The north shore of Oahu is a popular gathering place for locals and tourists that want to get away from busy Honolulu to check out the local spots and fun attractions in the area. There’s a full gamut of cool little towns, amazing snorkeling spots, surfing beaches and lush tropical forests and waterfalls to explore in the North Shore of Oahu. If you’re looking for what to do, check out these top things to do on Oahu’s north shore area below for more inspiration and planning your visit to the area.
Top things to do on Oahu’s north shore area
Explore the old town of Haleiwa
The old cowboy town of Haleiwa has become more popular and upscale with indie shops, shopping centers and fun bar/restaurants to hang out in including all those surf/beach shops that cater to the surfing crowd here. Favorite places to hang out in include the local surf shops, Matsumoto shave ice, The Red Dirt store and other cool art galleries on the main road.
Hike through lush forests & waterfall at Waimea Valley
Waimea Valley is a lush and tropical oasis in the North Shore filled with lush tropical forests, beautiful gardens, various reconstructed temples and villages and at the end, gorgeous Waimea waterfalls that you can swim up to. It is a spectacular visit and hike through different parts of the valley and up to the main waterfalls. If you have more than a few hours to enjoy nature, this is the place to go visit just across from Waimea Beach park.
Address – 59-864 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, Oahu, HI 96712-8411
Dole plantation gardens and tours
The Dole plantation is a fun tourist destination to visit and learn about the pineapple industry on Oahu and tour the gardens and smaller pineapple fields on the plantation. There is a fun maze and tropical gardens to explore along with large visitor center and souvenir shop on site.
Address of the Dole plantation – 64-1550 Kamehameha Hwy, Wahiawa, HI 96786
La’ie Hawaiian Temple
Located on the northeastern section of oahu is a beautiful Mormon temple and grounds open for the public to explore. You can visit the the La’ie Temple tourist center and ask for some guides to show you around the grounds and other areas of interest in these beautiful grounds and sharing the history of the local Laie community close by.
Address of the temple 55-600 Naniloa Loop, Laie, Oahu, HI 96762-2202
Check out Big surf at Banzai Pipeline
The famous Banzai Pipeline is active and a fun place to be in winter time. When the surf is up the surfing competition is at its peak, it’s time to head out to Pupuke’a and Sunset Beach park to see the big wave action. Even during the non-peak time frame, it is fun to just go out and see the locals enjoying the ocean surf at this well-known attraction in the North Shore area.
Location – Sunset Beach Park, Pupuke a, Oahu, HI
Enjoy some family friendly snorkeling at Sharks Cove
A popular and
kid friendly snorkeling spot located right next to the Pupuke a beach park. With
diverse sea life, corals and tropical fish, it is a perfect place for beginners
or younger children to wade, swim or snorkel in a protected cove area of the
Located at 59-711 Kamehameha Hwy, between Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline, Pupuke a, Oahu, HI 96712-9404
Pupuke a Beach Park
The main beach park that has Sharks Cove on the far side of the beach, Pupuke’a has a sandy golden beach is a great place for swimming, snorkeling, tide pool exploring and sunsets. There’s even food trucks and super market across the street so you have easy take out food to bring with you to the beach.
Located at 59-727 Kamehameha Highway, North Shore, Haleiwa, Oahu, HI 96712
Jump off the big rocks at Waimea beach park
One of the most
popular and beautiful beaches on the North Shore, Waimea bay has one huge rock
outcrop on the far side of the beach that local kids love to climb and jump off
and do some crazy dives. It’s relatively safe if you start lower and do just
simple jumps if you are looking for a fun and free adventure experience at
Address – Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, Oahu, HI 96712-1304
Exploring Mukuleia Beach Park
series lost was filmed here and during the week, you’ll have the beach area
mostly to yourself along with a slew of Honu (green sea turtles) to share the
beach area with. On a windy day, you’ll spot quite a few wind surfers or sky
divers doing some initial training close by.
