South of Kona on the Big Island, the snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park is popular for beginners due to its usually calm surf within a protective cove. Considered the best snorkeling on the Big Island, Kahaluu Bay has a shallow sheltered cove created by a submerged rock wall offshore. The deepest part of the cove is less than 10 feet deep. Inside the cove, snorkelers ...
South of Kona on the Big Island, the snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park is popular for beginners due to its usually calm surf within a protective cove. Considered the best snorkeling on the Big Island, Kahaluu Bay has a shallow sheltered cove created by a submerged rock wall offshore. The deepest part of the cove is less than 10 feet deep. Inside the cove, snorkelers will encounter a surprising abundance of marine life.
When snorkeling at Kahaluu Beach Park, you may spot parrotfish, damsel fish, tang, butterfly fish, trigger fish, moray eels, squirrelfish, and goat fish among the healthy coral heads. The snorkeling is highlighted by the occasional sea turtles coming here to feed on the plentiful sea grass.
The Kahaluu Beach Park is located on Ali Drive in Kahaluu-Keauhuu. It is about 14 miles from the Kona International Airport (KOA), which is on the south side of the Big Island. The best bet is to rent a car since the dive sites are pretty far off the main roads. To reach Kahalu'u Beach Park snorkeling from Kona airport, head south on Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway. Turn right on La'aloa Avenue for about a mile. Turn left on Ali'i Drive into Kahalu'u Beach Park. It is a 30 minute drive from the Kona airport. When planning a trip to the Hawaiian islands, be aware that the State Of Hawaii has banned all sunscreens that oxybenzone, which has been proven to kill coral reefs.
When snorkeling near Kona, keep in mind there is a must-do evening manta ray snorkel tour. It is the best snorkeling in Kona and is on many snorkelers bucket lists. Off the coast of Kona, there are over 250 resident manta rays in the open waters with wing spans over 15 feet and weighing over 1,000 pounds. Since they feed on plankton, the dusk tours use underwater lights to attract plankton, which in turn attracts the acrobatic manta rays. WIth a range of 30 miles along the Kona coastline and a speed up to 15 mph, these mantas gracefully feed on as much plankton as possible at night.
There are two locations where the evening manta ray snorkel tours head. First, the smaller Manta Village is located south of Kona offshore of the Sheraton Kona Resort at the mouth of Keauhou Bay in 35 foot deep water. Second, the larger Garden Eel Cove is located north of Kona offshore of the airport. The later location tends to be more consistent and has more room for the numerous tour boats that arrive each evening. But, when the mantas are not consistently appearing there, boats will go down to the smaller and therefore more crowded Manta Village.
There are a half dozen or so companies offering evening manta ray snorkel tours, including Manta Adventures, Fair Wind Cruises, Sea Quest Hawaii, Big Island Divers, and Jacks Diving Locker. These tours are for advanced snorkelers only since it is dark and there can be some waves rolling through. Each company has a different length tour ranging from 1.25 hours to 3.5 hours, and has different amenities, so make sure to choose carefully. On average, manta rays are only sighted on 9 out of 10 evenings, so make sure to book a tour with a company that offers a guarantee for a replacement trip (therefore don't book this on your last night of your stay).
The best Big Island snorkeling dive sites are spread around the island. The conditions at each dive site vary throughout the year depending upon winds and currents. Since many of the Big Island snorkeling destinations are open water and unprotected, make sure to check the current surf reports before heading to any of these dive sites. Luckily, there are excellent up-to-date surf reports that can provide guidance on these adverse conditions. With the usually rolling surf, it is strongly discouraged to use open-tube snorkels which are common at snorkel rental locations -- only use snorkels with a dry-top splash-guard and a sump purge-valve in the mouth piece.
Overall, Kahalu'u Beach Park is the 2nd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 10 snorkeling dives in Big Island. Several of the better snorkeling spots are nearby Kahalu'u Beach Park including Kealakekua Bay, Honaunau Bay, Pebbles Beach and Kamakahonu Beach.
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