Snorkeling in Big Island
- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
A favorite pastime on the Big Island, snorkeling is perhaps one of the easiest and most enjoyable water activities for visitors. By floating on the surface, looking through your mask, and breathing through your snorkel, you can see lava rock formations, sea arches, sea caves, and coral reefs teeming with colorful tropical fish. While the Kona and Kohala coasts have more beaches, bays, and quiet coves to snorkel, the east side around Hilo and at Kapoho are also great places to get in the water.
If you don't bring your own equipment, you can easily rent all the gear needed from a beach activities vendor, who will happily provide directions to the best sites for snorkeling in the area. For access to deeper water and assistance from an experienced crew, you can opt for a snorkel cruise. Excursions generally range from two to five hours; be sure you know what equipment and food is included. Kona Boys lead combined kayaking, snorkeling, and hiking tours.
Equipment, Lessons and Tours
Body Glove Cruises. This operator is a good choice for families; kids love the waterslide and the high-dive platform, and parents appreciate the reasonable prices and good food. The 65-foot catamaran sets off for Red Hill from Kailua-Kona pier daily for a morning snorkel cruise that includes breakfast and a lunch buffet. A three-hour dinner cruise to Kealakekua Bay is a great way to relax, watch the sunset, and learn about Kona's history. It includes a buffet and live music. Seasonal whale-watch cruises are available, too. 75-5629 Kuakini Hwy., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/326–7122 or 800/551–8911. www.bodyglovehawaii.com. Snorkeling $128; dinner cruise $108; whale-watch cruises $88.
Captain Zodiac Raft Expedition. A four-hour trip on a rigid-hull inflatable Zodiac raft takes you along the Kona Coast to explore gaping lava-tube caves, search for dolphins and turtles, and snorkel around Kealakekua Bay. Captains entertain you with Hawaiian folklore and Kona history. Trips depart at 8:15 am, 10 am, and 1 pm. A seasonal three-hour whale-watching cruise is offered. All equipment, such as Rx masks and flotation devices, are included. Honokohau Harbor, 74-425 Kealakehe Pkwy. #16, Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/329–3199. www.captainzodiac.com. From $99 per person; whale-watching cruise $74.
Fair Wind Cruises. In business since 1971, Fair Wind offers morning and afternoon snorkel trips that are great for families with small kids. The custom-built 60-foot catamaran has two 15-foot waterslides, freshwater showers, and a staircase descending directly into the water for easy access. Snorkel gear is included, with lots of pint-size flotation equipment and prescription masks available. The company is known for its delicious meals. Cruises last 4½ hours; 3½-hour snack cruises are offered, too. For ages seven and older, the company operates the Hula Kai snorkel cruise, a 55-foot luxury hydrofoil catamaran with theater-style seats for panoramic views. Their five-hour morning snorkel cruise includes a gourmet breakfast buffet and barbecue lunch. Keauhou Bay, 78-7130 Kaleiopapa St., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/322–2788 or 800/677–9461. www.fair-wind.com. Cruises from $75.
Snorkel Bob's. You're likely to see Snorkel Bob's wacky ads in your airline in-flight magazine. The company is known for a wide selection of rental gear and can set you up with adventures such as cruises, helicopter flights, and ziplines. 75-5831 Kahakai St., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/329–0770 or 800/262–7725. www.snorkelbob.com.
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