Love Big Island’s snorkeling guide for the Big Island. Our snorkel tours are the best for any level of snorkeler from beginner to pro. Our crew is professional, informative and ensure your trip with us is a safe and enjoyable activity to add to your wonderful memories of the Big Island.
Hawaiʻi is famous for its warm tropical waters and extremely diverse marine life. The waters around the Big Island are teeming with tropical fish of every size and color, and snorkeling is the perfect way to explore this beautiful underwater world.
Snorkeling is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Snorkeling gear is easy to carry along and cheap to rent and is an ‘essential’ addition to your sunscreen and towels to take to the beach (map of big island beaches).
And the best thing? there is very little to learn. If you are snorkeling for the first time you will need a little bit of practice to get used to breathing through your snorkel, but that is all there is to it!
FAVORITE SNORKELING SPOTS ON THE BIG ISLAND
We think that if you put on your snorkeling gear and start swimming, you [a] will never get bored, but [b] will be busy for a long, long time. Because you probably do not have the luxury of time, we have selected three of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island. We recommend the following because of their abundance of marine life and easy accessibility.
- Kahalu’u Beach Park: Kahalu’u Beach is also famous for it’s Honu, or sea turtles. On any given day you’ll be able to see quite a few of them feeding on seaweed and sunning themselves on the warm rocks. If you are staying in Kona, its proximity makes the beach park an ideal place for last minute snorkeling. Getting there and back plus an hour of leisure snorkeling will only cost you two hours! Read more on our website about the Kahalu’u beach park.
- Kealakekua Bay: Kealakekua, also known as “Captain Cook”, is an underwater marine sanctuary with dolphins and sea turtles. To get to the best spot, you need to take a long hike or rent a kayak. If you are not into kayaking yourself, you can find many snorkeling boat tours in Kona to visit this secluded sanctuary.
- Honaunau Bay – the City of Refuge: The Travel Channel named Honaunau Bay one of “America’s Best Beaches 2004”. A big reason for this is that due to a very advantageous layout of the bay, the water is almost always calm and the waters have exceptional visibility most of the year.
SNORKELING SPOTS NEAR KONA
The Kona (west) side of the Big Island definitely wins the prize for best snorkeling coast of the Big Island. The calm waters and many beaches offer snorkeling spots that are superior to those on the Hilo side.
Our 3 favorite Big Island spots are on the Kona side, but there are many more. As a matter of fact, there are so many good spots to go snorkeling close to Kona that we have created a separate list!
A GOOD SNORKELING SPOT IN HILO
There are not that many good snorkeling spots on the east (Hilo) side of the Big Island. The reasons for this is that the water conditions on this side of the Big Island are often rougher. This means that there are fewer beaches and that the visibility in the water is often not good.
Having said that, we have one clear favorite to go to if you want to do some snorkeling close to Hilo:
- Richardsons Ocean Park is sheltered from the surf and includes a small black sand beach and some tide pools. The water here is shallow and calm, and turtles are a common sight. Richardsons is hands down the best snorkeling spot close to Hilo.
WHERE CAN YOU FIND THE FISH?
If your main goal in snorkeling is to see many fish keep in mind the following: fish need shelter and food, so the best place to look for them is near coral and the rocks.
If you are entering the water somewhere where there are only rocks, be careful not to step on coral or sea urchins. A sandy strip is the best place to get into the water.
MALAMA KAI: HAWAIIAN REEF ETIQUETTE
The ocean is Hawaii’s most important resource, and it has an incredibly fragile and diverse population. More than a quarter of the sea life here is found nowhere else on the planet. It is important for everyone – locals and visitors – to practice an ancient Hawaiian tradition: Malama kai. Loosely translated it means “take care of the ocean”.
SNORKELING SAFETY TIPS:
- Be prepared. Use high-quality snorkel gear. Fins, mask, de-fogger and sunscreen are a good start. A fish ID card finishes of your gear nicely. Booties to protect your feet sometimes also come in handy.
- Be careful: Never snorkel in (unsafe) high surf conditions. If you are a beginner, start in shallow water and only venture further out when you feel comfortable. As soon as you start feeling anxious, return to the coast.
- Always snorkel with a buddy: Snorkeling with a companion is more fun and much safer. In the event of an emergency, your snorkel partner could get help and save your life.
- Use your gear properly: Ask the personnel at the rental shop if there is anything you need to know about the gear, be sure to ask how to clear your mask under water (generally: while floating with your feet down and your face up: exhale a burst of air through your mouth to blow the water out).
- Time your snorkeling properly: The best time to snorkel or dive is generally in the morning. Water conditions are most clear and the fish are more active.
- Be respectful and have fun: The reef is a living animal! It may look like plants and rocks, but in reality, it is made up out of millions of tiny animals. Only rest on the sandy bottom or bare lava.