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Best Captain Cook Snorkeling Tour

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Best Captain Cook Kealakekua Bay Snorkeling | Big Island, Hawaii
  • Honokohau Marina North Boat Ramp74-380 Kealakehe PkwyKailua Kona, Hawaii 96740

We are located 4.5 mile south of the Kona Airport and 3.5 miles north of Kailua Kona. After turning into the Honokohau Harbor you make your first right. Follow the road which veers to the left until it ends at a large parking lot. When you get to the parking lot drive to your left towards the boat ramp. Park your car anywhere by the restrooms for free. You will meet your crew member by the pavilion next to the public restrooms.

Check-in is at Honokohau Harbor near Pavilion/Restrooms

Is The Snorkeling Better In The Morning Or The Afternoon

Because Kona has some of the calmest waters in the state year-round, the waters are beautiful all day. What they typically see in the morning, they also see in the afternoon. The mornings do typically have more blue skies than in the afternoon, but sometimes the clouds are welcomed extra protection from sunburn.

Kealakekua Bay Is A Marine Life Conservation District

There are 11 Marine Life Conservation Districts in the state of Hawaii , and the 315 acre Kealakekua Bay MLCD is the largest of them all.

A MLCD is a part of the ocean with an especially abundant reef habitat, where the fish population is given special protection against human interference. This protection means that fishing and other consumptive uses are prohibited or severely limited so that all aquatic live can grow and reproduce. MLCDs are thus home to a great variety of species, and the fish in these districts are fairly tame, often showing little fear of humans. This explains why an MLCD is such a popular destination for snorkeling, diving and underwater photography.

If you are interested in learning more about our MLCDs you can do so on the official DNLR website.

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What Is So Special About Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay is a 315-acre Marine Life Conservation District with about 180-acres designated as a State Historic Park along the Kona coast. Snorkeling is allowed but because its protected, fishing is kapu, forbidden. Boating vessels from catamarans to single kayaks need a permit to sail these waters as well.

Hawaiian spinner dolphins spend a lot of time in the Bay to not only rest and feed but mothers also use it as a nursery for their calves.

The combination of crystal clear, calm waters with extensive coral reefs and sea life bring people from all over the world for some of the best snorkeling and diving in Hawaii.

Besides the beautiful underwater nature, Kealakekua Bay has strong historical significance. Hawaiian alii, or royalty, are said to be buried in the cliff walls. A human sacrifice heiau, or temple, resides on the south end of the Bay. Also, this is where Captain James Cook first landed on the Big Island in 1779.

At the time of his arrival, the Hawaiians were celebrating a harvest festival for their god, Lono.

When Captain Cook landed, some say the Hawaiians believed him to be the returning god. Captain Cook and his crew were celebrated and well taken care of during the festival. But after three weeks of living together both the crew and the Hawaiians had grown to dislike each other and it was time for Captain Cook to continue on his world journey.

Captain Cook Snorkel Tours

Captain Cook Snorkeling Boat Tours

If you plan on a day exploring Captain Cook, a snorkel tour in Kealakekua Bay will likely have to be on a different day. Most Captain Cook snorkel tours will depart from two harbors in Kona: Keauhou Bay and Honokohau Marina . Keep this in mind when you are planning your itinerary.

Now that you know what to expect on a Captain Cook snorkel tour, its time to find a tour that fits you!

  • Small group, max 14 guests

What past snorkelers have said: Everything about this trip was perfect! Great captain we had whale come out to visit and lots of beautiful fish under the water at our destination. Also on the way back the captain spotted a manta and we jumped in and got to watch a couple of them for a while. PERFECT!!! Robert

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Morning Deluxe Snorkel & Sail Tour

During the Morning Deluxe Snorkel Tour you will be treated to a tropical style breakfast during the 45min sail to the first snorkel site, Kealakekua Bay.

After snorkeling you will then have a moment for another breath taking view of Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook Monument while you enjoy a sumptuous lunch with beverages.

