Finding The Big Island’s Top Attractions

Kailua-Kona beckons travelers with its captivating natural beauty, rich history, and diverse cultural offerings. This quick guide will help you find Kona’s top attractions, ensuring an unforgettable and enriching experience for every visitor.

Kona’s Natural Wonders

  • Hapuna Beach beckons travelers with its pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters. This iconic beach is a haven for swimmers, snorkelers, and sunbathers alike. Bask in the warm Hawaiian sun, immerse yourself in the refreshing ocean, and marvel at the vibrant marine life that inhabits the nearby coral reefs. Hapuna Beach offers a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure, making it a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Kona’s top attractions.
  • Make your way to Kahalu’u Bay, a picturesque haven for snorkeling and surfing enthusiasts. Immerse yourself in the vibrant underwater world, teeming with colorful fish, graceful sea turtles, and the occasional eel. Snorkelers of all levels will delight in exploring the shallow reefs, while experienced and beginner surfers can tackle the challenging waves that break along the bay’s outer edge. Kahalu’u Bay offers a perfect blend of tranquility and adventure, making it a top destination for water sports enthusiasts visiting Kona.
  • Kua Bay, a secluded gem, is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the breathtaking Hawaiian sunsets. Wade in the crystal-clear waters or join the body surfers and boogie boarders catching a wave. As the sun begins its descent, Kua Bay transforms into a kaleidoscope of colors, casting a golden glow over the surrounding landscape. Whether you seek relaxation or adventure, Kua Bay offers a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle, allowing you to reconnect with nature and create lasting memories.
  • Keauhou Bay: Bask in the tranquility of this stunning bay, perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. Marvel at the vibrant marine life, including colorful fish, graceful sea turtles, and playful dolphins.

View of Palm trees

Cultural Immersion in Kona

  • Huliheʻe Palace: Step back in time at this historic palace, once the summer residence of Hawaiian royalty. Admire its elegant architecture, explore its fascinating exhibits, and immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of the past.
  • Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park: Discover the sacred refuge where ancient Hawaiians sought sanctuary. Explore ancient temples, learn about the kapu system, and witness the power of Hawaiian traditions.
  • Kona Historical Society Museum: Delve into Kona’s rich past at this captivating museum. Peruse historical artifacts, uncover intriguing stories, and gain a deeper understanding of the region’s cultural heritage.
  • Moku’aikaua Church: Admire the architectural beauty of this historic church, a testament to Kona’s missionary history. Immerse yourself in its serene atmosphere and learn about its role in shaping the community.

Outdoor Adventures in Kona

  • Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park: Journey through this coastal park, offering breathtaking views of the ocean, ancient Hawaiian fishponds, and diverse wildlife. Hike along scenic trails, explore archaeological sites, and uncover the secrets of Kona’s natural and cultural history.
  • Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary: Embark on a hike through this lush sanctuary, home to a diverse array of native plants and animals. Discover hidden waterfalls, navigate through dense vegetation, and immerse yourself in the beauty of Hawaiʻi’s unique ecosystem.
  • Mauna Kea: Venture to the summit of this majestic mountain, the tallest in the world when measured from its base on the ocean floor. Experience breathtaking views, witness a dazzling array of stars at night, and learn about the cultural significance of this sacred site.

Culinary Delights of Kona

  • Huggo’s on the Rocks: Savor exquisite seafood and Pacific Rim cuisine while enjoying breathtaking oceanfront views. Indulge in culinary creations that showcase the flavors of Hawaiʻi, paired with an extensive wine list.
  • Da Poke Shack: Embark on a culinary adventure at this renowned poke shack, offering a wide variety of fresh and flavorful poke bowls. Customize your bowl with a choice of bases, proteins, toppings, and sauces to create a dish that tantalizes your taste buds.
  • Pine Tree Cafe: Begin your day with a hearty breakfast at this local favorite, serving up classic dishes with a touch of Aloha spirit. Enjoy fluffy pancakes, savory omelets, and aromatic Kona coffee to fuel your Kona explorations.
  • Kona Coffee Living History Farm: Embark on a journey through the history of Kona’s renowned coffee industry. Stroll through lush coffee fields, witness traditional farming techniques, and savor the aroma of freshly roasted beans.

