15 Best Snorkeling Spots on the Big Island, Hawaii | 2024 (with Photos)

Ana Dimic

Ana Dimic - Travel Writer

Published: June 29, 2023

Hi there! I'm Ana, an avid adventurer and lover of all things underwater. Join me as I share my top picks for the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island, Hawaii, along with breathtaking photos that will inspire you to dive into the incredible beauty of the island's marine world.

Snorkeling Spots on the Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii is a stunning archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, famous for its natural beauty, tropical climate, snorkeling spots, and rich cultural heritage.

The Big Island, or Hawaii Island, is the largest and most diverse Island in the Hawaiian chain.

One of the most popular activities on the Big Island is snorkeling, which provides a unique opportunity to explore the colorful underwater world of the island's pristine beaches and clear waters.

In this article, we break down 15 of the best snorkeling spots on the island. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced snorkeler, you're sure to have an unforgettable experience in the Hawaiian Islands paradise.

Most Recommended Thing to Do

Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Top Choice Hotel

Mauna Kea Beach Hotel

Our Top Choice Restaurant

Alan Wong's

Our Top Choice Bar for Nightlife

Mai Grille by Allen Hess

Best Time to Visit

Sunny weather, fewer tourists, stunning natural beauty.

Average Temperature

Warm and tropical temperatures on Big Island, Hawaii.

Transportation Options

Car rentals, taxis, shuttles, public buses, biking, walking.

Average Cost ($, $$, $$$)


My Top Recommendation

When it comes to spending time in the city of Big Island in Hawaii, brace yourself for an unforgettable adventure. The mystical charm of this island city awaits you, with its pristine beaches, lush hiking trails, and vibrant local culture—a true paradise for nature enthusiasts looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Immerse yourself in the pristine waters of the city's stunning beaches, where you can laze under the warm Hawaiian sun, go snorkeling to discover colorful underwater worlds, or even catch a glimpse of majestic humpback whales during their seasonal migration—a truly awe-inspiring experience that will leave you speechless.

What You'll Need to Bring

  1. Lightweight and breathable clothing
  2. Sunscreen and sunglasses
  3. Swimwear
  4. Comfortable walking shoes
  5. Hat or visor
  6. Insect repellent
  7. Travel adapters (if needed)
  8. Medications and first aid kit (if necessary)
  9. Snorkeling gear (optional)
  10. Camera or smartphone for capturing memories

What Not to Miss

  1. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  2. Mauna Kea Summit and Observatory
  3. Akaka Falls State Park
  4. Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area
  5. Waipio Valley
  6. Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park
  7. Kona Coffee Farms
  8. Rainbow Falls
  9. Punalu'u Black Sand Beach
  10. Pololu Valley Lookout

What to Avoid

  1. Avoid overpacking
  2. Avoid swimming in unsafe areas
  3. Avoid leaving valuables unattended
  4. Avoid touching or disturbing marine life
  5. Avoid feeding or approaching wildlife
  6. Avoid littering
  7. Avoid trespassing on private property
  8. Avoid driving off-road
  9. Avoid leaving food unattended
  10. Avoid visiting during peak tourist season if you prefer a more secluded experience

1. Kealakekua Bay - a Marine Life Conservation District

Kealakekua Bay

The west coast of the Big Island is a tropical paradise of crystal clear waters and sandy beaches home to stunning marine life, such as spinner dolphins, mahimahi, and tuna, as well as a coral reef.

Kealakekua Bay is a beautiful sandy beach located on the western side of the Big Island of Hawaii. This snorkel spot, like many others, has picnic tables, gear rentals, and a lifeguard on duty.

The waters of the bay are calm and clear in the early morning, providing perfect conditions for snorkeling. As you explore Kealakekua Bay, you'll encounter a variety of tropical fish and striking coral reefs that dot the bay's shallow waters.

Kealakekua Bay is also a popular destination for whale watching during the winter months when humpback whales can often be spotted in the waters.

Both rich in history and in schools of vividly colored fish, Kealakekua Bay is one of the few Marine Life Conservation Districts on the Island. It is the largest Marine Life Conservation District in the state of Hawaii.

