Locals call Kailua Kona affectionately as Kona town, a combination of old historic sites mixed in with tourist shops and restaurants along with the natural beauty of its harbor and the small string of inlets and beach areas that make it so unique. The waterfront district contains many of the charms mixed in with the usual tourist garb and souvenir shop and once you get out of this what else is there to see? If you’re visiting, here’s some of the favorite things to do in Kona, beyond the tourist attractions.
Here’s what to do and see in Kona
An amazing snorkel experience at Kahalu’u
The marine sanctuary at Kahalu’u is fantastic and this
family friendly beach is the perfect spot to do have an amazing snorkel
experience just outside of town. The beach park has a life guard, full public bathrooms,
food trucks and even volunteers that share their aloha about water safety and
protecting the fish and corals in this protected bay. Check out more details to
Kahalu’u beach park here for information, parking and best times to visit.
Experience the manta rays
There are a few spots around Kona area that manta rays go
feeding and the best way to see them is with a tour outfitter that schedules
mostly nightly snorkel and diving experiences that really deliver an amazing
experience. One of the most thrilling experiences to do in town and experience this
amazing marine life in their aquatic ballet – you’ll remember this as a
highlight to your trip to West Hawaii Island.
Check out this local outfitter here for more details about having this once in a lifetime experience with manta rays
Enjoy a tiki bar experience and music
It doesn’t get more kitschy with a tiki experience and the best one is at Don’s Mai Tai Bar on Ali’i drive at the Royal Kona Resort, just south of Kona’s bay front area. Best time to go is at happy hour with live local entertainment from top Hawaiian performers in the area performing for free.
Explore historic Kona town
Historic Kona town lies along the bay front area with the harbor and there are a few cultural and historic sites that are worth visiting if you love Hawaiian history and tradition. Next to the Kamehameha hotel is a reconstructed heiau (Hawaiian temple) sitting right on the harbor and represents Ahuena Heiau which is a temple on the register of National Historic Landmarks. Kamehameha 1st spent the later part of his life at Kamakahonu Bay fronting the heiau. Next to the beach part of the harbor is the Hulihe’e Palace, which was passed on through different generations of Hawaiian royalty. They offer a wonderful guided tour of the inside with fascinating stories of the time and collections in the mansion. Across from the palace is the Mokuaikaua stone church built during the time of the Baptist settlers on the island – it is a classic stone and coral structure with an eastern colonial influence. A little further down the road is the historic Kona Inn with its shopping arcade and covered outdoor dining area. You can check out more of the historic attractions of Kona here for more background and information to old Kona town.
Visit the art community at Holualoa
Just above Kona town about three miles mauka or uphill is the small art community of Holualoa with its small village appeal, cool art galleries, cafes and even coffee farms to attract you to visit the cooler climate up country. It’s a fun art community worth exploring and meet some of the local artists and gallery owners living in the area. You’ll find some of the most talented Hawaii artists here featuring wood, ceramics, fine art, furniture and sculpture. clothing and jewelry design. Check out all the unique art, coffee farms and other unique must visit places around Holuoloa here for seeing all the cool things happening in town.
Check out the famous Kona coffee farms
Kona coffee is grown in different parts of Kona, specifically the Holualoa area above Kona and further in south Kona all the way to Captain cook. There are many small family run farms that also do tours and tastings for visitors to explore and see and entire operation and processing. You can easily do a self-drive and visit to these places, check out the list and review of public coffee farms with tours and or tastings here for a list of Kona farms for you to plan a visit.
Enjoy a local farmers market experience
There are seven farmers markets in Kona town and surrounding areas – they are relatively small in size and there are three regular markets that happen right in Kona. On a daily basis the Kona Village farmers market just off Ali’i and Hualalai road close to the Kona public library combination of tourist shops, produce and some finished goods/foods to sell. There is also a nice farmers market in Keauhou at the shopping center that happens weekly Saturdays from 8 to 12 noon. A nicer craft and art market, the Ho’oulu Community Farmers Market also sells local produce and finished goods. The market is every Wednesday at the Sheraton Keauhou on Wednesdays from 9 to 2pm. You’ll find artisanal foods, hand made art and craft souvenirs for sale and a nice way to really meet locals from the area.
Taste some local brews and ciders in Kona
Local craft beers are a fun way to experience the local brews and pau hana (after hours) lifestyle in Kona. There are two breweries relatively close to each other and located in the industrial part of town, Kona Brewing Company and new comer Ola brewing company. Both of these breweries have nice tasting rooms and also offer food. Kona brewery has a nice indoor and outdoor venue and Ola has a very nice indoor dining room area and serves mostly appetizers with their beers. Either place is great to enjoy or both. If you love ciders, Ola has some nice tropical infused ciders that are really spectacular along with their delicious beers.
