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Big Island Snorkeling: How to Get the Most Out of Snorkeling in Hawai’i

Here Are the Coolest Big Island Snorkeling Spots

If you want to know all about Big Island snorkeling, you are in the right place. Hawai’i is one of the most famous destinations in the world for snorkeling. With its crystal blue waters, abundant marine life, and beautiful weather, it draws over 8 million people a year. Every Hawaiian Island has unique snorkeling experiences, but for the best snorkeling adventure on the Big Island, read these great tips!

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6 Tips on How to Have the Best Time Big Island Snorkeling

These expert tips will help you have the best and safest time on your snorkeling adventure! Learn where to go, how to be safe, the equipment you will need, tours, and other helpful information.

1. Learn Where You Can Snorkel on the Big Island

Is snorkeling better in Hilo or Kona?

The Kona is on the west side of the Big Island, while the Hilo side is on the east. Due to many beaches and calmer waters, many prefer the great places to snorkel on the Kona side of the Big Island.

Can you snorkel on your own in Kona?

Yes. You can snorkel on your own, and there are great places you can get to easily from the Kona side of the island. You don’t have to purchase a tour to enjoy snorkeling. All you need is your gear and essentials, and you can enjoy the entire day snorkeling from shore.

Can you snorkel anywhere on the Big Island?

You can snorkel just about anywhere you want, but what will be helpful is the ease of accessibility and whether it’s worth snorkeling in that spot. Marine life tends to hang out in certain areas that provide food and safety, such as coral reefs, rocks, and human-made structures, so this is often why certain destination spots are popular among snorkelers.

2. Try Some of the Best Places to Go for Big Island Snorkeling

Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling 

Kealakekua Bay is a beautiful area to scope out some marine life and have some fun in the ocean. This gorgeous bay is in a secluded area and protected from the wind as it sits under a 100-foot lava cliff! The natural wind protection makes for calm waters and easy snorkeling for beginners. The area also boasts incredible clarity, and you can spot tropical fish up to 100 feet away. Some consider Kealakekua Bay the best snorkeling in Hawai’i.

This location is accessible by hiking the Captain Cook Monument Trail, which has some special history to it if you’re interested in learning more about Hawai’i’s past. You can also access it by other means, like a boat or kayak, but you will need to pay for a tour or rentals if you choose that option. Because it is a protected zone in the marine life conservation district, many dolphins, manta rays, and tropical fish frequent this spot making it a popular destination spot for snorkeling.

Lapakahi State Historical Park 

Another marine life conservation spot, this location is an extraordinary 3-in-1 adventure. Not only will you have a lovely hike to get to it, but you will walk through the Lapakahi State Historical Park. It is a quieter location and an ancient Hawaiian village site where you can learn much about Hawaiian culture. After you have seen the site, you can follow the signs that will lead you to an entry point to snorkel.

Honaunau Bay Two Step

This spot is popular for its snorkeling. Honaunau Bay has especially clear waters since there isn’t much of a sandy beach to cloud the water. It is also easy to access hence the name “Two Step.” But this also means you may want foot protection with the lava rocks. It is also not a shallow location, so be sure to be comfortable with swimming at depths.

Like Lapakahi, you can visit a historical place called Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, which once served as a refuge for beaten warriors, those who had broken sacred laws, and displaced peoples such as women and children after a war. You can spend a couple of hours learning about Hawai’i’s rich heritage and then snorkel the rest of the day!

Best Places for Big Island Snorkeling

A rule of thumb about the best snorkeling spots is staying away from sandy beaches. You will find more transparent waters for marine life viewing if there is less sand. And that means you will mainly use lava rock entries to get into the ocean if you want those more transparent waters. Therefore, proper foot protection will save you from painful injuries, so have water shoes or fins for better snorkeling!

Also, other things to look for are calm waters and places where marine life congregates, like underwater structures or rocks and coral reefs that provide protection and food.

Big Island Snorkeling

3. Keep It Fun by Preparing for Big Island Snorkeling

Preparing before you go and learning about what you hope to encounter is a great way to make your snorkeling experience memorable. Ensure you have all the right gear to promote ultimate enjoyment and prevent injuries.

