Before you start your snorkeling adventure on any of the beautiful Hawaiian Islands, you’ll want to have an idea of what to expect. One of the best parts of snorkeling the tropical waters of Hawaii is the opportunity to see colorful fish everywhere you turn. From the turquoise waters of Hanauma Bay to the cerulean shades off the Na’Pali Coast, keep your eyes peeled for these species!
Angelfish: Look for these tropical beauties in shallow reefs and don’t be surprised if they swim right up to you! Snorkelers and divers in Hawaii have repeatedly reported the friendliness of this species!
Boxfish: A bright blue flash with spots decorating their bodies, Boxfish are a beautiful sight to see and, as the name suggests, appear box-shaped.
Cleaner Wrasse: Often found in groups, the Cleaner Wrasse forms mutual relationships with other fish by eating parasites and dead skin off their bodies. Look for the distinctive black stripe down the length of their bodies.
Flagtail: School is in session! The Hawaiian Flagtail is a small fish, usually not more than 50 centimeters, but travel in large schools, making their silver bodies seem like a flash in the water.
Goatfish: When you see the face whiskers, you might think you’re spotting a catfish. The goatfish can be red and white or white with a yellow stripe.
Hawkfish: Does that coral formation seem to be moving? It might be a Longnosed Hawkfish, who love to hide out amongst cauliflower coral.
Lizardfish: In Hawaii, there are lizards on the ground AND in the water. To spot one, look down! Lizardfish spend most of their time blending into coral formations and the ocean floor and are known for the horizontal-stripes on their backs.
Moorish Idol: These elegant fish are easily spotted by their long top fin. The Moorish Idol moves pretty slow and can be seen all over Hawaii.
Needlefish: Often seen swimming along in schools at the surface of the water, the Needlefish is characterized by a long, needle-shaped body. Keep your eyes open — their coloring makes them hard to spot in the water.
Porcupinefish: You’ll know it when you see the spikes on its back! The Porcupinefish is a type of pufferfish and inflates when it feels threatened.
Raccoon Butterflyfish: Easily recognizably by their vibrant yellow color and raccoon-style black mask, Butterflyfish tend to keep close to coral and are known to be territorial.
Reef Triggerfish: Also known as Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, is the state fish of Hawaii. Look for the wedged tail and blue streaks by the eyes and lips.
Scorpion Fish: Pretty to look at, but not to touch! This family of predatory fish are the masters of camouflage and usually use their feathery fins to hide amongst coral.
Turkeyfish: Also known as a Lionfish, these carnivores eat small fish and crustaceans and are characterized by their beautiful array of fins, but be careful — each flowy fin is packed with poison to ward off predators.
Parrotfish: A rainbow for the eyes, the Bullethead Parrotfish are usually quite large — about a foot long!
This is just a small sampling of the fish species you might encounter while snorkeling in the Hawaiian Islands. Whether you are snorkeling the open ocean or a protected reef, keep your eyes open for the magic that lies under the ocean.