Go on a cruise and snorkel coastal experience
One of the best adventure experiences to do in Kona is to be
on the water and take a cruise to some of the fantastic snorkel spots around
the coastline. There are a few good outfitters that take you to some of the
wonderful snorkel areas along with any whale or dolphin touring through the
coastal areas. Part of the fun of doing a cruise is seeing the fantastic
coastline around Kona, checking out the marine life like dolphins and whales
and then getting to snorkeling areas that aren’t as easy or accessible getting
to on your own to these special snorkel areas.
Check out the Place of Refuge – a national historic monument
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the South Kona area is the Place of Refuge or Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park. A place of refuge for commoners, defeated warriors or rule breakers in ancient times where citizens can go and be safe from any harm. The park contains ancient heiau (Hawaiian temples), reconstructed village and cultural sites, fish ponds and other important monuments you can explore within the park. Just off to the right of the park is an area called Two Step which is a very popular snorkeling spot to check out marine life, corals and amazing tropical fish in the protected bay.
Go on a popular kayaking experience
There are plenty of experiences to be on the water and tour some spectacular coastline around the west side of the Big Island. You can do a canoe and manta ray snorkel experience, visit the famous Captain Cook Monument and snorkel, flume the ditch on inflatable kayaks in water flumes built in the early 1900s. These unique and fun experiences offer some of the best landscapes combined with easy adventure fun for you to enjoy. Check out these choices of outfitter tours and experiences here for more details and tours available around the island.
Go antique and thrift shopping
Thrifting and antiquing are a fun pastime for locals and visitors to the island with a few places that you can explore in Kona town, but the majority of antique and thrift shops are located in the various communities of South Kona at Kanaliu and Kealakekua towns. Some of the thrift places are located in those towns, but you’ll find the various shops sprinkled along the main highway doing down Kona and all the way to Kealakekua area and Captain Cook. Check out this top ten antique stores in South Kona area here for planning your next treasure hunt in the area.
Take a helicopter ride around the Big Island
If you’re looking for a special one of a kind experiences to see the island from above, there are plenty of helicopter outfitters and tours that will fit your needs and type of tour around the island. You have your choice of waterfalls and cliff tours, Volcano and East side experience or West side and the Hamakua coast and cliff areas. Check out all these different helicopter tours here for booking your special trip above the Big Island and get ready for a special treat!
Enjoy sunset at Kona town
The evening time in Kona is magical strolling the waterfront areas, checking out shops or just enjoying a nice tropical drink and views of the harbor and coastline. A highlight to visiting Kona is to enjoy Sunset on the water anywhere in town and its always these simple moments that have a lasting impact on your visit to the west side of the island. It doesn’t matter if your right on the water, a balcony enjoying the views or right on the harbor – take the time to watch a spectacular sunset in Kona and then you can enjoy a great meal or even some drinks right in town.
Go on a fantastic fishing charter from Kona
With so many amazing big fish just off the Kona coast, there are many different outfitters that offer a fantastic fishing tour to do some amazing sport fishing on a shared boat or private charter customized to fit your needs and time line. Check out all these fantastic local charters below with details to each charter and itinerary and sample schedule. Some of the charters do offer special tours and prices for booking directly on the site.
Explore the underwater world in a submarine or glass bottom boat
Exploring the deep blue Pacific Ocean just off of Kona’s coastline and seeing the beautiful corals, tropical fish and marine life in the area is a cool way to enjoy the water without getting wet. There are a few options submarine or glass bottom excursions here and some with a luau that is a great complement to this adventure and combined entertainment experience. You have your pick of easy and fun tours here to choose from.
Horseback riding on the Big Island
With so many different options to explore the gorgeous landscape of the Big Island, you can travers rolling hills, lush forests, stark cinder cones or wonderful coastal views on horseback. You can check out all these fantastic horseback outfitters here on the Big Island to see the hidden paradise you’ll encounter on horseback for this nature inspired experience.
Live music and entertainment in Kona
If you’re looking for live music and entertainment visiting
Kona there are a few fun places to enjoy in town when you visit. Many
restaurant venues do offer local performers during the dinner hour but
following are the most popular places to find entertainment in the Kona area.