There are picnic tables but no lifeguards or public facilities at the beach
Address – Farrington Highway, Waialua, Oahu, HI 96791
Have your pick of the food trucks & shopping at Hukilau Marketplace
Located next to
the Polynesian Cultural Center with lots of great food trucks, eating venues
and shopping/galleries to explore and find some cool souvenirs. if you’re in the
area or exploring the Polynesian Cultural Center. Or just passing through and
hungry, this is a perfect place to take a break and find some good grindz
Address – 55-370 Kamehameha Hwy, Polynesian Cultural Center, Laie, Oahu, HI 96762-2113
Check out Kahuku organic farms
A great place
to visit for those interested in local farming and crops grown in the area,
there is also tour that you can sign up for their grand tour by wagon on their
farm to learn about the history of the farm and local community and serving the
various markets around. There is also a nice café where you can order some
wonderful smoothies or take out food or other farm goodies.
Located at 56-800 Kamehameha Hwy, Kahuku, Oahu, HI 96731-2302
Experience Waialua Estate Coffee and Chocolate
There’s a cool
old factory vibe at the Waialua estate and you can also sign up for a free tour
that shares the coffee making and production process. They sell some delicious
types of coffees and also try some local produced chocolate and other goodies
that they sell on site.
Located at 67 Kupahu St, Waialua, Oahu, HI 96791
Have a shave ice at famous Matsumoto Shave Ice
Located in Haleiwa
town, the shave ice here is famous and really good! There’s always a line out the
door so allocate some time to wait and then explore some of the cool galleries
and main road shops at Haleiwa
Address – 66-087 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Enjoy the Polynesian Cultural Center
One of the most popular attractions in the North Shore of Hawaii, the Polynesian Cultural Center is 42 acres of 6 authentic Polynesian villages of Tahitian, Samoan, Hawaiian, Tongan, Fiji and New Zealand, cultural programs, an expansive luau and a dynamic evening show. A great experience for families or first-time visitors to the island and enjoy a totally Polynesian experience.
Address – 55-370 Kamehameah Hwy., Laie, Oahu, HI 96762-2113
Eat at any of the delicious shrimp trucks
The North Shore
is famous for the shrimp trucks that feature the local shrimp farmed in the
area and create a delicious garlicky shrimp and rice plate lunch dish. The most
famous called Giovanni’s is the signature truck to visit, even though there are
a lot of cookie cutter versions located all around the North Shore area. Stop
here for some yummy grindz (food) and you’re looking for something delicious to
eat that is local. There are quite a few other food trucks congregated around a
food truck zone in Haleiwa where Giovanni’s is also located.
Address for Giovanni’s truck – 66-472 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712
Other fun North Shore Tour Experiences
If you are looking for more thrills and adventure experiences to the North Shore, check out all these fantastic group tours below.
There are nice hotels, Bnb’s and air BnB’s, hostels and camping available to cover different needs to stay in the area. Here are some of the recommended hotels and boutiques in the area with great ratings and reviews.
Courtyard Marriott Northshore – located adjacent to the Polynesian Cultural Center – check the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor and latest prices here.
Turtle Bay Resort – 4 star accommodations on the North Shore. Check the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor and latest prices here.
Kalani Private Lodging – boutique lodging located in the Haleiwa area. Check the reviews and photos on Trip Advisor and latest prices here.
Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on North Shore Oahu. I hope you are inspired to plan a visit and enjoy these wonderful attractions. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.
If you like what you see, come and check out my other social media channels for more updates, including Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter Some links in this article on North Shore Oahu are affiliates which provide a small commission to support this site at no extra cost to you. Thank you for reading, and happy travels!
If you’re like me you grew up reading the Black Stallion series. If you’re like me you simply drooled over the film when it premiered. As an adult I now realize that this Francis Ford Coppola classic was a stunning work of filmmaking and was even nominated for an Oscar in film editing and won a special achievement award for sound editing.
And of course, the great Mickey Rooney was nominated for his role as well.
While my Black Stallion was a chestnut Appaloosa, and my deserted island was a ranch in Oklahoma, I always dreamed of galloping a horse down a wide stretch of open beach, bareback with my arms thrown wide, just as Kelly Reno did in the film.
History of Horseback riding in Hawaii
While the US state of Hawaii is a top tourist destination for many obvious reasons, it’s also a fantastic place to experience the thrill of riding. Hawaiian cowboys called paniolos have been riding the ranges of the islands for over 150 years, and Parker Ranch on the Big Island is the oldest working cattle ranch in the United States, and one of the largest. Parker Ranch no longer offers horseback riding in Hawaii but they celebrate many equestrian events throughout the year.
