Snorkeling on the Big Island

Snorkeling on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi is a unique experience in witnessing the birth of an island. The Big Island is the youngest of all the Hawaiian Islands, therefore it offers the opportunity to snorkel near shorelines where new reefs are forming. The best snorkeling on the Big Island is on the west side where most of the sites are accessible from the beach and a few sites from boat tours.
Prepare to see a plethora of colorful fish, spinner dolphins and graceful Manta Rays.

Kahaluu Bay

Kahaluʻu Bay is located off Aliʻi Drive, close to Kailua-Kona, and it’s accessible location makes it the perfect place for an unplanned, last minute snorkel experience. From a distance, it looks like your average tourist beach, but it’s actually one of the best places to snorkel on the Big Island. The shallow bay is home to a number of honu (sea turtles), who enjoy sun bathing on the rocks while being admired by visitors.Read more

There are dozens of tide pools to explore during low tide, and after your snorkel adventure there are plenty of surfers to watch just to the right of the bay.

Honaunau Bay

For an out of the way Big Island snorkel adventure, drive a bit further south to Honaunau Bay, right next Puʻuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, otherwise known as the City of Refuge. The water is crystal clear and almost always calm. Locals refer to this famous snorkeling spot as “Two Step,” and it’s not uncommon to see dolphins swimming in the bay or turtles lounging around in the shallower waters off to the left. Honaunau Bay is often considered the second best spot for snorkeling on the Big Island after Kealakekua Bay.

Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay is an underwater marine sanctuary located in South Kona and is also home to the Captain Cook monument, which marks the spot where Captain James Cook lost his life in the late 19th Century. This pristine snorkel spot is considered the best on the Big Island. With large varieties of tropical fish, spinner dolphins and fascinating history, it’s difficult to find a more perfect place to dive in. The best way to see the bay is by tour boat. Some charter companies, such as Sea Paradise, also have Manta Ray night snorkels and offer discounts for repeat visitors wanting to go on a night snorkel. Their charter is also the only sailboat charter to depart out of Keauhou Bay, making for a quiet and relaxing day in the water!

Snorkelers at Kealakekua Bay. Photo: Susan Smith.

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