The island of Hawaii (often called “Big Island”) is the biggest of the Hawaiian Islands. It has 260 miles (430km) of coastline, but few beaches, and only the west coast of the island is really suitable for snorkeling.

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 completely 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 at Two Step, Big Island of Hawaii
A pristine reef, green sea turtles, colorful fish, and regular dolphin visits: Two Step is without a doubt an exceptional snorkel spot.

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.

Snorkeling at Captain Cook Monument, Big Island of Hawaii
Located south of Kailua Kona, Captain Cook Monument (left) is a nice place to discover the creatures populating Hawaiian waters, such as the ornate butterflyfish (right).

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.

Closer to Kaiula Kona, Kahalu’u, a small bay partially sheltered by a barrier of rocks, is also a great option to discover the local reef life. If you want to live a unique experience, go to Keahole Point or Keauhou Bay at nightfall. Dozens of manta rays, attracted by currents rich in plankton, come to feed there every night.

When to go snorkeling the 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).

Variable, high waves in some areas
Warm and sunny

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