South of Kailua-Kona and west of Keokea on the Big Island, the snorkeling at Honaunau Bay is exceptional for its visibility, gentle surf and healthy marine life. Locally known as the Two-Steps or City of Refuge, you'll find this snorkeling spot truly incredible and probably the best snorkeling on the Big Island. Honaunau Bay snorkelers commonly spot tangs, parrotfish,...
South of Kailua-Kona and west of Keokea on the Big Island, the snorkeling at Honaunau Bay is exceptional for its visibility, gentle surf and healthy marine life. Locally known as the Two-Steps or City of Refuge, you'll find this snorkeling spot truly incredible and probably the best snorkeling on the Big Island. Honaunau Bay snorkelers commonly spot tangs, parrotfish, grouper, trunkfish, wrasse, pocupine pufferfish, butterflyfish, goatfish, octopus, moray eels, surgeon fish, octupus, reef sharks and plentiful sea turtles.
If coming from shore, the water entry is usually from the flat rocks that are at water level making for easy entry. You can even sit on the rocks while putting your fins on. The water depth in the snorkeling zones ranges from 5 to 20 feet deep. The left south side tends to be shallower and where the turtles hang out, especially in the mornings. Head far out on the left side off shore and you'll see some excellent coral formations with high water clarity. The right north side of Honaunau Bay tends to descend quicker and to be where the spinner dolphins hang out. The left side runs along the rocky coast of the historic Hawaiian Place Of Refuge protected area, so don't get out of the water there. But, who would -- the best coral formations are along the shore with plenty of reef fish and visibility up to 75 feet. It is a very memorable place to snorkel. If you are coming by snorkel tour boat, they will be dropping you in the water along this left shore right at the coral formations. The boats will be in deep water, so make sure to snorkel towards shore and maybe a little further towards the ocean away from the cove center.
The best Honaunau Bay snorkeling can typically be found between April and June on calm, windless mornings. Overall, there are numerous healthy coral heads with many recovering from the bleaching event a vew years back.
To reach the snorkeling at Honaunau Bay from Kailua-Kona, head south on Highway 11 for about 20 miles to near mile marker 104. Turn right on Keala O Keane Road (SR160). After several miles turn right on Honaunau Beach Road. The access to Honaunau Bay is provided through Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park. There is not a dedicated parking area for Honaunau Bay, so you need to arrive early to grab one of the few spots at the end road (well before 9am). The bay is located about 45 minutes from the Kona airport. Alternately, there are several snorkel tour boats that stop at Two Steps. The best option is the SeaQuest 3-stop South Kona Expedition.
PRO TIP: 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.
Overall, Honaunau Bay is the 3rd most popular snorkel dive spot of all 28 snorkeling dives in Big Island. Several of the better snorkeling spots are nearby Honaunau Bay including Ke'Ei Beach, Manta Ray Night Snorkel, Kahalu'u Beach Park, Kealakekua Bay, Kamakahonu Beach and Pebbles Beach.
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