ALOHA!

 

So you want to go to snorkeling as part of your time on the Big Island!

Which are the best beaches on the Big Island for snorkeling?

Well, the thing about the Big Island, unlike other islands in Hawaii, is that some of the best snorkeling spots don’t really have much of a sandy beach. More on this below.

 

Best Big Island snorkeling spots. where to go snorkeling in Kona. big island hawaii travel blog

Best Big Island snorkeling spots. where to go snorkeling in Kona. big island hawaii travel blog

 

First, the quick list of the top 3 snorkeling spots that are a part of the Big Island marine life conservation district.

Then, a few more details about each of the spots, along with a few more spots known for snorkeling on the Big Island to know about, including how much beach there is at each of the snorkeling spots.

 

 

So now…

 

3 of the top protected snorkeling spots on the Big Island

 

 

1. Kealakekua Bay

Best Big Island snorkeling spots: Kealakekua Bay snorkeling. big island hawaii marine life conservation district. best snorkeling beaches on the Big Island. Hawaii travel blog
Located south of Kailua-Kona, you can hike to get to this snorkeling spot, or go for a kayak tour or boat tour.

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2. Lapakahi

Best Big Island snorkeling spots: Lapakahi state historical park snorkeling. big island hawaii marine life conservation district. kohala snorkeling. best snorkeling beaches on the Big Island. Hawaii travel blog
Located north of Kailua-Kona, far north on the Kohala coast, this snorkeling spot is a part of the Lapakahi State Historical Park.

 

 

3. Waialae Bay

Best Big Island snorkeling spots: Waialae Bay beach snorkeling. big island hawaii marine life conservation district. kohala, waikoloa snorkeling. best snorkeling beaches on the Big Island. Hawaii travel blog
Also located north of Kailua-Kona, near Waikoloa Village resorts.

 

 

So what makes these beaches among the top snorkeling spots on the Big Island?!

 

 

Marine life conservation districts on the Big Island

In Hawaii, there are what’s called marine life conservation districts.

This means that these areas just off the shore are more protected for marine life.

This can make them good snorkeling spots.

The main Hawaiian islands of the Big Island, Maui, Lanai, and Oahu have these conservation districts.

 

On the Big Island, there are officially 5 listed marine life conservation districts:

  • Kealakekua Bay
  • Lapakahi (at Lapakahi State Historical Park)
  • Old Kona Airport
  • Waialea Bay
  • Waiopae tide pools (Kapoho tide pools)

I didn’t make it to the Old Kona Airport snorkeling spot. The Waiopae Tidepools no longer exist because of volcano lava flows that covered these tide pools.

Aside from the Kapoho tide pools that no longer exist, you can access these snorkeling spots from shore on your own.

 

 

More below about getting to the Kona snorkeling spots on your own!

 

 

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Best snorkeling spots on the Big Island from shore

aka snorkeling beaches on the Big Island!

Most of the spots listed below are FREE.

 

 

1. Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay marine life conservation district, South Kona

Big Island snorkeling spots: kealakekua bay beach, south kona snorkeling near sheraton. Hawaii travel blog

 

There are basically 3 ways to get to the Kealakekua Bay snorkeling spot: hike, kayak, or boat. 

The free way to get to Kealakekua Bay is to hike the Captain Cook Monument Trail. Make it a hike and snorkel day! Make sure you are prepared for hot weather hiking with WATER and SNACKS!

There is a small parking area near the trailhead right off the main road.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: hike to kealakekua bay snorkeling, kona snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

Big Island snorkeling spots: hike to kealakekua bay snorkeling, kona snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

Big Island snorkeling spots: hike to kealakekua bay snorkeling, kona snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

 

And once you reach sea level, you will basically just hop into the ocean. No real beach here.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: kealakekua bay snorkeling, kona snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

 

If you’d rather not hike, then you can book a paid snorkeling tour to get there by way of a kayak tour or a boat tour.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: kayak tour for kealakekua bay snorkeling, kona snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

 

There is no road access to the snorkeling area of Kealakekua Bay. There is a road that leads to the other side of the bay, but that’s not considered to be the snorkeling area.

