There are any number of amazing Kona snorkel tours available and at Ali’i Adventure Shack we can assist you with all of your gear, directions and helpful hints. Did you know that “Kona” means leeward, or dry side, of the island? That means that any snorkeling you do on the leeward side of the island is a Kona Snorkel tour! Today we are going to specifically visit the neighborhood of Puako.
To start any Kona snorkel tour, stop by the Ali’i Adventure shack to get top quality masks, snorkels and fins. You can also rent, or purchase, dry bags, coolers, umbrellas, and chairs. Also remember to purchase your Reef Safe sunscreen and after sun lotion while at the Shack. If you prefer not to use sunscreen, we have high performance rash guards and sun shirts available also. Let’s all do our part to keep our reefs healthy for our keiki.
When you’ve loaded up the family and supplies head to Queen K Highway and point yourself North. Let’s get ready for a (north of) Kona snorkel tour. Puako is located at mile marker 71 off of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway. Exit left from the highway and head to the End of the Road to begin your adventure. As you head down Puako Beach Drive, there is only one street in the neighborhood, you will see multiple “Shoreline access” signs on the Makai (right) side of the street. Keep heading South, about three miles, until you see a big parking area on the right side of the road. You will recognize it by the dumpsters (please pick up all of your trash-plus 3 other pieces Mahalo!), the lua’s (portable toilets), and the picnic benches. You can park anywhere that’s safe but please leave room for trucks and cars to pass through as many local residents and visitors park at the very end of the dirt road for privacy, it’s a difficult little pass through to get there.
The easiest and best entrance to start snorkeling is at the “keyhole”. It is just past the most narrow portion of the road and parking area. There is a sign about Puako and the reef just across from the water entrance. The entrance is a little path down to a little pool that you can use to put on masks, snorkels and fins. You can also recognize it because there are usually multiple pairs of slippahs laying on the lava just above the waterline. We like to start at this location because later in the day as the swell and wind builds the entrance can become a little rough to get in and out of.
While standing at the entrance to the water look for the white buoy marker about 100 yards off shore. As you face the water it will be just to the north (right). That is a great marker to head towards. Now you are in the water and ready to start your kona snorkel tour. As you head towards the buoy you will see any number of fish, both large and small. Here are a few that you will almost definitely see every day: Yellow tang – Did you know they are part of the surgeonfish family?, Threadfin Butterflyfish, Humuhumunukunukuapua’a – a reef triggerfish and the State fish of Hawaii, Spotted Boxfish – male and female, do you know the difference?, Long nosed butterflyfish, Parrotfish, Sailfin tang, and kole tang. Some of the rarer fish we see at the End of the Road, also known as Paniau, are devil scorpionfish (I have seen one in 7 feet of water!), Goatfish – both yellowstripe and manybar, and if you swim slowly and keep a good look out you may see moray eels and octopus.
You can see all of these fish before you make it to the drop off and the bouy. Once out that far keep your eyes open because there is a large Spotted Eagle Ray that is ofter there as well as Green sea turtles and even the Kona Coastal Manta Ray, Manta Alfredi.
Okay, your (North of) kona snorkel tour is about halfway done. We recommend driving back up Puako Beach Drive to the shoreline access at #140 (large parking area) or #118 (small pathway-park on side of road). At these shoreline accesses you will often find Green Sea turtles sunning themselves on the shore or hanging out in the shallow tidepools. Pictures are welcome, but always remember to stay at least 20-30 feet away from the turtles to allow them their peace.
Alright, let’s get back in the water! Grab your underwater cameras!! Anyone want to swim with sea turtles? Or watch them being cleaned by other fish?!! This next part of your kona snorkel tour/adventure may be even more spectacular. Park along the road near House number 38. You will see a pathway to the beach. Bring Your swim shoes!!! This site is spectacular, but a difficult entrance at times. We recommend swim shoes that can be worn with fins. There is a lot of lava, coral and urchins in the water here so please be careful entering. Again head towards the buoy in the distance. You will reach the “drop off” before the buoy, swim left (south) along the drop off until you see a small clear bottle on a small string. You have now found a true gem! It’s not the bottle! Under the bottle is the Turtle Cleaning Station. Here you often find multiple turtles “floating” in the water column with multiple Yellow Tangs and Kole Tangs and other fish surrounding their shells and eating the algae and organisms right off the shells of the turtle!! Watch closely, you will see turtles vying for position. As the turtles descend in the water column, another will rise above it and the fish will move to the higher turtle, and then another will rise above that one and the fish will move again.. Location Location Location!!
Ready for a break? Head back up the road to the first Shoreline access – if you get to Hokuloa Church you’ve gone to far. Walk between two large rock walls turn right and you will see a small crescent sandy beach to relax on for the rest of the day. The water is protected and calm and the wind is usually blocked. It’s a great way to end your (north of) Kona snorkel tour!!
Please drive safe on your way back to Kailua-Kona and don’t forget to take time for the sunset!!