Kona tourist attractions

7 Best Kona Snorkel Tours in Big Island of Hawaii (2024) 

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Snorkeling is my family’s favorite activity on the Big Island of Hawaii, and we always make time for a Kona Snorkel tour.

 The Hawaiian islands are known for their diverse sealife and stunning coral reefs, making them the perfect destination for a fun-filled half-day spent in the sea.

I recently visited the Big Island of Hawaii and had an incredible time exploring some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. 

Kealakekua Bay is especially popular for snorkeling, where incredible caves, amazing swimming spots, and swimming with turtles, dolphins, and manta rays keep people coming back for more. 

There are several guided snorkel tours available in Kona that cater to both children and adults, as long as they can swim. But which should you choose? There are so many options! 

Whether you want to take a sailboat out for half a day or enjoy an evening swim with the Manta Rays, there is something for everyone in this part of Hawaii. Read on for more information on the best snorkeling tours on the big island.

My Top 3 Picks: Best Kona Snorkeling Tours

#1 Top Pick

Seeing Manta Rays underwater is one of the best Kona Snorkel Tours

Night Manta Ray Adventure
✔️ Bucket list experience with manta rays!
✔️ Evening Tour, 2.5 hours

#2 Top Pick

Hawaiian turtle swimming underwater

Captain Cook /Kealakekua Bay
✔️ Explore caves, lava flows
✔️ Morning Tour, 4 hours

#3 Top Pick

Girl Snorkeling and seeing fish

Kealakekua Bay Small-Group Snorkel Experience
✔️ Small group,12 people max
✔️Morning Tour, 3 hours

7 Best snorkeling tours in Kona, Hawaii 

Although most tours offered are exceptional, they differ in the time of day, length, type of boat, and number of people on board. You’ll find all these options below, depending on what kind of tour you’d like to partake in. 

1. Night Manta Ray Adventure on the Big Island, Hawaii

Rating: 5/5  |  ⚓ Boat: Motor boat |   Group max: 48 people 

Food: light snacks |  ⏳ Length: 2.5 hours | ⏰ Departure: 8:30 pm

Book it!

Seeing Manta Rays underwater is one of the best Kona Snorkel Tours

Night Manta Ray Adventure is THE Hawaii tour! With rave reviews from over 3000 happy customers, it’s guaranteed to create memories that last a lifetime!

Immerse yourself in a one-of-a-kind Big Island experience by snorkeling with majestic manta rays. 

Under the guidance of the staff, you’ll set sail to the manta site, basking in the breathtaking beauty of the Hawaiian sunset. The trip takes about 30 minutes and can be choppy, so make sure to take some seasickness medication if you get seasick. 

Once in the water, you’ll be told to hold onto a floatation device and get up close and personal with these gentle giants.

While you float at the surface, the Manta Rays will come to feed off the plankton in the area. They come so close you’ll feel them graze you on the way by! 

 All the necessary equipment will be provided, along with light refreshments and tasty snacks to enjoy onboard.

Since this tour takes place after dark, it is recommended that you be a fairly good swimmer to avoid feeling uncomfortable during the experience.

This tour guarantees interaction with the elusive Manta Ray: if for some reason you happen to miss the manta rays on your first trip, the company will book another experience for you at no charge.

Trip was handled with great preparation and care for the whole group. As a result, the experience was fantastic! There were so many manta rays swimming around us – was unreal.

– Chris (See more reviews)

Embark on this extraordinary Big Island adventure, where you’ll create unforgettable memories with Hawaii’s Manta Rays. Not to be missed!

➡ Check rates and availability for the Night Manta Ray Adventure

2. Captain Cook /Kealakekua Bay Tour

Rating: 5/5  |  ⚓ Boat: Catamaran |   Group max: 48 people 

Food: lunch  |   ⏳ Length: 4 hours | ⏰ Departure: 8 am

Book it!

People snorkeling at Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay
Captain Cook Monument at Kealakekua Bay

Step aboard the acclaimed Captain Cook/Kealakekua Bay tour, boasting an impressive 1200+ glowing reviews! Prepare for an unrivaled adventure as the crew goes the extra mile, ensuring you explore the majestic cliffs and enchanting caves. 

People rave about the crew’s exceptional knowledge and warmth and find that they truly go above and beyond to provide an excellent experience for their guests. 

Kealakekua Bay, a place steeped in history, takes center stage. It witnessed Captain Cook’s clash with native Hawaiians, while King Kamehameha III was born not too far away.

