This post contains affiliate links. The Salt Sirens earns from qualifying purchases.
The Big Island is the largest of the Hawaiian islands, and surprisingly it is still growing as it is home to the world’s most active volcano. Along its incredible coastline are tens of coves and reefs worth exploring with a mask and snorkel. From sea turtles to manta rays to reef sharks, read on to discover the best snorkeling tours on the Big Island.
Table of Contents
The Best Snorkel Tours on the Big Island of Hawaii: Quick Picks
The Best Snorkel Tours on the Big Island of Hawaii: Reviewed
Manta Ray Night Snorkel in Kona
Duration: 2.5 hours
Snorkeling is a popular day sport. Snorkelers are always amazed by colorful reefs as they are brighten up by the sun’s rays. But how about snorkeling at night? How much more swimming with the 5th largest fish in the world? That’s the case of Kona as manta rays flock a popular nearshore reef the moment the sun sets down.
At the Kealakehe Harbor, you will hop onboard a tourist boat and take a few minute’s cruise towards the site while watching over the great Hawaiian sunset unfold. At the site, as you prepare to dip in, you can see manta rays converge near the boat as they are attracted to the lights setup by the crew. When you enter the water, you will be led to a nearby tethered observing platform. Once in there, all you need to do is breath, relax, hold on to the bar and let the manta’s do their acrobatic show. In most cases, manta rays will come close to the surface platform, have an up-close and personal experience and see how graceful they are when they swim. This is one of the most memorable experiences we’ve ever had here at The Salt Sirens!
The attractions in the Big island of Hawaii are literally big. In this tour, you will not just go snorkeling, but also encounter the giants of the ocean – the whales, and its mid-sized counterparts – the dolphins.
From the coast of Kona, you will cruise towards an inshore reef and go snorkeling with reef fishes like surgeonfish and butterflyfish. While there’s no much action taking place in the snorkeling site, the real action begins once you get back onboard and start your whale and dolphin watching. Cruising further offshore, you will be surprised by the sudden breaching of humpback whales or the simultaneous run of a pod of dolphins, all presented in a great panorama of the Pacific Ocean.
After retreating to an attack they made against the Hawaiian King back in 1779, British explorer Captain James Cook and his men were cornered in the rocky shores of Kealakekua Bay where they were stabbed to death. In honor of his death and being the first Westerner to set foot on Hawaii, a monument was built for him. Aside from being a historic obelisk, this white tower has also become a reference point for snorkeling as a nearby reef thrives.
Some of the reef fishes that you can see includes angelfish, parrotfish and wrasses. You will also enjoy the site conditions as visibility is often crystal clear and the waters are generally calm. While you’re enjoying your swim, you cannot help but think: what if Captain Cook jump off the rocky shores and go snorkeling instead?
Stunning and Peaceful. That’s the case when you go kayaking in the 1.5 mile long protective cove of Kealakekua Bay. From the beach, you paddle along a scenery of towering volcanic cliffs that is partly covered with vegetation.
Once you get to the west end, you will disembark, go onshore and visit the monument dedicated for Captain Cook. After the monumental visit, you will go snorkeling in a reef that was never seen by the British Explorer where this site was named from. Nonetheless, aside from reef fishes, you will enjoy the shallow profile of the reef that is blessed with crystal clear waters.
Kealakekua Bay is not just about Captain Cook Monument. Since it is 1.5 mile long and 1 mile wide, it is vast and blessed with a reef that is free from the harshness of the elements. This tour is highly ideal especially if the Captain Cook Monument is already crowded.
From Keauhou Bay where your boat is waiting, you will board on a luxury catamaran and cruise along volcanic cliffs all the way to Kealakekua Bay. Once you get in the bay, you will anchor in a site that is away from other tourist boats. Here’s the thing with this tour: you can enter the water in a epic way by slipping away via the onboard giant slide. And what’s best, after you burn calories, you will feast in a sumptuous meal and recharge with the world famous Kona coffee.
The coast of Kohala is one of the most diverse areas and the oldest part in the Big island. This is best represented by the Kohala volcano, the mountain ridge and the surrounding reefs that dates back 500,000 years ago.
From the coast of Kona, you will hop onboard and sail towards the northwest coast. As you arrive the snorkeling site, you will be amazed how clear the water is. Fusiliers, Moorish idols and tangs are amongst the many reef fish that you can see while snorkeling in Kohala. While it is not advisable to take any alcoholic drinks before you snorkel, nonetheless, you can indulge in an unlimited single-serve beers and wines on your way back to the marina.
In general, most of the snorkeling tours in the Big Island is concentrated on the onboard experience and the real underwater adventure is mostly passive. But how about we reduce a little bit of that pampering and actively search for marine life in an ocean safari snorkel tour.
After leaving port in Kona, you will have no fixed itinerary as the tour will depend on where the abundance of marine life is. Don’t expect to swim with reef fishes. The target species of this tour are the gentle giants like dolphins, sea turtles and whales. In some cases, you will swim with sharks. But don’t worry about safety as you are closely supervised with an experienced safety and snorkeling guide.
Snorkeling along the coast of Kona is often filled with boats and snorkelers. We tell you, it sometimes can get crazy crowded. To get away with crowd, timing is essential and midday is often synonymous to lunch and siesta. So, while all the boats are anchored and snorkelers are getting on a Hawaiian feasts, we go on the water and have the snorkeling sites all to us. What’s best with this kind of experience is that you can really focus your attention to the marine life and not to other snorkelers or passing boats with their roaring engines. After guests from other boats finished lunch and ready to get in back the water, that will also be your time to go back onboard.