Snorkeling Big Island

Snorkeling Big Island: exciting beaches and some hidden spots to hang out around the island (updated 2023)

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. 

Best snorkeling spots 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

Snorkeling on the Big Island kohala coast

Spencer beach

Spencer beach is a 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.

snorkeling at 69 beach in Kohala

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. The cliff outcrops are also great places to find some of the cool tropical fish and some hidden marine life at the beach area.

Makalawena beach on the Kohala coast Big Island

Makalawena beach park

Makalawena beach is 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 in Kailua Kona

Kahalu’u beach park

Kahalu’u beach park is one of the most popular beach parks in Kona and 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 in Kailua Kona

Magic Sands beach park

Magic Sands beach park is 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. Mornings are the best time to go snorkeling in the area when the waters are calm and the rock outcrop areas to the left are the spots to explore for tropical fish and corals.

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.

snorkeling fun at Richardson beach park

Richardson’s Ocean Park

Richardson’s Ocean park is 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.

Water fun at Carl Smith Beach Park, Hilo

Carl Smith Beach

Carl Smith Beach is a mostly grassy area with no actual 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 park snorkeling experience

Reeds Bay

Reeds Bay is 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 and other water sports along with snorkeling in the quiet bay area.

Coconut island for snorkeling fun in East Hawaii Island

Coconut Island

Coconut Island is the area off Liliuokalani garden and is the island you reach through a small bridge. It 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.

Snorkeling west Big Island at two step

2 Step beach

2 Step beach is 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 beah and snorkeling fun

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 monument for snorkeling fun

Captain Cook Monumentj/Kealekekua

Captain Cook Monumentj/Kealekekua is 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.

There are a few tour outfitters that go to Captain Cook and this sailing and snorkeling adventure tour is one of the best outfits to book a fantastic cruise and snorkel experience.

Punaluu black sand beach in Southern Big Island

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach

Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is close to the sleepy town of Nalehu and is the large black sand beach that is known for the many green sea 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.

Details and tips to snorkeling around the Big Island

Make sure you only use reef safe sun tan lotion before you get into the waters, it is the law

Never face your back to the surf areas in rougher waters, there can always be rouge waves that come through the open waters.

Always make sure someone is watching you or tag team with someone when you are snorkeling in an area.

If your not a strong swimmer, use floating devices to help keep you afloat while you snorkel in the area.

Please do not walk on any coral or touch and wild marinelife in the ocean or beach area.

If you are not sure about the conditions in the water, ask the lifeguard and see if there’s anything you should be avoiding before you get into the water.

Use all these common sense tips and you’ll be safe and have a fantastic time snorkeling around the area.

Enjoyed the post – Pin it!

Best snorkel spots on the BIg Island pinterest

Weather and best time to visit the Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii, also known as the “Orchid Isle,” offers a diverse climate due to its varied geography. The best time to visit the Big Island depends on your interests and the regions you plan to explore:

  1. Dry Season (April to October): This is generally the best time to visit the Big Island. The weather is warm, dry, and ideal for outdoor activities, including hiking, snorkeling, and exploring the island’s diverse landscapes.
  2. Wet Season (November to March): The wet season sees more rainfall, especially on the windward (eastern) side of the island. However, the leeward (western) side remains relatively dry. During this time, you can witness lush green landscapes, waterfalls, and enjoy fewer crowds.
  3. Crowds and Pricing: The Big Island experiences peak tourism during the summer months (June to August) and the winter holiday season (mid-December to early January). Expect larger crowds and higher prices for accommodations and activities during these times.
  4. Whale-Watching Season: If you’re interested in whale watching, visit between December and April when humpback whales migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters. The Big Island’s western coast offers excellent viewing spots.
  5. Volcano Viewing: For a unique experience, consider visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to witness volcanic activity. Be sure to check the park’s conditions and alerts for the most up-to-date information.
  6. Hiking and Outdoor Activities: The Big Island offers incredible hiking and outdoor adventure opportunities. Be aware of weather conditions and trail closures, especially during heavy rains.
  7. Beach and Water Activities: The island boasts stunning beaches and offers excellent snorkeling, scuba diving, and surfing opportunities. Check surf conditions and safety guidelines if you plan to participate in water sports.
  8. Festivals and Events: Keep an eye on the island’s events calendar for festivals, cultural celebrations, and special events. These can add a unique dimension to your visit.
  9. Sun Protection: Regardless of when you visit, protect yourself from the strong Hawaiian sun. Use sunscreen, wear sunglasses, and bring a hat.
  10. Local Insights: Connect with locals or tour guides for insider tips on the best places to visit, dine, and explore on the island.

The best time to visit the Big Island depends on your preferences for weather, activities, and crowds. Whether you seek sunny beach days, lush green landscapes, or unique geological experiences, the Big Island offers something for every traveler year-round.

Conclusion to snorkeling around the Big Island

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.

We love shares - Mahalo!


  1. Karen McKillip

    I am so impressed with this photojournalism. Great photos!! I posted them (i think, all of them) on Pinterest. Truly wonderful and enjoyable!

    • emorata

      Hi Karen, thanks so much for the comment and positive points on this new travel and lifestyle blog



  1. Skydiving Hawaii: The Glicken | Luggage and Lipstick - […] Hawaii is jam-packed with adventure! From snorkeling in Hanauma Bay on Oahu, snorkeling on the Big Island, hiking the…
  2. Restaurants in Kailua Kona - This Hawaii Life - […] Snorkeling around the Big Island […]
  3. Kona International Airport - This Hawaii Life - […] Snorkeling around the Big Island […]
  4. Best Beaches in Hawaii - This Hawaii Life - […] Snorkeling on the Big Island […]
  5. Palila Forest Discovery trail - This Hawaii Life - […] Best snorkeling spots around the Big Island […]
  6. Hikes on the Big Island - This Hawaii Life - […] Best snorkeling spots around the Big Island […]
  7. Family friendly Visit to the Big Island - […] Popular snorkeling areas around the Big Island […]
  8. Free or cheap things to do on the Big Island - This Hawaii Life - […] islands with a variety of different types of beaches that are perfect for family fun, surfing and snorkeling fun…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.