 Beyond its historical significance, this haven offers unparalleled snorkeling opportunities on Hawaii’s magnificent Big Island. 

We had an awesome experience with this tour. The staff was very accommodating and also fun! They provided a lot of information along the way to the destination as well made some extra stops on the way back to the marina. Would highly recommend.

-Boo (See more reviews)

As you journey from Kona, keep your eyes peeled for playful dolphins, turtles and maybe even a whale, along the striking volcanic coastline. You’ll snorkel for about 45 minutes before being offered a sandwich for lunch served by the crew. 

Don’t miss out on the spectacle of humpback whales and their babies in winter, and cruising along the volcanic Kona coast.

 This tour is a great option for anyone looking for an experience that seamlessly combines history, lots of sea life, and warm hospitality from the crew. 

➡ Check rates and availability for the
Captain Cook / Kealakekua Bay Tour

3. Kealakekua Bay Small-Group Snorkel Experience from Kailua-Kona

Rating: 5/5  |  ⚓ Boat: motor boat |   Group max: 12 people 

Food: breakfast & lunch | ⏳ Length: 3 hours | ⏰ Departure: 8/11 am

Book it!

Girl Snorkeling and seeing fish

The Kealakekua Bay Small-Group Snorkel Experience takes travelers away from the crowded beaches and offers a more intimate experience. This tour is limited to 12 passengers, which allows plenty of space for everyone onboard while avoiding the crowds.

 Instead, you’ll have access to the amazing reefs and marine life of Big Island’s Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, home to Captain Cook Monument.

The tour promises plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities, including spinner dolphins and whales when in season.

The small group snorkel trip was perfect. There were 12 people total plus crew. The crew were friendly, knowledgeable and really enjoyable to be with. The weather was great. We saw beautiful fish. My husband and I had a great experience.

-Glenn (See more reviews)

You’ll also get more time snorkeling on the coral reef since a small group means everything is faster and easier to handle. 

To make sure that you get the most out of your experience, don’t forget to bring along your own towel, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, and waterproof camera.

With all these essentials packed in your bag, you’ll be ready for an unforgettable half-day snorkeling experience.

➡ Check rates and availability for the
Kealakekua Bay Small-Group Snorkel Experience

4. Deluxe Snorkel & Dolphin Watch Aboard a Luxury Catamaran from Kailua-Kona

Rating: 5/5  |  ⚓ Boat: Catamaran |   Group max: 85 people 

Food: hot lunch  |   ⏳ Length: 4.5 hours | ⏰ Departure: 8 am

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Embark on the Deluxe Snorkel and Dolphin Watch tour, where adventure awaits! Dive into Kona’s underwater paradise as you set sail on this captivating snorkeling cruise.

 This tour takes you to a different part of Kona Island, which is less crowded. Glide through the protected marine sanctuaries of Red Hill, teeming with over 600 species of ocean wildlife. 

While you immerse yourself in crystal-clear snorkeling for over 2 hours, the skilled crew will be grilling a mouthwatering BBQ burger lunch just for you. They also offer continental breakfast, but definitely have something before you go if you generally eat more.

Indulge in a refreshing cocktail from the premium cash bar as you bask in the timeless beauty of the Kona coastline on the return trip.

The staff was excellent. They were on top of everything that was happening on the boat. Everyone had a great time and felt very safe! Loved the kids floats. They had stuff for all ages.

-Carol (See more reviews)

All you need on this tour is a towel – everything else is covered! With epic features like a thrilling 20-foot waterslide and a daring 15-foot high dive on board, this is the ultimate snorkeling escapade, especially for families.

It’s worth noting that the boat offers reef-safe sunscreen, freshwater showers, three restrooms, and lots of shade. There are also vegetarian and vegan lunch options available if requested ahead of time. 

➡ Check rates and availability for the
Deluxe Snorkel & Dolphin Watch Tour

Hawaiian turtle swimming underwater

5. Morning Kealakekua Snorkel Tour

Rating: 5/5  |  ⚓ Boat: Catamaran |   Group max: 85 people 

Food: Breakfast & lunch  |   ⏳ Length: 4.5 hours | ⏰ Departure: 8:30 am

Book it!

Begin your morning Kealakekua snorkel adventure with a casual cruise along the Kona coastline. Enjoy breathtaking views of volcanic formations and tropical beauty while keeping an eye out for spinner dolphins, turtles, or even manta rays in the water. 