But also, it’s great to learn about the marine life you will encounter. Check out this great Lapakahi brochure the local Hawaiian government provided that quickly covers some of the marine life, safety, and information about the ancient Hawaiian village in the Lapakahi area.

Information like this will give your experience so much more meaning and make your day enjoyable when you can interact with the environment with learning and understanding! It also adds to the excitement and wonder of what marine life you might see!

4. Following Safety Precautions Equals a Great Time

Safety in Numbers

Never snorkel alone. Always take someone with you or go with a group. If you’re not a strong swimmer, plan to be in the water for a while, or want to be extra safe, take a flotation device with you so you don’t have to worry about becoming too tired.

Respect Marine Life

Don’t touch, approach, or feed marine life. Consider that you are just one of the hundreds of people they see daily. Feeding them too much food or food that isn’t part of their diet could cause serious harm or death.

Take Care of Yourself and Watch Out for Your Group

Make sure to keep yourself safe by packing adequate essentials for your trip. Stay hydrated by bringing plenty of water. Bring food and snacks since you will likely be far from places where you can purchase food. Always carry a trash bag to take your trash with you and help protect marine life from dangerous plastics that are threatening species. And never wear sunscreen that has oxybenzone because it bleaches coral reefs and kills baby coral. As an alternative, find a sunscreen with healthier ingredients and wear a t-shirt and shorts to help protect you from the sun.

What to avoid while snorkeling in Hawai’i?

Watch out for sharp coral reefs that could cut your feet or other parts of your body. Also, the coral reef is a living organism that can die if you step on it. To keep you both safe, avoid getting too close or putting yourself in a position that would cause you to step on them.

Pay attention to tides, riptides, and strong currents, so you are not swept out into the ocean. Keep watch of the weather and tide information the local government provides and respect nature’s power. Learn what to do in emergencies to help yourself if something like this happens.

Be careful of dangerous shore breaks that could slam you against the beach, which is possible even in shallow water.

manta rays snorkeling

5. Get the Right Gear You’ll Need Plus Rental Information

Snorkeling Gear

You will need a snorkeling mask, breathing tube (a snorkel), fins, or water shoes. You can find a place to rent your gear or purchase your own. There are many pros and cons to both. For instance, if you only plan to snorkel for a day or two, it’s probably not worth the time and energy to buy your own gear and haul it around. However, if you think you might snorkel consistently, having your own equipment ensures a proper fit every time you go, which is essential for having a safe and fun experience. Another idea is to buy a mask and snorkel but rent the fins, so you have less to haul around.

Snorkeling Gear Rental Companies

When looking for a place to rent from, try to find a place that has good reviews and meets proper sanitation requirements. Snorkel Bob’s is a great place to try, or Boss Frog’s snorkel rentals.

Best Sunscreen for Ocean Sports

Get the proper sunscreen. Reef-safe or reef-friendly sunscreens like All Good and Badger are the best kinds that will protect your skin and keep marine life safe. Please do not buy anything that has oxybenzone in it.

 6. Try a Big Island Snorkeling Tour

You can take many tours, which is an excellent option if you are new to Hawai’i or have never snorkeled. With a tour, you will get a unique experience with expert guides and other snorkeling lovers, which can be a lot of fun. A few you can try on the Big Island are the following:

Where to Stay on The Big Island

After a wonderful snorkeling tour around some of the best waters of Hawai’i, you’ll want to relax and recharge before another day of tropical excursions. Reserve a stay at one of the best vacation rentals on The Big Island. Private Homes Hawai’i offers beautiful, luxury vacation rentals, perfect for the whole family!

Book your relaxing retreat in one of our beautiful vacation homes in Kailua Kona! Our beautiful properties have incredible amenities, some of the best views on the island, and close access to all the fun activities and attractions in the area. Check out spas, golf courses, beaches, pools, restaurants, and more. Your dream vacation awaits on The Big Island. Check our availability and start planning your adventures today!

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