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Why Kona Snorkeling & Kona Snorkel Tours are the Best In Hawaii

view of Kona's rugged coastline from the air with 2 boats sitting in the water near shore and a reef below

Why Kona Snorkeling & Kona Snorkel Tours are the Best In Hawaii

Did you know that Kona snorkeling is the best in Hawaii? Do you even know where Kona is? Why would you go anywhere else other than the big island to snorkel? What differentiates Kona snorkel tours from other tours?


a couple floats on the surface of the ocean with reef and fish below


These are the questions you might ask yourself if you are not sure where you want to find the best snorkeling in Hawaii. You could travel to some of the other islands like Kauai, Oahu, Maui, or even Lanai. You will find many things that are great about these islands but when you get in the water to go snorkeling you may be disappointed. There are a few reasons for this, but mostly it’s because of the geography of the Big Island versus the other Islands. The Hawaiian island chain is a very long chain of volcanic hotspots created over millions of years.

The island of Kauai is about 5.1 million years old and is the oldest in the islands that are habitat by humans in the chain. The big island of Hawaii is the newest in the Hawaiian island chain and is only about 700,000 years old. One of the very first in the Hawaiian island chain Midway Auto located thousands of miles away from the big island of Hawaii is approximately 28 million years old. This gives you an idea of the range of Ages among the Hawaiian Islands. This is probably the biggest differentiating factor for why the big island of Hawaii is the best for snorkeling in Hawaii.


What makes for good snorkeling?

There are several factors that contribute to a good snorkeling experience while out on a Kona snorkel tour. We go over these in many of our guides to snorkeling on the Big Island. To break it down into the simplest terms it’s what you can see and how comfortable you will be in the water while you’re seeing it. Kona snorkeling simply has the best visibility, surface conditions, and animal encounters in Hawaii.


Visibility is the distance you will be able to see through the water while viewing underwater. It’s as simple as that. There are many factors that contribute to visibility but primarily it’s the amount of suspended solids in the water. Many of the suspended solids in the water come from dirt or sand. Dirt or sand particles, tiny as they can be, get stirred up by ocean waves and stay in the water contributing to the cloudiness of the water. This means that you may be floating on the surface 10-15 feet above the ocean floor and you may not even be able to see the ocean floor! This is a common occurrence on islands like Maui, Oahu, and Kauai. This can even be the case on the Eastern side of the big island in Hilo.

So if you want the best visibility in Hawaii where are you going to go? The Kona (Western) side of the Big Island is renowned for its excellent visibility among the other Hawaiian Islands.  This is primarily due to the young age of the big island of Hawaii. The Big Island of Hawaii is essentially a massive volcano poking out from the middle of the ocean. The island is the farthest away from any other land mass of anything in the world. It is also the largest mountain in the entire world when measured from the bottom of the sea floor to the tippy top of Mauna Kea at over 13,000 feet high above sea level. Because the big island is a fresh volcano it means that there’s lots of lava here. You can go and visit Volcanoes National Park and see the lava coming out of the ground at the time of this writing. In Kona we don’t grow trees we grow rocks! When you fly into Kona International Airport you’ll see Fields of fresh lava laid out less than 200 years ago by the volcano. It’s this fresh lava that contributes to the excellent visibility while Kona snorkeling here on the big island.

Surface conditions

One of the biggest factors affecting your snorkel and comfort is going to be how rough or comment is on the surface of the water. Since you’re spending the majority of your time snorkeling on the surface of the ocean wouldn’t you want it to be calm and peaceful? This leads to the greatest amount of comfort when Kona snorkeling for most people. If you’re especially prone to seasickness then this is of even greater importance. Kona is a great place for snorkeling because the sea surface is often so calm. That’s because the Western half of the big island is protected and sheltered from some of the large ocean swells that come in from storms far away. The other islands like Maui Oahu and Kauai protect the Western half of the Big Island from the Northwest ocean swells and then the large points near the airport protect the island from the swells coming from the south. And then there are the times when there just isn’t any swell at all. Imagine drifting inches above the beautiful coral reefs fish dancing and schools beneath you all well laying peacefully on the surface floating listlessly. This is a common occurrence here on the big island.

When we plan out our Kona snorkel tours we always aim to find locations that have some of the best surface conditions.


Water Temperature

The water temperature in Kona is typically around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. To learn more about Kona and Big Island water temperatures check out our guide.


Things to See while Kona Snorkeling on a Snorkel Tour

Large Animals

Big Island of Hawaii is renowned in the world for its large animal encounters. This is because we are the largest mountain in the middle of the ocean the farthest away from anything else in the world. The depths Nearshore here allow animals that can dive incredibly deep to come very close to shore. Take for example the Blainesville beaked whale.  the shy creature can dive to depths of over 5,000 m. that’s over 15,000 ft deep. It’s one of the deepest diving mammals in the world. We also have mammals like the sperm whale. These are one of the deepest diving predators in the world as well. They live off the coast here in pods and come in occasionally Nearshore.

Seasonally we get humpback whales coming in from November through April. These are a delight in a treat to see on a Kona snorkel tour and we can encounter them regularly from January through March. We will commonly see them while out on a Captain Cook snorkeling tour, or our Deluxe am snorkeling tour. Afternoon snorkeling tours are also another good time to spot these creatures playing, spouting, jumping, and Performing all sorts of other shenanigans.


Small animals

Kona has some really fantastic marine life. This includes such animals as puffer fish, box fish, eels, octopus, yellow tangs, parrot fish, and colorful nudibranchs.  It is common while Kona snorkeling to see many of these creatures. We take care on her Kona snorkel tours to point all these creatures out when we see them.


Lava rock features

One of the big differentiators about snorkeling here on the big island is d underwater reefscape. The lava has created some truly unique underwater features. We have many such features like pinnacles, arches, caves, Caverns, and other strange features that are dramatic and impressive to see underwater. This truly differentiates Kona snorkeling from snorkeling on other parts of the Big Island or any of the other Islands.

underwater view of a coral

Underwater lava arches from our afternoon Pawai snorkel tour


Learn More about Kona Snorkel Tours

a group of people in a boat docked next to a body of water

A group prepares to depart for the Manta Ray night Snorkel Kona Snorkel Tours Nightly Excursion


There’s so much more to know about Kona snorkel tours that we are not going to cover here because we’ve covered it in our other guides. here at Kona snorkel trips we specialize in snorkeling on the big island and write extensively about this topic on our site. To learn more about Kona snorkel tour options check out our guide. Or visit our Kona snorkel tours options page to  check availability and book a tour with us.

Kona snorkel trips is Hawaii’s top rated most reviewed snorkeling company. We’ve taken thousands of snorkelers on tours to see the manta ray night snorkel, and our beautiful Kona reefs. Weather it’s a private Kona boat charter or a group of enthusiastic snorkelers we love showing you our underwater playground.  We look forward to seeing you soon!.