Many tour companies offer snorkeling tours that include a visit to the Captain Cook Monument, as well as opportunities to explore the stunning coral reefs and encounter the Kealakekua Bay resident marine life.

At the heart of the Kealakekua Bay lies the Captain Cook Monument, which marks the spot where Captain Cook, the famous British explorer, was killed in a confrontation with native Hawaiians in 1779. You have to hike for 2 and a half hours to reach the Captain Cook Monument or reach it from the waters.

2. Kahalu'u Beach Park - Favored by surfers on the Big Island

Kahalu'u Beach Park

Kahaluʻu is a stunning destination located on the western coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Known for its turquoise waters and abundant marine life, the Kahalu'u beach park is a popular destination for snorkeling, swimming, and sunbathing.

At Kahaluʻu, visitors can explore the vibrant reefs that are home to colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and more. The park is also a popular destination for surfers, as it is known for its consistent waves and ideal surfing conditions.

One of the unique features of Kahaluʻu Beach Park is the presence of an ancient Hawaiian fishpond, which was once used by native Hawaiians to cultivate and harvest fish. Today, the fishpond is a protected cultural site and serves as a reminder of Hawaii's heritage.

In addition to its natural beauty, Kahaluʻu Beach Park offers a range of amenities for visitors, including picnic areas, showers, and restrooms.

3. Honaunau Bay - Two Lava Steps

Honaunau Bay

Honaunau Bay, also known as "Two Step" for its natural two-step entry into the water, is a stunning destination located on the western coast of Hawaii's Big Island. Visitors step off a naturally-formed lava and step into the water. The next step drops 25 ft below the water.

At the heart of Honaunau Bay lies the Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, which preserves and interprets the cultural history of the area. The National Historical Park is home to several important sites, including the Honaunau heiau, or temple, which was an important spiritual center for ancient Hawaiians.

One of the unique features of Honaunau Bay is the presence of underwater lava tubes, which offer a unique and otherworldly experience for snorkelers and divers. These lava rock tubes were formed by ancient volcanic eruptions and provide a natural habitat for a diverse range of marine life.

Visitors are encouraged to refrain from touching or standing on the lava rock and corals, as well as feeding or harassing marine life. Whether displayed in your home or worn as a piece of jewelry, a lava rock souvenir is a beautiful and meaningful way to remember your visit to this stunning island.

4. Hapuna Beach - A Gem of the Hawaiian Islands

Hapuna Beach

Hapuna Beach is a beautiful and popular white sand beach located on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

With its crystal-clear waters and pristine sandy shores, Hapuna Beach is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling.

The sandy beach offers ample facilities for visitors, including restrooms, showers, and picnic areas, making it a great destination for families and beachgoers of all ages.

Hapuna Beach is often ranked among the top beaches in Hawaii and is a must-see destination and one of the best snorkel spots for anyone visiting the Big Island.

5. King Kam Beach - Kamakahonu Beach

King Kam Beach

This small beach is also known as Kamakahonu Beach. It is a beautiful snorkeling spot located in the heart of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. The beach is named after King Kamehameha I, who established his royal residence on the adjacent land.

With its calm and clear waters, the beach is perfect for all kinds of water activities, such as swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Look out for spinner dolphins at this famous snorkel spot.

King Kam Beach offers convenient access to shops, restaurants, and other attractions in downtown Kailua-Kona, making it a popular destination for visitors and locals alike.

Kailua-Kona is home to some of the clearest waters around. The coast is known for its world-renowned snorkeling sites, including the beautiful Kealakekua Bay, which is located just a short boat ride from Kailua-Kona.

There are plenty of sheltered volcanic bays where corals and reef fish thrive on this small beach.

6. Manta Village - Get Close and Personal with Manta Rays

Manta Village

Manta Village, also known as Manta Ray Point, is a popular dive site located on the Kona coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

This incredible site is known for its resident population of majestic reef manta rays, which can be seen swimming and feeding in the waters surrounding the site.