Once you reach the snorkeling site, splash into the warm waters of Kealakekua Bay with all the equipment you need provided on board.

Professional instruction is given by the crew to make this Big Island snorkeling cruise a fun-filled family adventure.

Experience the underwater world up close as you explore vibrant coral reefs and colorful fish. You may even encounter some endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles! 

This was the most loved experience by my kids and myself. My husband and my teenager tried the SNUBA and they enjoyed Joe’s training . If you have children, they will enjoy this adventure! Beautiful corals and colorful fish of many kinds fill the reef.

-Gayle (See more reviews)

This tour offers a delicious breakfast, including Kona coffee, before getting back on board for a delicious lunch with vegetarian options.

This is a great option for families as there’s also a huge water slide, and SNUBA is available at an extra fee.

➡ Check rates and availability for the Morning Kealakekua Snorkel Tour

Colorful coral reef in Kona and a yellow and black fish

6. Afternoon Sail & Snorkel to the Captain Cook Monument

Rating: 5/5  |  ⚓ Boat: Catamaran |   Group max: 44 people 

Food: light snack  |   ⏳ Length: 3 hours | ⏰ Departure: 1 pm

Book it!

If you’re looking to do this tour in the afternoon, then this sail boat snorkel experience is for you. Sail along the beautiful Kona coastline in a new catamaran, catch sight of ancient lava flows and lush cliffs, and make a stop at the Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay.

You’ll get 45 minutes to dive into the water with the provided snorkeling gear and enjoy the vibrant fish, lively coral, and hopefully some playful spinner dolphins. The expert guide will share fascinating insights about the underwater world, the flora and fauna, and the ecosystem. 

Great job with tour including history, good snorkeling and humor. Beautiful area of the island. Boat was steady and clean and drinks were great!

-Roland (See more reviews)

Although a meal isn’t offered on this tour, light snacks will keep you energized, and there’s snorkel gear, boogie boards, flotation devices, and reef-safe sunscreen at your disposal.

Do be warned that if there is no wind, sailing won’t be possible, and the crew will need to use the motor to cruise around.

➡ Check rates and availability for the Afternoon Sail & Snorkel

7. Kealakekua Snorkel and Sail Adventure

Rating: 5/5  |  ⚓ Boat: Catamaran |   Group max: 38 people 

Food: breakfast & lunch | ⏳ Length: 4 hours | ⏰ Departure: 8:30 am

Book it!

Sunset in big Island

Experience the ultimate adventure in paradise with the thrilling Kealakekua Snorkel and Sail Adventure! Step aboard a spacious catamaran and set sail along the captivating Kona coast to enjoy the view and turquoise waters. 

As you cruise, soak up the sun on the splash nets or retreat to the shaded cabin for a moment of tranquility. Before diving into an underwater wonderland, you’ll get to enjoy a delightful continental breakfast. If you’re used to eating more for breakfast, make sure you eat before you get on the boat.

After an exhilarating session of snorkeling, lunch will be served, where you will create your own mouthwatering sandwich. You’ll also get to quench your thirst with a refreshing selection of beer, wine, and spirits available for purchase. 

My husband and I had a great time during this experience. It was a beautiful day. The crew was very friendly, funny, and knowledgeable. I would recommend this trip to anyone looking for great snorkeling and storytelling along the way.

-Christine (See more reviews)

The crew on this tour are very professional and very conscious of safety. With opportunities to spot dolphins and seasonal whales, you just might be lucky enough to see an eel, an octopus, or even a sea turtle among the abundance of colorful fish on the reef!

➡ Check rates and availability for the
Kealakekua Snorkel and Sail Adventure 

Tips about snorkeling in Kona

1. Make sure to book your tour in advance, especially for popular spots such as Kealakekua Bay, to ensure you get a spot.

2. Make sure to take seasickness medication if you get seasick! It makes all the difference.

3. Bring a water bottle, sunhat, sunscreen, a light towel, and any other items you might need to stay comfortable on your tour.

4. Make sure to check the weather conditions before booking the tour, as it can affect visibility when snorkeling and how comfortable your experience may be.

5. Consider what time of day works best for you and the size of the group – typically, smaller groups will provide a more personal experience but also cost more while larger groups are cheaper but less interactive.

6. Doing early morning and late evening snorkeling tours will allow you to see more fish and other wildlife since they tend to be more active during this period compared to afternoons, when they tend to be less active.