If a visit to Hawaii is on your travel list, and you’d like to include horseback riding in Hawaii on that trip, these are a few of the places to make your dreams a reality, set against the backdrop of one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Horseback riding in the Big Island
I live in Hilo and I think it’s one of the most special places on earth. Volcanos, rainforests, vast lava fields, and more combine to make this youngest member of the island chain a traveler’s dream. While it’s not quite as well known for its beaches as the neighbor islands, there are still plenty of places to go horseback riding on the Big Island.
Ponoholo Ranch located in the highlands of Kohala is a rider’s dream. This working cattle ranch offers several rides designed to cater to various ability levels and desired experiences. Experienced riders will have the chance to canter through Kohala’s green valleys, and those who have never ridden can choose a ride on calm and gentle horses. All riders will have the ability to view the sweeping coastline of the Pacific Ocean, see both Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes, and catch a glimpse of the island of Maui on a clear day. This is horseback riding in Hawaii at its finest.
One of the most stunning areas of the Big Island is Waipio Valley. Located at the northern tip of the island, this area is famous for its black sand beach and towering waterfalls. It’s also home to a small herd of feral horses. While you can’t ride any of those horses, you can take a tour with Na’alapa Stables on one of their trusty steeds. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of the feral herd frolicking on the beach.
Horse back riding in Maui
As one of the most visited islands in the state, Maui is home to a wealth of things to do, both in and out of the water. Horseback riding in Maui is an incredible way to catch sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, some of the neighbor islands, and ride through misty forests and vast pineapple fields.
Mendes Ranch, owned and operated by the Mendes family, has been a working ranch since the 1940’s. They offer morning and afternoon rides along the coastline and finish with a stop on the beach. Experienced riders who are eager for something other than the nose to tail experience can book private rides and those who feel confident are able to gallop at a few points along the ride. They also offer a combination horseback and helicopter tour, which sounds like an adventurer’s dream come true.
Makena Stables on the island’s southern shore has been in operation since 1983, and the owners are active in Maui’s rodeo community. The horses they use for their rides are fit and healthy, and the trails offer some of the best views of the southern coast of Maui. Take their sunset ride in the winter months where you’ll not only see one of Hawaii’s dazzling sunsets but you may see humpback whales breaching offshore.
Horseback riding in Oahu
The island of Oahu is much more than Waikiki Beach and the high rises of Honolulu. Its lush and varied terrain is dreamy and exquisite, and if I weren’t already so attached to the Big Island I might call it my favorite. Let’s just say it’s close.
With a larger population than any of the other islands there are more opportunities for horseback riding on Oahu than on the other islands, and there is even a thriving polo club and competition scene that includes dressage, jumping, and western riding
However, the best stable with the best trails, in my opinion, is Kualoa Ranch. They offer a variety of rides to choose from but what makes them stand out from the rest is the fact that the trails you’ll be riding on take you through portions of the filming location for Lost. You’ll also see some old bunkers from World War II and the sheer beauty that is the Ka’a’awa Valley. Book early as their rides often sell
Hawaii is a beautiful and unique part of the world, and there is little question as to why it’s one of the most visited places in the United States, or the world. If you find yourself in the Aloha State and horseback riding in Hawaii is on your bucket list, consider one of these outfitters.
You’ll be saying mahalo nui loa to your horses and your guides before you know it.
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Guest writer bio
Cate Brubaker is a writer who has traveled to more than 40 countries, many of those in a camper when she and her husband drove from the United States to Argentina over a three year period. She loves horseback riding, SCUBA diving, and eating all the food. She and her husband currently live in Hilo, Hawaii.
The traditional food of the Hawaiians always seems to get lost or infused with other local ethnic style dishes that get mixed into Hawaii cuisine. But the traditional foods of Hawaii and the Hawaiian culture are unique and have remained the same in authentic cooking styles from the past with a some influence from plantation time foods that have been incorporated into their diet. If you’re interested in tasting traditional Hawaiian foods, look out for these following dishes that are truly Hawaiian food favorites to try when you visit.
