Looking for the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island, Hawaii?
With incredible visibility and sea-life, Hawaii is among one of the best snorkeling destinations thanks to its protected marine areas that surround the island. There is no place like Hawaii Island with its crystal clear waters, tropical temperatures, and thriving ocean-life.
Snorkeling in the waters of the Big Island of Hawaii offers exceptional views of native sea turtles, various species of tropical fish, and is globally known for its once in a lifetime opportunity to swim with manta rays at night. If you’re planning a vacation to the Big Island, make sure to leave at least a couple days open to explore the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island in Hawaii.
Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots on Big Island, Hawaii
You may recognize this famous bay’s iconic drop-off in the Disney Pixar movie “Finding Nemo.” The mysterious drop-off in the movie was inspired by the reef at the Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay.
Located 17 miles south of Kailua-Kona, Kealakekua bay is an underwater marine sanctuary teeming with exotic fish and living coral reef. If you’re lucky, you can experience a visit from Hawaiian sea turtles, bottle-nosed dolphins, and black-tipped reef sharks.
The Bay is also known as “Captain Cook” with its 27-foot tall monument that marks the spot of Captain Cook’s death in a battle that took place at the bay on February 14th, 1779.
The best area to snorkel is directly in front of the monument, which can be reached by a steep and strenuous hike, kayaking over from the bay, or joining for an adventure on a local tour boat.
Go snorkeling at Kahaluu Beach Park
Located just a few miles south of Kailua-Kona’s main downtown on Alii Drive, Kahaluu Beach Park is one of the best snorkeling spots on Big Island, Hawaii.
On any given day, expect to see multiple Honu (Hawaiian sea turtle) and various species of tropical fish in the water. Kahaluu is also known for being a beginner-friendly surfing spot with surf schools and board rentals. When snorkeling, it is best to stay on the south end of the bay to avoid surfers.
Kahaluu Beach Park is a great snorkeling spot for families with young ones or those without much snorkeling experience, due to its convenience of parking and shade. Whether you rent a snorkel and fins from a local company at the beach, grab a Hawaiian shaved ice, or learn to surf, this beach has something for everyone.
Two-Step at Honaunau Bay (The City of Refuge)
Often referred to as “The City of Refuge,” Honaunau Bay is located 22 miles south of Kona and is not to be missed. This famous snorkeling spot is called Pae’a, otherwise known as Two-Step.
Known for its crystal clear visibility and calm waters, Two-step is one of Hawaii’s top snorkeling spots. With just two steps to enter the water, this is an exceptionally convenient spot for the family to snorkel together. Look out for a pod of dolphins swimming south and for Hawaiian sea turtle’s feeding on seaweed in the shallows.
Before or after snorkeling, make sure to check out Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park otherwise known as “The City of Refuge.” This is a wonderfully preserved ancient Hawaiian village that was literally a place of refuge for those trying to escape the death penalty. Easily spend half of the day walking through the park’s preserved Ki’i and cooling off with a snorkeling adventure at Two-Step.
Don’t miss the chance to go snorkeling at Kamakahonu (King Kam) Beach
Located in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel in downtown Kailua-Kona right on Alii Drive, this is one of the most convenient snorkeling spots on the Big Island, Hawaii.
The name Kamakahonu originated from a rock that looked like a turtle’s eye that is now covered by the Kailua Pier. To get the most out of your snorkeling experience at King Kam Beach, wake up early and swim out of the bay and to the right for the best visibility and sea-life. Spend the rest of your day exploring the many sights and adventures the Big Island has to offer.
Night Swim with Manta Rays
This technically isn’t a “snorkel spot” but is a must-do on any Big Island vacation!
The Island of Hawaii is globally known for its once in a lifetime opportunity to snorkel with the second largest species of manta rays. The most popular places to swim with these magical sea creatures are “Manta Village ” in Keahou and outside of the Mauna Lani Resort.
Around sunset, boats leave the harbors of Kona and travel to one of the two sites where they shine lights into the water to attract plankton in which the Manta Rays feed on. Adventurous snorkelers jump into dark waters and hold onto giant rafts with floodlights that point down towards the sea-floor as manta rays put on a truly magnificent show!