Clear Snorkeling at Kahalu'u - Big Island Hawaii

by Pat
(San Diego)

We love snorkeling at Kahalu'u. Why? Because even when it is too windy to snorkel at our other Big Island spots on the Kohala coast, we can drive down to Kahalu'u and enjoy clear water and tons of fish. And, for me, there is always the plus of having the sense of security of the protective reef a ways out.

We've been amazed at the size of the parrotfish there and the overall excellent variety of fish. At first, we just fin around taking in all the colorful showy creatures. Then I try to hang around looking for the less obvious. It's so amazing what is around if you just wait to see what's hiding in the rocks.

I've spent probably 15 minutes in one spot waiting to get a shy fringed rock-mover wrasse photo. And have been surprised by a flying gurnard! It's the place to go on the Big Island if you want a good variety of photos. Our kids have gotten amazing shots of turtles even before getting into the water.

Maui used to be a magnet for us, but now that we've discovered the Big Island - specifically Kahalu'u - we're hooked. We're looking forward to your Big Island e-book. We always get energized from the anticipation of new snorkel adventures!

But if the wind has picked up or we're wanting an afternoon snorkel, we know that Kahalu'u is the place to go on the Big Island and there are plenty of great places to have dinner in Kona once we've worked up an appetite!

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Aug 01, 2011
by: Susan

That's all I can say is Ditto. I feel the same way about Kahalu'u and love the Outrigger (this resort closed in 2012) next to it. That's my favorite place of all to snorkel but I still have a love of Maui. I also look forward to the Big Island guide and look forward to trying out the Bonaire guide next week. Only a week away!! YAY!!! Next though is the Big Island again, Galen, so the pressure is on :)

Aug 02, 2011
We agree!
by: Galen & Nicole

Yes, we really enjoy Kahalu'u as well. On our most recent trip Galen got a great video of a Rockmover Wrasse getting his gills cleaned at a cleaning station from a Hawaiian Cleaner Wrasse. It was a real treat.

Read about more Big Island snorkeling spots. Our Kahalu'u snorkeling information is in our Big Island Hawaii Snorkeling Guide eBook, first released August, 2011, second edition released September 2019.

Jun 27, 2015
Love this location
by: Carol, Calgary

I go back here every time we're on the Big Island. The only downside to the location is that it's often crowded, but once you're out in the lagoon you lose most of the crowds.

The sheer variety of fish out there is awe-inspiring, and I've seen and swam with turtles every time I've been here.

On my latest visit I was thrilled to spot a perfectly-camouflaged skate on the sandy bottom. I only noticed him because he was swimming along, and every time he stopped he became pretty much invisible.

It's really easily accessible, protected by the reef, and a safe place to learn to snorkel - and with the variety of fish you're bound to fall in love with the activity. There are usually volunteers around with fish ID cards and information about protecting the reef and its inhabitants.

Aug 14, 2015
Went there in March 2015
by: Steve

We have been to this spot several times over the last four years and were really disappointed when we took our granddaughter there in March 2015. There were not many fish, although we saw a few turtles which really made it for her. I wonder if this beach is being overused and I also wonder about the illegal harvesting of fish for commercial sale. The first year we went there (2010), it was spectacular. The water was so clear and many, many fish. Maybe this is our last time...

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Snorkeling At Kahalu'u Beach Park - Big Island Hawaii

by Heather Felkey

Snorkeling with Convict Tang at Kahalu'u

Snorkeling with Convict Tang at Kahalu'u

We recommend snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park on the Big Island, Hawaii. In September 2010, we stayed at the Kona Coast Resort nearby and discovered this beach by accident. Since we were short on time and this beach was close to our condo we thought we would give it a shot. This was a perfect location for my first time snorkeling and swimming in the ocean. I couldn't believe the abundance of fish and turtles in the water.

We went out twice, about 60 - 90 minutes each time. The first time around we went toward the reef. Here we found smaller more colorful fish and coral with shallower waters. The second time we went towards the rocks, north of the reef. Here we found larger fish and coral. This was where we saw a sea snake. Both locations at this beach were incredible.

We saw several Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. Some sunbathing in the sand, others floating next to the shore. We also saw one next to the rock wall. One of my goals in Hawaii was to see Sea Turtles, I never imagined I would get to swim next to them!