A sampling of Hawaiian food favorites
So, what is Kalua pig – A favorite Hawaiian food, basically this is baked pig done in an imu using traditional kalua techniques (underground pit and covered with ti leaf and steamed) and gives a nice smoky steamed effect on the meat.
Where to find this – most restaurants, take out places, even
grocery stores sell Kalua pig because it is a staple meat on the islands for
protein. Most home-made versions are done in a slow cooker or baked in the oven
What is Lau lau – a term meaning leaf, this is wrapped
goodness with taro leaves wrapped around fish and pork and steamed until it all
melts in your mouth including the delicious taro leaf which is a staple green
Where to find this – many take out places, grocery stores
and café/restaurants serve this a high-end version come out with pupu (appetizer)
style of Lau Lau
What is this dish – basically squid luau is a delicious
squid cooked in taro leaves and coconut milk and tender to the taste. Sometimes
chicken is added to this dish to give more sweet and savory meat flavor.
Where to find – not always on take out menus but in local
cafes or local mom and pop take out places that might have it on the menu. Try it,
you’ll like it!
Purple sweet potato
What is this – a staple canoe plant brought by early
Hawaiians for starch, the purple sweet potato is boiled, steamed, baked. Can be
eaten cut up or mashed up like a poi.
Where to find this – the sweet potato is typically a side
dish to many take out places and in many plate lunch specials that you can find
at takeout places
What is Poi – basically this is the staple starch for Hawaiians which is a sticky paste made with taro root and pounded with a poi ponder and water added until it is the right gooey consistency. Left out a few days to ferment, the poi adds more of a sour taste to the starch
Where to find poi – most Hawaiian plate meals will include
poi as part of a mixed plate special at many take out or mom and pop café style
What is Haupia – a favorite dessert that is like a coconut
pudding, Haupia is made with coconut milk, sugar and some cornstarch to create
the thick dessert.
Where to find haupia – sold in a mixed plate with other
Hawaiian style food at many take out places, mom and pop shops. You can order
haupia separately as a dessert and some come with different variations like
sweet potato layered in with the Haupia
What is lomi salmon – a mixture of diced tomatoes, onions and cured raw salmon or salted fish. This is typically served cold and mixed with poi to complement the salty flavors. Making Lomi salmon is very easy with these very simple fresh ingredients that make a perfect complement to any other Hawaiian traditional dish.
Where to find lomi salmon – a staple dish included in any
mixed Hawaiian plate, you’ll find poi included with most meals as a side dish.
Chicken long rice
What is chicken long rice – made during the missionary
timeframe when Chinese contract laborers added noodles and made this into a
soup, chicken long rice has been incorporated into the Hawaiian style dish that
is a local favorite with lots of ginger and garlic added to the soup.
Where to find this – a typical dish you can order at the
plate lunch place, farmers market food vendors, mom and pop shop, even local
style grocery stores.
What is pipi kaula – a delicious Hawaiian style jerky that
is dried outdoors and is then fried or char-broiled in an oven and added to poi
or rice in a combination. Many versions are now made with different ingredients
and sauces to create a variety of flavors and oven drying to cure the meat
Where to find pipi kaula – a farmer’s markets, road side stands
or food trucks and local take out counters that sell this as an entree
What is Kulolo – a baked dessert like a haupia but using
grated taro instead of coconut and using mature coconut or coconut cream, sugar
and with the taro and baked in an imu or oven for a few hours
Where to find Kulolo – sold at roadside stands, farmers
markets and some local take out places selling Hawaiian style food and desserts
Breadfruit or Ulu
What is breadfruit – a typical starch like a potato that
Hawaiians brought with them, this starch is typically steamed, baked, boiled or
even deep fried. Many different versions of breadfruit are being created to infuse
more local starches into the food menu.
Where to find breadfruit – you can buy at farmers markets or
have this in a mixed Hawaiian plate at various take out places.
What is Luau stew – a delicious comfort food that grandma
made that is a popular Hawaiian dish and made with seasoned and cooked taro
leaves and added protein, typically a beef brisket which oozes amazing flavors
to the stew. Other typical ingredients that you will find in the stew includes:
coconut milk, ginger, onion, pepper and seaweed.
