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Best Snorkeling Beaches Kona, Big Island Hawaii

a man swimming in the water

There are many great beaches up and down the Kona coast of Hawaii. You can get in almost anywhere and see some great stuff. But if you had your pick among them all these are the ones we recommend for good reason. Here we detail which are preferred specifically for their snorkeling by geography.

Best Snorkeling Beaches in Kona, Big Island:

  • Kailua Bay, Downtown Kona
  • Mile Marker 4
  • Kahalu’u Beach Park

Best Snorkel Beaches South of Kona

  • 2 Step
  • Ho’okena

Best Snorkel Beaches north of Kona

  • Kua Bay
  • Beach 69

Pick up some snorkel and beach gear at Ali’i Adventures. We all all of the best rental equipment with a low-price gaurantee!

Kailua Bay

Kailua Bay is made up of 3 beaches accessing the bay. We prefer the pier beach because it puts you in at a nice entry and the bottom gradually gets deeper. You will be greated by marine life as soon as you begin your swim out into deeper water, The bottom gradually slopes to around 35 – 40 ft as you swim further along the coast. This is the preferred route as there is boat traffic near the pier and a designated swim lane is set up for ocean swimmers with buoys marking distance along the coast. If you need snorkel gear of any last minute items swing by Ali’i Adventure shack across the street. We have the best snorkel rental equipment and prices in town!

What you will see

Initially in the sand you may see some urchins or triton’s trumpets a type of conch shell. There are also lots of reef fish in the shallows hanging out around the reef. The sand on the right often has schools of goatfish and moi the royal Hawaiian fish of Kings. One of the most special aspects of the bay are the schools of Akule that form tight balls and can be quite large. They will form a donut shape around you if you dive into the moddle of the school. So neat! The bay is also frequented by dolphins so you have a decent chance of seeing some at least from a distance.

Akule fish school in Kailua Bay in downtown Kona

Mile Marker 4

Not great for hanging out on, Mile marker 4 beach is covered in large rocks. The entry is a bit tricky because you must climb over the boulders. The best thing about this beach is the underwater.

What you will see

Upon entry you will often see schooling yellow tangs cleaning the rocks of algae. As you swim out the reef is solid turning into reef channels surrounded by sand. On the south (left) end of the coast there are some neat reef features including a valley ending in a cave with 2 skylights. Near there is a large lava arch. The reef fish are pretty abundant here with schools of butterfly fish and puffer fish being common.

Kahalu’u Beach Park

Upon first examination this beach doesn’t look like much. Crawling with tourists, surfers nearby, and lot’s of things onshore including a lifeguard tower, pavillion, showers, and food trucks in the parking lot. The entry can be a bit tricky but once you get in you’ll see why this place is so popular.

What you will see

The reef is in surprisingly good condition for such a highly touristed spot. The water is shallow allowing you to snorkel on the surface and still be feet away from the bottom. The first here are quite friendly and abundant. We also recommend this beach for the sea turtles in our sea turtle beach guide. You will often see them in the water here a bit further offshore.

South of Kona Snorkel Beaches

2 Step Aka Honaunau

Possibly the best snorkeling on the west side of the big island within easy reach, 2 step is a georgeous bay that has become quite popular over the years. The shore is rocky and not great for lounging. There are no showers and the parking can be tough, but the snorkeling is quite good here and helps to make up for it. Before you get in the water there are numerous tide-pools were you can see interesting creatures. Sometimes the turtles will come in an munch on the algae available. The entry is very easy here making it instantly one of the most welcoming and best snorkel beaches Kona has. There are 2 entry points with both being fairy easy to get in depending on swell and tide. They are literally like steps making it very easy to put on and remove your gear before/after getting into/out of the water. Just look for where everyone else is getting in and out.

What you will see

As you splash into the bay you’ll instantly see reef and fish. The bottom is around 6-8 feet deep and  gradually slopes to around 30 feet near the reef slope. There is an Aloha sign written in the sand just a short swim offshore. Schools of goatfish are common here. As you head offshore into the bay the reef slopes quickly down and goes to around 80 ft before turning into sand. It’s a but deep for most snorkelers though so stick to the coast for the shallower stuff. The middle of the bay is often frequented by spinner dolphins. They are there around 20% of the time. If you stick to the south (left) end there are some reef channels with fun swim-thoughs and caves. Sometimes you will find a white tip reef shark there.

Ho’okena Beach

Ho’okena is a special place. It’s one of the few easily accessible black sand beaches on the west side of the big island. It’s also got it’s own thing going on. It has showers and restroom facilities with picnic tables and shade. The bay is good for snorkeling but not like 2-step. It has better on-shore appeal and facilities than 2-step does.

What you will see

To the left is mostly sand with some reef. You may spot a white tip-reef shark hiding under the reef here. In the middle it’s a shallow sandy bay with some interesting marine life in the sand and dolphins are often spotted here. On the right is where the good marine life and reef can be found. Lot’s of fish are on the reef here. Entry is easy just like strolling through the waves of a sandy beach.

North of Kona Snorkel Beaches

Kua Bay

Surprisingly the snorkeling here is quite good. Kua bay is a popular beach hangout spot with lot’s of tourists and locals coming here. There are shower and restroom facilities and the sand is white and very nice during the summer. During the winter much of it will be sucked out making the beach more crowded. Getting in is as easy as pushing past the surf. When you first get in you may be thinking to yourself “what? This isn’t very good!” but as you swim out further and head north (right) the visibility will improve dramatically.

What you will see

The reef is beautiful with little arches and overhangs and provides a dramatic contrast to the white clean sand. There is a lot of sand here making little reef islands where fish and eels can be found. Because of the sand you will see schools of goatfish. Under the reef overhangs you may spot a white-tip reef shark.

Beach 69

Suck a great hidden treasure! Beach 69 fill up quickly so get there early to explore. The trees near the water make for some excellent shade. Head south to the beach and get in. If you stay south (left) you can stay in the shallows.

What you will see

In the shallows the tree branches are submerged with reef fish like convict tangs swimming around them. If you stay left you will find some interesting shore features and nice bright spots of reef. Head north and you will see more sand and larger reef with the occasional submerged tree with marine life growing on it. So unique!

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