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Top 5 Big Island Snorkeling Spots

2 snorkelers look like they are flying underwater with beautiful light overhead and a golden reef below

The big island has A LOT of coastline. So you’d think it would have a ton of great snorkeling spots right? It does but because Hawaii Island is so new it’s fresh lava coasts can be some of the most challenging entry and exit points for snorkeling from shore. Here’s the top snorkeling spots in order of awesomeness. Not all of them are easily accessible. Check out the descriptions to learn more about accessibility. Kona Snorkel Trips offers several Kona snorkel tours to take you straight to the best spots and avoid the crowds.

The Top 5 Big Island Snorkeling Spots

  1. Kealakekua Bay aka Captain Cook Monument aka K bay
  2. Pawai Bay
  3. Manta Ray Night Snorkel at Manta Heaven
  4. Kahaluu Beach
  5. Kailua Bay

 

Kealakekua Bay is Hawaii’s Best Snorkeling Spot

Kealakekua BayView of Kealakekua Bay from Shore

 

 

#1 Kona’s best snorkeling spot | Kealakekua Bay aka Captain Cook Monument aka K-bay

Depth 5-25ft

K-bay is one of those magical places. Dolphins, golden schools of fish, and beautiful corals are prevalent here. While it is possible to hike from shore we would not recommend it. It’s hot, steep, long, and rough. Instead take a Captain Cook Snorkeling tour with one of the local boat operators like Kona Snorkel Trips. They visit the site regularly and aside from being quick and easy they provide all of the gear snacks, drinks, and some of the history behind the site and surrounding area. There’s also a chance to see whales and dolphins among other creatures along the way!

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Snorkeler finds a turtle in Hawaii's beautiful waters

Snorkeler encounters a turtle in Kealakekua Bay near Captain Cook Monument

 

#2 Avoid the Crowds at Pawai Bay

Depth 15-40ft

Pawai bay is located just north of Kailua-Kona downtown. It’s only accessible by by boat. It abounds with schools of fish, nice corals and some unique swim-through’s and arches. Like the other sites its well protected from the common northwest swell making it nice most of the time even when the rest of the coast is under attack by swell. The reefs abound with plentiful schools of multicolor fish. There are a number of arches and overhangs and some spectacular topography giving you plenty of reef to explore. Join our Deluxe Kailua-Kona Morning Snorkel Tour to see this among several other hard to reach pristine snorkeling spots.

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2 snorkelers fly through the ocean over a golden reef

 

#3 Manta Ray Heaven

Depth 10-35ft

Did you know that Kona is the #1 world’s best destination to see manta rays? The manta ray snorkel Kona Snorkel Tours are extremely popular as thousands of visitors gather together at night at manta ray heaven. There are 2 sites suitable for manta ray snorkeling and we will take you to the most active one with a 80-90% chance of seeing these massive creatures. The rays can range in size up to 1200 lbs! They can have up to a 12 foot wingspan. There are approximately 250 manta rays that visit us and we know them all by name! Our experienced guides love to take guests into the water to see these massive flapping beasts up close and personal. It’s not uncommon for people to squeal and curse at the wild encounter that is the manta ray night snorkel.

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#4 Kahalu’u Beach Park aka Snorkel Beach

Depth 5-15ft 1.5-3m

Kahaluu is great for beginning snorkelers. It’s shallow has lifeguards and is frequented by turtles. There’s lots of great reef fish among the coral. The coral itself is not in the best of shape and the entry is a bit of a challenge depending on the tide. It’s important to be sure to use reef safe sunscreen or a sun shirt to keep the coral looking healthy. The best part about Kahaluu is how well protected from swell it is. Probably being the best protected from south swell of any of the spots listed. Ironically Kahaluu is also good for beginning surfers. The swell is consistent and often just the right size but oddly enough it doesn’t seem to have too much negative effect on the snorkeling which is located just south of the surfing.

 

Kahaluu Beach Snorkel Beach Kona

 

 

#5 Kailua Bay downtown Kona Pier

Depth 10-25ft 3-7m

Located in the heart of town this spot is the home of the Ironman world championship race start and finish. Swimmers are often using the buoy system along shore to get a workout. In recent months the state has begun restricting access to the pier area so its best to stay near the swim lane and out of boat traffic. We’ve heard stories of people swimming and 2 whales show up on either side of the swimmer. Or a pod of dolphins will appear out of no-where.

Aerial View of Kailua Bay

See the Dark Spots? Those are schools of Akule Fish tightly packed.

Kailua Bay can have poor visibility because it has a fair amount of sandy bottom. This brings in some interesting critters like triton’s trumpets, goatfish, moi (the royal fish), and dolphins. One of the most unique sights that Kailua Bay offers over all of the others is the akule school which often frequents the area. Akule are a silvery baitfish that school in massive tight balls. They like the shallows and it’s really a delight to swim through them as they flow around you. Truly a unique experience. If you need snorkeling gear or a paddle board to take advantage of this unique spot head across the street to Ali’i Adventures.

 

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Join Hawaii’s Top Rated and Most reviewed snorkel company for some of Hawaii’s best snorkeling. We make it easy to find the best snorkeling in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii that are inaccessible from shore.

a small boat in a body of water