So, you’ve booked a trip to the Hawaiian Islands and now you’re ready to test out your brand new H2O Ninja Mask, but where do you start? With some of the most pristine beaches in the world, Hawaii’s coastlines do not disappoint in terms of underwater adventure, but figuring out where to go, when and on what island can be kind of daunting. In this series, we will break down the best snorkeling spots on each island so you can make the most of your adventure. Our series on snorkeling in the Hawaiian Islands began on Oahu, then hopped over to Maui and today we are exploring Hawai’i!
Hawai’i (aka The Big Island)
Also known as The Big Island, Hawai’i is the largest island in the chain of Hawaiian Islands measuring 4,028 square miles. At 93 miles across, Hawai’i is also the largest island in the United States and home to the tallest volcano (from sea floor base to highest peak), Mauna Kea. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the site of Kīlauea, an active volcano, is another treasure amongst the lush tropics of The Big Island.
If you’re heading to The Big Island, your first stop should be Kaunaoa Bay, a pristine locale named one of “The World’s All Time Best Beaches” by Travel Channel. You might not have heard of it before, but perhaps you’ve heard Mauna Kea Beach, a moniker given to this sandy shoreline because it sits in front of the famed Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. Why is a hotel important? Because at night this hotel shines bright lights down into the water to attract plankton so that manta rays can come feed. It’s the only place in the world manta rays come at night to circle feed and they’ve been doing it for years! Grab your snorkel gear and arrive before sunset. Many know about this famed spot, so the parking lot fills quickly. Watch the sunset and hop into the waters to catch a glimpse of these feeding rays. Not inclined to pirouette with the ocean’s finest ballerinas? Turtles, goat fish and parrot fish hang out during the day!
Honaunau Bay, locally known as The City of Refuge, is located on a 182-acre historic park and great for snorkelers of all skill levels. Guests have seen spinner dolphins in the deeper waters and turtles (locally: honu) in the more shallow depths near the rocky shoreline. In the shallow sections, ample morning sun shines down making the coral and colorful reef fish easy to spot. There is not an actual parking lot here, so you will be parking along a main road. Use caution and arrive early!
Kealakekua Bay (aka Captain Cook)
Located 17 miles south of Kona, sits Kealakekua Bay, known to many as Captain Cook. Getting to the spots with active marine life can be tricky, as the distance from shore to prime snorkeling spots is about 1.5 miles. Plan to have a tour boat take you or rent a kayak (with a permit!) to paddle out yourself. The only underwater state park on island, Kealakekua Bay is home to lizard fish, eel and a variety of pastel-colored coral. Planning a snorkeling trip to Kauai? Come back next week!