We then pull the anchor and voyage to a second snorkeling location while the sun is still high in the sky and the water crystal clear. Exiting Kealakekua Bay, we set sail for “Red Hill” . The Red Hill area is home to unique underwater lava formations such as archways and lava tubes, and more snorkeling with schools of vibrant sea life. The boat arrives back at the Keauhou Bay dock around 1:00pm.Snorkeling Time in Water – 2 Hours Total

  • Kealakekua Bay – 1 hour

Incredible Kona Snorkeling Tours

On our Kona snorkeling tours, you explore sea caves and lava tubes along the rugged Kona Coast and observe dolphins and whales in their natural habitat as your US Coast Guard licensed captain shares stories about the Big Islands  history, legends, and lore. For over 30 years, we have specialized in to provide our guests a unique and intimate snorkel adventure in one of the most mesmerizing and beautiful places on Earth.

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What Do Others Think Of Sea Quest

“The night snorkel was amazing! I was told not to get my hopes up & that they dont always see Manta Rays, well we did, we had an amazing show! These giants did a graceful dance for us for 45 minutes. The staff was amazing, especially John & Captain Nick! The crew really made sure we were in the perfect spot & well taken care of… Please put this on your bucket list!”

“Absolutely incredible manta snorkel tonight with Captain Manu as well as a great crew . What a wonderful company. Everyone is so friendly, fun, and knowledgeable. Ive done many manta snorkels before and this was, hands down, the best experience. Do yourself a favor and do not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Its magical.”

“Kevin & Kelly our guides, 5-4-2018 were exceptional, knowledgeable, articulate, attentive and The absolute best tour guides ever! Our party of four all agreed this is the best time weve had in two weeks on the Big Island. Loved the morning Two Step snorkel, cave and coast line exploring, and Captain Cook snorkeling! Mahalo”

“So much fun. Great snorkeling at kealakekua bay. We had a bit of rough water so honaunau stop was a bit murky and the southern stop was diverted and became a boat ride. Crew skylar and captain K were terrific. I would not recommend if you have back or joint issues zodiacs can put a beating on you, a little sore the morning but worth the adventure.”

The Captain Cook Monument

Captain Cook Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii (by Snorkeling Quest)

Today the waters of Kealakekua Bay are quiet and serene, but things were not always like this!

Kealakekua Bay is an important historic location because it is where Captain James Cook landed for the first time on the island of Hawaii. One year later, on February 14, 1779, the same James Cook was killed here during his 3rd visit to the Hawaiian islands. This happened in a conflict that could probably have easily been avoided with more knowledge of the Hawaiian culture. You can find a well-written account of these faithful events in an article on the Coffeetimes website called the demise of Captain Cook.

Nowadays this well-known explorer is remembered through one of the major landmarks on the south Kona coast: the 27 ft. tall Captain Cook monument. This structure was built in 1878 and is a white obelisk located at the Kaawaloa Flats, in the western portion of the Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park.

You cannot reach the monument by car but it is possible to either hike to the monument or to get there over water .

The Captain Cook Monument is a 27 ft. tall white obelisk commemorating the explorer on the western shore of Kealakekua Bay

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Driving Directions For Hiking And Boat Tours

Directions to Captain Cook Monument Hike Trailhead

1. From Kailua Kona drive south on either Highway 11 or Ali’i Drive . After 12 or 13 miles respectively, you will come to an intersection between Highway 11, Mamalahoa Bypass, and Napo’opo’o Road . Take Napo’opo’o Road from here.

2. About 1/10th of a mile from the intersection, on the right, across the street from three large palm trees, is the trailhead. There is a sign for the Ka’awaloa Trail. The best parking is before you reach the trailhead on either side of the road.

Directions for Boat or Kayak Trip

For boat and kayak tours or rentals, follow the driving instructions of the company you make your reservation with, or rent from.