Plan Your Kona Adventure

Exploring the Big Island is a journey filled with natural wonders, cultural immersion, and culinary delights. From ancient Hawaiian history to breathtaking outdoor adventures, Kona offers a kaleidoscope of experiences that will leave a lasting impression.

Looking for a place to stay? Check out what we have available for your dates.

Daytripping from Kona or Hilo

Along the southeastern coast of the Big Island, Punalu’u Beach and Papakōlea Beach attract travelers with their distinctive charm, each offering a beautiful experience worthy of the scenic drive required to reach them.

Postcard of Punalu'u Beach in 1965

Black Sand Beach / Punalu’u Beach

At Punalu’u Beach, the striking contrast of black sands against the blue waters of the ocean and the green canopy is magical. Snorkeling enthusiasts love the variety of marine life in these clear waters. Schools of vibrant fish dart among the coral reefs, while graceful sea turtles glide effortlessly, their movements a testament to the serene rhythm of island life. This is a very popular beach for sea turtles and they are easy to spot basking on the warm black sand. 

Green Sand Beach / Papakōlea Beach

About 24 miles further along the coast, the rugged views give way to the hidden gem of Papakōlea Beach, also known as the Green Sand Beach. This is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The scenic hike is under 3 miles each way through windswept cliffs and coastal scrub. The gorgeous hike is worth taking but if 5+ miles of hiking seems like too much there are local drivers who will take you either or both ways for a small fee. The beach is beautiful but be cautious in the water as there can be a very strong current. More information about the hike here!

A word of caution: Do not drive your own vehicle and, more specifically, do not take your rental car past the parking lot! 

View of Papakolea BeachImage by

Eating Along the Way

Onward to food! The well-known Punulu’u Bakeshop has delicious malasadas, sandwiches, and plate lunches. The garden is a peaceful spot for a coffee and mango malasada. Another great option is the Aloha Mix food truck just across the street. They are known for steak and shrimp plates and acai bowls.   

One more little side trip a few miles further! Although I am not this type of thrill seeker, watching the cliff jumpers at Southpoint is pretty exciting and a little nerve-wracking. Sure go ahead and jump if that’s your thing but just watching will be enough for most of us! Walk another 100ft south to the Southernmost point in the US.

On Image – include link to

“The actual Southernmost tip of the United States is just past the metal light beacon to the left and toward the coast. Follow the low rock wall, actually an ancient Hawaiian ruin called Kalalea Heiau, to the edge where the frenzied ocean punishes the rugged coastline with its power. Please do not touch or sit on the rock wall as it is a sacred site.” (Hawaii Guide

Enjoy your day trip to Punalu’u and Papakōlea beaches, the rugged beauty of the volcanic landscape, and the great local food choices.

Check out lodging that is available for your dates.

The history of Hawaii before it became a U.S. state is rich and diverse. Hawaiian history and culture reflects a complex interplay of Polynesian settlers, European contact, missionary influence, and geopolitical changes that ultimately led to its integration into the United States. The legacy of this history continues to shape the cultural, social, and political landscape of Hawaii today.

Hawai’i Island, also known as the Big Island, offers a variety of historical and cultural sites to explore. Here are some of the best historic and cultural sites to visit on Hawai’i Island:


Honokohau Beach at Sunset

Historic and Cultural Sites

  • Pu’uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Place of Refuge):
    • This ancient Hawaiian site served as a place of refuge for lawbreakers, where they could seek absolution. The park features reconstructed temples, fishponds, and wooden images.
  • Hulihe’e Palace:
    • Located in Kailua-Kona, this palace was a vacation residence for Hawaiian royalty. Today, it serves as a museum showcasing Victorian artifacts and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
  • Imiloa Astronomy Center:
    • Located in Hilo, this center combines astronomy with Hawaiian culture. It features interactive exhibits, a planetarium, and displays that explore the connections between traditional Hawaiian navigation and modern astronomy.
  • Akaka Falls State Park:
    • While the main attraction is the stunning Akaka Falls, the park also offers a pleasant walk through lush rainforest where you can find traditional Hawaiian plants and learn about the island’s flora.
  • Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park:
    • This park preserves traditional Hawaiian culture and features fishponds, petroglyphs, and reconstructed ancient Hawaiian dwellings. It’s a great place to explore the island’s history and natural beauty.
    • This is also a great place to see Hawaiian Sea Turtles munching peacefully on algae.
  • Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay:
    • This monument marks the spot where Captain James Cook, the famous British explorer, was killed. The bay itself is a marine life conservation district and is excellent for snorkeling.
  • Lapakahi State Historical Park:
    • This park preserves an ancient Hawaiian fishing village, allowing visitors to see the remains of traditional houses, walls, and agricultural terraces. There’s a self-guided tour that provides insights into the daily life of the native Hawaiians.


Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park


  • Pu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site:
    • This historic site features a massive stone temple built by King Kamehameha I in the late 18th century. It played a significant role in his quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands.
  • Mookini Luakini Heiau:
    • Located on the northern tip of the island, this ancient temple is one of the oldest and most significant on the island. It played a crucial role in early Hawaiian religion and is surrounded by a unique landscape.

Heiau, the ancient Hawaiian temples or sacred sites, hold significant cultural and spiritual importance. Climbing on heiau or engaging in any form of disrespect can be seen as culturally insensitive and disruptive to the spiritual energy of these places.

Step back in time to explore Hawaiian history and culture

Visitors to Hawaii, or any location with sacred sites, should be aware of and adhere to local cultural guidelines and practices. Many heiau are protected as historical and cultural sites, and it is important to treat them with reverence. Most sites have signs and guidelines indicating appropriate behavior, which often includes not climbing on the structures, removing rocks or artifacts, or engaging in any activities that could disturb the site.

Respecting the cultural heritage of a place contributes to the preservation of its history and allows visitors to appreciate the significance of these sites without causing harm or offense to the local community.

Check our blog for information about local events in the Kailua-Kona area.

Whale watching in Kona, Hawaii is an absolutely magical experience! Kona, located on the Big Island, is known for its stunning coastline and warm waters, making it an ideal spot to catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures.

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales are the stars of the show, and you can often see them breaching, tail-slapping, and even singing their underwater tunes. The peak season for whale watching in Hawaii is generally from December to April when these gentle giants migrate to the warm Hawaiian waters for mating and calving.

Whale Watching Tours

Several tour operators in Kona offer whale-watching excursions, taking you out on the sparkling blue waters for an up-close encounter with these majestic marine mammals. Imagine the thrill of seeing a massive humpback leaping out of the water or witnessing a playful pod of dolphins dancing alongside the boat.

Body Glove Hawaii not only has a great reputation but is fully committed to sustainability and nurturing the environment.

We also like Wahine Charters who do Manta Ray dives as well as whale-watching tours. Past guests rave about the amazing experience!

Humpback Whale Air Spout

Dolphin Watching


Hawaii is also a fantastic destination for dolphin enthusiasts, and there are several opportunities to witness these playful creatures in their natural habitat. Hawaii is home to spinner dolphins, known for their acrobatic spins and jumps. You can often find them swimming and breaching along the shore in the early morning hours. Watch for dolphins in the bay during your breakfast or your early morning walk for a delicious coffee at Kona Haven. Or relax on a bench at Pahoehoe Beach Park and just wait for them. 

If you are lucky enough to encounter dolphins while you are in the water, remember they are protected. Stay in one place, don’t chase them, and try to remember every beautiful moment of it!

If you’re just not ready to take a tour bring your binoculars! During the season you will almost certainly see whales from the shore. Keep your eyes open. Often the first thing you’ll see is a water spout when they come up to breathe.

Remember to bring your camera to capture these incredible moments, and keep an eye out for the breathtaking sunset views on your way back to the shore. It’s a memory-making experience you won’t soon forget! Enjoy the wonders of Kona and happy whale watching!

If you are hoping to spot whales or dolphins from your lanai check out this oceanfront vacation rentalA view of the ocean from the Lanai

The Big Island of Hawaii is the perfect place to take kids of all ages. What started off as a “Top Ten” list turned into a Top 14 because there is just so many family-friendly activities!

Dolphins Swimming

Here are 14 of the best things to do with kids.

Dolphins and Whale watching:

There is nothing like seeing a whale or dolphin in its own beautiful home. November through March take a boat tour to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat. Body Glove Hawaii not only has a great reputation but has fully committed to sustainability and nurturing the environment.

Whale Breaching

Take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour:

Explore the underwater world without getting wet by taking a glass-bottom boat tour. Kids can marvel at the colorful marine life and coral formations. Saltwater Soul Kona is right across from the Pier

Snorkel at Kahalu’u Beach Park:

Kahaluu Beach is known for its calm, clear waters, making it an ideal spot for kids to snorkel and observe colorful marine life. See more Great Spots for Snorkeling here.

