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Top 15 Best Snorkeling Spots on the Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii has a massive coastline that’s so long it would take weeks to walk it all. Here we focus on some of the best snorkel spots. Some are a bit more challenging to access while others are a cinch. We focus on the spots that have the best experience underwater first. Read on to find out more about what makes each snorkeling spot one of the best and how to get there.

Top 15 Best Snorkeling Spots on the Big Island

  1. Kealakekua Bay – Captain Cook Monument
  2. Pawai Bay
  3. Two Step
  4. Suck e’m Up
  5. Kaloko National Park
  6. Fishbowl
  7. Road to the Sea
  8. Ho’okena Beach
  9. Keahou Point
  10. Kahaluu Beach
  11. Kailua Bay
  12. Manini Beach
  13. Ke’ei Beach
  14. Puako end of the road
  15. Mauna Lani

Click on a spot above to see it on google maps and get directions or check out the Best Big Island Snorkeling Spots map

 

For the right snorkel gear check out our Gear for Snorkeling on the Big Island, Hawaii Guide

For even more detailed ideas get the book Snorkel Hawaii from our Shop in Town

Snorkel Hawaii book Cover for the Big Island

 

Kealakekua Bay – Captain Cook Monument

One of the most coveted and popular destinations for snorkeling on the Big Island Kealakekua bay or K-bay has it all except it is challenging to get there. It is arguably one of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island let alone Hawaii.

Highlights

  • Home of the Historical Captain Cook Monument
  • Massive Cliff Face Provides Dramatic View
  • Many Tours go here
  • Lots of fish
  • Nice shallow reef

Access

There are 4 ways to get to the Captain Cook monument area of Kealakekua Bay.

  • Hike down a steep cliff
  • Take a boat tour
  • Kayak Tour
  • A long swim across the bay

Many people take the boat tour option because it’s the easiest and most comfortable. The crew will give you gear to snorkel and food and drinks. Along the way you may even see whales or other critters. The hike is rather steep and the way down is not so bad but the way up is very steep and you will end up hot and sweaty at the top. Most people complain about the hike. It’s important to bring plenty of water. To take a Kayak you must rent from one of the approved Kayak tour providers on the island like Kona Boys.

Pawai Bay

Located right in Kona town Pawai bay has plenttiful coral teeming with reef life.

Highlights

  • Beautiful Reef
  • Lots of fish
  • Interesting Reef structure
  • Off the beaten path
  • Close to Town

Access

The best way to get to Pawai Bay is to take a snorkeling tour with Kona Snorkel Trips. We offer a morning snorkel that takes you to 2 different snorkeling spots. One of them can me this beautiful place.

Join one of the many Kona snorkel tours

 

2 Step

2 Step used to be a sleepy little lava beach with a few tourists coming down to hop in the water. Canoes and fishermen launch at the shallow boat ramp. The Pu’uhonua O’ Honaunau National park is located just south of 2-step. Ever since the closing of Kealakekua bay to easy access by Kayak 2-step has exploded in popularity. It’s easy in and easy out as well as good protection from winter and summer swell that makes this such a great spot. Though with it’s increase in popularity it can be a challenge to find parking. People used to come here to swim with dolphins though that has lately been discouraged by locals and authorities who will occasionally stop by to ensure the marine mammal protection rules are being followed. An exclusion zone is being proposed to limit access to this already overcrowded area to protect the dolphins while they rest.

Highlights

  • Beautiful Reef
  • Lots of fish
  • Easy in easy out
  • Located next to the City of Refuge National Monument

Access

A 45 minute drive south of Kona the parking is one of the greatest challenges.

  • 2 Steps and you’re in the ocean!

 

Suck E’m Up

Only accessible by boat Suck E’m Up is a popular spot for scuba diving because the reef is so good here. It’s located within a 5 minute boat ride from Honokohau Harbor. The lava rock formations make for many interesting pockets and points where schools of fish hide and sometimes take cover in the shade. There’s a huge variety of marine life to be found in this area. You never know what might cruise by. It’s also well protected from the winter swell so on rougher days you might see several boats tucked in here.

Highlights

  • Beautiful Reef
  • Interesting Lava Formations
  • Lots of fish

Access

Kaloko National Park

Located just to the north of the Honokohau Harbor Kaloko-Honokohau National park is just onshore from this spot. The reef is nice but the main feature of this spot is all of the arches. If you are a competent snorkeler you can swim through these many arches. Having trouble getting down and staying down? Take a freediving course with Kona Freedivers.