Important: How To Behave Around The Wild Dolphins

Dolphins are very smart and playful mammals and it can seem like great fun for both parties to play with dolphins. However, seeking out and trying to interact with the dolphins disturbs their natural behaviors and can interrupt much-needed rest periods.

Interactions between wild animals and humans are almost always disadvantageous for the animals but there are ways to mitigate our impact. The most important thing you can do is respecting the resting behaviors of the spinner dolphins during their peak resting period between ~10.00 and ~14.00.

Guidelines for seeing dolphins with a boat

If you have your own boat and happen to see dolphins, please observe the following guidelines:

  • Remain at least 50 yards from spinner dolphins.
  • Limit your time observing to 1/2 hour.
  • Spinner dolphins should not be encircled or trapped between boats or shore.
  • If approached by a spinner dolphin while boating, put the engine in neutral and allow the animal to pass. Boat movement should be from the rear of the animal.

You can find more information at the NOAA protect dolphins campaign. Please stay safe and treat the dolphins with aloha observe them from a distance

Read more about seeing dolphins on our website.

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Snorkeling At Npopoo Beach Park

Npopoo Beach Park, along the bays eastern shore, is the only place you can reach the bay by car. You can park by the Npopoo Pier, but the best place to snorkel is a 0.3 mile walk south of here at Manini Beach Point.

Most of the sand on this beach was eroded by Hurricane Iniki in 1992, leaving the beach covered in just broken white coral and lava rocks- not a particularly cozy place to lay out and soak up those Hawaiian vibes. Nevertheless, there is some very nice snorkeling- with underwater caves, crevices and colorful coral- awaiting you underwater, especially towards the right hand side of the beach.

The Best Snorkel Destination In Hawaii

5 Hour Captain Cook Snorkel

Cruise coastline, admire marine life, such as dolphins or humpback whales, explore sea caves and other historical areas where ancient Hawaiians made history and created legends that are still being told to children and visitors who come year after year. Join us for a guided Captain Cook snorkel tour to Kealakekua Bay and snorkel its famous reef. Lunch is served while enjoying the beauty of the Bay. Adore Hawaii doing what Hawaiians enjoy doing in Paradise. Hawaiian style. Living the dream.

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Kealakekua Bay Snorkel Tour Details

3 Hours

Well head south from Keauhou Harbor to the world famous Kealakekua Bay, for a snorkeling adventure.

Snorkel Gear Included

We provide a snorkel, mask, and fins. We recommend you arrive with your swimsuit on and bring a towel.


Enjoy complimentary nonalcoholic refreshments, including water and Hawaiian juices.

$125 Per Person

Our US Coast Guard certified vessel delivers a small group experience with a maximum of 12 passengers.

Beat The Crowd Tour Details

  • Duration: 5 hours

Upon arrival at the Kona Marina, guests will be briefed on the bay and snorkeling. They can stay in the water for as long as they like. The crew of the raft will have lunch ready for them when they get out of the water.

While eating lunch, the captain will talk about the history of Kealakekua Bay and why the Captain Cook monument was erected here. After, there will be additional time to jump back into the water for a little more snorkeling.

Once everyone is done snorkeling, the same, award-winning, coastal tour will begin. Sea caves, lava tubes, and blowholes! Spinner dolphins, manta rays, turtles, oh my!

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Snorkeling In Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay is one of the best places in the entire state for snorkeling. Fish are plentiful, colorful and swarm over a well-developed reef that slopes steeply from the shore into the nearby deep water, making it easy to see different kinds of reef in a relatively short time.

The Npopoo area is generally shallow with little coral, but snorkeling gets better going south a few 100 feet toward the southern tip of Manini Beach Point. Encrusting coral, caves, crevices and ledges, all can be found in these waters down to about 30 feet deep.

Going north from the Npopoo area , the waters below the pali are good for snorkeling during calm water conditions. Abundant coral growth and marine life can be seen in waters of about 5 feet deep.

