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Top Snorkel Destinations on Hawaii Island’s West Coast

Interested in exploring the underwater world? The Big Island, and specifically the West Coast of the island, offers some of the most pristine snorkeling in the world. From South Kona to North Kohala, every location on this list has something special and worthy of exploring. Whether you are a first-time snorkeler or an experienced diver, the Big Island offers an underwater paradise for everyone.

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Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle

Water is as clear as it gets on the Big Island due to its volcanic nature and is well known as being the best in all of the Hawaiian Island chain. While exploring you will find beautiful coral structures teaming with fish, majestic honu (green sea turtle), Hawaiian spinner dolphins, and even manta ray. So check out this list for some of the best snorkeling locations on the Big Island and get ready for many unforgettable experiences!

Kealakekua Bay – “Captain Cook”

Located just 17 miles South of Kona, Kealakekua Bay is one of the most impressive snorkeling locations you could ever find. The bay is also well known as “Captain Cook” since it was where the great explorer first discovered the Hawaiian Islands.

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Captain Cook Snorkel tour boat | Photo Credit: Sea Quest Rafting & Snorkeling Adventures

Kealakekua Bay is a unique ecosystem that provides deep water for spinner dolphins as well as rich coral life along the coast. Due to difficulty of direct land access, the reef is good for snorkeling.

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Snorkelers with the Captain Cook monument in the backdrop | Photo credit: Sea Quest Rafting & Snorkeling Adventures

You may rent a kayak in the area, but we recommend chartering one of the many great snorkeling boat tour companies that offer you a guided and relaxing visit.

Kahaluu Beach Park

Kahaluu is a perfect place for beginners, someone interested in seeing an abundance of fish, or anyone who is looking for a quick swim. Located off Alii Drive and in close proximity to Kailua-Kona, this beach is great for those who are new to the idea of swimming with sea life!

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Kahaluu Beach Park, Kailua-Kona, HI

This protected beach has a sea wall that makes snorkeling a breeze as well as offers one of the highest concentrations of fish on the island. You will also find plenty of sea turtles at Kahaluu! If you donʻt spot them munching on seaweed during your swim, look to the beach and rocks where they love to soak in the sun.

Honaunau Bay – “Two Step”

Dive into this underwater heaven at our personal favorite due to ease of access and unique coral formations. Located about 20 miles South of Kona, here you can find everything from schools of yellow tangs, moray eels, honu, and spinner dolphins.

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Snorkeler at “Two Step” swimming with a spinner dolphin

Traditionally called Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park or “Place of Refuge,” this bay boasts impressive Hawaiian history. The name “Two Step” is often used for the method of entering the water by easily stepping down twice off the lava rocks and into the Pacific Ocean.

This large, semi-protected bay gives you ample space to explore the reef in shallow and deeper water. Just a quick swim to the far right side of the bay and you are surrounded by deep blue ocean where you can search for pods of dolphins!

Kauona Bay – Mauna Kea Beach

Highly regarded as one of the best beaches on the Island and on the Travel Channelʻs “The Worldʻs All Time Best Beaches” list, you may find it hard to leave the comfort of your beach chair.

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Kauona Bay | Photo credit: Fletcher Films

Located about 30 miles north of Kailua-Kona, this Kohala Coast beach has everything you could ever dream of in a tropical paradise. Kauona Bay has soft white sand and a gentle sloping beach that is great for swimming and snorkeling. On the far right side of the generously sized beach you will find Manta Ray Point. An abundance of tropical fish and coral heads are just steps from the beach and run along the coast.

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Manta Ray

Stick around until dusk and immerse yourself in the beauty of the manta ray. Mauna Kea Resort shines large lights into the water, which attract plankton, the main food source for manta rays. Witness the beauty of these gentle giants from above or venture into the dark for an unforgettable close encounter!

More Information

Find your special home in paradise and nearby some of these great snorkeling areas by contacting Angela Fletcher, R(S).

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Julie keller

June 3, 2016

Great blog Angela. I’m inspired to take my son snorkeling this summer!

Angela Fletcher

June 3, 2016

Mahalo, Julie! I certainly hope you make it out snorkeling with your son ASAP! It will be so worth it. 🙂

Julie keller

June 3, 2016

Great blog Angela. I’m inspired to take my son snorkeling this summer!

Angela Fletcher

June 3, 2016

Mahalo, Julie! I certainly hope you make it out snorkeling with your son ASAP! It will be so worth it. 🙂

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