Big Island

The island of Hawaii (often called “Big Island”) is the biggest of the Hawaiian Islands. It has a bigger surface area than all the other islands in the archipelago put together. It has 260 miles (430km) of coastline, but few beaches, and only the west coast of the island is really practical for snorkeling (most of the spots are concentrated south of Kona).

Choose a spot on the map below to see the detailed description:
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Big Island, with its active volcanoes, is notably the most recent of the Hawaiian Islands. The coral formations are very recent and develop a few meters from the shore. They are probably the most beautiful and best preserved in the main Hawaiian Islands. You won’t find spots protected by a barrier reef on Big Island, but only recent hard coral reefs opening on to the sea. Most snorkeling spots are accessible from the rocks, and visibility is often excellent.

Snorkeling Report Big Island Hawaii
Spinner dolphins at Two Step, Hawaiian goose, and the Kilauea crater

450 species of fish and 70 species of coral populate the reefs of Big Island, including almost a quarter that are native to the Hawaii archipelago. Black volcanic rocks, colonized by multi-colored coral, standing out against deep blue water – this is the typical setting you will come across when snorkeling in Hawaii.

Two Step (Honaunau Bay) and Captain Cook Monument (Kealakekua Bay) are the major snorkeling spots on the island, and are among the very best in the archipelago. Their superb coral reefs are rich in fish and open on to the ocean, and are regularly visited by spinner dolphins and Hawaiian monk seals. It is common to see green sea turtles, although they are less numerous than in Maui. If you want to live a unique experience, go to Keahole Point at nightfall. Dozens of manta rays, attracted by currents rich in plankton, come to feed there every night.
When to go to Big Island?

There are two main seasons in Hawaii. The summer, from May to October, is the warmest, driest and sunniest season (with an average of 80°F/26.5°C, and maximum temperatures of 85°C/29.5°C). This is the hurricane season, but they are rare in the North Pacific. In winter, from November to April, the weather is wetter and more changeable (intermittent tropical rains and sunny spells), and the air is cooler (an average of 75°F/24°C, with maximum temperatures of 78°F/25.5°C). As so often in tropical islands, the climate is different on the windward side, more humid and windy (the east), and on the leeward side, where it is dryer and more sheltered (the west).

Almost all of the snorkeling spots on Big Island are on the west coast, south of Kona. This is the most sheltered part of the island; the sea is generally calm and the visibility is excellent. You can swim all the year round in Hawaii. The water temperature can fall to 73°F/23°C in winter, and reach a peak of 84°F/29°C in the heart of the summer (June to September).

CDC Big Island EN

Where to spot them?

Spinner dolphin

Frequent at Two Step, you can also take your chance at Captain Cook Monument

Green sea turtle

On all spots, common at Two Step

Yellow tang

In large schools at Two Step and Captain Cook Monument

Yellow longnose butterflyfish

On all spots

Ornate butterflyfish

On all spots

Teardrop butterflyfish

On all spots

Sailfin tang

On all spots

Chinese trumpetfish

On all spots

Saddle wrasse

On all spots

Bluefin trevally

On all spots