By Tim M. – (Chicago)
The snorkeling at the Old Airport in Kona on the Big Island Hawaii is not to be missed. You feel a little bad about being able to see it for free when you notice the Body Glove boat full of paying customers pulling up to the site, but hey, maybe they should have done some research.
The site does take some effort to get to. Once you park at the end of the old runway and walk north onto the little beach, continue walking north on the lava flow. It is totally do-able in flip flops unless your feet are unusually tender, and the walk takes maybe 20 minutes and requires a little scrambling.
Before going all the way out there, look at the waves. If the lava is taking a pounding, you won’t want to be doing this. The water does not have to be flat, however, it’s just that you need to be able to climb back up out of the water without risking being crushed. Another note: if you do not have the strength to lift yourself out of the water, you might want to be one of those people paying for a ride and a ladder.
After 20 minutes you will come to a nice little beach and a murky lagoon. This is the spot, and though it might seem like a good entry spot, do not enter the lagoon; it’s not. In fact, the beach is private, so don’t go there either. If you stay to the left you will see where the lagoon empties out to sea, and just left of that is a cleft in the lava that is your entry and exit spot.
The opening to the lagoon can have huge water flow, so be aware of it. If you had entered through the lagoon and the tide changed during your dive, you might not be able to get through the channel and back out.
The best stuff is to the right, out against the wall, out to the point. The wall is dramatic with arches in some places. Crown-of-Thorns Starfish are abundant, and there are ledges and overhangs to explore. The visibility is usually good due to the depth, and unlike many of the places in Kona, I don’t remember a lot of fresh water seeping out and making the visibility look oily.
This one is sort of off the radar, so if Body Glove isn’t there you might have it to yourself. Be safe and enjoy!
Comments Moved From Previous System
Galen & Nicole – Aug 4, 2010 – Another Great Review
Tim, that is another excellent review, and such a good detailed description of where to get in and what to see. And we will hopefully not miss this spot again the next time we visit the Big Island.
Alex – Sep 13, 2012 – Private Beach?
When you mention “private beach”, what do you mean? State law clearly states that access to any beach is public.
Galen & Nicole – Sep 14, 2012 – Public Beach, Private Property
Alex, as far as we understand, all beaches are public, but the land behind beaches can be private. I don’t think the law requires them to allow access across their property. For example Mauna Kea Beach is accessed through private property, but they choose to allow this.
Tim M. – Sep 14, 2012 – The Beach at the Old Airport Snorkel Site
As I remember reading it, the beach is state owned for the purposes of a camp for underprivileged Hawaiian kids. It was clearly designed to give these kids a retreat away from folks like us that take over their island home and distract them from their own culture. I’m pretty sure the state can designate a stretch of beach (this one is tiny) for its own purposes and keep tourists off it.
Snorkel Seth – Nov 2, 2013 – Old Airport Snorkeling
My family and I were on the Big Island from the end of January through the first part of February. My father in law and I have snorkeled the Big Island quite a bit and the Old Kona Airport is one of our favorite spots for a few reasons. One reason is the lack of crowds and the second is that the snorkeling was surprisingly great.
After reading the information in the snorkeling guide provided on this page we thought we would have to walk along the beach for a while to reach the entry point. When we came upon the fence, even though it does not block you from walking the shoreline, we turned back and decided to enter from the beach at the north end of the parking lot. We entered at one of the last sandy spots before the shoreline turns into rock.
We had great water conditions that day and I would suggest that if the tide is low to keep an eye out for the urchins that are plentiful in this area. Despite the urchins entry was not difficult.
From the beach we snorkeled out to the point and turned right and followed the shoreline. The water gets a little deep but it was perfectly clear. We were able to kick our way along the shoreline to where we saw a few boats moored for snorkelers.
The swim was really not too far and the snorkeling near the boats was worth the trip. We saw lots of fish, some coral, a couple of divers swimming below us, and even a mooring buoy that my father-in-law at first glance thought was a jellyfish. We were in the water a little over an hour going out and coming back and enjoyed every minute.
The area here seems like it could be a little exposed so take care if water conditions are rough, but on a good day enjoy some great snorkeling.
Nicole & Galen – Oct 4, 2019 – In Our eBook Now
We wanted to update you all that we now have a full description of snorkeling at Old Kona Airport State Park in our Big Island Snorkeling Guide eBook.