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10 Spots for Snorkeling on The Big Island

If you are planning a trip to Hawaii Island, then you need to make plans for snorkeling! The Big Island has some of the best snorkeling spots in all of Hawaii. 

From crystal clear waters and incredible coral reefs to the endless variety of tropical fish and marine life, The Big Island is a snorkelers paradise. 

Most of the best places to snorkel are found on the Kona (Leeward Side) of the Big Island. This area has the best weather, the waves are calmer, and the visibility is high. 

To help you find the best spot to snorkel, this list includes ten of the top spots for snorkeling on The Big Island.

Snorkeling Beaches on the Big Island

1. Kahalu’u Beach Park

Kahalu’u Beach Park is one of the most popular and easy to access spots to snorkel on The Big Island. Located just a few miles south of the Kailua-Kona region this crescent-shaped bay has calmer waves because it’s protected by a small reef. 

The waters of the bay in Kahalu’u Beach Park are crystal clear, especially on calm days, so you can see the fish and coral. 

It is the perfect snorkel site for beginner snorkelers or families with kids. The entire bay has shallow water which will allow you to get a close-up view of the fish. 

This would be the perfect spot near Kona, Hawaii if you want to learn to snorkel. Expect to see a wide variety of brightly colored tropical fish including Butterfly Fish, Trigger Fish and Puffer Fish.

The fish here are unusually comfortable around snorkelers and large schools of fish will swim right up to you! You might even spot some sea turtles, just remember to stay back at least 10 feet. 

This beach park is one of the most popular snorkel spots near Kona for locals and tourists. The park does get busy so try to arrive early. 

people snorkeling in hawaii

2. Kealakekua Bay (Captain Cook) 

Also called Captain Cook, this site is considered one of the top snorkeling spots in Hawaii. Kealakekua Bay is a place that you need to add to your Hawaii bucket list. You will find the best snorkeling in the bay near the tall white Captain Cook Monument. 

Kealakekua Bay is one of the best spots on the Island for seeing large varieties of tropical fish and the most beautiful coral reefs. Plan for an adventure because the bay can be hard to access. 

The easiest way to get to the bay is by booking a boat snorkeling tour. You can also rent a kayak, or hike the steep 2-mile hike. Once you arrive you enjoy visibility up to 100 feet and get to see marine life not found anywhere else in Hawaii. 

In the water of Kealakekua Bay there is a steep dropoff where the ocean gets very deep and you can often spot larger animals such as spinner dolphins, Hawaiian monk seals, manta ray, and small reef sharks. 

blue ocean bay in hawaii

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3. Honaunau Bay (Two Step) 

Two Step Beach at Honaunau Bay is an underwater paradise. This fairly protected turquoise blue bay is packed with abundant sea life and includes a variety of depths, underwater lava rock, and impressive coral reefs.

Located right next to the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, most people call it Two Steps Beach. While there aren’t two steps, the snorkeling area is lined with large lava rocks that you step off to enter the ocean. 

You can see some of Hawaii’s most vibrant fish including schools of Yellow Tang, Raccoon Butterfly Fish, Trumpetfish, and more. It’s common to spot Sea Turtles, Dolphins, and Seals in the bay.

Try to plan your visit on a day when the snorkeling conditions are right. When the waves are rough, the visibility is down, and it can make entering and exiting the bay difficult. 

palm trees and snorkeling bay in hawaii

4. Waialea Beach (Beach 69)

Waialea Beach is one of the most popular white sand beaches on the Big Island. This beach is also known as “Beach 69” as it was named for the number on the utility pole near its entrance. 

Snorkeling at this beach is best in the summer when the waters are calm. When the waves are up, the visibility in the water isn’t great. You will be amazed at the tide pools and offshore rock formations. The bay was declared a marine life conservation district and you will find plenty of marine life in the water.

While there might not be as many fish here as in other great snorkeling beaches on the Big Island, you should still spot a large variety of fish and sometimes you might see a few sea turtles in the water.

clear blue beach and rocks in hawaii

5. Kamakahonu (King Kam Beach)

Kamakahonu Beach is a beautiful white sand beach located next to the Kailua Pier, not far from the center of Kona Town. It’s also known as King Kam Beach because it’s very close to the Marriott King Kamehameha Kona Hotel. 

