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Snorkeling spots and beaches in Kona

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The best snorkeling spots on the Big Island are concentrated at the west coast beaches of the Big Island. Here, the water is clearest and the waves are smaller compared to the eastern side of the Big Island. We summarize the 14 most popular spots that are closest to Kona.

Our all-time favorite snorkeling spots on the Big Island are Two Step, Kealakekua Bay and Kahalu’u 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.

You can find the following information in this snorkeling guide to Kona:

  1. Map of snorkeling spots near Kona
  2. Description of snorkeling spots near Kona
  3. Manta Ray (night) snorkel

Please remember that it is often sunny at the Kona coast, and that it is very easy to get a sunburn while snorkeling. Read all our snorkeling advice in the guide to snorkeling on the Big Island.

Map of snorkeling spots on the Kona coast

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 on 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 (1st entry) to north (last entry).

  • 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: Pu’uhonua o Honaunau.

    Honaunau bay directions and snorkeling info

    Distance from Kona: 23 miles (40 minutes by car).

  • Kealakekua Bay

    One of our 3 favorite spots on the island, reached by boat tour, with kayak or after a tough hike. Kealakekua bay directions and snorkeling info.

    Distance from Kona: 17 miles (34 minutes by car).

  • Kahalu’u 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. Kahalu’u bay directions and snorkeling info.

    Distance from Kona: 4.9 miles (14 minutes by car).

  • Magic Sands Beach Park (La’Aloa)

    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).

  • Anaeho’omalu (“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.

    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).

  • Pau’oa 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

    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).

  • Kauna’oa (Mauna Kea) Beach

    Snorkeling here is excellent when the water is calm. 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).

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.

Manta ray night dive / snorkeling tours

Most tours to see the manta rays depart from Kona and then make a small cruise to one of two locations:

  • “Manta Village”: North of Kona in front of the Kona International Airport or
  • “Manta Heaven”: South of Kona near the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Keauhou.

Read more about taking and booking a manta ray snorkel tour.