Highlights

  • Lots of Arches
  • Interesting Lava Formations

Access

 

Fishbowl

Located just south of Honokohau Harbor this secluded little cove is great because it is home to many different kinds of fish and invertebrates like nudibranchs. Shaped like an underwater amphitheater this spot is a great option for anyone looking to bring their family on a private Kona snorkel tour. The shallows have steep rock faces, caves, and arches. It’s such a unique spot and because of it’s steep drop-off and nearness to the open ocean you may even get lucky and see some pelagic animals or even whales just outside! Check out this video by Kona Freedivers of the spot.

Highlights

  • Loads of fish
  • Interesting Lava Formations

Access

 

Road to the Sea

One of the most breathtaking yet difficult to access spots on the list. If you can make it down you will be rewarded with sand dunes with dramatic views of the rugged coastline. A green sand beach, and some of the best coral on the island. The sheer underwater lava walls provide for dramatic underwater scenery and the potential to see pelagic animals swim by.

Highlights

  • Pristine Beautiful Reef
  • Dramatic coast with green sand beach
  • Lots of fish
  • Underwater Lava sheer walls

Access

Ho’okena Beach

A sleepy little local fishing village located south of Two step with a black sand beach and camping sites. This charming little beach park has ample shade with tables and decent surf for kids. The long shallow entry makes for good snorkeling far off shore. The black sand makes for a different experience with some interesting coral patches with critters surrounding them. The sand can have a few surprises as well.

a tent on a black sand beach in hawaii

Highlights

  • Black Sand
  • Shade
  • Lots of shallow water
  • Shower

Access

  • Shore

 

Keahou Point

Keahou Bay is home to a harbor and canoe club. Only a few boats are moored here but they are a consideration when transiting the area. It’s best to have a float to let boaters know you’re in the water here. You can get in the water near the hotel using a ladder that is removed at night. Another access point if your staying on the north side of the bay in a place like Keauhou Gardens is the beach on the north end but you must swim through the harbor from that route.

a close up of a plant

If you’re staying on the north end you can enter at the beach by the canoe club

Highlights

  • Protected from south swell
  • Schools of Akule
  • Manta Cleaning Station

Access

Kahalu’u Beach

Located near downtown Kona this is one of the most popular snorkeling spots in Kona. The entry can be a bit sketchy because snorkelers have to crawl over the rocks. The snorkeling is surprisingly good here with plenty of shallow water and coral to see in 6 feet of water. A lifeguard is on duty most of the day. It’s also oddly a great surf spot where the surf is immediately to the north of the snorkel spot.

Highlights

  • Close to Kona
  • Shallow
  • Lifeguard

Access

  • Shore

Kailua Bay

Located in the heart of Kona, Kailua Bay is where all the action is. The entry and exit is relatively easy if the swell is down and the snorkeling is great and shallow from the very beginning. Stay near shore for the best coral. Massive schools of akule fish can be seen here and sometimes dolphins and other interesting critters. It’s surprisingly good for its location and business. You can rent a set of snorkel gear across the street from Ali’i Adventures and hop in where the stairs lead into the swim lane start for the Iron Man.

Aerial view of kailua bay with a school of akule fish balled up in the water

Schools of Akule Fish School to form Massive Bait Balls in Kailua Bay

Highlights

  • Lots of shopping and dining nearby
  • Shallow
  • Easy Entry and Exit
  • Showers

Access

  • Shore

 

Manini Beach

Out of the way from the every day hustle and bustle of the touristy hot spots Manini is a little sleepy neighborhood on the south end of Kealakekua Bay on the other side from the Captain Cook Snorkeling Monument area. The entry is a little tough but the snorkeling is nice. The area is a marine reserve which often makes for better marine life.

Highlights

  • Out of the way from the crowds

Access

Ke’ei Beach

A little neighborhood that ends in a coastal entry where there are plenty of shallow reefs and schooling fish. Easy entry and exit and off the beaten path from the usual hot spots.

Highlights

  • Out of the way from the crowds

Access

 

Puako end of the road

A pleasant drive down Puako road ends in a shady parking area with restrooms and a coral beach. The shallow reef is covered with good marine life and schools of fish. The visibility is usually lower here than other places. Swimming further out leads to a reef drop-off and lava channels with lots of lava tubes, arches and tunnels. Fun for snorkelers who like to freedive down a bit deeper.

Highlights

  • Out of the way from the crowds

Access

  • Shore

 

Mauna Lani

The entry is easy from the sandy beach here with nice corals and a shower and shade nearby. The kings fishponds are directly onshore and make for some interesting exploration.

Highlights

  • Easy Access
  • Good corals
  • Shade
  • Showers

Access

  • Shore

Not sure where you want to go? Check out out our Kona snorkel tours where we take you to some of the best snorkeling spots Big Island has!