I found great snorkeling at the end of the road at Puako on the Big Island of Hawaii. The afternoon that I arrived back on the island for a vacation, I was snorkeling-deprived. My friends (who were beginning snorkelers) and I (an experienced, “extreme” snorkeler) hurried to the first public access across from the Puako Beach Condos. What a disappointment! Difficult entry and not much, in my opinion, to see in the water.
The next day we drove to the end of the road and parked close to an entry where some divers were going in. Yeah! Some of the best underwater scenery I’ve seen! Clear water, lots of beautiful fish and deep canyons. My favorite kind of snorkeling. My friends and I did this site several times and loved it.
Beware of conditions, of course. One day local surfers and windsurfers were there for the waves and wind – not good for us snorkelers!
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Galen & Nicole – Apr 25, 2009 – Great Big Island Snorkeling Tip
Wow, that is a great tip. We have not had the best luck trying to snorkel at Puako, but we will definitely check out the end of the road on our next trip.
Oliver Putz – Sep 17, 2010 – Wonderful Scenery
My wife and I were snorkeling for two weeks at Makaiwa Bay and Wai’alea Bay (aka Beach 69), simply because we knew the former from an earlier trip and had heard about the latter as a nice site for snorkeling and swimming. And yes, both sites are beautiful and once you go farther out, also offer some really nice snorkeling. At Wai’alea Bay we saw a great variety of species of fish, including Diodon hystrix, the Porcupinefish. But End of the Road Puako is quite something else! Beautiful underwater canyons with 45-foot walls, clear water, caves! Quite a treat.
I think, though, End of the Road Puako is not for beginners unless they go with someone more experienced, nor for those who like to float rather than freedive. What makes this spot worthwhile is precisely the scenery and the canyons to dive, even if one does not necessarily go down all 45 feet…
Come in the mornings, because conditions are best. And make sure to leave something bright on the beach (e.g., pink towel) to mark where you went in. There are not too many good entry points, so make sure to find your way back.
Grandpa Lloyd – Feb 12, 2011 – All the Previous Statements Are True
Last year the waves were too strong due to a tropical storm, plus we didn’t go all the way to the end of the road (got some bad directions) and it was not a good snorkeling adventure.
This year we figured it out. If you go completely to the end of the road there is a private resort. But, about 1500 feet before the actual end of the road, on the right is a dirt parking lot for public access. Park there and walk about 50 yards south to just past the foliage and there is a tiny, two person mini-lagoon, launching spot. It’s got a sandy shallow bottom with a narrow outlet to open water. You can sit or lay on your stomach while it fills up with an incoming swell and then just let it pull you out. Very tame and convenient.
While I am no extreme snorkeler (61 years old, first snorkeled in 1982 at Kealakekua), I have snorkeled and scubaed in Hawaii a few times. This is my new #1 place.
Galen & Nicole – Nov 17, 2012 – Full Description in Our eBook
We finally got to do this on our last trip to the Big Island. It was fantastic. We wrote a full description with pictures in our Big Island Hawaii Snorkeling Guide eBook.
Liz – Mar 8, 2015 – End of the Road Park
We snorkeled Puako this morning, leaving from the mini lagoon described above. Excellent snorkel, so many fish, one honu. As an intermediate snorkeler, the rocky entrance was a bit intimidating, but so glad we did it!
Grandpa Lloyd – Mar 9, 2015 – Going This Winter
Glad you all discovered this spot. I will be visiting that little mini-cove (described above in my post from 2011) again in November. I will always go to this spot every time I am on the Big Island. Grandpa Lloyd, or as my grandsons call me “Biggy G”. LOL
Snorkel Seth – Apr 24, 2015 – Key Hole Entry/Exit Site
I recently returned from another great trip to Hawaii filled with great snorkeling. On this trip we had our first snorkel adventure at the end of the road Puako site.
First let me say that this is one of my new favorite Big Island snorkeling spots. We saw at least seven different turtles. Five of which were gathered in one spot at the same time. We saw many different fish, good healthy coral, and interesting topography.
We scouted out the location at Puako the day before our actual snorkel so that we knew where the suggested entry/exit point was. The day we snorkeled the entry point was good and it was no problem leaving shore to snorkel. By the time we had returned the tide had changed a bit and it was no longer safe to exit at the suggested entry point. I should mention that the guide book gave us a clear heads up that this may occur. We only had to swim a bit farther south to exit a spot that was more of a beach looking area.
