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snorkeling on the Big Island Hawaii

Kona, on the Big Island, Hawaii is home to some of the most incredible and diverse marine life on earth. From small tropical reef fish to the gigantic humpback whales who are born in the warm waters which surround the island– there is no limit to what you will discover beneath the ocean’s surface.


No matter if you have been swimming and exploring the sea for decades, or if this is the first time you are seeing the ocean, there’s sure to be a discovery for everyone! Here are our recommendations of the top 3 places along Kona Coast to snorkel while visiting the Big Island as well as how you can maximize your trip to each.

  • Captain Cook Monument (Kealakekua Bay)


Captain Cook’s Monument is an extremely significant part of both Hawaiian history as well as the ecosystem that exists in and around the Big Island. This bay is accessible either by driving into the park and snorkeling off the edge of the bay or on an accredited snorkeling tour of Kona’s Coastline!


This snorkeling destination is amazing as the outsides of the bay are relatively shallow whereas the middle is deep enough that it encourages pods of dolphins to play and congregate in its depth.


If you are trying to plan the best trip to snorkel this large hub of marine activity– we recommend setting aside the day to embark on a boat tour of that, and other, areas along the coast. Some snorkel tours, like Dolphin Discoveries’ Kona Snorkel Tour, include the Monument as one of their two opportunities to explore the reefs along the West Side. The other stop being the Place of Refuge, also known as Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau.

  • Place of Refuge (Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau)


Another culturally significant landmark in native Hawaiian history– the Place of Refuge makes for an amazing snorkeling destination as its reefs are lush with hundreds of tropical fish alongside Hawaiian sea turtles and even shallow tide pools!


Like Captain Cook’s Monument, the best way to explore the underwater world that exists there is through a trusted snorkel tour. Some areas in this National Park are Kapu (sacred) meaning they are off limits to the public. When you book a snorkel trip aboard one of these local boats, they will make sure to not only steer you in the direction towards the reefs with the most activity but away from those places which are off limits.

  • Manta Village (Keauhou Bay)


The most thrilling snorkeling expedition you can embark on is a night dive with manta rays at Keauhou Bay. Fondly known as “Manta Village”, this bay is home to large populations of manta rays who congregate to feed on the phytoplankton attracted to the water’s surface by the bright lights of the Sheraton Hotel.


This experience is pretty much exclusively available to those that book their tours aboard a trusted snorkel company. The trips out are all conducted right at and after sunset where the boats will bring you to the middle of the bay and you will float with your mask and snorkel on, holding onto a buoyant, lighted board. It is effectively impossible to coax the plankton, and therefore the manta rays, without this device.


If you snorkel the bay during the day, you will have a less likely chance to see these creatures, especially as close as you will aboard one of these tours.


How Can I Book My Snorkel Tour of Kona?


With so many options, it can be overwhelming when it comes to planning one of these snorkeling adventures. Be sure to check with your group and yourself to see what your expectations are and what fits within your schedule. Our preference is smaller tours aboard our top of the line boat, this creates a safer, more intimate, and overall more fun experience! A smaller group ensures you will not only maximize your time in the water, but get the opportunity to interact with our knowledgeable captain who can teach you everything about the world beneath the blue.