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best snorkeling big island

It’s no secret that the Hawaiian Islands are home to some of the most magnificent coral reefs in the world. Furthermore, the coral that lays along Kona’s coastline on the Big Island is some of the most lush hubs of oceanic activity– perfect for those looking to explore the depths of what the Hawaiian tropics have to offer.

From hundreds of different tropical fish to a variety of oceanic plants– even crustaceans and honu (Hawaiian Sea Turtles) are all known to be spotted at popular snorkel spots. Here are our picks for the best reefs to snorkel while on the Big Island of Hawaii.

  • Kealakekua Bay, Also Known As Captain Cook

Arguably the most popular snorkel spot near Kona on the Big Island, Captain Cook monument is the perfect place for a wide variety of oceanic activity. Not only is the bay known to house pods of native Hawaiian spinner dolphins in its depths, but the reef along the shallows of the inlet house a wide variety of the most popular sea life.

Because of Captain Cook’s popularity, the best way to explore the area is via a trusted local snorkel tour boat. This not only will ensure that you get to venture to the best parts of the reef, but you may get a chance to see the local dolphin populations that frequent Kealakekua Bay as well! If you want to learn more about what a Captain Cook snorkel tour is like– check out our article here.

  • Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park also known as The Place of Refuge

Most well known for its cultural impact, the Place of Refuge is also home to one of the greatest reefs on the Big Island. Largely inaccessible unless you go with an accredited tour company, this should still be at the top of your list for places to snorkel for a variety of reasons. The landmarks left by ancient Hawaiians serve as a reverent backdrop to a stunning crystal bay. Calm days yield excellent visibility making it a visually stunning and vibrant coral reef to explore.

What’s greater, booking with a local tour company combines the benefits of learning more about the history of the national park as well as the underwater world and creatures that you will come into contact with while on this snorkel excursion. If you want to learn more about what a snorkel tour of the Place of Refuge entails– be sure to check out our other article.

  • Makalawena Beach – 4×4 Vehicles Only

Not for the faint of heart– or anyone without access to 4-wheel drive– Makalawena is truly the greatest hidden gem on our list. If you are an avid hiker who doesn’t tire easily, there is the option to reach the reef via a scenic trail; but make sure you don’t get dehydrated before your time in the water! You will encounter a pristine ocean outlet, vibrant coral reefs, and many tropical fish in a far less crowded setting.

While there are many spots to snorkel around the Big Island of Hawaii, particularly along the Kona Coast, it is important to keep various safety precautions in mind. Always make sure that you are either booking with a highly rated local snorkel tour company or venture with a buddy to an area that is within both of your comfort zones. Don’t push yourself to go snorkeling in a hazardous or more advanced reef, stay hydrated, and have fun! If you are on a boat with a trusted captain and crew, make sure to communicate your skill level and preferences!