Kona snorkeling is easily the best snorkeling on the Big Island of Hawaii. There’s a number of reasons why but basically it all comes down to ocean conditions and things to see underwater. Because of the great ocean conditions most of the year the warm clear waters support an abundance of smaller and larger marine life from whales down to the domino damsel fish which is only found here in Hawaii.
In this article I will go over my personal favorite freediving and snorkeling spots in the Kailua-Kona area. My name is Byron Kay and I am the owner of Kona Freedivers, Kona Honu Divers, and Kona Snorkel Trips. I chose to live on the Big Island of Hawaii because it has the best diving and snorkeling available in the Hawaiian Island chain. Here are my personal favorite snorkeling spots in Hawaii based on proximity, and how good the snorkeling is. Most of these spots are easy to get into though some may be more challenging especially when the swells get bigger so check ocean conditions before making any serious plans.
10 Best Kona Snorkeling Spots
- Pawai Arches
- Kailua Pier
- Mile Marker 4
- Kua Bay
- Keahou Bay
- Kahalu’u Beach Park
- Suck E’m Up
- Golden Arches
1. Pawai Arches
Easily one of the best Kona Snorkeling spots on the big island. Pawai Bay is located in a spot that is difficult to access from shore. It’s popular with snorkel tour boats because of its beauty and abundance of marine life. To snorkel here we recommend booking with Kona Snorkel Trips. They offer a Deluxe AM snorkel tour that visits this spot and another so you can get a nice taste of some of the best snorkeling on the Big Island.
2. Kailua Bay Pier
Probably one of the easier spots to find and get in the water. Kailua Bay is great for beginner snorkelers and groups because it’s protected from swell and has sandy entries free of lava and rocks. The pier is located right in downtown Kailua-Kona. It’s used by regattas and cruise ships. It’s a great place for the family to hang out. There are plenty of rental shops nearby as well food and drinks.
Kamakakahonu beach (Eye of the Turtle beach) is located between the King Kamehameha hotel and the ocean. It’s protected from ocean swell and so it makes a great spot for Keiki (little kids) to hang out. If you don’t have snorkel gear you can rent it from Ali’i Adventures across the street or even get a paddle board to push around in the bay.
The bottom is mostly sandy unless you stay near the shore. There can be small or medium sized schools of fish in the area and even dolphins will venture into the 30-40 foot depths to rest.
If you start at the pier on the side that is closest to Ali’i Drive there’s some stairs and an easy entry that is the beginning of a swim course that goes out 1.2 miles to the Royal Kona resort to the south. You can swim along the course and look for Honu (turtles) and other fish like schools of yellow tang.
One of the best Kona snorkeling spots to see fish, fishbowl is a secret snorkel spot located between the Harbor and Kona town. The seclusion and variety of underwater features easily make this one of the top 10 best Big Island snorkeling spots let alone snorkel spots in Kona.
To visit this spot book a Deluxe AM snorkeling tour with Kona Snorkel Trips, Hawaii’s top rated and most reviewed snorkel company. They will always take you to the best snorkeling spots in Kona based on the current ocean conditions.
For more secret snorkeling spots check out this article.
4. Mile Marker 4
Located just south of Magic Sands beach park Mile marker 4 is a popular scuba and freediving spot. While the entry is a but trickier than the pier it is a great Kona snorkeling site that is located in the heart of the Kona area.
The entry can be a bit Ricky here but once you’re in you’ll likely be greeted by a resident school of yellow tangs that we seem to see every single time we get in here. Swim out on the reef and head left (south) until you find a canyon that is around 20-30 ft deep. The canyon has an arch and a cave near shore that you can swim in and through with skylights to swim up and out. Don’t feel confident enough to do it? Get your freediving certification with Kona Freedivers and you’ll feel like a pro!
After you get out of the water walk north along Ali’i drive a few hundred feet to Magic Sands beach to rinse off in the shower.
5. Kua Bay
One of the most picturesque beaches located just north of Kona proper Kua bay is a long stretch of white sand with bathroom facilities. One of the more popular and well known beaches for locals and visitors Kua is a great Kona snorkeling spot too. Most people don’t think of Kua bay beach for snorkeling because if you stay near the beach the snorkeling is pretty lackluster. But if you swim out past the waves and to the north the reef gets really nice and there’s loads of marine life to see. There’s a sandy bottom and a reef wall that you can swim along and look for white tip reef sharks under the overhangs. Eagle rays can be found here looking for food in the sand (in the video).
One of our favorite beaches that has almost everything right. Kukio, is exclusive to a limited number of parking passes so it’s best to arrive early our be willing to wait around for a pass. The ocean here is a rest area so there hasn’t been any fishing for a number of years. This means there’s plenty of fish that are more friendly than at other spots.
There are showers, bathrooms, shade, and a great spot for kids to chill in a large calm pool of water. Head over to 4 Season’s to the north and eat lunch at Resident’s beach House.
7. Keahou Bay
Keahou bay is home to a harbor and the Outrigger hotel on the point. There is a great spot to get into the water near the hotel and some pretty good snorkeling even when swimming out to the point. On the down side there can be fair amount of boat traffic here so it’s important to carry a float or a paddle board with you if you plan to go out to the point.
8. Kahalu’u Beach Park
One of Kona’s most popular snorkel spots has shallow snorkeling with an abundance of fish and is well protected from most of the swell. Even though surfing is a big thing here the breakwater ensures the south end of the bay is actually quite calm. There’s bathrooms, showers, and a lifeguard tower here.
9. Suck E’m Up
One of our favorite spots to freedive and scuba dive. It’s also really good for snorkeling. It’s very similar to Pawai with some minor differences. In the video the divers begin at skull cave and work their way over the reef and through suck-em-up cavern. Oftentimes there will be white tip sharks sleeping near the cavern entrance.
Book a Snorkel Tour with Kona Snorkel Trips to visit this spot.
10. Golden Arches
Golden arches is one of our favorite Kona Snorkeling spots because of the arches it’s named for. The reef is nice and the arches and topography give the area a ton of character. The marine life is also good here and it’s a good medium depth. What more could you ask for?
You can only get here by boat with Kona Snorkel Trips.
Bonus Spot: Captain Cook Monument
While this snorkeling spot is not in Kona it can be accessed by boat from Kona’s Honokohau Marina. Kealakekua Bay is home to one of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island and in all of Hawaii. An abundance of fish, nice coral, fascinating history and dramatic scenery make for a one-of-a-kind experience.