Where to find Luau stew – popular take out food places,
cafes and local mom and pop counter shops will sell this delicious comfort
What is poke – the popular raw fish Hawaiian poke is well
loved here in Hawaii with many different versions, ingredients and sauces added
to create a variety of taste and flavors. The basic flavoring of Hawaiian style
poke includes onions, sesame oil, soy sauce, chili pepper and garlic
Where to find poke – there are poke specialty shops, grocery stores and take out places that all sell different versions of poke all over Hawaii.
What is Opihi – this is the local edible shellfish or limpet that attaches to rocks on a seashore and is typically pried from the rocks and eaten raw like an oyster. The raw ocean goodness of Opihi shellfish is mixed with sea salt and sometimes seaweed to add more flavor and texture. Sometimes opihi is grilled and mixed in the a variety of sauces and ingredients to create more flavor and taste.
Where to find opihi – not as easy to find on the menu, you can get opihi from sea food markets, road side vendors selling seafood or some local grocery outlets that sometimes carry these on the menu.
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Check out these other food related posts from Hawaii
If you are looking for Traditional Hawaiian food favorites, look for any of these dishes and items at your local café, take out counter, road side stand, farmers markets or even a fine dining venue in Hawaii and you will really soak up the local flavors and taste of Hawaiian food.
For such an expensive place to visit, you can actually do a lot of things for free or on the cheap in Oahu. From seeing attractions, doing an adventure experience, or just enjoying the beach in Oahu, there’s quite a lot you can do for free or cheap if you plan ahead and take advantage of all the free things you can do below. Check out the best free or cheap adventure experience in Oahu below to inspire to discover what you can do here on a dime.
Top 15 fun or cheap things to do in Oahu
1.Go on a hike
There are so many amazing hikes that you can do around the island and most of them are free and a great way to see the fascinating and beautiful landscape of the area. Check out these fabulous hikes here for more details and inspiration.
2. Go snorkeling for free in Oahu
Snorkeling can be done around the island at various places where the tropical fish and coral still thrive and you have some snorkel equipment available to use. Among the most popular places include the protected snorkeling beach at Haunama Bay, Sharks Cove and Kahe Point Beach park. To find out the best spots for snorkeling check out all these fantastic snorkel sites here for you to visit for more information and additional web sites.
3. Rent a bike
You can do a cheap bike rental in Oahu at Waikiki through Biki which has over 130 Biki stops around Honolulu and rates as cheap as $4.00 in a one way route to longer use passes. Check out the Biki system and fares here for more details on these cheap rent a bikes here in Honolulu area.
4. Climb Diamond Head
One of the most popular attractions to do in Waikiki is to climb Diamond Head and enjoy the spectacular views of the city and coastline below. The visit and hike up through Diamond Head is only $1 for admission or $5 per car to the park and the hike up is about 1.4 mile roundtrip walk or about a 45 – 60 minute round trip walk depending on how many stops you make along the way. You can do this easily and better in the early morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the heat but also get spectacular light for views and photography. Check out the parks website here for more details and hours.
5. Ride The Bus around the island
A different take on riding around the island on the cheap instead of renting a car or doing a tour, you can go on The Bus on a one way trip around the island for only $2.50 and this includes one free transfer/stop you want to do along the way. Check out more details on the circle island bus tour cheap or multi day passes on The Bus here for more information.
6. Visit a botanical garden
You can go to a many of Oahu’s botanical garden for free and explore the many tropical plants and lush landscapes on your own instead of booking a tour. Check out the Parks and Rec botanical garden site here of all these spectacular gardens for doing your own DIY tour or follow along with a docent on a guided tour.
7. Explore Pearl Harbor for free
If you catch da bus to Pearl Harbor or an inexpensive Uber ride, the rest of the visit and boat trip to the monument to the USS Arizona is all free. You can visit the grounds, video show and docent tour all for free as part of the national monument at Pearl Harbor. and the Arizona Memorial You do have to book reservations in advanced at this site to secure a timed entry admission, so book early. Although there are cancellations and availability different times during the day.
