The best snorkeling spots on the Big Island are found off the west coast beaches of the Big Island. Here, the water is clearest and the waves are smaller compared to the other side of the island. Below we summarize the 14 most popular spots that are closest to Kona.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
Good to know: Please remember to use reef-safe sun screen to prevent sunburn while snorkeling and to help protect our reefs!
Our all-time favorite snorkeling spots on the Big Island are Two Step, Kealakekua Bay and Kahaluʻu Beach Park. These spots are briefly mentioned in this guide while more in-depth information on these 3 locations can be found at the article on our favorite Big Island snorkeling spots. Read all our more general snorkeling advice in our guide to snorkeling on the Big Island.
Map of Kona coast snorkeling spots
The following map shows the locations for the best snorkeling spots on the Kona coast. Scroll further down this page to read the descriptions or read them on the map.
List of best snorkeling spots off the Kona coast
The following 14 snorkel spots are popular destinations for locals and tourists alike. The have been ordered on geographical location, from south (first entry) to north (last entry).
- Honaunua (Two step)
- Kahaluʻu beach park
- Magic Sands
- Kamakahonu (King Kam)
- Honokohau Harbor
- Anaehoʻomalu Bay
- Makaiwa Bay
- Honokaope Bay
- Pauʻoa Bay
- Waialea Beach
- Hapuna Beach
- Kaunaʻoa beach
- Lapakahi State Park
ps: did you know that numbers #3, 4, 5, and 12 also feature on our list of best Kona beaches? As if you needed more reasons to check those out.
Two Step at Honaunau
One of our 3 favorite spots on the island. Clear water and very close to one of our favorite national parks: Puʻuhonua o Honaunau.
Distance from Kona: 23 miles (40 minutes by car).
One of our 3 favorite spots on the island, best reached by boat tour but also reachable with a kayak or after a tough hike. Kealakekua bay directions and snorkeling info.
Distance from Kona: 17 miles (34 minutes by car).
Kahaluʻu Beach Park
One of our 3 favorite spots on the island, and also very popular with local surfers. Make sure to stay at the left (south) side of the beach while snorkeling and please don’t step on the corals. Kahaluʻu bay directions and snorkeling info.
Distance from Kona: 4.9 miles (14 minutes by car).
Magic Sands Beach Park (LaʻAloa)
A small, fun beach in Kona, named for the fact that the beach’s sand comes and goes seemingly overnight with big storms. If the waves are small this beach is well-suited for snorkeling. Go out a few hundred yards and to the right to see some nice corals and larger fish.
Distance from Kona: 3.7 miles (11 minutes by car).
King Kam (Kamakahonu) Beach
Very easy to reach beach in central Kona. Perfect for an early morning or late afternoon snorkel.
More information on King Kam beach.
Distance from Kona: 0 miles (downtown Kona).
The beach at Honokohau Harbor
There is a small beach directly north of the Honokohau harbor where you can find good snorkeling, but little more.
The beach does not have life guards, bathroom facilities, or trash cans, and to get there you need to walk over ~65 meters of lava rock. This beach is locally know as “Kona Dog Beach” because it is one of the few beaches where dogs are allowed off-leash. Don’t go if that scares you.
The beach at Honokohau harbor is directly south of the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park which is very much worth a quick visit. This park also has a long “salt and pepper” sand beach (the sand is made up of a mix of small particles of white coral and black lava rock) from which you can enter the water for snorkeling.
More information on Kona Dog Beach.
Distance from Kona: 3.7 miles (10 minutes by car).
Anaehoʻomalu (“A”) Bay
This beach is protected from high surf by an offshore reef. It is an okay spot for snorkeling, and an absolutely beautiful beach to spend the sunset.
More information on A Bay on our website.
Distance from Kona: 25.6 miles (37 minutes by car).
Mauna Lani Resort – Makaiwa Bay
Small beach on the south end of the Mauna Lani resort property. Easy entry and exit, shallow reef with immediate payoff of reef fish, coral heads, octopus, and eels. Further out the water clears and more coral and larger schools of fish can be seen.
Distance from Kona: 29.6 miles (42 minutes by car).
Mauna Lani Resort – Honokaope Bay (49 black sand beach)
Small, black(ish) sand beach with lava rock cliffs and a shoreline fisherman’s trail. Clear water and excellent, unspoiled reef. Pinnacles and reef in shallower water to the left (south), deeper reef to the right (north).
Distance from Kona: 29.6 miles (42 minutes by car).
Pauʻoa Bay at the Fairmont Orchid Hotel
This beach is a good place for beginning swimmers or snorkelers. It is protected by large lava rocks that surround the beach, and a sand bottom entry into the water makes it even more pretty. When the ocean conditions are favorable (low surf) swimming outside the protective rocks offers good snorkeling opportunities.
Distance from Kona: 29 miles (41 minutes by car).
Waialea Beach (Beach 69)
The best reefs at this beach are on the southern side of the bay, but there is also plenty of coral around the rocky prominence inside the bay and close to the rocky point on the right (north) side of the beach. The weak point for snorkeling here is the possible murky water. Snorkeling here is best with calm ocean conditions.
More information on Waialea Beach.
Distance from Kona: 31.3 miles (44 minutes by car).
Hāpuna beach is one of our favorite white sand beaches on the Big Island. Snorkeling is good at Hāpuna beach if the water is calm. You can either go snorkel around the small cliff to the north of the beach or around the rocky point on the South of the beach.
