkel spot in a controlled environment that allows night snorkeling. Call ahead to check for possible changes to the schedule.
Paid Night Snorkel Tours
Each island has a number of dive shops and snorkel tour companies, some of which lead night snorkeling tours and all of which are able to offer advice and information on current night dive conditions. While it is possible to snorkel some popular sites on your own, the majority of sites are within the boundaries of beach parks or reserves which close at night for public safety. On the big island of Hawaii, Kona Honu and Big Island Divers lead night tours out of Kailua Kona. Due to low visitor populations, Maui, Molokai and Kauai hotels can assist you in setting up a night boat charter to lead you to snorkeling, but only SCUBA tours are currently led and night snorkeling is still considered at your own risk. On Oahu, Hanauma Bay is the only location routinely offering night snorkeling with tours.
What You'll See
Many nocturnal sea creatures exist in the Hawaiian islands. Some of the most notable and prominent are octopus, manta rays, crabs and plankton. Plankton are perhaps the most surprising find. While walking along the beach or snorkeling, try not to focus on anything for a minute. In your peripheral vision you will see minuscule blue glow-in-the-dark specks. These specks are plankton. Octopus can be see sliding across the reef and rocks and crabs enjoy burying themselves in the sand during the night hours.
If you are not following a guided group, be sure to know the area you are snorkeling in well by visiting in the day. Plan a predetermined entry and exit point so all members meet in the same location if separated and never go snorkeling alone. Be cautious of changing tides, and if you are caught in a rip tide, being pulled out toward deeper water, swim to one side or the other perpendicular to the direction you are being pulled. This will get you out of the rip tide and back to safety. Ensure someone outside your snorkel group knows where you are and what time you expect to be done and, since beaches do not have lifeguards at night, be sure someone in your group knows CPR and has a way to contact help in case of emergency.
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