8. DIY historic walking tour of Honolulu
You can actually join a free walking tour of Honolulu’s historic attractions here and enjoy the highlight attractions and key monuments in the area. This walking tour will give you a peek to the history, settlement and architecture of this historic district in Honolulu. The DIY tour is free and just follow the direction on the web site.
9. Go body surfing
There are so many wonderful body surfing beaches on Oahu and Waikiki beach being the most popular beach to do that in with a fantastic sandy bottom to enjoy this sport. Check out these other fun body surfing spots around the island you can go and have a real water adventure
10. Go surfing for cheap
If you know how to surf, all you need is to rent a board for a few hours and there are many beach areas that have hourly renting of surf boards available for you to enjoy. Check out this site for more information on rentals available in the area. If your new to surfing, you can go on the cheap by watching some free You Tube tutorials to get the basics and then rent a board and hang out with the newbies on the beach.
11. Kayaking on the cheap in Oahu
Same as surfing above you can rent a kayak for a nominal amount by the hour or half day to save on some costs of the equipment versus doing a kayak tour which is pretty pricey with the various operators. Check out this site for places you can actually rent kayaks by the hour.
12. SUP boarding on Oahu
Want to do some SUP or try a SUP (Stand up Paddle) experience? You can do like the other water sports above by renting a SUP board by the hour from various locations. If your new to SUP, check out some easy beginning You Tube videos for basic instructions on how to get started on this easy sport.
13. Challenge yourself to climb up Koko Head
Climbing the steep Koko crater trail is a big challenge but you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the Eastern side of Oahu on your 1050 steps up to the top of the crater. Parking is free and easy and the trail head is easy to spot and before you know, you’ll be doing a major stair master challenge. Check out more details of the Koko Crater trail here for more information and images.
14. Go running at these iconic Oahu routes
Picture a perfect beach and jogging through the soft sands back and forth a few times to get a workout in and enjoy the scenery at the same time. Or you can run through various historic districts or fantastic landscapes that are beautiful to pass through and enjoy these popular local running routes. Check out these top runs in Honolulu here for more inspiration and images.
15. Enjoy a waterfall at Manoa Falls
A relatively easy hike to get to at Manoa falls, this short .8 mile roundtrip hike is easy and passes through green and scenic landscapes meandering through bamboo forests, rainforest and the base of the Exercise mountains. You’ll walk parallel to the Manoa stream until you hit the base of the waterfall which is 150 feet in height. Check out the details of visiting the Manoa falls and surrounding areas here for more details.
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There you have it, What to do in Oahu for free or cheap with 15 tips that won’t break the bank. Bookmark this post for future reference when you are looking for some F ree or cheap things to do in Oahu from the typical sightseeing experience.
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The Big Island has so many amazing snorkeling areas around the island worth driving to even if you’re on the opposite sides of the island. With so many different areas to cover for snorkeling adventure, you can have your pick of some of the fantastic snorkeling destinations on the island. Being the youngest island in the chain, the Big Island of Hawaii is blessed with many large and small beaches with snorkeling venues or specific spots for snorkeling or diving spots into a magical world. You can easily do your own snorkeling or find a tour outfitter that goes to some of the more outlying and not to easy to get to places. There are also many safe and easy snorkeling areas to choose from that are protected and family friendly places to take the whole family.
Fantastic Snorkeling around the Big Island of Hawaii
If you’re looking for amazing snorkeling on the Big, here are the top snorkeling spots around the Big Island that you will enjoy spending some time in.
Snorkeling locations around the Kohala coast area
Spencer beach – an easy family friendly beach area with snorkeling spot on the perimeter of the beach around the lava rock areas. Not as diverse in marine life, but a safe and easy place to go with children with calm and clear waters.
Hapuna extension also known as 69 beach – This tree covered and shady beach is filled with little sandy beaches and fun snorkeling areas throughout the beach. Look for the rocky outcropping areas and coral zones to find most of the snorkeling activity around the beach and also the perimeter parts with rocky lava zones that tropical fish love to congregate around.
Makalawena beach park – a tough 5 mile drive on rough gravel road leads you to a series of beaches that gets better the further out you go. Snorkeling is best at the furthest beach where the water is pristine, clear and filled with tropical fish. Very quiet and only popular with locals so it is not busy which is great for a beach and snorkeling like this in Kohala.