At Manta Village, visitors have the unique opportunity to swim with these incredible creatures in their natural habitat.

The site is home to a large population of manta rays, which gather to feed on the plankton that is attracted to the lights that are used to illuminate the water at night.

To ensure the safety of both the manta rays and visitors, diving and snorkeling at Manta Village is strictly regulated.

Only licensed operators are permitted to bring visitors to the site, and strict guidelines are in place to ensure that the manta rays are not disturbed or harmed.

7. Leleiwi Beach Park - Swim with Sharks

Leleiwi Beach Park

Leleiwi Beach Park is a hidden gem located on the Big Island of Hawaii, offering visitors a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural history.

The beach park is home to a variety of marine life, including humpback whales, reef sharks, and colorful reef fish.

Kayak tours are also available for those who want to explore the coastline and take in the stunning scenery from a different perspective.

Along the way, visitors can learn about the ancient Hawaiian village that once stood on the site and gain a deeper understanding of the island's rich cultural heritage.

For the more adventurous, Leleiwi Beach Park also offers the opportunity to swim with reef sharks. While these tours are run safely, the experience of encountering sharks up close is both thrilling and awe-inspiring.

8. Punalu’u - Black Sand Beach


Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring the Big Island of Hawaii. Located on the southeastern coast of the island, this incredible beach is known for its stunning black sand and unique landscape.

The black sand of Punalu’u Beach is created by the volcanic activity that is common on the island. The sand is made up of tiny fragments of basalt lava that have been broken down and smoothed by the action of the waves.

In addition to its striking black sand, Punalu’u Beach is also home to a diverse array of marine life, including green sea turtles and Hawaiian monk seals. If you see a sea turtle, resist the urge to touch it!

Visitors can often spot these incredible creatures sunning themselves on the sand or swimming in the vibrant waters of the beach. Whether you're a nature lover, a history buff, or simply seeking a beautiful and relaxing escape, Punalu’u Beach is not to be missed.

9. Mauna Kea Beach - Luxury Snorkeling

Mauna Kea Beach

Mauna Kea Beach is a breathtakingly beautiful stretch of sand located on the western coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. This stunning beach is renowned for its turquoise waters and fine, white sand.

Mauna Beach is located in front of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, a world-class resort that is known for its luxury accommodations and stunning ocean views. The hotel's beachfront location provides guests with easy access to one of the most beautiful and peaceful beaches on the island.

The beach is one of the most popular spots for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling on the Big Island. The waters are calm and clear, making it an ideal location for families with children.

10. Keauhou Bay - Marine Life Paradise

Keauhou Bay

Located just north of Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island of Hawaii, Keauhou Bay is a picturesque and historically rich destination that attracts visitors from all over the world.

The bay is known for its stunning natural beauty, picture-perfect waters, and significant cultural heritage. It offers some of the best snorkeling on the island.

Keauhou is home to an abundance of marine life, including green sea turtles, dolphins, and tropical fish.

11. Shallow Bay - Great Snorkeling in Shallow Waters

Shallow Bay

This bay is home to a picturesque and tranquil beach located on the Big Island of Hawaii. As its name suggests, the water at Shallow Bay is shallow, making it an ideal destination for swimming and relaxation.

The calm waters of the Bay are perfect for families with children, as well as those who simply want to soak up the sun and enjoy the stunning natural scenery. Visit this spot for the best Big Island snorkeling with kids.

The beach is surrounded by lush green vegetation and towering palm trees, providing plenty of shade and privacy for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

12. Richardson's Ocean Park - The Hilo Coast

Richardson's Ocean Park

Richardson's Ocean Park is one of the best Big Island snorkeling spots on the east coast. It is known for its pristine waters, soft sandy beach, and diverse marine life.

The park is located in the Keaukaha area of Hilo and is surrounded by natural beauty and cultural significance.

While most of the best snorkeling spots on the Big Island are found on the west coast, there are exceptions to the norm, and Hilo is one of them. This park is great for beginner snorkelers. Just rent snorkeling gear and enjoy!

