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a person swimming in the waterThe ocean is a treasure trove for adventure, all the more to experience through water activities that put you right in the water amidst the beautiful, graceful creatures of the sea. There’s no better way to enjoy this unique experience than to go snorkeling at Captain Cook.

When locals and repeat visitors speak of Captain Cook, they mention the well-known monument in Kealakekua Bay. It was named after the British naval captain and explorer, Captain James Cook, who arrived on the islands in 1778. In 1874, the British erected a monument – an obelisk– on the site in his honor.

Today, the monument is a famous landmark for visitors and newcomers who come to Captain Cook to snorkel, enjoy other water activities, and soak in the bay’s gorgeous views.

Captain Cook Snorkeling: What to Expect

Why is snorkeling in Captain Cook a must-do if you’re in Hawaii? Kealakekua Bay is home to hundreds of different varieties of colorful tropical fish and a seabed teeming with various species of corals. It’s one of the most abundant coral reefs in the archipelago, and the diversity of marine life here makes for an exhilarating Captain Cook snorkeling adventure!

The bay’s waters are calm and pristine, ensuring crystal-clear visibility at over 100 feet. This means you’ll be able to see gorgeous views stretch in every direction underwater. If the weather is just right, you might spot some Hawaiian green sea turtles (they are known to frequent the area, particularly near the caves) and dolphins from a short distance.

Many tourists say that hardly any photos or videos do the underwater sights justice, so heading to the Big Island for Captain Cook snorkeling is a worthwhile visit!

Things to Bring When Snorkeling in Captain Cook

Below are some of the items you’ll need to bring along for snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay, and other essentials if you want to hike to Captain Cook and explore other activities in the area:

Snorkeling essentials:

  • Sunscreen (MUST be “reef safe”)
  • Swimsuit
  • Underwater camera, if you have one
  • Towels
  • Flipflops
  • Change of clothes

Additional essentials for hiking:

  • Running shoes or any comfortable shoes suitable for long hikes
  • Wide-brimmed hat for extra sun protection
  • Camera and extra SD cards
  • Drinking water

A few more things you’ll need to keep in mind:

  • Kealakekua Bay is a state historical park and marine sanctuary. Many tourists visit every day, and though not all of them are there to snorkel, it can still get pretty crowded on the shore.
  • As mentioned above, the use of reef-safe sunscreen is a must because it is the law in the State of Hawaii. Chemicals in regular commercial sunscreen – oxybenzone and octinoxate – can disrupt the DNA of coral reefs and cause abnormalities and bleaching. Kealakekua Bay is particular about enforcing this law, so be sure to use only reef-safe sunscreen from reliable retailers or your tour company (Dolphin Discoveries provides legitimate reef-safe sunscreen for your convenience).
  • The bay has a reputation for having lake-like conditions most of the year. And with its clear waters, you’ll see a lot of marine life even if you stay on a boat.
  • Boating on Kealakekua Bay is ideal for families with young children and people who feel queasy on water vessels since the water rarely gets turbulent.
  • Many wild animals such as mongooses and wild goats live in the bay. For this reason, locals and tour companies ask that visitors clean up after themselves when visiting.
  • You don’t have to walk too far from the shore to venture into deeper waters. To be safe, tourists can put on a life vest before getting into the water.

Going to Captain Cook Monument

To reach Captain Cook Monument by land, you can take Highway 11 from Kailua-Kona and drive south for about 12 miles until you reach the sign for Napo’opo’o Road. The path that will take you down to the bay starts a little further ahead on the right side of the road. There is a signpost for the path; unfortunately, it’s not easy to spot.

However, tourists who purposefully visit the Big Island for Captain Cook snorkeling usually go to the site early. If you arrive a little later in the morning or the afternoon, you should find the signpost easily because of the parked cars in the area.

After parking your vehicle, you’ll have to walk about 500 meters along a steep path going down the bay. It usually takes 45 minutes to an hour, depending on your pace and whether you’re carrying heavy swimming gear. It also gets quite hot in the middle of the day, so it would be best to be on the path earlier before the sun is at its peak.

The monument is a free-for-all attraction that anyone can visit. Visitors can also rent a car and drive to the site on their own. But if you’re heading to Captain Cook to snorkel and not just to sight-see, you’ll likely have to carry heavy bags on your trek down and back up to the highway.

Going to the snorkeling site via boat will be more convenient because you can drive to the dock and have your gear and other belongings loaded on the watercraft.

Consider hiring a boat if you are going with a large group and or bringing a lot of gear with you. A guided boat tour is even better: they know the area very well and will take you to the snorkeling site past the lava tubes, sea caves, and swimming coves. You’ll also see many interesting geological formations on the coast along the way.

Experience a Memorable Water Adventure with Dolphin Discoveries

Make the most of your trip to Hawaii and make sure to visit Captain Cook for snorkeling! Dolphin Discoveries can take you there and organize an itinerary that will show you the best of Kealakekua Bay.

We have well-maintained and equipped boats and local guides who can show and tell you everything there is to know about Captain Cook Monument and the surrounding areas.

And if you want to explore the area on your clock, you can book a private charter. Your captain will be happy to help you customize your itinerary.

Dolphin Discoveries hosts boat tours for families and snorkeling adventures in Captain Cook. For details, reach out via our Contact Page or call 808-322-8000.

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