Snorkeling on the Big Island of Hawaii is one the most joyful and rewarding adventures you can have. There are myriad beaches, tours, and opportunities for exploring our underwater treasure trove. Especially on the “Kona side” or west side of the Island, the waters are clear, warm, and inviting! You can sink into the cool, liquid velvet of azure waters and explore the nooks and crannies of our coral reefs.
For a list of beaches, click here.
Whether you go in from one of our local beaches, or charter a boat to go in deep, snorkeling is one of the “must do’s” on the Big Island. Here are some suggestions for beach and boat access to our lovely Hawaiian waters.
If you have never snorkeled before, remember that the ocean is not a swimming pool with well-defined sides and bottom. There ARE very safe sandy beaches for newcomers to learn, so don’t let this word of caution scare you away. Just be careful, and aware of your surroundings.
Its a good idea to wear sun-protective rash guards, especially if you’re from a place where white tender skin is not used to prolonged exposure to the sun. It is also helpful to snorkel in the early morning, when the sun is not yet so strong.
If you or your child is not a strong swimmer, swim noodles can be a wonderful help in the water. Wear them across your chest and under your arms, and all fear of sinking is alleviated.
Be sure you have good defogger for your goggles. Cloudy water is one thing – foggy goggles is another. Together, they spell low visibility in a place where you want to see everything!
Put on your mask (make sure all hair is out of the mask) and snorkel before entering the water, but wait till you’re in deep enough to float to put on your flippers. Entering in the surf can be tricky enough, without having clown shoes to trip you up. When you come out, it’s also a good idea to take off your fins before trying to exit. When gravity takes over again, you want to have your feet well planted beneath you.
Find entry and exit places that are not over rocks or coral. Enter at a sandy place. Incoming waves can be strong, and you don’t want to be dragged over rock, coral, or even course sand and pebbles.
Always wear snorkel goggles in the water! You want to be able to SEE where you are at all times, especially in relation to where any underwater rocks or coral may be. Goggles and snorkel give you an added measure of safety to be able to see and breathe without having to worry about where the underwater rocks are.
Once in the water, fins are very helpful in having purchase to get around. Without them, you can kick for a long time against the ocean and go nowhere fast. Especially when close to rocks, you want to be able to move quickly when necessary.
You can rent good snorkel equipment right in Waikoloa Beach Resort at either Blue Wilderness in the Queens Shops, or Big Island Motorcycle Company in the Kings Shops. They have reasonable prices, and you can be assured that your gear is sanitary and that it fits. Prescription goggles are also available there.
Boat access is also a joyful chance to swim in the deep and see dolphins, mantas, an occasional white-tip, and of course, our magificent whales. Unfortunately, swimming with whales is not allowed in Hawaii, but all others are available for swimming with. Once again, on our Activities and Adventures page you can find references to good boat tours for a 4-hour snorkeling trip along the west shores of the Big Island, from Kohala to Keauhou. That’s a whole ‘nother story, and I’ll be happy to share in my next blog post.