Skip to primary navigation Skip to content Skip to footer
Back to Blog


best snorkeling kona

The best reefs, in Hawaii, and arguably on the planet, can be found when embarking on a Kona snorkeling trip! From vibrant coral reefs filled with hundreds of marine animals, to the depths of Manta Village– home to the most exciting close encounters with the ocean’s gentle giants, back up to the picturesque turquoise waters, this is a dream come true for ocean lovers and adventure seekers alike. Fun for the whole family, here are our recommendations for the best snorkeling you can find in Kona.

Let Snorkeling Kona’s Kealakekua Bay Transfix You

One of the most sought after snorkeling destinations in all of Hawaii is Captain Cook. Also known as Kealakekua Bay, the reefs located in the shallows are filled with hundreds of tropical fish and marine species. It is also known for its important place in modern Hawaiian history.

Kealakekua Bay, famous for (and also known as) Captain Cook Monument and the reef that surrounds it, is by far and away the most revered Kona snorkeling havens. In additions  to the hundreds of tropical fish, people have been able to catch sight of giant sea turtles, also known as Honu, and even spinner dolphins towards the middle of the bay.

The reefs in the shallow areas of the bay are easily accessible to beginner snorkelers on guided tour boats. Sheltered from the choppier waters of the open ocean, Captain Cook Monument allows for a relaxing float; emphasizing what can be discovered beneath the surface. When you book your Kona snorkeling experience with one of these tour groups, you will likely be offered a flotation device in addition to the up to date and safe snorkel gear they will provide you!

This reef is incredible to visit on a trusted local Kona tour boat as these experts will give you the ability to drop into the water right alongside the most active areas of the reef. That combined with the fact that you may have a better chance of seeing dolphins while aboard the boat’s deck are reasons you should look into securing your spot today!

Pay Homage at the Reef of the Place of Refuge On a Kona Snorkeling Tour

Not only is the Place of Refuge, also known as Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, home to a fantastical underwater world, but is one of the most culturally sacred landmarks on the entirety of the Big Island, Hawaii.

The Place of Refuge is an incredibly historically significant spot to Native Hawaiian culture. Outside of its societal importance, the Place of Refuge is also well known for the beautiful reef which thrives just beneath its water’s surface. Another Kona snorkeling hotspot that is almost solely accessible aboard an accredited local tour boat, you will get the chance to explore the wonders of the ocean, up close.

Many snorkel tours will prioritize the adventure to Captain Cook Monument over the Place of Refuge; even though they are both located within Kealakekua Bay. This may be because the historical site has some restrictions for the different groups and boats allowed to enter the bay. This is not an issue when you book with a trusted local company. When you book a snorkel tour of Kona Coast, like ours at Dolphin Discoveries, you will get to explore both of these destinations. It is the best way to maximize your time in and on the waters of Kona Coast.

Kua Bay, a Great Kona Snorkeling Spot

A ways more North than the other destinations on this list, Kua Bay is an excellent stop, for those who have an aversion to booking with a company, especially. Although you will lose out on the benefits that come with venturing out with the experts, the turquoise waters on a clear day are incredible.

Keep in mind, the best snorkeling experiences are created in tandem with a trusted local tour company on the Big Island. Things like weather, ocean swells, and natural obstructions can affect any tour, which you can read more about here, but rest assured that your captain and crew aboard the boat will work to keep you safe.

Experience the Magic of a Manta Ray Night Snorkeling Tour in Kona

Swiftly becoming the most popular snorkeling tour on the Big Island of Hawaii, a nighttime Kona manta ray snorkel is the adventure of a lifetime. This is a tour that you can only book with an accredited company and is one of the only experiences that requires previous experience using a snorkel and mask. You will be in the water for around an hour, where you will hold onto an illuminated flotation device which attracts phytoplankton to the top of the water where your group is floating.

This experience is best held with a small group, allowing for more space while in the water as well as an overall calmer and more intimate encounter with these gentle giants. We have a ton of articles on our blog that delve into the wonder that is snorkeling with Kona manta rays— be sure to check them out!

There’s So Much To Explore On a Kona Snorkeling Excursion!

The Big Island of Hawaii, Kona Coast in particular, is filled with so many different incredible natural phenomena to explore. From towering volcanoes and lava flows to sea caves in the shallows of the ocean just off shore– it can be hard to plan a trip to fit everything in.

However, there is nothing that can compare to the wonderful world beneath the ocean’s surface. Kona Coast is known for the vast array of sea life that lives both in the shallow reefs as well as out into the deeper waters of the open ocean. Our guide to the top 4 snorkel experiences that we recommend booking for your trip to the Big Island is just the tip of the iceberg! Be sure to check out these other Kona snorkeling blog posts that delve deeper into what you can expect whilst exploring one of these hotspots aboard a Big Island snorkel tour boat!