coral reef and fishes swimming

7 Of The Best Places For Snorkeling In Kona

Kona is a district on the west coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. It’s a beautiful place of lush greenery, majestic mountains, clear aqua blue waters, and of course, excellent snorkeling. Kona is home to some of Hawaii’s best snorkeling spots, let alone on Big Island. So, if you love exploring beautiful healthy reefs and spotting rare, colourful fish, you’ll love it here. With everything from natural beaches that are only accessible by boat to popular beaches with lots of amenities, there’s something for everyone. Here are seven of best places for snorkeling in Kona.

Best Places for Snorkeling in Kona

1. Kealakekua Bay

You might hear Kealakekua Bay is referred to as ‘Captain Cook’ because it’s the site where Captain James Cook landed when he came to Hawaii. So, as well as a top snorkeling spot, it’s also a historical site. Because of this as well as its sparkling clear waters and healthy coral reef, Kealakekua Bay is earning a reputation as one of the best places to snorkel in all of Hawaii. However, if you want somewhere to relax and lounge around, this probably isn’t the spot for you. The shoreline is mostly made up of dirt, stones, and thorn-dropping kiawe trees. But if you’re looking for adventure and spectacular snorkeling, we couldn’t recommend Kealakekua Bay enough.

It’s extremely remote – you get here by travelling in by boat, paddling in by kayak, or tackling the challenging trail hike down. But its remote nature has led to pristine waters, where you can see a wide range of healthy marine life. There’s plenty of yellow tang, parrotfish, and black triggerfish. You could also spot squirrelfish, bird wrasse, eels, sea turtles, rays, pufferfish, and even big longnose butterflyfish.

Kealakekua Bay kona

2. Kahalu’u Beach Park

Kahalu’u Beach Park is one of the most lively and fun beaches in all of Kona and even on Big Island. You could spend all day here, lounging on the sand, learning about the reef’s sea life from the informational displays, talking to the Reef Teachers, and of course, snorkeling. It’s a great place for beginner snorkelers as a fringing reef protects the swimming area, resulting in beautifully calm waters. The reef has a colourful array of life, including orange band surgeonfish, yellow tang and yellowtail coris, green sea turtles, and parrotfish. You’ll also spot sergeant majors, manini, black triggerfish, several species of butterflyfish, and many more. There’s so much to see!

When your belly starts to grumble and it’s time to take a break from snorkeling, you’ll be happy to find several delicious food trucks right on the beach. It’s a great place to come with all the family, and lifeguards are always on watch to keep you safe.

Kahalu’u Beach Park kona

3. Honaunau Bay/Two Step

Honaunau Bay is sometimes referred to as Two Step, for the two underwater lava steps that you use to get in and out. The bay is located in the heart of Pu’uhonua O Honaunau State Historical Park, a fascinating, historical, and sacred place. It’s a beautiful area to explore before jumping in the clear waters and exploring the extensive coral reef. Honaunau Bay is one of the most majestic places in Kona to snorkel, with plenty of parrotfish, yellow tang, trumpetfish, sea turtles, and so much more.

You might even spot a spinner dolphin but remember, don’t swim up to them, let them decide if they want to say hi to you. Similarly to Kealakekua Bay, you won’t find a beach here, but it is easier to get to. But you will have to bring everything you need with you, as shops and eateries are while away. While the amenities are sparse, there picnic tables to enjoy lunch, as well as portable toilets.

Honaunau Bay kona

4. King Kamehameha/Kamakahonu Beach

This beach has two names, so you might hear it being referred to by both names. This is a wonderful family-friendly beach that’s a great place to spend the day lounging and swimming, even if you didn’t fancy snorkeling. But it would be a shame to miss out because it’s one of the best places to snorkel in all of Big Island, let alone Kona. Hop into the calm, shallow waters and you’ll spot yellow tang, saddleback wrasse, manini, spotted tobies, and Moorish idols. There are some fish species here that you don’t see anywhere else, including christmas wrasse and sharpnose mullet. And when you’ve worked up an appetite from all that snorkeling, there are several places just off the beach to enjoy a bite to eat.

5. Honokohau/Kona Dog Beach

It takes a bit of a hike to reach Honokohau Beach but when you do, you’ll fall in love with the small but beautiful natural beach. It’s a popular spot with locals and it’s known locally as ‘Kona Dog’ Beach, as it’s one of the only beaches in the area that allows dogs. It’s one of the most beautiful places for snorkeling in Kona, visitors get the chance to see incredible fish habitats. You’ll see needlefish, yellowtail coris, manini, goatfish, and Moorish idols. You might also spot parrotfish, saddleback wrasse, threadfin and multiband butterflyfish, sea turtles, and sea cucumbers!

The water’s quite shallow and it gets a bit rocky, so please bear in mind that due to this and the hike on the way in, it’s not recommended for families with small children. There are also no amenities on the beach, so be sure to bring everything that you need with you.

6. Mauna Lani Resort

There are two great spots for snorkeling on the Mauna Lani Resort; Makaiwa Bay and Honokaope Bay. While Mauna Lani Resort is a private hotel, the beach is open to the public. Makaiwa Bay is a small beach on the south end of Mauna Lani and it’s one of the most beautiful spots for snorkeling in Kona. Visitors get to see so many varieties of marine life, including reef fish, coral heads, octopus, and eels. The reef is shallow and calm, but you get better visibility if you swim further out.

While the marine life is more exciting at Makaiwa Bay, Honokaope Bay is worth a visit for its unique black sands. It also offers beautiful clear waters and a healthy reef. It’s often referred to as Black Sand Beach, this beach presents a great opportunity for those looking for a quiet and secluded spot to snorkel.

7. Pawai Bay

To avoid the crowds, head to the serene Pawai Bay. It’s only accessible by boat, so the waters are beautifully clean and clear. Pawai Bay presents something a bit different to snorkelers as it’s quite deep, reaching 40 feet, with unique swim-throughs and arches. It’s probably best suited for more experienced snorkelers, but you’ll love slinking through arches and exploring the healthy coral life. The bay is very well protected, so there are plenty of colourful schools of fish. It’s a wonderful local snorkeling spot and the lava rock coastline is set aside for the use of native Hawaiian children, inaccessible to non-natives.

Aleyna Thompson

Aleyna is an appreciator of learning about a culture through its food, whether that's closer to home or being out there in the world. She’s always happiest when experiencing somewhere new, but her base in Manchester is a close second. A blend of her love of writing, food, travel, and culture has naturally led her to travel writing full time.

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