Best Snorkeling In Hawaii

For some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii you need look no further than the Big Island, and in particular the Kona coast. Brilliant coral reefs, deep underwater crevices and lava tubes, an incredible variety of fish, sea urchins, green sea turtles, and other interesting creatures, lie just below the surface of our calm, crystal-clear blue ocean waters. Your Big Island snorkeling adventures will undoubtedly prove to be the most rewarding of all your Hawaii snorkeling.

Even if you've never snorkeled, the calm water off the west coast of the Big Island makes this a great place to learn. Snorkeling in Hawaii can be as simple as renting a mask, fins and snorkel from any of the local rental shops. Keep it in your car and go whenever the mood suits you. We like to bring our snorkel gear along anytime we're near the shore, just in case.

Butterfly Fish Snorkeling Big Island

Stay alert and use caution whenever snorkeling on the Big Island, as currents and conditions can change quickly. If you prefer to go with a guide, several companies offer boat tours. Also a good idea to invest in a cheap pair of water shoes to get around on the rocks.

Moorish Idol Big Island Snorkeling

Snorkeling on the Big Island often means swimming in areas where coral is prominent. Keep in mind that coral is a fragile, living organism (actually an animal) that is a critical component of the ocean ecosystem. Oils from your skin and certain sunscreens can harm the coral. Most of today's popular sunscreens are not reef friendly. Try to use a sunscreen that is biodegradable and mineral-based or even labeled "reef safe."

When swimming in and around coral, make every effort to avoid stepping on, touching or drifting into it. Oil from your skin can kill the coral polyps. If you need to stand up to clear your mask, try to do it in an area where you won't risk stepping on and damaging the coral.

Colorful Coral Big Island Snorkeling

Check out these great snorkeling spots on the Big Island:

  • Though deeper, Two Step and Honaunau Bay adjacent to Pu'uhonua o Honaunau can be almost as nice as Kealakekua when conditions are right, particularly on a clear, sunny day.
  • Puako, 40 minutes north of Kona, has a phenomenal reef, especially popular for diving.
  • For a truly unique experience, the Kapoho tide pools offer perhaps the best snorkeling on the east coast of the Big Island, especially on a sunny day.

Want to sign on for a snorkel boat tour?

  • We particularly enjoy the 4-5 hour Zodiac Raft and Snorkel Adventure to Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument. A maximum of 16 guests per boat make this a much more personalized experience than many other commercial tours. Their rigid hull inflatable boats will speed you across the open ocean from Honokohau Marina north of Kailua-Kona, stopping to snorkel at Kealakekua Bay. With a knowledgeable and friendly captain, this ride is a real hoot! The trip follows the coastline, exploring sea caves and lava tubes. All equipment, beverages and a picnic snack are provided. 
  • For a slightly more elaborate option to Kealakekua Bay that includes a tropical breakfast and BBQ lunch, come aboard the Fair Wind, a deluxe catamaran with its own waterslide and other amenities.
  • More experienced snorkelers will find excitement in Pawai Bay north of the Old Airport Beach. Because the shoreline here can be surgy, the best way to experience this very interesting area is with the Kamanu Charters sail and snorkel to Pawai Bay.
  • For our friends along the Kohala coast and resorts north of Kailua-Kona, we offer a unique snorkeling opportunity, a 3.5 hour tour via catamaran complete with breakfast, lunch and open bar. Starting just south of Hapuna Beach, this tour travels north along the coast to some interesting snorkeling spots.
  • Most convenient snorkeling for guests at the Waikoloa and Mauna Lani resorts along the Kohala coast comes courtesy of Mauna Lani Sea Adventures.
  • For an absolutely out-of-this-world experience, join us for a night snorkel with Manta Rays. Watch these graceful creatures dance under water like "Butterflies of the sea."

If you're on the Big Island, you owe it to yourself to experience what is arguably the best snorkeling in Hawaii. Enjoy!


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