More information on Hāpuna beach.
Distance from Kona: 31.8 miles (43 minutes by car).
Kaunaʻoa (Mauna Kea) Beach
Snorkeling here is excellent when the water is calm. There is easy access into the water with a sandy entry point, the best fish and coral can be found next to the rocky points at either end of the beach. Parking space at Mauna Kea beach is limited, so show up early!
More information on Mauna Kea Beach.
Distance from Kona: 33.6 miles (47 minutes by car).
Lapakahi State Historical Park
The main features of Lapakahi State Historical Park features are the partially reconstructed ruins of the ancient fishing village of Koai‘e, dating back to the 1300s. The park is also a Marine Life Conservation District, which means that you can do some good snorkeling here!
High surf occurs during winter months, and throughout the year there are currents outside of Koai‘e Cove. This means that you should stay within the cove for snorkeling and swimming.
Within Koai‘e Cove are two small beaches consisting of coral rubble (there is no sand beach). The cove provides the easiest access to the water. The cove’s northern portion has some good coral growth close to shore, but coral and fish are most abundant in the southern portion. Considerable marine life is also found around the outcropping of rocks to the right of the cove’s center.
More information on the Lapakahi State Historical Park.
Distance from Kona: 45.5 miles (58 minutes by car).
All snorkeling spots listed in this guide are easy to reach by car and are great to include with a visit to the beach. We are always happy to go to any of the snorkeling spots mentioned on this page and often take visiting friends to show off our fabulous spots.
There are, however, more ways to enjoy snorkeling here on the Big Island:
- Daytime snorkeling trips that take you to more secluded snorkeling spots,
- Aquatic safaris + snorkel tours, and
- the manta ray night snorkel.
We describe all 3 below:
Day-time snorkeling cruise (by boat)
For us the main advantages of taking an arranged snorkeling cruise are the locations you are taken to, the fact that you have to arrange nothing yourself, and of course the special memories. There are a few spectacular snorkeling locations that are very difficult to reach without a boat. Think marine life sanctuaries, underwater lava arches and caves, and waters that are not muddled by sand from the beach that is stirred up by breaking waves.
One snorkeling tour we recommend is the following one organized by Body Glove on a 65′ catamaran that includes water slides, BBQ lunch, and everything else you’d expect from a $2 million vessel:
Deluxe Snorkel & Dolphin Watch
Step aboard a 65’ Catamaran for a fun-filled day of adventure! This 4.5 hour cruise offers breakfast, lunch, and all the comforts you would expect from being on a $2 million vessel.
Duration: 4.5 hours
By: Body Glove
Free cancellation: up to 48 hours before tour
If you put a higher value on privacy and flexibility you could consider chartering a small boat for half a day. We like working with the following operator because of the flexibility they offer for the destination (from secluded beaches to aquatic safaris to great snorkeling spots to pelagic water dives). They also have the cutest deck hand called Maka, who is a small black and white dog and sometimes joins the fun on the boat and in the water (note: must not be allergic to dogs).
Private 38ft Boat Snorkeling Charter / Cruise
Excellent for families and friend groups, this 4 hour private charter on a 38ft boat takes you anywhere along the Kona coast you want!
Duration: 4 hours
By: Torpedo Tours
Free cancellation: up to 2 weeks before tour
Aquatic Snorkeling Safaris
An aquatic snorkeling safari is a combination between a snorkeling tour and a small-boat cruise that takes you out to search for marine life. Similar to the other snorkeling tours mentioned on this page these tours typically last half a day. Because of the time spent exploring the coastline and looking for marine wildlife (whales, dolphins, manta rays, etc.), the amount of snorkeling time you have is limited, and shorter (cheaper) tours sometimes only offer 30 to 60 minutes of snorkeling.
If this sounds good to you we recommend the following aquatic safari:
The Marine Wildlife & Reef Snorkel Adventure
This is a 3-hour long tour with limited snorkeling time on a FAST zodiac-style boat. Great for people looking for a fast-paced and exciting ride and a guaranteed adrenaline rush, less-so for people that like to take it easy and snorkel at their own leisure.
Marine Wildlife & Reef Snorkel Adventure
Marine wildlife safari + snorkel adventure on a Navy SEAL Zodiac Boat for the adventurous adrenaline riders ONLY. 14 guests max.
Duration: 2 hours
Free cancellation: up to 72 hours before tour
Night snorkel with Manta Rays
This snorkeling adventure is in our view one of the most memorable activities on the Big Island. Manta rays are gentle giants that can grow as large as 23 ft (7 meters). When they feed at night a tour can get you as close as a nose-length to these majestic animals.
The best way to see the rays is as part of a tour, most of which depart from Kona or Keauhou to make a small cruise to one of two locations:
- “Manta Village”: North of Kona in front of the Kona International Airport
- “Manta Heaven”: South of Kona near the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Keauhou.
You can read more about swimming with the manta rays on our website. Our preferred tour operator to go see the manta rays is Sea Paradise because of the good care they take of the environment and the great reviews they get:
Sunset Manta Ray Snorkeling Tour
Snorkel adventure from a 50-foot luxury catamaran to see the majestic manta rays at the world-famous "Manta Village" location in Keauhou (south Kona).
Duration: 2 hours
By: Sea Paradise
Free cancellation: up to 24 hours before tour