One of the outdoor activities we love most when visiting the sunny south is snorkeling. From memorable trips to Barbados, Roatan and Samana, we were very excited to check out all the best Big Island snorkeling spots. Here are a few of our favorites.
Kahalu’u Beach Park
If I had to choose one snorkeling location on the Big Island that was ideal for novice snorkelers or people with children, it would be Kahalu’u Beach Park. This spot combines easy shore access and shallow and calm crystal clear water with a huge abundance of marine life. And it’s conveniently located only 5 miles south of Kailua-Kona.
This charming little cove is almost completely protected by a submerged rock wall which makes for calm waters on most days. There are numerous varieties of colourful tropical fish and your chances of seeing a sea turtle are very high. One thing I love about this place is all the signs along with park staff that are there to educate people about how to protect the reef and respect its inhabitants. I wish every popular snorkeling destination was lucky enough to have people around telling people not to stand on the coral or chase after sea turtles. I totally support the “leave no trace” philosophy when travelling.
Also referred to as Two Step for the “two step” rock platform where you enter the water, Honaunau Bay is an absolutely spectacular snorkeling location and probably our favorite on the Big Island. This spot is approximately 25 minutes from Kailua-Kona.
One word of advice, arrive as early as you can. On our three visits, we entered the water around 9:30am and were one of only a few groups of people snorkelling. By early afternoon, the crowd explodes (especially when tour boats start to roll in) and the experience is not quite as tranquil or enjoyable.
The coral structure and variety of marine life here is amazing. In addition to seeing huge schools of colourful fish, we swam with Green sea turtles, Reef sharks, Moray eels and on one spectacular morning, a huge pod of Spinner dolphins. Talk about a magical experience! Being close to such beautiful and graceful animals in their natural habitat is a wonderful memory we won’t soon forget. I’m including a short video for your viewing pleasure.
If you’re looking for an all-around amazing day of hiking and snorkeling, the trek down to Captain Cook’s monument is well worth the effort (and there is some effort involved). But thankfully, you are rewarded with a spectacular snorkeling spot with awe-inspiring coral structures, abundant marine life and crystal clear water.
While the water is fairly shallow near the shoreline, the ocean floor suddenly drops hundreds of feet into a spectacular sapphire blue abyss that is fascinating to witness. In addition to being a top snorkeling site on the Big Island, this spot is an important historical landmark, as it was where Captain James Cook landed on Hawaii and was later killed by the native Hawaiians. There is a white obelisk monument located near the shore to memorialize his death.
As mentioned, the hike down to Kealakekua Bay takes some effort. Specifically, it’s the hike back up that is the most challenging. Especially if you hike down in the morning for a day of snorkeling like we did, and then head back during the blazing afternoon sun with virtually no shade on the way. It’s not that the path is super steep or treacherous, it’s just a constant incline and coupled with the extreme heat, it takes a lot out of you. The deceased cow we passed on the way down was an ominous sign of things to come. Needless to say, bring plenty of water. But the payoff is well worth the pain.
The Big Island was one of our favorite snorkeling destinations yet. Plenty of easy shore accessibility, crystal clear water, tons of interesting marine life and a healthy reef structure. All the ingredients you need for excellent snorkeling. Highly recommended. For now, back to the cage.