Get Your Mask Ready! Snorkeling on the Big Island

Get your fins on and mask ready when on the Big Island, an ocean lover’s paradise.

The Big Island is well known for its impressive Hawaiian landscapes, beaches, and the mesmerizing glittering water. It has a magnificent combination of unusual exotic beauty that offers soothing and relaxing experiences either you live here or visiting.

If you’re looking for a fun-fill adventure you should consider snorkeling. No need to carry heavy gear. Your face mask and a snorkel will do enough, although having fins is highly recommended. Currents can be strong, and fins will make it a bit easier.

Thanks to the protected marine areas (MPA) that surround the islands, I would say Hawaii snorkeling offers some of the most fascinating underwater sights. You will see dolphins, turtles, manta rays, whales, gorgeous fish, sharks, and more.

Manta ray and divers

Hawaii fish comes in different shapes, sizes and behaviors. Many come in groups and many more swim solo! Most of the fish are quite intensely colored, and many Hawaii fish can even change colors at will! Just hang in the water awhile and watch. You’ll be surprised and delighted by the life you see.

Yellow Tang Fish – Lau-i-Pala – the most easily recognized of all Hawaiian reef fishes.

Here are my favorite snorkeling spots on the Big Island — with their beautiful marine life, accessibility, and clear water.

Snorkeling fun!

Kahalu’u Beach Park

Kahaluu Beach Park takes lots of pride in its natural beauty, recreational activities, and straight up fun. Some visitors refer to Kahalu’u beach park as “Snorkel Beach.” Located 5 miles / 16 minutes south of Kailua-Kona, it is also a popular location for surf lessons as the surf break on the right side of the bay. The water at Kahalu’u is shallow and relatively calm making it great for kids and first-time snorkelers. More than 100 different species of reef fish can be found along these shores as well as Hawaiian Sea Turtles, the ultimate fan favorite in Hawaii.

Honu – symbol of wisdom and good luck | Photo credit

The Kahaluu Beach Park has a lifeguard on duty, change room, shower and one of the best picnic spots on the island. You will also find a snack wagon, gear rental, and even lock boxes you can rent to place your valuables.

Kealakekua Bay

Thousand-year-old Kealakekua bay

Located on the western coast of Hawai‘i near the village of Captain Cook, Kealakekua Bay is about 17 miles / 30 minutes south of Kailua-Kona. I was floored with how beautiful Kealakekua Bay is, also known as “Captain Cook” after the 27-foot tall monument commemorating the death of Capt. Cook at this bay on February 14th, 1779.

A perfect place to enjoy the wonders of Kealakekua Bay.

You can reach it by boat tour, hike, kayak, or have private ocean access right in your own backyard. Kealakekua Bay is an underwater marine sanctuary where you often can find dolphins and sea turtles. Here the abundant coral growth and marine life can be seen in waters of about 5 feet.

Coral reef and marine life

Honaunau Bay (a.k.a. Two Step)

South Kona Coast

A snorkeling area lies adjacent to the park among the coral gardens of Honaunau Bay. Located about 21miles/ 40 minutes south of Kona. It is a popular destination for both Big Island snorkeling and scuba diving. Snorkeling Two Step is always a fantastic experience. First, locate the two natural steps carved into the lava rocks, which gave the spot its nickname. If you have a hard time locating them just ask the other snorkelers present (you will rarely be alone) to point them out to you.

The best part is that the water at Honaunau Bay is almost always calm and has exceptional visibility most of the year. You will see parrot fish, tang, surgeon fish, moray eels, turtles and Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins so don’t forget to bring your underwater camera.

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park | Photo by Jeremy Bishop

It won’t be difficult to fall in love with all the creatures you’ll meet. You will come away with an appreciation for the  coral reefs a better understanding of why it is so important to protect the ocean and the environment.

Please remember to use reef-safe sunscreen to prevent sunburn while snorkeling and to protect our beautiful and healthy reefs. Hawaii is the first state in the US to ban the sale of sunscreen containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate, ushering in a new era of reef safe sunscreen. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2021, but many visitors and locals are already using reef safe sun protection. You can find organic mineral reef-safe sunscreen by Little Hands Hawaii at Magics Beach Grill Gift Shop.

Photo credit: Little Hands Hawaii Website

For help in planning your trip to the Big Island, make sure to check out Hawai’i Life Vacations as well as the Trip Advisor’s Island of Hawaii Vacation Page.

Feel free to share your Big Island experience and add your own favorite snorkeling spots in the comments below.

I am passionate about sharing the love of the Big Island and staying true to what the island has to offer. Whether you are looking to rent, sell or buy, I’m here to help and share this slice of paradise with you.

Wishing You Much Aloha and A Hui Hou!


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