Even though I have never snorkeled anywhere else I would highly recommend this beach, it is a real treat.

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Oct 03, 2010
by: Galen & Nicole

Heather, thanks for sharing that great first time snorkeling story from the Big Island. It sounds like you had a blast. Snorkeling with turtles is one of the reasons we love snorkeling in Hawaii.

P.S. Your sea snake is actually a Zebra Moray Eel.

Nov 19, 2010
Better than St. Thomas
by: Cindy and Walter

My husband and I decided to come here for our twenty-fifth anniversary and we've been back three times since. We are certified open water divers and I can tell you from experience that you can see more fish snorkeling in this bay in one day than you can see in a week of diving in the USVI. St Thomas and St John have some great coral and some great worms/sea slugs but they have nothing like the fish you can see in the water around the Big Island.

Mar 18, 2012
Great story, but it was very unlikely a sea snake
by: Kelly

My husband saw what he thought was a sea snake at Kahalu'u a few days ago. Turns out it was a Saddle Snake Eel, and we read that there are no sea snakes in Hawaii. Can't be sure - stranger things have probably happened! - but you'd never guess his picture was anything but a snake. Maybe it was a similar critter. He was fascinated but I think it would have been scary to see.


Mar 18, 2012
by: Heather

Aloha. Thanks for your comments everyone. I have truly fallen in love with this beach and cannot wait to return to it. I'm glad to hear fish-wise it's better then the USVI, that's awesome. I've heard that is one of the best places to snorkel. Hawaii truly is a magical isle.

Oct 19, 2019
Best Snorkeling Ever
by: Linda Voigt

So many turtles! Wonderful place to snorkel, pretty easy entry shallow clear nearly waveless. I swam with huge turtles and saw many beautiful fish.

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Kahaluu's Coral Gardens, Big Island Hawaii

by John Floyd
(Kailua, Oahu, HI)

Thanks for a great site and sure have enjoyed your e-books. At one time you had noted that while the fish were abundant at Kahaluu Bay, the coral inside was lacking and that one had to go along the outer reef barrier to appreciate the better coral.

While it's certainly better than further inside, what I've found is the most impressive array of coral there is towards the former resort. It's not the easiest area to get to as it is fairly shallow so you will want to go there and exit the area during high tide. However, we've rarely seen more than a couple of snorkelers out there and one gets the feeling it's your own private coral gardens. Here's a photo taken by Will Short showing the coral, a turtle and me in the distant background. It was midway between low and high tide.

Besides the wide array of fish and corals, we saw 3 Yellow Margin Eels out there that day as well as Snowflake and Zebra Eels, the latter being thoroughly cleaned by a cleaner shrimp shown in this video.

We were there in June 2015.

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Jun 20, 2015
Kahaluu Coral Garden
by: Brenda

My husband loves this snorkeling spot, too! Like you said, nobody really snorkels in it do to the shallow water. He calls it the Octopus's Garden as he has seen quite a few of them hiding in the coral. Kahaluu is a great snorkeling spot!

Jun 29, 2015
Octopus Garden
by: John

I'm jealous of your husband, Brenda. I've glimpsed the he'e before they disappeared on me but have yet to get a decent shot or video of one there. I need to learn his technique.

Sep 29, 2019
Best Snorkel Location
by: Kristine

Hello all, this beach was our first stop after we landed and couldn't check into our room yet. About noon June 2018. We headed into the water in front of the lifeguard station. It was very cloudy and we weren't impressed. My friends RAVE about the location. Will someone post a Google Earth shot pointing out the great coral gardens etc, please. Thanks!

Sep 30, 2019
Not much coral anymore...
by: Nicole & Galen

Hi Kristine, the corals are no longer very alive at Kahalu'u unfortunately. They were affected by the coral bleaching events in 2014 and 2015 and are likely being affected by the bleaching event happening there now in 2019. The only live corals left are out on the barrier reef, near where the waves are crashing over. They are a bit of a swim from the beach. We have a full description of the snorkeling there in our Big Island Hawaii Snorkeling Guide, but more importantly, descriptions of way better snorkeling spots on the island. Our second edition of this eBook was just released.

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