The location, calm water, and great swimming conditions make this a great place for snorkeling on the Big Island. It’s also perfect for beginner snorkelers or families with kids because the water is shallow and very protected. 

If you are in Kona and want to go for a quick snorkel then this small beach is a great snorkeling spot. You will find that it’s home to tangs, butterfly fish, and many varieties of tropical fish. 

Snorkeling conditions are best in the morning so try to go at first light. Also, the best snorkeling is found on the right of the beach, don’t go to the left (toward the pier) because there are boats that travel in this area. 

While it won’t take long to go snorkeling at this tiny little beach, it will be a convenient and fun place to spend a few hours exploring the calm waters. 

small sandy beach and bay with snorkelers

6. Punalu’u Beach 

Punalu’u Beach is one of the most stunning black sand beaches on The Big Island. It is also one of the Big Island’s best snorkeling spots. 

With its long wide stretch of black sand lined by vibrant green coconut palms, not only is this beach one of the prettiest places that you will visit in Hawaii, you will get to enjoy a day of snorkeling. 

This snorkeling beach is best for more experienced snorkelers, as the current can sometimes be very strong. 

Once you reach the beach you should walk to the southwest of the main beach to Ninole Cove. This area has some sand channels and is the best place to snorkel and the easiest place to enter the water.

There is a good variety of fish and the visibility in the water is usually moderate. While you won’t see too many fish, this area is one of the best places to see sea turtles in Hawaii. Just make sure that you don’t get closer than 10 feet. 

This incredible black sand beach and the opportunity to see sea turtles on the beach makes this beach one of the best snorkeling spots. 

sea turtles and people on black sand beach

7. Manini’owali Beach

Manini’owali Beach is a small cove is covered in soft white sand. While the waves here can get rough, when the conditions are right, this is a great location for more experienced snorkelers. 

You will find the best snorkel spots on the southern part of the beach near a rock formation called “The Wall”. Once you dive into the ocean water you can expect to see parrotfish, butterflyfish, and many other tropical fish. 

There are also some corals and many people have seen sea turtles and even dolphins at this snorkel spot. What’s better than relaxing on one of the prettiest white sand beaches, and getting to explore the waters below? 

ocean bay in hawaii

8. Mauna Kea Beach

Turquoise blue ocean waters, leafy palm trees, and the softest white sand are just some of the reasons you should go snorkeling at Mauna Kea Beach

This incredible beach is considered to be one of the best beaches on the Big Island, it has even been voted one of the best in the world! 

Also called “Kaunaoa Beach”, this beach is conveniently located next to the Mauna Kea Beach Resort. The best snorkeling is near the shelf and coral along the northern side of the beach. 

Just follow the rock wall along the edge out to the point and this is where you will see some incredible tropical fish and huge canyons of corals.

people enjoying large stretch of sandy beach

9. Manta Ray Night Snorkel 

Did you know that the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii is one of the few places in the entire world where you can go snorkeling with Manta Ray? 

While you will have to book a tour for this experience, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you won’t want to miss.

Each night the tour boats head out to places that Manta Ray frequents. They then shine large spotlights into the water that attract plankton. You can snorkel in the water right next to the Manta Ray as they feed. 

Snorkeling with Manta Ray is guaranteed to be an exciting adventure and a snorkeling experience that you will never forget! 

manta ray underwater at night

10. Richardson Ocean Park (Richardson’s)

Most of the best spots are found on the Kona side of the Big Island, but if you find yourself on the Hilo side, don’t worry because Richardson Ocean Park is a great place to snorkel. 

Snorkeling at this popular weekend hangout spot is one of the best things to do in Hilo. Also called “Richardsons”, you will often see sea turtles swimming in the ocean and resting on the nearby rocks. 

This beach is very rocky and it’s made up of small lagoons and coral reefs that are packed with tropical fish and marine life. 

Bring your snorkeling gear and get there early because this beach can get very busy. 

rocky ocean bay on the big island of hawaii

There are some incredible places for snorkeling on The Big Island. I hope that this post helps you to discover the underwater world, tropical fish, and marine life that surround this beautiful island.

Map Of Snorkeling Spots

You can open this interactive Google map above to see the locations of the best beaches for snorkeling on The Big Island.

Have you been snorkeling on the Big Island? Feel free to comment your favorite spot below!

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