Snorkeling at Kahalu’u Beach Park – Big Island Hawaii
By Heather Felkey – (California)
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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Galen & Nicole – Oct 3, 2010 – Fantastic!
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.
Cindy and Walter – Nov 19, 2010 – Better Than St. Thomas
My husband and I decided to come here for our 25th 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.
Kelly – Mar 18, 2012 – Great Story, But It Was Very Unlikely a Sea Snake
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.
Heather – Mar 18, 2012 – Mahalo
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 than the USVI, that’s awesome. I’ve heard that is one of the best places to snorkel. Hawaii truly is a magical isle.
Linda Voigt – Oct 19, 2019 – Best Snorkeling Ever
So many turtles! Wonderful place to snorkel, pretty easy entry shallow clear nearly waveless. I swam with huge turtles and saw many beautiful fish.
Clear Snorkeling at Kahalu’u – Big Island Hawaii
By Pat – (San Diego) – August 1, 2011
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 Rockmover 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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Susan – Aug 1, 2011 – Ditto!
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. Only a week away!! YAY!!! Next though is the Big Island again, Galen, so the pressure is on 🙂
Galen & Nicole – Aug 2, 2011 – We Agree!
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.
Our Kahalu’u snorkeling information is in our newly released Big Island Hawaii Snorkeling Guide eBook.
Carol, Calgary – Jun 27, 2015 – Love This Location
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.
Steve – Aug 14, 2015 – Went There in March 2015
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…
Kahaluu’s Coral Gardens, Big Island Hawaii
By John Floyd – (Kailua, Oahu, HI) – Jun 16, 2015
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 three 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.
Brenda – Jun 20, 2015 – Kahaluu Coral Garden
My husband loves this snorkeling spot, too! Like you said, nobody really snorkels in it due 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!
John – Jun 29, 2015 – Octopus Garden
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.
Kristine – Sep 29, 2019 – Best Snorkel Location
Hello all, this beach was our first stop after we landed and couldn’t check into our room yet, at 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!
Nicole & Galen – Sep 30, 2019 – Not Much Coral Anymore…
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 (linked to above), but more importantly, descriptions of way better snorkeling spots on the island. Our second edition of this eBook was just released.