After walking back down toward our gear we ran into some locals who were asking about the day’s snorkeling. We explained that we had to exit at a different spot than where we had entered. They then stated that they usually only snorkel there during the summer to minimize potential problems with changing water conditions. However they were kind enough to point out an entry/exit point they called the “Key Hole”.
We witnessed multiple other snorkelers using the Key Hole to exit at this spot. The locals told us that even with bigger surf that this spot was safe for entry and exit. It is not large by any means and is aptly named the Key Hole for the shape and size of it. It is located at about the mid point between the parking area and the beach type area at the south end. I have included two pictures of the Key Hole water entry/exit spot.
End of the Road Puako was a great place to snorkel and I highly recommend it. The next time I go I will be sure to use the Key Hole to get in and out.
Tony – Jun 27, 2015 – Easy to Find
I went snorkeling at End of the Road Puako this morning with my family.
It was easy to find with all the directions. It’s actually about 600 feet from the end of the road (a literal blocked road). I know, because there is a sign just after the parking area that says 500 feet until end of road.
We went in via the Key Hole. Thanks for the great pictures. As stated, at the parking area is a mini lagoon/beach. The Key Hole is farther left (south), before the beach.
I went with my two kids (13 and 15 years old) and we had a ball. They are not experienced.
Definitely head straight out to the drop-off. If the wind is pushing surf one direction, I suggest heading the opposite at the drop-off, as coming back would be easier. We went right, and quite a way along came across five turtles (? same ones as above).
It was very hard finding the Key Hole from the water. The suggestion of putting a bright towel or plastic bag nearby is a good one. Otherwise head for the beach farther south.
Thanks for all the tips.
Snorkel Seth – Oct 23, 2015 – Exit at the Key Hole
I should have added that locals that showed me the Key Hole said to look for a “V” shaped tree that is behind the Key Hole looking in from the water. I do like the idea of placing something brightly colored near the exit point for reference.
John Moss – Jul 27, 2016 – Great
Did this site twice. Great location. Easy access. Parking right next to the beach. Not a good beach here, a little rocky.
Best entry point is about 100 yards south of the parking area. There is a small split between the rocks with a sandy bottom. After entering, go to the right and you will see a couple of lava tubes with arches.
The reef to the right will get pretty shallow but just stay out a bit and you will avoid the surge. Good visibility and fish.
No facilities here so bring your own gallons of water to wash off with. Not busy at all on weekdays. One picnic table.
Matt – Aug 18, 2016 – Great Spot
We snorkeled at Puako today and had a great time. We saw a wide variety of fish (including large schools of fish species I’d never seen school before), a turtle, and a large ray (which we believe was a Reef Manta). The coral is very healthy and the topography is special as well.
We used the Key Hole entry recommended above, which made the entry pretty easy. We left our red backpack to mark the entry spot, which made it much easier to find our way back in.
Like others, we found that there was a bit of current, although the magnitude and direction varied a bit as we traveled up and down the reef. The current was very manageable on a calm day, but I could imagine it might be more challenging on a windier day.
Rebecca – Dec 31, 2016 – Fun Time!
This was a fun new place to snorkel. We are staying in Keauhou and it was a great change of pace to go and explore this new area. We accessed the waters with the Key Hole which was very easy, not daunting.
The water was nice and clear and swimming near the walls and drop-offs was interesting. We didn’t see too much out of the ordinary, but it was nice to have the deep waters and live coral.
North of the snorkel spot, and south of the general store (the next shore access after the general store) there was a beach that had numerous turtles on the rocks that you could either just admire, or swim with. It was a nice finish to the day to swim with turtles.
Anthony – Jun 11, 2019 – Great Snorkeling, Lots of Fish, Several Turtles, and an Eel
Thanks for all the previous directions and tips about snorkeling at End of the Road Puako – Big Island. I went two times today and it was really great. Easily accessible, large snorkeling area, and lots of fish. Highly recommend!
Nicole & Galen – Dec 14, 2019 – Key Hole Pics in our eBook
We revisited Puako and we agree the Key Hole is the easiest entrance. Our second edition of the Big Island Guide (linked to above) has a full description along with pictures of the Key Hole entrance and how to find it.