SNORKEL HAWAII’S CORAL REEFS
AND BE AMAZED BY THE MARINE LIFE!
See Hawaii’s Marine Life
Snorkeling in Hawaii is a treat – with many species of colorful reef fish, sea turtles and even dolphins. At night, you can snorkel and see manta rays – huge filter-feeding rays without stingers – glide through the water near bright lights.
Snorkeling is a great activity for families and couples. Teach your kids about the ocean and watch them be amazed by the diversity of life there, or enjoy snorkeling alongside your sweetie. See who can find the most unique fish!
Plenty to Explore
There are lots of easy-access snorkeling areas with calm waters. Two of our favorites are the Mauna Lani Beach Club and Two-Step. Scroll down for more suggestions and maps!
SNORKEL TO DISCOVER HAWAII’S UNDERWATER WORLD!
With beautiful coral reefs and sheltered bays lining Hawaii Island’s west coast, there is plenty to explore while snorkeling. Guests staying in our legal vacation homes have complimentary use of our snorkel and beach gear, so you don’t have to pay for rentals! Here are a few of our favorite spots on the Kohala and Kona coast!
GREAT SNORKELING SPOTS ON THE KOHALA COAST
There are several great places for snorkeling within Mauna Lani and the Kohala Coast:
The Mauna Lani Beach Club is one of our favorite places for quick, easy-access snorkeling. Just minutes away from our legal vacation homes in Mauna Lani, you can drive or take a golf cart to the Beach Club and spend some time admiring the marine life in Makaiwa Bay. We have seen lots of yellow tangs, moorish idol, and parrotfish here, as well as a spotted eagle ray! The bay here is very sheltered, so this is usually a safe place if you are inexperienced or snorkeling with kids.
Beach 69 is a local favorite for picnics, swimming, and snorkeling. You can see beautiful reefs and colorful fish here, especially when the water is calm and clear like in the photo below. Make sure to check out the reefs at the north end of the beach! The reefs here continue all the way to Hapuna Beach (though this is quite a long swim). For more detailed information, check out this snorkeling guide.
Experienced snorkelers can access some amazing snorkeling at Hapuna Beach. You can find great reefs at the north and south ends of the beach. The better stretch of reef (although more exposed) starts just past the south end of the beach, where the white sand beach gives way to a beautiful rocky coastline. This area is unprotected, though, so make sure you are aware of the currents and surf conditions. If the conditions are rough at all, stay out of this area.
For more detailed information about snorkeling here, check out this snorkeling guide.
This is our favorite beach to visit, and it has amazing snorkeling too! There is great snorkeling at both ends of Mauna Kea Beach. The south (left) side of the beach has a nice reef that you can snorkel in a straight line. The north end is more exposed (better for experienced snorkelers and strong swimmers) and tends to have rougher waves. If the conditions are calm, the reefs are more interesting at this end of the beach, with more fish and even sea turtles sometimes.
For more detailed information about snorkeling at Mauna Kea Beach, check out this snorkeling guide.
GREAT SNORKELING SPOTS NEAR KAILUA-KONA
There are several great places for snorkeling near Kailua-Kona:
Two-Step in Honaunau Bay
We love snorkeling at Two-Step! This popular snorkeling area is named for the easy entry where the rocks look like two steps into the water. As soon as you enter the water, you will see schools of tangs, wrasses, and other reef fish swimming amidst the corals. There is plenty to explore here as you swim over reefs at different depths. Snorkelers often see Hawaiian spinner dolphins and sea turtles here too. The video featured at the top of this page is from Two-Step. For more information, check out our page on this amazing snorkeling spot or this guide to snorkeling Two-Step.
Kahalu’u Beach Park in Kona offers sheltered, easy-to-access snorkeling with a great variety of fish species to be seen. The water can be cloudy close to shore due to freshwater springs, but if you swim about 100 feet out to the middle of the sheltered area, you will find warm, clear water with stunning coral reefs and tons of fish. There are often sea turtles here that you can see while snorkeling! If you see sea turtles, remember not to touch or harrass them so that they don’t become stressed and leave. You and your family can also observe marine life in the tidepools found at the south end of the beach. Although the bay is sheltered by the breakwater, don’t snorkel here during high surf events because the rip currents can be quite strong. For more information about snorkeling here, check out this snorkeling guide.
Kealakekua Bay & Captain Cook Monument
As a protected area, Kealakekua Bay has incredibly abundant and diverse marine life. Combine this with clear, calm waters and you have some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii! Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins frequent the bay and visitors often see them while snorkeling here. The reefs by the Captain Cook monument draw visitors from around the world. This is also a historically significant location, being the spot where Captain Cook landed on Hawaii and later died. This important and beautiful bay is remote and the State regulates access to preserve the area for everyone. To access the snorkeling around the Captain Cook monument you can:
- Hike in – Take your snorkel gear on a 4-mile vigorous hike down the mountain from the village of Captain Cook (see Big Island Hikes’ write-up on this trail for more info). Bring plenty of snacks and water if you choose to do this – it’s a long way down (and back up!). Free but challenging.
- Kayak – You can kayak to the Captain Cook monument if you are on a tour with one of the three tour companies licensed to land at the monument (See our Kayaking page for more info). If you go on a tour with an unlicensed company – or if you rent a kayak to go on your own – you will have to tow your boat behind you while you snorkel. This might save you money over the tour, but it will be a less pleasant experience. The three licensed companies are Aloha Kayak Co., Kona Boys, and Adventures in Paradise.
- Snorkel Boat Tour – For a more laid-back experience snorkeling Kealakekua Bay, you can sign up for snorkel cruise. These snorkel boat tours take you to the bay on a catamaran and let you get off to snorkel while they are anchored. This is a great option if you have never snorkeled before – you get a lesson on how to snorkel safely and easy access to some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. Depending on the tour operator, you can ride a large catamaran (least bumpy and easiest to get on and off), smaller rigid-hull inflatable boats, or a zodiac. If you are interested in joining boat tour to snorkel in Kealakekua Bay, check out Fairwind Cruises, Sea Paradise, and Sea Quest.
For more details about snorkeling at the Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay, see this snorkeling guide.
WANT TO SNORKEL WITH MANTA RAYS?
The following companies offer boat and kayak tours to snorkel with the rays near Kona:
Fairwind Hawaii Ocean Cruises – Large boat (Hula Kai) – Keauhou Bay in Kona
Sea Paradise Snorkel & Sail Cruises – Catamaran – Keauhou Bay in Kona
Ocean Encounters – Fishing Boat – Departs from Honokohau Harbor in Kona
Kamanu Charters – Zodiac or Catamaran Boat – Departs from Honokohau Harbor in Kona
Aloha Kayak Co. – Kayak to snorkel with mantas in Keauhou Bay
If you are a licensed diver, you should check out the SCUBA tours offered by Jack’s Diving Locker or Big Island Divers. Both of these companies offer spots for snorkelers as well as SCUBA divers – perfect if you have your SCUBA certificate but you’re traveling with non-divers.
We recommend contacting organisations directly to get the most up to date information about their operations.