A guide to the best places to snorkel on Hawaii's Big Island.
General: Kid Friendly
|Guide Series: Best Snorkeling Beaches
One of the most beautiful reefs to explore in Hawaii. Just offshore of the Captain Cook Monument is a reef teeming with clusters of yellow tangs, parrotfish, and and many other varieties of colorful fish. There are several ways to access Kealakekua Bay. A few companies offer kayak rentals, but you'll be unable to snorkel since you can't moor it. The most popular way is to take a tour on one of the many boats that depart from Honokohau Marina & Small Boat Harbor or Kailua Pier. More at: Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park
With calm, beautiful water, Honaunau Bay / Two Steps is one of the best places to snorkel on the Big Island. Located beside the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, the water at Two Steps is clear and inviting. Colorful fish, sea turtles, and occasionally dolphins can be seen here. The beach is popular with locals and visitors, so arrive early for a more peaceful experience. More at: Honaunau Bay / Two Steps
Mauna Kea Beach / Kauna'oa Bay is a picturesque scene from a tropical postcard with palm trees and a white sandy beach with a clear blue ocean fronting it. An abundance of colorful, tropical fish and sea turtles (see Honu - The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle) can be seen spotted while snorkeling above a lovely coral reef. The beach is located in front of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. More at: Mauna Kea Beach / Kauna'oa Bay
With a white sandy beach and plenty of shade, Waialea Bay has a rich assortment of marine life to explore. As for it's more common name of "Beach 69", that name comes from a #69 utility pole near the parking lot (which is no longer there). It's best to visit during the summer months as the beach decays away during the strong winter ocean surges. More at: Waialea Bay (Beach 69)
Arguably one of the most beautiful beaches on the Big Island, Hapuna Beach State Park also has very good snorkeling. The beach itself has lovely golden sand stretching long and wide. Snorkeling is fun with pretty corals and rocky areas to explore surrounded by numerous tropical fish. If the surf's up, it's best not to snorkel since the sand will be churned up, and it's NEVER a good idea to snorkel when it's murky. Locals call it "sharky" (see Shark Attacks In Hawaii) when the sand is churned up and you can't see if front of you. More at: Hapuna Beach State Park
For beginners, Anaeho'omalu Bay Beach is a good spot to learn how to snorkel. The water is protected, safe, and calm. Located at Waikoloa Village (See Waikoloa Guide), "A Beach" is a resort beach best for relaxing with the family, but offers a great chance to see some of Hawaii's native fish in a safe environment. More at: Anaeho'omalu Bay Beach
Another good beach for the novice snorkeler. Kahalu'u Beach is a sheltered cove with a large variety of fish, rivaling some of Hawaii's best marine preserves. The ocean is typically calm and inviting. It's thought to be one of the best places to see large, tame fish. There are several tide pools full of sea life to explore. Chances are you'll encounter a Honu - The Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle as well. More at: Kahalu'u Beach
Don't forget to bring your mask, fins, snorkel. Of course, you may want to first read Should I Bring My Own Snorkel Gear To Hawaii? along with How To Snorkel if you're new to snorkeling. Finally, and this is a huge one, don't forget to bring sunscreen with you to Protect Yourself From Sunburn & Skin Cancer and read Hawaii Dangers - Read Before You Go.
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