Top 5 Kona Snorkel Tours
The Kona coast is home to what is potentially the best snorkeling in the state of Hawaii. And in a state famous for its coral reefs and marine life, that’s really saying something!
Kona’s unique topography has created a paradise for marine animals and snorkelers alike. The island’s massive mountains act as a wind block and create consistent, calm conditions on the island’s leeward side. Pair that with countless sheltered volcanic coves and thriving reefs, and you’ll get a snorkeling utopia.
Not sure where to go snorkeling in Kona? It is a big island, after all… Consider taking a snorkel tour with one of Hawaii’s most reputable snorkel companies. Here are our top five picks:
To say that there is an abundance of dolphins in Kona’s waters would be an understatement. It is believed that there are over 750 resident dolphins off the Kona coast- compare that to just over 300 for the entire island of Oahu. Not only does this tour visit one of Kona’s best reefs, but spotting some playful spinner dolphins is highly likely.
This family-friendly tour runs 4.5 hours and provides all the trimmings for a great day spent on the sea. The 65′ catamaran comes equipped with a high-rise diving board and a 20′ waterslide, which is sure to keep the kids entertained. The crew is also happy to provide snorkel gear, snorkel instruction, water toys, stand-up paddleboards, reef-safe sunscreen…the list goes on. If there’s a luxury you’d like to have during your two hours of snorkel time, chances are it’s already on board and at your disposal.
The catamaran is designed for ultimate comfort. After all, you can’t have fun if you’re not comfortable. The deck is rigged with cushioned seating, plenty of shade, restrooms, changing rooms, and freshwater showers.
Know Before You Go:
● Breakfast and a BBQ lunch are provided on this tour. If you’re vegetarian, let the staff know in advance. They’ll hook you up with delicious taro burgers for lunch. Yum!
● Wetsuits and GoPros are available for rent. Trust us, rent the GoPro. You won’t want to forget this day.
● Want to take your underwater adventure to the next level? Scuba is available as an upgrade for both beginner and certified divers.
● A full-service bar is available onboard. There’s hardly a better place to sip a local beer or mai tai than out at sea.
Kealakekua Bay is one of Big Island’s top snorkeling spots. However, the bay is inaccessible by car, and the only way out and back is via a four-mile round trip trail through harsh lava fields. Thus, accessing Kealakekua Bay is no easy feat. That is unless you opt for a snorkel tour.
One of the highest-rated snorkel tours on the Big Island introduces visitors to the pristine waters of Kealakekua Bay. Over four hours, this excursion explores Kona’s coastal waters aboard a speedy 28′ raft once used by the U.S. Navy Seals. After cruising a few miles south of Kona, guests will find themselves in the heart of Kealakekua Bay’s natural aquarium. Due to its remote location and careful preservation, Kealakekua Bay is regarded as one of the healthiest reefs in Hawaii. This protected cove is home to schools of tangs (evidence of a healthy reef), an abundance of triggerfish, parrotfish, and colorful corals. Manta rays are known to meander through from time to time as well.
After spending some time under the surface, this tour heads further south to explore South Kona’s rugged coastline. You’ll witness some incredible sea caves and lava formations, as well as take in views of the colossal Mauna Loa volcano to the east.
Know Before You Go:
● No snorkel experience? No problem. The crew is happy to give you a rundown on snorkeling 101. All the necessary gear is provided as well.
● Reef safe sunscreen only, please! Not only is reef-safe sunscreen vital to the reef’s health, but the use of chemical-based toxic sunscreens is banned in the bay. No wonder the reef is so well preserved!
● Show up in your swimsuit. There are no changing rooms on board, so unless you want to awkwardly change under a towel while you’re still getting used to your sea legs, wearing your swimsuit to the dock is a good idea.
● Due to the exciting nature of this tour, expecting mothers and those with neck and/or back issues should forgo this adventure.
It’s safe to say this tour isn’t what you’d ordinarily expect when you think of a snorkel tour. Yes, you will be snorkeling, but no, it won’t be under the warmth of the sun, and you won’t be exploring colorful reefs. Instead, picture yourself slipping into the cool nighttime seas off Kona and watching as graceful manta rays dance around you in the dark waters- talk about a bucket list adventure! After sunset, it’s feeding time for the rays, and they come out in abundance. This awe-inspiring excursion is only available on the Big Island, and it is one of the most popular visitor activities.
This two-hour tour departs Honokohau Harbor after dark and seeks out the best area for manta ray viewing. Once the rays are spotted, you’ll slip into the cool water and hang onto the custom-built boat to help combat any current and aid in keeping you afloat. Lights are fixed to the bottom of the boat to illuminate the show, so you can sit back and watch the rays do their elegant thang.
This tour comes with a free manta guarantee. While manta rays are abundant in Kona’s waters, they are wild animals. They don’t keep to any schedule, and they do and go where they please. It’s pretty rare to experience a manta-free night in Kona, but should it happen, you are welcome to try your luck on another night for free.
Know Before You Go;
● If you’ve got adventurous kiddos traveling with you, bring ’em along. This tour is available to ages 5 and up.
● Hawaii is generally pretty warm year-round, but the evening temperatures can get a little chilly, especially in the winter and especially if you’re just floating on the surface. Not to worry, wetsuits are provided for guests on this tour.
● The entirety of the time you’re in the water, you’ll be accompanied by a certified guide.
Morning Kealakekua Snorkel Tour
Start your morning aboard the beautiful 45′ trimaran, Hokulani. This tour hits two of the island’s best snorkel spots in just four hours. Departing from Keauhou Bay, the morning’s first stop, Kealakekua Bay, is just a 45-minute sail away. After spending time soaking up the beauty of this natural aquarium, clamber back on board for a delicious lunch spread, enjoyed while relishing the coastal views en-route to snorkel destination #2.
Weather permitting, this tour heads north to Red Hill, which is home to vibrant schools of fish and unique underwater lava formations. Then, after another good snorkel sesh, it’s time to head back to Keauhou Bay. Keep your eyes peeled for spinner dolphins and, in the winter months, humpback whales.
Know Before You Go:
● This tour departs Keauhou Bay at a reasonable morning hour: 8:30 am. Be ready for check-in at 8:15!
● Snorkel equipment is provided for all guests aboard the Hokulani, including fish identification cards. It helps to know what you’re looking at, and it makes the experience more educational.
● The breakfast offering and lunch spread aboard the Hokulani are impressive. Enjoy a continental breakfast, deli-style sandwich lunch, complimentary non-alcoholic beverages, and of course, a fully stocked bar with drinks available for purchase.
Afternoon Kealakekua Snorkel Tour
Hey you night owls, I’ve got good news for you. There is, in fact, a snorkel tour that doesn’t depart in the early morning hours. Instead, this 3.5-hour tour departs at 1 pm and still offers a solid hour and a half of snorkeling time.
Leaving from the birthplace of Hawaii’s longest-reigning monarch, King Kamehameha III, you’ll cruise south aboard the spacious Fair Wind II. Along the way, the crew will detail the culture and history of Hawaii, pointing out historical places of interest. Once you arrive at Kealakekua Bay, you are free to snorkel or partake in the fun supplied by the vessel’s high dive platform and two 15′ waterslides.
Know Before You Go:
● If you’re not particularly keen on swimming, the Fair Wind II comes outfitted with custom underwater view boxes, so you can get in on the action while staying dry.
● This is an excellent option for traveling families. Toddlers under four are welcome aboard for free.
● Don’t worry about getting burnt. Complimentary reef-safe sunscreen is provided.
Still can’t decide?
Here is some more information on Big Island Activities.