Huggo’s on the Rocks offers live entertainment with happy
hours and peak hour happening from 7 to 10 with a regular appetizer and dinner
Don’s Mai Tai Bar at the Royal Kona Resort has a cool tiki
bar, live music and fun happy hour crowd while enjoying the coastline views
Gertrudes Jazz Bar – each night is a different theme with Salsa, Jazz, West Coast Swing and other fun nightly events at this lively bar with tapas and specialty drinks
Enjoy a gorgeous sunset dinner cruise
A dinner cruise around Kona and the scenic coastline is fun especially when you get to enjoy a beautiful sunset on this tour. There are two different tour outfitters offering sunset cruises with a coastal cruise down to Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook monument. Both cruises include a complimentary cocktail, buffet dinner and live entertainment on the cruise. Check out the details to either tours here for more details, prices and docking location.
Visit the Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay.
The famous monument showing the place where English
seafaring Captain Cook was slain by local tribesmen in the southern district of
Kona marks a small monument where he died. The rocky coastline is probably one
of the best snorkeling spots worth visiting on the Big Island with colorful
tropical fish, vivid corals and abundant marine life in the bay. There are
three ways to get to this monument, by kayak across from the cement piers three
miles on the coastline (Kayaks can be rented by various outfitters on the
highway or even right at the Kealakekua Bay cement pier area off Captain Cook.
You can hike down a trail that takes a few hours with a strenuous hike back
uphill or you can go with a snorkel cruise outfitter that does a coastal tour
and extended visit to the Captain Cook area with lunch and other fun water
If you are opting to go with a snorkel outfitter, check out these local tours here for details and prices that can fit your schedule and budget.
Morning walk or jog with the locals
You’ll find locals waking early to do their morning walks or jobs along the coastal beaches on Ali’I drive for their morning ritual. Why not join them for your morning exercise and explore the sweet coastal areas, expensive homes and secret inlets all the way into town. This popular morning ritual is both loved by locals and tourists visiting Kona town and wanting to do a local run or walk in the coastal areas outside Kona.
Go scuba diving in the Big Island
You have your pick of scuba diving experiences on the Big Island from beginner experiences to diving with gorgeous manta rays or some at spectacular night time dives to see the big fish and other marine life. Check out all these Big Island outfitter tours here offering a variety of different tours and diving experiences on the west side and other parts of the island.
Check out an actual Sea Horse Farm in Kona
You can visit one of the most unique attraction in the Kona area and check out an actual Sea Horse Farm close to the airport area. You’ll see sea horses grown in special tanks and also get to play with sea horses in the hour long tour of the farm.
Do a fantastic golfing experience in Kona
Many people visit the Big Island just to enjoy some of the challenging and stunning golf courses on the Kona side of the island. You have so many amazing courses to choose from around Kona and the Kohala coast region. Check out all these fantastic golf courses and current prices here for more information to booking a gold experience in the Big Island.
Go on a zipline tour on the Big Island
If you are an adventure seeker, then you’ll have your pick of excellent zip line experiences all around the Big Island from the Kohala coast and through the Hamakua area, zipping through canyons, waterfalls and lush landscapes below you. Check out these fantastic zip line tours here for a comprehensive look at all the zip line locations around the island with different thrills in store.
Where to stay in Kona
There are so many different price points of places to stay around Kona town from 5 star to air Bnb’s and hostels. Here are some of the best reviewed hotels with high rankings in the Kailua Kona area and images.
Holiday Inn Express Kona – Great location, free breakfast, wifi, pool and gym and no resort fee, make this an affordable option in Kona.
Kona Coast Resort – sitting on 21 acres with swimming pools, jacuzzis, tennis courts and outdoor recreation areas, the villas at the resort are spacious, comfortable with lanais and full kitchens.
Sheraton Kona Resort – located just south of Kona town with lush gardens, swimming pool lagoons and slides, the rooms are updated, soothing and comfortable. great coastal views, manta ray viewing and other close by attractions in the area.
Check out these other topped ranked Trip Advisors hotels here for more images and reviews of places to stay in Kailua Kona
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This Hawaii Chocolate making and tour was a fun experience offered by a local grower in the Big Island of Hawaii. There are several farmers on Hawai’i Island planting varieties of Theobroma cacao trees that produce cacao seeds or pods from which cocoa and chocolate is made. The best known varieties are Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario which is a hybrid mix of both Criollo and Forastero.
The quality of the chocolate depends on the variety of the tree, and Criollo is considered the best chocolate producing trees.