The park is home to the Waiākea Pond, a designated Marine Life Conservation District that is protected by state law.

Visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the pond, swim in its gorgeous waters, and observe marine life. Just remember to follow the local preservation guidelines to protect the ecosystem.

13. Wild Lapakahi State Historical Park

Wild Lapakahi State Historical Park

Lapakahi State Historical Park is a beautiful and fascinating destination located on the Big Island of Hawaii.

This national historical park is a unique cultural and historical site that offers visitors a glimpse into the traditional way of life of Hawaii's ancient inhabitants.

As a historical park, Lapakahi State Historical Park is home to a variety of ancient structures, including traditional Hawaiian homes, fish ponds, and temples.

These structures are well-preserved, allowing visitors to step back in time and experience the way of life of the island's earliest residents.

One of the main highlights of the historical park is the guided tour that takes visitors through the different areas of the site, explaining the significance and history of each structure.

The tour is informative and engaging, making it an excellent way to learn about the island's rich cultural heritage.

14. Beach 69 - Waialea Beach

Beach 69 - Waialea Beach

Beach 69, also known as Waialea Beach, is a hidden gem located on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

This beautiful and secluded beach is named after the number on the old telephone pole that marked the trailhead leading to the beach.

Beach 69 is a stunning destination that offers visitors crystal-clear waters, soft white sand, and a peaceful atmosphere, making it one of the most popular snorkel locations on the island.

The beach is surrounded by lush vegetation and features stunning views of the ocean and nearby islands. The bay is relatively shallow, up to 15 feet, so it is good for snorkeling.

The rocky shore is a great spot for sea turtle spotting.

15. Makaiwa Bay - Mauna Lani Resort

Makaiwa Bay - Mauna Lani Resort

Makaiwa Bay is a beautiful and popular destination located on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

This bay is known for its shallow reef, which creates ideal snorkel sites for beginner snorkelers. The calm waters and numerous snorkel spots make it an accessible location for anyone interested in exploring the underwater world.

If you prefer to stay on land, Makaiwa Bay also features several picnic tables where you can enjoy a leisurely meal with stunning ocean views. Just remember to use reef-safe sunscreen to protect the delicate marine ecosystem.

Nearby Makaiwa Bay, visitors can also explore the rocky shore and discover hidden tide pools. These tide pools provide an up-close look at the diverse marine life that inhabits the area, including reef mantas and other creatures.

FAQs about Big Island snorkeling spots

In this section, we look at and provide answers to some frequently asked questions about Big Island snorkeling spots.

Does the Big Island have good snorkeling?

Yes, the Big Island of Hawaii offers some of the best snorkeling experiences in the world. Big Island snorkeling spots boast clear waters and a variety of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and even manta rays.

Which side of the Big Island is best for snorkeling?

The Kona Coast on the west side of the Big Island is generally considered the best area for snorkeling. You can book a boat tour to explore the waters with professional snorkel gear. Check out Kealakekua Bay for some of the best snorkeling in Kona.

Is snorkeling better in Hilo or Kona?

Snorkeling is generally better on the Kona side of the Big Island. This is because Kona has calmer and clearer water compared to the east coast. There are also plenty of things to do in Kona. That being said, Hilo is a popular spot for snorkeling away from the west coast bustle.

Where is the best snorkeling in Hawaii big island for locals?

The locals on Big Island, Hawaii enjoy snorkeling at various spots around the island. Kealakekua Bay offers a dramatic coastline, shallow reefs, and the final resting place of Captain Cook. It provides some of the best snorkeling for tourists and locals alike.

Summing Up: Top 15 Best Snorkeling Spots on the Big Island, Hawaii

The best snorkeling spots in Hawaii can be found off the west coast of the Big Island.

The many Big Island snorkeling spots offer unforgettable opportunities to witness the natural beauty and diversity of the ocean. Snorkeling is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Hawaii.

So, if you're looking for an adventure that combines relaxation and exploration, head over to Big Island for the best snorkeling experience of your life.

Consider booking any snorkeling boat tours in advance to make sure you get to experience the best Big Island snorkeling opportunities.