The best snorkeling spot, however, is on the opposite side of the bay from the parking area, in front of the Kaawaloa Flats . There is no parking anywhere near the best snorkeling waters though, so you have to jump through some proverbial hoops to get to where you want to be.

There are 3 ways to get close to this best snorkeling area:

  • By hiking down to the monument, or
  • by paddling out with a kayak, or
  • by joining a boat tour.
  • Snorkel At The Captain Cook Monument The Most Popular And Beautifulspot In All Of Hawaii

    best snorkeling on the big island, two step at captain Cook, Honaunau-Napoopoo, Hawaii

    This Captain Cook snorkeling trip is geared for those who want to sleep in or have plans in the morning, but still want to end the day with a memorable adventure. Often times we can escape the crowds at Kealakekua Bay in the afternoon. This more relaxed afternoon snorkel is generally less packed than our morning sessions. Come join us for some tranquility. Kealakekua Bay, home of the Captain Cook Monument, is home to 100s of different varieties of tropical fish along with an occasional reef shark or spotted eagle ray.

    If you are new to or have never snorkeled before this is the ideal choice! Kealakekua Bay is known to have lake-like conditions most of the year, making it an ideal location to get comfortable with the sport of snorkeling. This Captain Cook Monument snorkeling adventure is particularly good for families with younger children or swimmers who arent certain if they are seaworthy enough for one of our longer trips. As we make our way to Kealakekua Bay, you will get a close-up view of the sea caves, lava tubes, and other geological formations along the coast.

    This three-hour Captain Cook snorkel adventure leaves the dock at 12:30 PM and returns at 3:30 pm. We will have you back in time for dinner in town.

    • Masks, snorkels, fins, floatation devices, water, Hawaiian juices, fresh island fruit, variety of snacks included
    • For ages 6+
    • Must be comfortable with swimming
    • Small group setting with up to 14 guests max

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    Kona Snorkeling Beat The Crowd Tour

    This is the same great tour as the award-winning four-hour AM or PM adventure, but it is timed to allow you to snorkel with fewer people at the bay! Kealakekua Bay is the best place to snorkel on the Big Island of Hawaii. With its crystal-clear, calm waters, guests to the Big Island naturally gravitate there.

    Given the number of people in the bay in the early morning or late afternoon, Captain Zodiac has designed this Kona snorkel tour to fall between those times, hence beating the crowd.

    Power Raft Snorkel Tours To Kealakekua Bay Plus A Kona Coast Cruise

    Looking for world-class snorkeling? Join Captain Zodiac for an award-winning snorkeling adventure! Your destination is Kealakekua Bay, which is a National Marine Park and the site of the Captain Cook Monument. Hop into a Zodiac raft for their 5-hour Beat the Crowds Tour to Kealakekua Bay or choose their 4-hour morning or afternoon tours. Only the Zodiacs can get close to the many lava tubes, sea caves, sea grottos, and wave-powered blowholes that this tour also includes.

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to make a purchase through my links we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Read about our affiliate policies here.

    Activity Overview

    • Departs From: Big Island Kona
    • Duration: 5 hours
    • Included in the price: All snorkel gear, high-quality silicone masks, Rx masks, fins, float boards, detailed instruction, light deli lunch sandwich , chips, cookies, fresh local pineapple, bottled water and soft drinks

    If a power rafting snorkel tour isnt your thing, try a guided or DIY kayak and snorkeling tour of Kealakekua Bay.

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    You Can Go With A Tour Group

    Not about that hiking life? All good- just go out on a boat with a tour group instead!

    Theres tons of tour options, most of which last from about three to five hours. All of these tours will provide you with snorkeling gear and most of them will provide snacks or refreshments and guides who are incredibly knowledgeable about the local history, culture, and wildlife.

    Id recommend only booking through tour companies who are certified through the Sustainable Tourism Association of Hawaii, a 501 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable tourism programs on the islands. Some of these operators include Sea Paradise or Sea Quest . In fact, we wrote a whole articles about best Captain Cook snorkel tours to choose for eco-conscious travelers.

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