Experience the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden:

Wander through lush gardens filled with exotic plants, flowers, and waterfalls at the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, providing a peaceful and educational environment for families.

Try Ziplining:

For a thrilling adventure, consider a ziplining tour. There are several zipline courses on the island that cater to families, allowing kids to soar through the treetops. Remember to check the age and height restrictions for this to ensure they are suitable for your children. You don’t want to arrive only to find out Jr can’t do it!

Visit Volcanoes National Park:

Explore the fascinating volcanic landscape, walk through lava tubes, and witness the power of nature at Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Whether or not the lava is visible this is an amazing place.

Hike Akaka Falls State Park:AKAKA FALLS STATE PARK

Take an easy hike through the lush rainforest to see the stunning Akaka Falls, which plunges 442 feet into a gorge.

Stargazing at Mauna Kea Visitor Center:

Head to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Station for a family-friendly stargazing experience. Arrive before the sun sets to watch from above the clouds and stay to see more stars than you’ve ever seen before. The high elevation and clear skies offer excellent views of the night sky. Bring warm clothes. 

Explore Waipio Valley:

Take a guided tour to Waipio Valley, where you can enjoy the stunning views, learn about Hawaiian history, and maybe even ride horses along the valley floor. These are a couple of the local tour companies operating in Waipio Valley. Hawaii Tours and Waipio Valley Shuttle. Non-residents are only allowed into the valley with a local tour.

Discover Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park:

Learn about Hawaiian culture and history at this sacred site. Kids will love exploring the temples and walking through the reconstructed village.

Attend a Luau:

Experience Hawaiian culture through a family-friendly luau, where kids can enjoy traditional music, dance, and a delicious feast. Legends of Hawai’i at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort is a great show as is Voyageurs of the Pacific at the Royal Kona Resort.

Visit Panaewa Rainforest Zoo:

Explore the only rainforest zoo in the United States, home to a variety of animals, including monkeys, parrots, and a white Bengal tiger.

Kona Coffee Living History Farm: 

Learn about coffee cultivation and processing at this educational farm, where kids can take a tour and see coffee plants up close. Also Free Samples! 

Or just pick a beach and relax:

Spend a day at Hapuna Beach, one of Hawaii’s most beautiful beaches, with its white sands and clear waters. It’s a great place for family picnics, sandcastle building, and swimming.

Check out more picks for the Best Beaches in West Hawai’i

There are several gardens to visit on the Big Island but a personal favorite for so many reasons is the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden. It took me a few years to get this onto my schedule and now I look forward to going back for more.

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints, Then Take More Pictures

Make sure you have your camera ready because there’s a picture worthy snap around every corner! Around every bend there is a new amazing scene, a new orchid, an incredible fern, or an ocean view.

This is a 40-acre botanical garden and nature preserve located in the Onomea Valley on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is home to over 2,000 species of tropical plants from around the world, including palms, orchids, bromeliads, and heliconias. The garden also features a variety of trails, waterfalls, and streams.

Green Gecko on Red Flower

The garden was founded in 1977 by Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse, who were inspired by the beauty and diversity of the Onomea Valley. They began by clearing invasive plants and trees from the land, and then they started planting a collection of tropical plants from all over the world. The garden opened to the public in 1984.

Today, the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden is a popular tourist destination and a valuable educational resource. It is also home to several research projects, and it plays an important role in the conservation of tropical plants.


Things To Do at the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden

Here are some of the things you can do at the Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden:

  • Hike on the garden’s trails and admire the waterfalls and streams.
  • Visit the orchid garden and learn about the different types of orchids.
  • Explore the native plant garden and learn about the plants that are indigenous to Hawaii.
  • Take a guided tour of the garden and learn about its history and its plants.
  • Visit the garden’s gift shop and purchase souvenirs.
  • Have a picnic lunch in the garden’s picnic area.
  • Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden trails

The Hawaii Tropical Bioreserve and Garden is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Admission is $20 for adults, $16 for seniors, and $10 for children ages 3 to 12. Children under 3 are admitted free.

Although this is my favorite there are several other beautiful gardens to visit on the Big Island. has a nice overview of some of the other gardens worth visiting.


