Kealakekua Bay, the Pathway of the Gods

By Karen Rose
kealakekua bay

Photo: Susan Smith.

“The Pathway of the Gods”— the pristine underwater sanctuary located 12 miles south of Kailua Village in South Kona. The Hawaiian name for this marine haven is Kealakekua Bay, and it’s one of the most popular attractions on the Island of Hawaiʻi for both visitors and locals.

Snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay

kealakekua bay

Photo: Susan Smith.

Infused with both beauty and history, Kealakekua Bay’s crystal clear waters are a snorkeler’s dream, loaded with tropical fish, colorful coral and playful Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins. Considered one of the best snorkel spots in the word, the bay is so pristine that Disney sent an underwater film crew to the bay to collect the footage that would inspire the animated hit, ‘Finding Nemo.’

Dramatic Historical Past

kealakekua bay

Photo: Holly Hayes.

Kealakekua Bay is serene and calming; it’s difficult to imagine its dramatic historical past. Despite its unparalleled beauty, the bay marks the site where Captain James Cook, the famous British explorer, first stepped foot on the Island of Hawaiʻi in 1779 and where he would meet his untimely death.

Captain Cook’s Monument

Photo:  Susan Smith.

Photo: Susan Smith.

The best way to visit Kealakekua Bay is to take one of the many snorkel tours to Captain Cook’s Monument. The tour operators are familiar with the best areas in the bay to see marine life, and some companies also include lunch in the price of the tour.

Hike Down to the Captain Cook Monument

path to kealakekua bay

Photo: Mark.

For more adventurous visitors, there’s a hiking trail that leads to the northern end of the bay and the Captain Cook Monument. This is a moderately strenuous hike so water and closed-toed shoes are a must. Snorkel gear and water shoes are also recommended as the entry points to the bay are a popular hang out for sea urchins. Access to the trailhead is on Nāpō’opo’o Road just off of Hwy 11 in south Kona. Because the area is currently under construction, it’s advised to research the best way to locate the trailhead, as it changes daily due to roadwork.

Historical Narration

kealakekua bay

Photo: Susan Smith.

History aficionados will enjoy a historical sunset dinner cruise, which gives detailed narration of the Kona Coastline and the full story of Captain Cook’s adventures. The Body Glove is currently the only tour operator offering a full historical narration and includes live entertainment, a full dinner and cocktails.

For dramatic beauty and rich history, there’s no place quite like Kealakekua Bay on the Island of Hawaii. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state.

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