Snorkeling around Kailua Kona area
The downtown areas of Kailua Kona have many small pocket
beaches that are perfect spots for snorkeling fun. Check out the most popular
areas in Kona below.
Kahalu’u beach park – this popular beach park just a few miles south of downtown Kona has a busy parking area that fills up quick and is also a family friendly beach with a small sandy beach area. The whole swimming area is protected and is a marine life sanctuary filled with amazing coral and tropical fish. Definitely one of the favorite snorkeling beaches to go to just a short drive from the downtown area.
Magic Sands beach park – a very small beach area that is popular with body surfers, it is also a great spot for snorkeling but a little rougher to swim in especially in the late afternoon when the swells are larger.
Snorkeling on the East side of the Big Island
The Hilo side of the Big Island has colorful snorkeling and beache parks that are family friendly and perfect for snorkeling fun. Check out the popular snorkel spots around Hilo area below.
Richardson’s Beach Park – the last beach in the string of beaches on Kalanianaole Ave, Richardson is family friendly with small protected areas and rocky lava zones where tropical fish love to hang out in along with turtle, monk seals and the occasional whale that visit the area during the winter season. There are beach entries with a life guard on duty in the beach areas and full facilities on site for shower and toilet.
Carl Smith Beach – a mostly grassy area with no beach but soft sandy bottom lagoons that host a lot of snorkeling opportunities to spot wonderful tropical fish and marine life. You can snorkel up to little islands or go through cool around the various parts of the park area. There is a life guard station and shower/toilet facilities. Also, this is also a family friendly beach area.
Reeds Bay – a small lagoon area, just off Banyan Drive where most of the main Hilo hotels are located. This is the main family friendly zone that is perfect for kids, inlets and water sports like SUP and kayaking.
Coconut Island – the area off the island has little sandy beaches perfect for children and snorkeling fun. Local kids climb up the stone pillar and jump in the deep colder waters below which is entertaining to watch. There are shower/toilet facilities on site but no life guard on duty.
Snorkeling locations around the south side of the Big Island
Snorkeling in Southern areas of the Big Island
The southern part of the island has a few fantastic snorkeling areas that are also historical and worth exploring.
2 Step beach – located on the opposite side of the Place of Refuge National Monument AKA Honaunau – 2 step is not a beach but more flat rocky areas with amazing tropical fish and marine life. Relatively easy access to the water which becomes deep very quickly, the small bay is filled with amazing barbecuing, some coral and dolphins or whales if your lucky. While you are in the area, check out the historic Place of Refuge which was a royal compound and a refuge for commoners that escaped to avoid death or other ancient rules of conduct. There are no lifeguards or facilities on the beach/snorkel area.
Green Sand beach at Papakolea
The gorgeous green sandy beach at Papakolea in the South Point area is a two hour hike around the coastline or a quick pick up ride (you can tip locals for roundtrips to the beach) and small climb down the cliffs to the beach. If the entry is good to the ocean, you can snorkel along the cliff areas where the tropical fish is hanging out. Definitely a one of a kind beach to enjoy in the area and explore. There are no life guards or public facilities at the beach area.
Captain Cook Monumentj/Kealekekua – Just located in the bay fronting the monument, the sea life and tropical fish that live in the suddenly deep trench is impressive and colorful. The main ways of getting to this part of the open bay is by hiking through a trail from the top which takes a few hours, kayaking across of a launch area also three mile out or the easiest by taking an snorkeling tour with an outfitter that launches from the Kona area. You can also sign up for popular snorkeling tours are offered through Kailua Kona to get to this snorkeling spot. There are no life guards or public facilities at the beach area.
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach – Close to the sleepy town of Punalu’u is the large black sand beach which is more popular with the various turtles that frequent the area and find the sandy black beach a perfect sun tanning spot. The snorkeling areas off the beach further to the left side is better for snorkeling fun, but be careful with heavier swells that occur later in the afternoon time frame.
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As you can see there are many options of places to snorkel on the Big Island of Hawaii. Depending on where you are planning to visit, make sure you have some down time to enjoy a beach and and enjoy some Snorkeling on the Big Island.