And, um, this isn’t meant to scare you, but it was reported that there was a shark attack at Kealakekua Bay in 2019. There have been many people who have gone snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay since then and there haven’t been any more shark encounters it seems, though! As they say, in general, shark attacks in Hawaii are rare.

Kealakekua Bay: See more about this Big Island snorkeling spot.

 

 

2. Lapakahi

Lapakahi marine life conservation district, Lapakahi State Historical Park, north of Kona

Big Island snorkeling spots: lapakahi state historical park beach, kohala snorkeling, near waikoloa. Hawaii travel blog

 

This is a quieter snorkeling spot at Lapakahi State Historical Park.

It’s a rocky entrance, so if you’re not wearing snorkeling fins, be sure that you bring water shoes for snorkeling as part of your Hawaii snorkeling essentials.

There will be a sign that tells you the best entry point.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: lapakahi state historical park beach, kohala snorkeling, near waikoloa. Hawaii travel blog

 

While you’re here, you can also do a coastal walk alongside what remains of an ancient Hawaiian village (pdf).

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: lapakahi state historical park beach, kohala snorkeling, near waikoloa. Hawaii travel blog

 

If you’re staying in Kona, you may consider stopping by Lapakahi state park on your way back from a trip to Pololu Valley.

 

 

3. Waialea Bay

Waialea Bay marine life conservation district, north of Kona

Big Island snorkeling spots: waialae bay beach near waikoloa, kohala. Hawaii travel blog

 

Waialae Beach is also called Beach 69. A local said he had always thought it was called that because of the nearby numbered marker.

You’ll find a sandy beach here.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: waialea bay beach, 69 beach. Hawaii travel blog

 

I believe there was a $5 parking fee here if you’re not a Hawaii resident.

 

 

 

4. Honaunau Bay aka Two Step

South of Kona, near Puuhonaunau National Historical Park

Best Big Island snorkeling spots: honaunau bay snorkeling, two step beach snorkeling. best snorkeling beaches on the Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

Snorkeling at Two Step is snorkeling at Honaunau Bay.

This is another great snorkeling spot to consider.

There’s not much of a sandy beach here at all, so people come here primarily for snorkeling.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: honaunau bay beach. Hawaii travel blog

 

It can be a lava rock entry where you climb down into the water by stepping on rocks, so once again if you’re not wearing fins it’ll be better to have water shoes. You can also avoid this lava rock entry if you don’t mind a little extra swimming. You can walk right into the water over on the left side by using the paved canoe launch.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots: two step beach snorkeling, honaunau bay snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

Big Island snorkeling spots: two step beach snorkeling, honaunau bay snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

Big Island snorkeling spots: two step beach snorkeling, honaunau bay snorkeling. Hawaii travel blog

 

Two Step beach is quite literally located next to the national historical park (one of the parks you can use a Hawaii national park pass at), so if you have plans to go there, it’s perfect to go snorkeling after a visit to the park.

 

Big Island snorkeling spots near puuhonaunau national historical park. Hawaii travel blog

Big Island snorkeling spots near puuhonaunau national historical park. Hawaii travel blog

 

There are very limited parking spaces directly along the shore. There is paid parking of maybe like $5 right in the lot right in front of Honaunau Bay. I believe this is cash only. You can also find free parking that’s a minute or 2 walk away. If you’re going to the national historical park, it’s also reasonable to just walk from that parking lot to Two Step, a walk of a few minutes.

Two Step: See more about this Big Island snorkeling spot.

 

 

5. Kahaluu Beach

South of Kailua-Kona town

Best Big Island snorkeling spots: kahaluu beach snorkeling. best snorkeling beaches on the Big Island. Hawaii travel blog

 

This is probably the best snorkeling spot located near Kailua-Kona town. This is a beach park, and there are proper bathroom facilities as well as a lifeguard here. 