7. Consider whether you’d like a half-day adventure or something shorter like the nighttime manta ray adventure if you’re pressed for time or prefer shorter trips on the water.

Turtle in Punaluu black sand beach Big Island

FAQs about snorkeling in Kona

Is Kona good for snorkeling?

Yes, Kona is an excellent destination for snorkeling. With its diverse marine life, beautiful coral reefs and crystal clear waters, Kona offers a truly unique snorkeling experience. The calm waters make it an ideal spot for beginners and experienced snorkelers alike. Plus, the warm Hawaiian weather makes it the perfect place to relax and enjoy your time in the water.

Where is the best place to snorkel in Kona?

The best place to snorkel in Kona is Kealakekua Bay, located on the west side of the Big Island. This area offers a unique snorkeling experience since it is home to a diverse array of sea life, such as turtles, dolphins, and more. The bay also features some of Hawaii’s most beautiful coral reefs, making it the perfect spot for an unforgettable snorkeling adventure.

What time of day is best to snorkel in Kona?

The best time of day to snorkel in Kona is early in the morning before the sun gets too high and the water gets too hot. This way, you will have plenty of time to explore all the amazing underwater creatures as well as get a chance to witness some incredible coral formations. Additionally, it is important to avoid snorkeling during times when there is a high chance of strong currents or rip tides.

Is snorkeling better in Kona or Hilo?

Snorkeling is better in Kona due to its ease of access, proximity to the shore, and abundance of sea life. The water is usually clear and warm, allowing for easy navigation and typically better visibility than Hilo. Additionally, the coral reefs are abundant with vibrant colors that can only be experienced first-hand. Hilo does have some great snorkeling spots as well, so it really depends on your preferences when deciding which one to explore!

Is snorkeling better in Maui or Kona?

Maui and Kona both offer great snorkeling opportunities. Maui benefits from its crystal clear waters, the vast array of sea life, and many protected beaches that make it ideal for snorkeling. However, the waters in Kona tend to be warmer and more tranquil, with prime coral formations that offer a visual feast. Ultimately, the best destination depends on your preference and what type of experience you are looking for.

Can you swim with turtles in Kona?

Yes, you can swim with turtles in Kona! The Big Island is home to a variety of sea turtles, including hawksbill and green sea turtles, which are often seen gliding through the warm waters near the Kona coast. With a bit of luck and patience, visitors to these beaches can observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat.

What month is best to snorkel in Hawaii?

The best time to snorkel in Hawaii is usually during the summer months, from May to September. During this time, the water is warmer and more tranquil than the other months, making it perfect for swimming with turtles and viewing coral formations. Additionally, visibility is generally higher during these months, allowing snorkelers to get a better view of the underwater world.

Punaluu black sand beach Big Island

Are beaches in Kona swimmable?

Yes, the beaches in Kona are swimmable and provide a safe environment for snorkelers to explore the shallow reefs. While some of the deeper areas may be inaccessible due to strong currents and waves, visitors can still enjoy the bright coral and strikingly colorful fish without having to venture too far from shore.

Do you see sharks while snorkeling in Hawaii?

No, visitors are unlikely to see sharks while snorkeling in Hawaii. While some species of shark can be found in Hawaiian waters, they generally stay in deeper areas and avoid contact with humans. However, if you do encounter a shark while snorkeling, it is best to maintain your composure and slowly move away from the area.

Wrap-up: Best Kona Snorkeling Tours on the Big Island

The Big Island of Hawaii is a paradise for those who love to snorkel! Snorkeling is one of the top excursions in Kona!

With its crystal clear waters, vibrant coral, and colorful fish, the island offers an unforgettable experience.

If you are looking to explore the best Kona has to offer, there are plenty of snorkeling tour companies that provide guided tours and equipment rentals.

 Whether you’re a beginner or have years of experience, these Big Island snorkel tours from Kona are a great way to discover the beauty of Hawaii’s underwater world.

So what are you waiting for? Book your trip today and experience all the magic Kona has to offer! 

Still can’t decide which Kona Snorkel Tour to pick?

Do both! – Manta Ray Snorkel and Captain Cook Snorkel as they are both unique experiences on Big Island!

➡ Check rates and availability for the Night Manta Ray Adventure

➡ Check rates and availability for the Captain Cook / Kealakekua Bay Tour

More about Big Island

Planning a trip to Big Island, Hawaii? Check out my other posts from the Big Island series: