Many people rightly consider Two Step as one of the most beautiful sites in the Hawaii archipelago. Deep blue crystal-clear waters, spectacular coral seabeds, hundreds of multi-colored fish swimming in shoals, green turtles and even regular visits from dolphins and seals – Two Step is quite simply a must for snorkeling in Hawaii, both for beginners or experienced snorkelers.

How to get there?

Honaunau Bay is on the west coast of the island of Hawaii, some 12 miles/20km south of Kailua-Kona. From this town or Captain Cook, take route 11 south (Volcano), then head for the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park, which is well signposted on the right. Follow the road to the end. There (at the Park entrance), you can park in the parking lot ($5 per vehicle) or (with more uncertain success) in the streets nearby. The spot is in a small cove that you will see to your right (when you are facing the sea) at the entrance to the Park.

Snorkleing with Hawaiian sea turtle at Two Step

Water entrance

You enter the water from a barrier of black volcanic rock running parallel with Honaunau Beach Road, opposite a small attended parking lot. First, locate the two natural steps carved into the rocks, which gave the spot its nickname. If you can’t see them, ask the other snorkelers present (you will rarely be alone) to point them out to you. Here, once you have your equipment and you are sitting on the steps, you can get into the water without great difficulty. Make a note of the place, since this is also where you will leave the water, while keeping an eye out for the sea urchins that sometimes take up their abode on the rock face.

Two Step (Hanauma Ba)y snorkeling map

Exploration

When the weather is calm, you can explore the entire bay. The coral is the most spectacular and the animal life most plentiful on the reefs to your left when you enter the water (↕7-14ft/2-4m). Here too you will also come across green turtles, which often rest on the seabed, in the hollows of the rocks. Don’t disturb them. If you wait a little, you will probably see them coming up to the surface to breathe.

Snorkeling with Hawaiian spinner dolphins at Two Step

The central part of the bay is the deepest (↕14-20ft/4-6m). The animal life is also more plentiful there, but the depth does not make photography easy. On the other hand, this is an area where small groups of spinner dolphins and a few Hawaiian monk seals regularly visit. With a little luck and patience (arrive very early), you could live one of your best snorkeling experiences. So as not to affect their wild nature and to prevent accidents, don’t interact with the wildlife. The laws of the state of Hawaii are particularly strict on this point.

Almost everywhere, you can see spectacular shoals of yellow tang and small groups of raccoon butterflyfish. You will come across a wide variety of other fish, such as boxfish, trumpetfish and pufferfish. The wealth of the animal life on display will no doubt lead you to spend more time in the water than you planned, so protect yourself from the sun.

Shoal of yellow tang at Two Step

The bay is relatively protected, but in the absence of a coral reef, it is still exposed to the sea waves. Postpone your swim if the sea is too rough, particularly because entering and leaving the water near the rocks can be dangerous.

Restaurants & accommodation

There are no restaurants on the site. At the Park reception, you can buy bottles of water at reasonable prices.

Species you may spot while snorkeling Two Step
COMMON NAME SCIENTIFIC NAME ABUNDANCE FISHBASE WIKIPEDIA
Spinner dolphin Stenella longirostris  
Green sea turtle Chelonia mydas  
Hawaiian monk seal Monachus schauinslandi  
Yellow tang Zebrasoma flavescens  
Orange band surgeonfish Acanthurus olivaceus  
Threadfin butterflyfish Chaetodon auriga  
Raccoon butterflyfish Chaetodon lunula  
Pebbled butterflyfish Chaetodon multicinctus  
Ornate butterflyfish Chaetodon ornatissimus  
Mailed butterflyfish Chaetodon reticulatus  
Melon butterflyfish Chaetodon trifasciatus  
Lined butterflyfish Chaetodon lineolatus  
Lagoon triggerfish Rhinecanthus aculeatus  
Reef triggerfish Rhinecanthus rectangulus  
Black triggerfish Melichthys niger  
Saddle wrasse Thalassoma duperrey  
Green birdmouth wrasse Gomphosus caeruleus  
  • Level required Intermediary
  • Protected areaPu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park
  • Maximum depth20ft/6m
  • Water entranceA bit tricky, from lava rocks
  • Potential DangersUsual precautions
  • LifeguardNo
  • Visitor numbersHigh
  • Access costsFree
  • Restaurants nearbyNo
  • Public toilets & showersNo

MAP Spot

Sea turtle watching in Hawaii

snorkeling-turtle

Sea turtles are a very familiar sight on many snorkeling spots in Hawaii, including Two Step. In order to be a responsible snorkeler, be sure to respect the following rules when observing them:

  1. Do not attempt to touch or ride sea turtles
  2. Stay at a distance (6 to 10ft) from sea turtles
  3. Do not chase a turtle swimming away
  4. Avoid sudden movement and allow sea turtles plenty of space when they come up to the surface to breathe

If you love snorkeling with sea turtle, Captain Cook Monument is also a good snorkeling spot to encounter them on the Big Island.

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.