Cacao – From Tree to Chocolate
Sometime ago, I participated in a fun one-day chocolate making workshop at local grower, Sharks Coffee in the Hamakua district that took us from harvesting the cacao pods to making the chocolate and all the steps in between.
We arrived at the site early on a beautiful,
sunny but breezy morning and were given a short orientation talk by the owner
of the little farmstead who is a coffee and cacao grower.
Our group got paired up in teams of twos, one
picking the pods and the other carrying a burlap sack to put them in. As we walked through the cacao grove, he
explained and demonstrated what to look for and how to pick. He also explained how the trees need to be
trimmed by cutting all but the main trunk as the little trees grew to make it
easier to harvest.
The pods are harvested approximately every two
weeks and the ‘ripe’ stage can be red, yellow, orange or mixed, depending on
the variety of cacao tree. We harvested
approximately 300 pods that morning.
As sacks were filled and dumped into a wheelbarrow they were taken to the shed where the processing started.
We were taught how to open the pods by giving
them one or two sharp blows with a mallet and how to shuck the pods by removing
the placentas with the seeds. Each pod
can contain anywhere from 30 to 40 seeds.
After all the pods were opened and shucked, the
seeds were placed in a large plastic container with drainage in the bottom to
collect the juices. We were given
ice-cold juice from a previous harvest to taste and found it delicious. The empty pods are recycled as composting
material and nothing is wasted.
After the juices are drained, the beans are
placed in a different container to ferment for 5 to 7 days, turning them each
day, making sure that the beans are heating up.
After fermenting comes the drying stage; the
beans are turned onto a mesh bottom drying rack in a single layer, in a well
ventilated area and stirred daily. This
process can take up to 6 days, depending on heat and air circulation, but
dryness can be tested by opening a bean.
The dried beans need to be ground or cracked using a machine called Crackenstein or for small batches just simply a rolling pin. The farmer has a machine he rigged up to separate the dried husks from the nibs, but a regular hand-held hair dryer can be used when processing small batches.
When roasting small batches of nibs, set a
toaster oven at 425oF and roast for 9 minutes, then down to 325oF for another 9
minutes and finally bring the temperature down to 259oF for 10 minutes.
To grind the nibs a large Champion juicer can be used or a peanut butter machine to turn the nibs into paste. The paste is then placed in a Santha wet grinding-mixing machine for conching, for 2 to 4 days, adding sugar and vanilla slowly after paste is liquefied (about 12 hours). At this point you may also add cocoa butter and lecithin (emulsifier), but we didn’t add anything but sugar and vanilla to our batch.
Sugar can be adjusted according to your
taste. Our dark chocolate was made using
75% cacao to 25% sugar.
To temper, the chocolate should be brought up to 115 to 120 degrees, then removed from heat and cooled to approximately 82 F. Bring the temperature back to 88-90 degrees and maintain while pouring into molds by working quickly.
Squirt bottles work well for pouring the liquid chocolate into the molds. To minimize air bubbles, first tap the squirt bottle and after pouring, tap the molds to remove as many bubbles as possible. Chill for about 15 to 20 minutes to set and pop loose from mold.
Each participant left on a chocolate high with a few packages of the chocolate and a potted one foot Criollo variety of cacao tree. My tree is now about 20 feet tall and we’ve been harvesting pods, which we use for making small batches, or trade to a chocolatier friend for chocolate bars!
Cacao: the name of the tree and the pod, not to be
confused with cocoa a product derived from processing the cacao beans
Nibs: the clean, roasted and slightly crushed cacao
bean. The taste is slightly bittersweet
and richer than the chocolate made from them.
Conching: the process by which the chocolate is processed
to avoid grittiness by keeping the chocolate in a hot liquid state until
Tempering: the final process which gives the chocolate a
satiny and glossy finish by removing all crystallization from the liquid.
The New Taste of Chocolate: A Cultural and Natural History of
Chocolate with Recipes by Maricel Presilla
Naked Chocolate: The Astonishing Truth about the World’s Greatest Food by David Wolfe
The True History of Chocolate by Sophie and
Bio of Sonia Martinez
Sonia was born in Cuba and ended up living in Hawai‘i—from one beautiful island in the Atlantic to another beautiful island in the Pacific with several years in between living in the American South. She lives in a beautiful rural rainforest area on Hawai’i Island where she enjoys growing herbs, collecting cookbooks, developing recipes, visiting farms and farmers markets, writing about food and cooking, reading voraciously, and working on crossword puzzles. Keep up with her adventures and ongoing love affair with Hawai’i by visiting her food and garden blog called Sonia Tastes Hawaii
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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 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.