Kona has some of the best snorkeling in the United States and even the world. The combination of good visibility, warm waters, fantastic marine life encounters and interesting underwater lava features make Kona one of the world’s best snorkeling destinations period.

Snorkelers swim the calm waters of Kealakekua bay on the Captain Cook Snorkeling Tour

Here are a few guides to get you pointed in the right direction if you’re considering visiting Kona to snorkel.

Kona Snorkeling Guides:

The Best Time of Year to Snorkel Kona

Kona Snorkeling Spots

Gear for Snorkeling in Kona

Top 15 Big Island Snorkeling Spots

Top 5 Kona Snorkel Tours

Reasons Why Kona Snorkeling is so Good

If you’re wondering Does Kona Have Good Snorkeling? The short answer is yes Kona has excellent snorkeling. The long answer as to why the snorkeling in Kona is so good is detailed below.

Kona Has Excellent Visibility

Because Kona is located on the western flank of a massive volcano (the world’s biggest) it is mostly fresh lava. This means there is very little sand. That coupled with calm waters means you’ll be able to see farther underwater. The visibility in Kona is typically from 30 – 80 feet.

Kona Has Better Surface Conditions

Compared to the Other Hawaiian Islands like Oahu, maui, or Kauai, the Big Island of Hawaii and specifically the Kona side has excellent ocean conditions. The size of the island coupled with the fact that the other islands shield the Big Islands western flank from ocean swell means Kona snorkeling will be smoother than snorkeling in other places. Couple this with the fact that there are many bays to tuck away in and the conditions become even better. Places like Kealakekua bay where the Captain Cook monument is located are very well sheltered and contribute to excellent snorkeling.

A calm sea surface is common when snorkeling Kona waters contributing to it’s charm

Kona Has Warm Water

The water on the Kona side of the Big Island is 5-6 degrees warmer than on the eastern Hilo side. It averages 80 degrees. with a low of 76 and a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people will want to wear a wetsuit, however, as it can get a little chilly when resting on the surface for longer periods.

Kona Has Amazing Marine Life

Kona snorkeling has a variety of marine life from eels, octopus, reef sharks, and manta rays there’s a bit of everything from large to small here. While some of the other Hawaiian Islands will have an abundance of monk seals or turtles none have the variety and abundance of Kona’s marine life. It’s possible to see hammerheads, humpback whales, dolphins, and mantas on a single snorkel trip!

Kona Has Fantastic Underwater Features

Caves, caverns, pinnacles, canyons, and arches are just a few of the wondrous sights you’ll encounter while snorkeling Kona. Kona Snorkel Trips offers a morning snorkel that visits Pawai arches one of our absolute favorite Kona snorkel spots.

Pawai Arches is one of our favorite snorkel spots you can visit on the Deluxe Snorkel Tour

Where to go for the Best Kona Snorkeling Experience

There’s several ways to experience the best Kona snorkeling. One is to take a snorkel tour with Hawaii’s top rated snorkel company. The other way to get your fill of snorkeling Kona is to simply get some gear and visit some of the best snorkeling Big Island has by using this guide.

Kona Snorkel Trips

Kona Snorkel Trips is Hawaii’s highest rated and most reviewed snorkel company. They offer 4 snorkel tours a day including combo packages & private boat tours. Here’s a list of the 4 Tour Types

  • Deluxe Morning Kona Snorkel Tour
  • Captain Cook Snorkeling Tour
  • Afternoon Reef Snorkel
  • Manta Ray Night Snorkel

Each of these tours has it’s strengths. Read on to find out more.

Deluxe Morning Kona Snorkel Tour

Visit 2 different sites along the Kona coast. This is the most suitable tour for people who love being in the water and get you out on the reef in 2 different snorkel spots.

Captain Cook Snorkeling Tour

This tour is so different from anything else in Hawaii because it combines a coastal run, gorgeous reef snorkeling, dramatic scenery, and a historical lesson all in to one. Similar time frame to the Deluxe Morning snorkel with less water time and more cruising and above water sights.

Afternoon Reef Snorkel

Essentially a shorter version of the Deluxe Morning Reef Snorkel you’ll be out and back with a visit to one extra special snorkel site. You will be back in time for happy hour.