Travel Tips for the Big Island

The beaches on the Big Island are amazing but there are also many beautiful hikes including the Makuala O’oma Trail hike in the Kaloko Cloud Forest. This cool, shady hike starts at Makahi Street is about a 4-mile loop trail in the Honua’ula Forest Reserve. The trail is well-maintained and offers moderate elevation gain, making it a good option for hikers of all levels. You can hike this clockwise or counterclockwise. This description takes you clockwise.

Trail Details

To start the hike, park on the side of the road at the Makahi Street trailhead. The trail begins with a steep descent through a lush forest of native Hawaiian trees and ferns. 

After about a mile, the trail reaches a flat section that winds through the forest. This section of the trail is particularly scenic, with views of towering trees and lush ferns.

After about two miles, the trail begins to climb back uphill. The climb is moderate, but there are a few steep sections. As you climb, you’ll pass by several viewpoints with stunning views of the Kona Coast and the Pacific Ocean.

At the top of the climb, you’ll reach the Makuala O’Oma Trail junction. Ahead of you are Mauka meadows and likely some grazing cows. Turn right to he

ad back to the Makahi Street trailhead. When you take the fourth right turn you’ll make your way back into the canopy. Somewhere along this area take a break to catch your breath and just listen to the sounds of the forest.

Plan Ahead

Yellow Flowers of the Kahili Ginger Plant

Hiking the Kaloko Cloud Forest in Kona takes about 2 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how many stops you make. Be sure to bring plenty of water.

Here are some additional tips for hiking the Kaloko Trail:

  • Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots, as the trail can be slippery and uneven in some areas.
  • Bring plenty of water and snacks, as thereare no services on the trail.
  • Be respectful of the native Hawaiian plants and animals.
  • Leave no trace: pack out all of your trash.

Another great hike takes you to a beautiful snorkeling spot in Kealakekua Bay

Additional information for this hike can be found here

Kealakekua Bay might have the clearest water in the area so it’s a great spot for snorkeling and kayaking.

The view on the hike to Kealakekua BayIf a big tour boat isn’t your style you can take a guided kayak tour across the bay to Captain Cook Monument or hike down the trail. Both are fun options.

  • Guided kayak tour: There are several tour companies that offer guided kayak tours to Kealakekua Bay. This is a great option if you want to experience the bay at your own pace and have a chance to learn about the marine life from a knowledgeable guide. We went with Aloha Kayak and had a great time. The guides are knowledgeable and keep the group together. No Paddler left behind!
  • Hike down the trail: There is a trail that leads down to the Captain Cook Monument from Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park. The hike is about 2 miles round-trip and takes about 30 minutes (Full Disclosure: 40+ minutes on the way back up). Pace yourself. Once you reach the monument, you can snorkel in the water around the monument.

Some tips for kayaking to the Captain Cook Monument:

  • Book your tour in advance, especially if you’re visiting during peak season.
  • Wear reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Bring a water bottle and snacks.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch for boat traffic.
  • If you are barefoot, reapply reef-safe sunscreen to the tops of your feet on the way back! 

Some tips for hiking to the Captain Cook Monument:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothing.
  • Bring a water bottle and snacks.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch for uneven footing.
  • Wear reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses.
  • Pack it in, pack it out!

Clear waters of Kealakekua BayEarly morning is the best time to snorkel in Kealakekua Bay without the tour boats.

Tour boats typically start arriving at Kealakekua Bay around 9:00am, so if you can get there before then, you’ll have the bay to yourself. The water is also generally calmer in the morning, which makes for better snorkeling conditions.

Some tips for snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay early morning:

  • Arrive at the trailhead early, around 7:00am or 8:00am.
  • Park at the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park parking lot.
  • The trail is easy to follow.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch for boat traffic.
  • Do not chase the dolphins!

If you can’t make it to Kealakekua Bay early morning, another option is to snorkel late afternoon. Most tour boats leave the bay by 3:00pm, so you’ll have a couple of hours to snorkel without the crowds.

Kealakekua Bay snorkeling and kayaking

  • Arrive at the trailhead around 2:30pm or 3:00pm.
  • Leave the bay by 5:00pm to avoid hiking up the trail in the dark.

No matter what time of day you choose to snorkel in Kealakekua Bay or how you get there, be sure to wear reef-safe sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. You should also bring a snorkel set, fins, and a floatation device if you’re not a confident swimmer. It’s a beautiful place with a variety of marine life to see.