It’s also possible to get to Kahaluu Beach by using the Kona bike sharing bicycles. Make it a bike and snorkel day!

 

 

And there you have it!
Some of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island to consider making a part of your trip to Hawaii!

 

 

Places I saw turtles swimming in the water:

 

 

Snorkeling alone in Kona and the Big Island

It is best to not snorkel alone on the Big Island (or anywhere) if you are traveling to Hawaii alone.

That said, with the exception of Lapakahi, these listed snorkeling spots I would generally say would be fine if you are a solo snorkeler on the Big Island, for the reason that there will likely be many people around as they are among the popular snorkeling spots on the Big Island. This at least gives you more of a chance that someone sees you if you get into trouble in the water.

The snorkeling beaches on this list with the most people are likely Two Step (Honaunau Bay) and Kahaluu Beach. These are the easiest to access and among the best known beaches on this list. Waialae Beach is also easy to access and would likely also have people. If tourism is back, then also possibly Kealakekua Bay because of the boat tours and kayak tours that go there. The only beach with a lifeguard is Kahaluu Beach.

Whether you are snorkeling alone or you have a snorkeling buddy, be sure that you take care when snorkeling, always! The ocean is beautiful, but it’s also powerful and can be dangerous!

NOT snorkeling alone on the Big Island will always be safer…

 

Big Island snorkeling: where to wear snorkeling in Kona. big island hawaii travel blog

 

 

Now…

What to pack for snorkeling in Kona and the Big Island

Big Island snorkeling: where to wear snorkeling in Kona. big island hawaii travel blog

 

 

1. Waterproof phone case

 

Pack a waterproof phone pouch for snorkeling for a CHEAP way to waterproof your phone so you can capture some underwater memories!

 

 

2. Water shoes

Pack this if you won’t be wearing fins when you snorkel.

Water shoes can help to protect your feet from hidden rocks on the beach and if you accidentally hit coral reef.

Coral reef is sharp!

And, they can be good for a snorkeling entry that’s not sandy… like the lava rock entry at Two Step!

 

 

3. Sunscreen that’s considered reef-safe

The type of sunscreen that you wear is kind of a big deal for locals in Hawaii.

There is now a ban in sales in Hawaii of sunscreen that contain certain chemicals.

Now, you could buy any sunscreen you like back home and then bring it to Hawaii.

But… it would likely be very appreciated if you wear a type of reef-safe sunscreen that locals prefer!

Best sunscreen for Kona: See more about how to know if your sunscreen is the good type for snorkeling on the Big Island.

 

 

4. Snorkeling set

Pack this to have your own snorkeling gear for your future snorkeling trips too!

It is possible to rent snorkeling gear on Maui, and you can also find some basic snorkel sets sold in convenience stores, like ABC Store in Kaanapali and Wailea.

But it can be convenient to not have to spend time shopping for this when you don’t have a lot of time during your Hawaii vacation!

 

See more of snorkeling essentials for Hawaii, including why to wear a rash guard when snorkeling!

 

Also see more of what to do in Kona and great places to see old lava flows in Kona and the rest of the island.

 

Headed to another island in Hawaii? See more snorkeling spots on other Hawaiian islands!

 

HAPPY SNORKELING ON THE BIG ISLAND!

 

Best Big Island snorkeling spots. where to go snorkeling in Kona. big island hawaii travel blog

 

 

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Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!

The ultimate beach towel for travel?!
Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
Possibly among the best Big Island maps for tourists!
The Franko maps of Hawaii have a high level of detail for activities and it's beachproof aka waterproof. There's an "adventure" guide map and a "snorkel/dive" guide map. Plus a wall map for home to get you excited for your upcoming trip to Kona!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phone
You can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!
Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!
Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.

PLUS...
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of these amazing tours on the Big Island:


ALOHA!