Manta Ray Night Snorkel

The manta ray night snorkel Kona Snorkel Trips offers is one of the most popular attractions on the Big Island. Seeing these massive flying underwater creatures is mesmerizing and puts a giant smile on everyone’s face. There’s simply nothing else like it in the world.

Kona Snorkeling Your Own Way

If you’re feeling a bit more intrepid you can always get a set of snorkel gear and seek out the best snorkeling on Big Island yourself. Kona Snorkel Trips has a YouTube channel detailing all of the Kona snorkeling sites coupled with a guide.

This map and guide detail the places to go snorkeling on Big Island covering many of the popular and not so popular spots. The Big Island is no joke. There’s so many different places to snorkel here it could take years to see them all!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Snorkeling Better in Maui or Kona?

When it comes to snorkeling, both Maui and Kona offer unique and exciting experiences. Kona is known for its clear and calm waters, providing excellent visibility for snorkelers along much of the coast and can be accessible by shore. Visitors can encounter an array of sea life including colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, eels, octopus, manta rays, monk seals and dolphins. Also, Kona has the world famous Manta Ray night snorkel whereas Maui doesn’t have any particular standout tour. On the other hand, Maui is famous for its green sea turtles and is great for viewing humpback whales (during the winter months from a boat). The best snorkeling spots in Maui are found not on Maui but at Molokini Crater and the nearby island of Lanai which are only accessible by boat.

Is Snorkeling Better in Hilo or Kona?

Hilo is a lesser-known snorkeling destination compared to Kona. While snorkeling in Hilo is possible, the waters can be choppy, the temperature is cooler, and visibility is typically much more limited, making it less ideal for snorkeling compared to Kona. However, Hilo is known for its lush tropical landscapes, waterfalls, and black sand beaches.

Which Side of the Big Island is Best for Snorkeling?

Both the Kona and Hilo sides of the Big Island offer snorkeling opportunities, but Kona is known for its clear waters and diverse marine life, making it the more popular choice for snorkelers.

Which Hawaii Island has Best Snorkeling?

It is difficult to determine which Hawaiian island has the best snorkeling, as each island offers its own unique snorkeling experiences. Maui is known for its diverse marine life, while Kona is known for its clear waters and popular snorkeling destinations. The best island for snorkeling ultimately depends on individual preferences and what you’re looking for in a snorkeling adventure.

Is Kona Cheaper than Maui?

The cost of a trip to Kona or Maui will vary based on the time of year, accommodation options, and other factors. In general, Maui tends to be more expensive than Kona because it is much smaller and has a similar amount of tourism, but it’s always best to compare prices and plan accordingly.

What is the Best Month to Visit Kona Hawaii?

The best time to visit Kona is during the months of May to October, when the weather is warm and dry. This is also the peak tourist season, so it’s important to book accommodations in advance.

What Time of Day is Best to Snorkel in Kona?

The best time of day to snorkel in Kona is in the morning, when the water is calm and the visibility is at its best. Late afternoons can also be a good time to snorkel, but be prepared for a potential increase in boat traffic.

Where is the Clearest Water for Snorkeling?

In Hawaii the clearest waters will be found along the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaii south of the airport. This is because there’s much less sand for the ocean waves to stir up. Another great spot for visibility is the backside of Lanai and Maui’s monokini crater. Both are only accessible by boat.

What is the Number 1 Beach in Hawaii?

Like picking your favorite child or movie this can be both difficult or highly personalized as each island offers its own unique and beautiful beaches. Some of the most popular beaches in Hawaii include Waikiki Beach on Oahu, Lahaina Beach on Maui, and Hapuna Beach on the Big Island. If you’re looking for beauty and solitude you’re going to want to visit Kauai or the Big Island as there are more beaches and fewer people to cover them.

Where do the Locals Snorkel on Big Island?

Most locals will go to a spot nearest where they live. This is for convenience and because the snorkeling is pretty good in most places. There are a few areas to avoid mostly between the airport and Waikoloa because the sand makes for poor visibility. To check out some of the best options visit our guide to the Top 15 snorkeling spots on the Big Island.