In ancient times, Honaunau Bay was a safe haven where Hawaiians could escape persecution. The adjoining National Historic Park tells the story of this City of Refuge, although visitors today flock down to the shoreline for some of the best snorkeling in Hawaii. This turquoise cove is laden with sea turtles and hundreds of colorful reef fish, and the rocky shoreline is largely protected from wind and crashing surf.
The bay is known as “Two Step” to locals since that’s how you enter the water: Step down onto a flat rock that is at the same level of the water, and then launch off of the slippery rock into the marine wonderland below. This is a great spot for beginning snorkelers since it’s shallow, sandy, and calm, although advanced free divers can find steep drop offs of nearly 100 feet. Most visitors stay in the shallows, however, where lazy sea turtles nibble from the rocks and parrotfish fly above corals. There is even the chance that Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins could make an appearance in the bay—playfully leaping out of the water and whistling in high-pitched clicks. This is definitely some of the best snorkeling on the Big Island of Hawaii, and a must visit for any travelers who love the underwater world.
Honaunau Bay is located 45 minutes south of downtown Kona. Mornings offer the calmest conditions, and parking for the beach is along a one-lane road that is adjacent to the National Historic Park. It’s also possible to visit the park ($5) and then walk to the beach for snorkeling, although there isn’t any snorkeling allowed inside of the park itself. Arrive prepared with water and snacks, as there are no facilities, showers, restrooms, or lifeguards.