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best snorkeling spots in kona

If you are in the midst of planning your vacation to the Big Island’s popular Kona town, then you are most likely looking into all the adventures that the area has to offer. One of the most popular by far are guided snorkel tours leaving from Kona’s marinas to some of the most incredible reefs in the world. While there are so many different snorkeling experiences and places to choose from, we wanted to give you a quick look into the 3 best snorkeling spots in Kona.

Each of these snorkeling destinations have something unique to offer, all while being relatively close to the town center making it the perfect day trip– you may even be able to go visit multiple in one trip, if booking with one of Kona’s local tour boats!

1. Uncover Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling in Kona

Arguably the most popular snorkeling spot in Kona is Kealakekua Bay. Familiarly known as Captain Cook for the monument erected for the British colonist, it is home to an immense plethora of marine life. The lively coral reefs serves as home to hundreds of neon fish ranging in different sizes, colors, and only seen outside of Hawaii in aquariums. Swimming alongside the reef there is known to be Hawaiian sea turtles, manta rays, and even eels!

If you are lucky, many report that upon their trips out and back aboard a boat– they see pods of native spinner dolphins playing in the deeper waters of the bay!

You can access Kealakekua Bay, two different ways. The most popular by far is booking one of Kona’s trusted local snorkel boat experiences, the other is renting your own gear and making the trek to the bay yourself. Just be weary as you will have to descend into the water and push off into the reef without assistance- which can be dangerous.

2. Discover the Place of Refuge on a Snorkeling Tour in Kona

The Place of Refuge, also known as Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, is home to another incredible coral reef and a wide variety of tropical marine life. Outside of it’s popularity as a snorkel destination on local boat tours, it is also home to one of the most sacred spaces in Native Hawaiian history. This was a place where those who broke “kapu” or the sacred laws, were able to go. 

In order to keep the sanctity of the native site, visitation is extremely limited, only accredited boats are allowed to conduct tours along the reef and you may have to jump through some hoops to visit it on your own. If you wish to snorkel this incredible reef we highly recommend looking into a snorkeling tour like this one, that is permitted to go in these waters.

3. The Lesser Known Snorkeling Spot in Kona

We just spoke about the top two snorkeling destinations, highly popular with visitors to the islands– however there are so many more, smaller and more secret, beaches and reefs that are amazing for snorkeling. The Big Island is well known for the amazing black sand beaches that lines some of their shores. Some snorkel companies will offer an exploration of the South Kona coastline– others will allow you to book their boat for a private charter where you can get to these black sand beaches and reefs by sea– the best option as many may be inaccessible by land.

No matter where you choose to go, or what experience stands out to you, snorkeling on the Big Island is so incredibly worth the trip! Just be sure to be safe, practice swimming and breathing through your mask and snorkel, and enlist the help of the expert guides on the island.