Big Island Snorkeling Tips: Things You Need to Know

Big Island Snorkeling Tips: Things You Need to Know in Your Adventure

If you’re seeking an unforgettable experience or exciting activities to do, the Big Island is the place to be. With its thriving reefs and diverse underwater world, it’s no wonder that the Big Island is one of the most popular snorkel spots globally.

The Best Big Island Snorkel Spots

Kahalu’u Beach Park

Located just a stone’s throw away from our Kailua-Kona condos for rent, such as Alii Cove, Kahaluʻu Beach Park presents an exceptional choice for beach enthusiasts. Tucked away just south of the bustling town center, lies a hidden gem along the stunning Kona coast. This snorkeling spot is highly popular among beginners. The bay offers a large shallow area shielded by a natural breaker, ensuring calm waters.

Snorkeling is possible throughout the day. While the coral may be average, the bay boasts a diverse range of fish. The water depth remains below 10 feet, but entering can be challenging due to sharp lava rocks instead of a beach. Adjacent to the bay, the beach park provides ample parking; however, spaces fill up quickly in the morning.

Kiholo Bay

The bay area offers excellent snorkeling opportunities in diverse locations. A vast coral reef is accessible from the stunning black sand beach, extending over a wide expanse. On the west side, the coral reef continues uninterrupted, while the east side has sandy areas interspersed with coral islands. The bay gradually slopes to deeper depths, suitable for snorkelers of all skill levels.

With its extensive snorkeling area, it’s worth revisiting during a vacation. The bay benefits from partial wave protection, so it’s best to visit early in the day for calm water. For the best snorkeling experience, head towards the west side of the bay. Follow the road and take the left turn to the camping area.

Kua Bay

This beach is a popular destination with easy access. It is also well-known for shore diving. The northern end of the beach offers great snorkeling opportunities, with coral starting right from the shoreline. Explore further north, at a pace that suits you, and you’ll discover coral islands scattered amidst a sandy bottom. While this area may experience moderate wave exposure, visiting early in the morning is recommended.

Captain Cook Monument (Kealakekua Bay)

Discover excellent snorkeling, some of the best on the island, well worth the journey out here. The north side of the bay boasts an extensive coral reef that abruptly descends into the depths below. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to explore the shallow and deep waters with a rich diversity of marine life.

The bay’s wave protection allows for enjoyable snorkeling throughout most of the day. However, do note that due to its popularity, the water can get crowded as the snorkeling area is concentrated along the bay’s northern tip. Tour boats typically arrive later in the morning.

Manini Beach

Located on the opposite side of Kealakekua Bay from the Captain Cook monument, this area features a county park and easy water access. It offers a serene environment for visitors, with excellent wave protection throughout the day. The bay is ideal for exploration, with beautiful coral formations along the shore and a spacious sandy area in the central part.

The area with coral towers provides the best snorkeling experience. Note that the rocky beach near the boat ramp is not recommended for entry. Limited parking is available at Manini public park. From this side of the bay, you can rent kayaks to paddle across to the Captain Cook Monument.

The Best Time to Go Snorkeling on the Big Island

The best time to go snorkeling on the Big Island is during the summer months, from June to August. The water is warm and the visibility is at its best. However, if you prefer to avoid crowds, it’s best to avoid the peak tourist season (July and August). The shoulder months (May and September) offer a great compromise between weather and crowds.

When Is the Best Time of Day to Snorkel?

The best time of day for snorkeling on the Big Island is early in the morning before the crowds arrive and the sun gets too hot. The water is calm and the visibility is at its best. If you can’t make it out early, late in the day (around sunset) is also a good time to go.

Is It Better to Snorkel at High or Low Tide?

It is better to snorkel at high tide because the water is deeper and there are more fish to see. However, if you are looking to snorkel at a coral reef, it is better to snorkel at low tide so you can see the coral.

What to Wear & Pack for Your Big Island Snorkeling Adventure

Now that you know all the best places to snorkel and when the best time of day is to go, it’s time to start planning what to wear and pack for your adventure.

Wear Sunscreen

This should go without saying, but it’s important to wear reef-safe, mineral-based sunscreen during any outdoor activity on the Big Island, especially while swimming in the ocean. The sun is incredibly strong and the reflection off the water can intensify its effects. Be sure to apply sunscreen before you get in the water and reapply every few hours, even if you’re wearing a wetsuit.

Wear a Wetsuit

Speaking of wetsuits, the waters around the Big Island are usually pretty warm, but they can get chilly occasionally – especially in the winter months. A wetsuit will not only keep you warm, but it will also protect your skin from the sun.

Bring a Rashguard

A rashguard is a type of shirt that’s made from quick-drying, UV-resistant fabric. It’s a good idea to wear a rashguard when you’re snorkeling on the Big Island to protect your skin from the sun.

Bring a Reusable Water Bottle

The Big Island is a beautiful place, and we want to keep it that way. Be sure to bring a reusable water bottle with you so you can stay hydrated without creating plastic waste. Be sure to take it back with you to your accommodation!

Bring Snacks

Snorkeling can be pretty tiring, so it’s always a good idea to bring snacks with you. This is especially important if you’re with kids – they tend to get hangry pretty quickly!

Most resorts and hotels have equipment or gear that you can rent for a fee. If you’re staying in Kailua-Kona, Ali Cove, or Waikoloa, there are also several rental shops where you can rent snorkel gear.

Big Island Snorkeling Tours

The best way to make the most of your Hawaii adventure is to go on a Big Island snorkeling tour. The tours will take you to the top locations, provide all the necessary gear, and give you an unforgettable experience.

Some of the best Big Island snorkel tours are:

The Potential Dangers of Snorkeling

Although snorkeling is safe when basic safety guidelines are followed, individuals with prior health concerns like asthma, seizures, heart conditions, or panic attacks should always speak to their doctor beforehand.

  • Getting stung by a jellyfish. To avoid getting stung, wear a wetsuit or rash guard.
  • Getting sunburned. To protect yourself from the sun, wear mineral-based sunscreen and a hat.
  • Getting caught in a rip current. One of the most common dangers when snorkeling is being caught in a rip current. A rip current is a powerful, swift-moving current of water that can drag even the most robust swimmer out to sea. You can identify rip currents by looking for a channel of smooth surface water where the waves are lower and there appears to be less whitewater. If you find yourself in a rip current, don’t try to swim against it. Swim parallel to the shore until you are free of the current’s pull. Once you are free, swimming back to land should be easy.

Discover the Perfect Stay for Your Big Island Adventure!

AA Oceanfront offers the best Big Island vacation rentals with unbeatable views of the ocean. Whether you’re looking for a place to stay for your next snorkel the Big Island adventure or just want to relax and take in the beauty of the island, our rental properties are perfect for you!

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