Have a great time snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay!

Are you looking for a great place to stay near Kealakekua Bay? Check out Kona Coffee Villas

Snorkeling in Hawai’i is a wonderful way to enjoy the island environment. Here are a few of our favorite spots on the Big Island. 

Kahalu’u Bay

Kahalu’u Bay, situated on the west coast near Kailua-Kona, stands out as one of the Big Island’s premier snorkeling destinations. This bay draws snorkelers with its calm, clear waters, and vibrant marine life. Its popularity lies in the abundant array of colorful fish and graceful green sea turtles that can be encountered here. Conveniently, you’ll find snorkel gear rental shops nearby, making it accessible for visitors of all experience levels.

Sea Turtle Swimming Underwater

Two Step at Honaunau Bay

Two Step, located near Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, offers a unique underwater experience. Its name derives from the natural two-step entry into the water. The area is renowned for its pristine coral reefs, diverse marine life, and excellent visibility. Snorkelers can expect to encounter a wide range of fish species, including the iconic Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the Hawaiian state fish.

Beach 69

Beach 69, also known as Waialea Beach, graces the Kohala Coast with its secluded beauty. This idyllic beach is renowned for its crystal-clear waters and superb snorkeling opportunities. Beneath the surface, snorkelers can explore intricate coral formations and observe various species of fish. Nearby facilities such as restrooms and picnic tables make it a convenient and enjoyable spot for a day of snorkeling.


Honokohau, found within the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park just north of Kailua-Kona, offers a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance. Snorkelers in this area can explore underwater lava tubes, ancient fishponds, and a rich diversity of marine life. Beyond the snorkeling experience, visitors can also dive into Hawaiian culture and history as they explore the historical sites within the park. As with any snorkeling spot, it’s essential to check local conditions, respect the marine environment, and prioritize safety while enjoying these beautiful locations.

Choose your Sunscreen Wisely

Use Reef-Friendly Sunscreen: Choose a sunscreen that is labeled as “reef-safe” or “oxybenzone-free.” Chemicals in many sunscreens harm coral reefs when washed off in the water. Check this list of reef-safe sunscreens and consider buying a Hawaiian-made brand online or when you arrive. Kokua Sun Care and Little Hands Hawai’i are two personal favorites.

Some Snorkeling Safety Tips

Snorkeling in Hawaii is a fantastic way to observe and appreciate beautiful marine life, but it’s crucial to do so responsibly to protect the environment and ensure your safety. Here are some rules and guidelines to follow when snorkeling in Hawaii:

No Touching: Never touch, handle, or harass marine life, including coral, fish, sea turtles, seals, dolphins, and other creatures. Touching coral can damage it, and touching or chasing wildlife can stress or harm the animals.

Maintain a Safe Distance: Keep a respectful and safe distance from all marine life. For sea turtles, it’s required to maintain a distance of at least 10 feet (3 meters). For Monk Seals, Dolphins and Whales stay 50 feet away and you’ll still be able to enjoy the experience! Avoid crowding or surrounding any animals.

Avoid Standing on Coral: Never stand or walk on coral reefs. Even seemingly dead or fragile coral can be vital to the ecosystem, and standing on it can cause irreparable damage.

Stay on Established Paths: If you are entering the water from the shore, use established paths or entry points to avoid trampling on sensitive coastal areas.

Pack Out What You Pack In: Do not leave any trash or litter behind, and pick up any trash you may encounter. Dispose of it properly in designated receptacles.

Respect Protected Areas: Be aware of marine protected areas (MPAs) and follow any additional rules and regulations specific to those areas. Some areas may have restrictions on fishing or snorkeling.

Swim with a Buddy: Snorkel with a buddy, and keep an eye on each other in the water. This is not only safer but can be more enjoyable as you share the experience.

Know Your Limits: Only snorkel within your skill and comfort level. If you’re a beginner or unfamiliar with a particular area, consider going with a guided tour or seeking local advice.

Protect the Environment: Be an advocate for the marine environment. Educate yourself about Hawaii’s unique ecosystems and the threats they face, and support conservation efforts when possible.

Enjoy your Adventure

The Hawaiian Islands are amazing above and below the water and we hope you are as entranced with the beauty as we are. By following these tips and guidelines, you can enjoy snorkeling in Hawaii while helping to preserve the natural beauty and health of the marine environment for future generations. Remember that responsible snorkeling benefits both you and the fragile ecosystems you explore.

These are a few of the locals businesses we recommend for more adventures.

West Hawaii, particularly the Kona and Kohala coasts of the Big Island of Hawaii, is known for its stunning beaches. Wide swatches of sand, shady spots under the trees, or reefs full of sealife, whatever you are looking for, here are some of our favorite beaches in West Hawai’i:

Best Beaches in West Hawaii

Hammock overlooking the beach and ocean in Hawaii

Hapuna Beach State Park:

Hapuna Beach is one of the most famous beaches on the Big Island. It offers a long, wide expanse of golden sand and clear turquoise waters, making it ideal for swimming, sunbathing, and bodyboarding. The beach is also equipped with picnic areas and restroom facilities.

Waialea Beach 69:

Just down the road from Hapuna Beach is a personal favorite. Are you looking for sun or shade? Napping, swimming, snorkeling? In the many hidden spots under the Kiawe trees, you can find your own quiet space to relax and unwind. Or find a sunny spot in the soft sand and soak up the warmth of the Hawaiian sun. The snorkeling around the largest rock outcropping can bring some impressive displays of coral and fish and even the turtles seem more relaxed with fewer people in their ocean. 

Honokohau Beach:

Are you looking for calm waters and a peaceful spot to relax? With a protective reef, Honokohau Beach is a great spot for swimming or snorkeling. It also has a little more shade than many West Hawaii beaches. This beach is a part of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park which has an ancient fishpond just above the beach. You can read more about the area and the archaeological sites, springs, petroglyphs, heiau (Hawaiian temples), and fishponds here.


Makolea 11 near Kahalu'u Bay

Kahalu’u Bay:

Kahalu’u Bay has a little of everything. Not only is there a large sandy area for relaxing and picnicking but it has some great snorkeling, an excellent area for surfing including many options for surf lessons, and a beautiful spot for watching the sunset.

Mauna Kea Beach:

Located adjacent to Hapuna Beach, Mauna Kea Beach is another beautiful option. It’s known for its powdery white sand and gentle waves. The Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is nearby, offering beachside amenities and dining.

Kaunaoa Beach (Mau’umae Beach):

This beach is situated in front of the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and is known for its crescent shape, palm trees, and soft sand. It’s a great spot for snorkeling, paddleboarding, or simply relaxing.

Lanai overlooking the Hawaiian CoastKua Bay (Manini’owali Beach):

Kua Bay is a picturesque beach known for its crystal-clear waters and fine white sand. Before you walk down to the beach, pause a moment to appreciate the gorgeous turquoise waters below and just take a deep breath. It’s a popular spot for boogie boarding, body surfing, and picnicking. Bring your binoculars if you want to watch the dolphins cruising by and an umbrella for a little shade. Be sure to arrive early as the parking lot can fill up quickly.

Makalawena Beach:

Accessible via a short hike from the Kekaha Kai State Park parking lot, Makalawena Beach is a hidden gem with a unique landscape of white sand, lava formations, and palm trees. It’s a remote and beautiful spot for those seeking a quieter beach experience. If you have a 2WD vehicle you might want to consider walking in. The reward of arriving makes the hike worthwhile.

Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area:

This park has a unique beach known for its black lava rock shoreline. It’s a great place for picnicking, beachcombing, and watching the sunset. The park also offers walking and jogging paths. On the mauka side of the parking lot you can enjoy a stroll on the Maka-eo walking path with gardens maintained by community members and local businesses

Kona Islander Relaxing bedroom


Kealakekua Bay:

While not a traditional beach, Kealakekua Bay is famous for its clear waters and incredible snorkeling. It’s a protected marine sanctuary and home to a wide variety of marine life, including colorful coral and spinner dolphins. The hike in is rigorous but worth it or take a guided kayak tour and enjoy the sight of dolphins swimming and leaping along beside you.

Two Step Beach (Honaunau Bay):

This rocky beach is famous for its exceptional snorkeling and diving opportunities, including the chance to see Hawaiian green sea turtles and a variety of fish. Dolphins and rays are often spotted in the deeper areas past the “Aloha”. The name “Two Step” refers to the natural stone steps that lead into the water.




Whichever beach you choose, you are likely to find a place you love. So lay out your towel, kick off your slippahs and let us know your favorite!

After a beautiful day at the beach here are a few suggestions for some local eats!