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Snorkeling

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San Francisco, CA
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Snorkeling

We spent a glorious week on the BI at Volcanoes, and got to see the volcano put on a big show, but that was it. Our other visits to the islands invariably have been to Maui, because the snorkeling around Napili has been great: good to very good conditions, fish, sea turtles, rays and all with easy beach entry points close to where we stay at Napili and at Honokeana Cove. However, we wonder whether there are other first rate places to explore on the BI that have snorkeling not far from condos. We'd be staying for about 10 days. We're not big on glitz, and prefer laid back to bright lights. Suggestions for places to stay are welcome.

Big Island, Hawaii
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1. Re: Snorkeling

The snorkeling on the BI is the best on the islands, IMO. Where it will be best depends in part on when you're coming. Although you've posted in the Captain Cook forum, I think the finest reefs (and least crowded) are on the Kohala Coast but they're generally best in summer and early Fall. They can be fine other times of the year, but in winter north and NW swells can make them unswimmable or destroy visibility. The condos at the Mauna Lani have access to the best area reefs and Makaiwa and Honoka'ope Bays. Waialea Bay in the vicinity is also good when very flat. Not beaches, but good snorkeling at Lapakahi and Mahukona up north also the same times of year.

South Kona has the excellent Honaunau Bay, but it can sometimes be very difficult in times of southern swells (more common in summer).

A snorkel boat tour is also recommended to supplement the excellent shore snorkeling. I like the Hula Kai itinerary, but it goes south so weather and seasonal dependent as well. Manta ray night snorkel is highly recommended. Kealakekua Bay gets a lot of press, I think it's overrated and crowded.

Edited: 17 February 2012, 06:11
Big Island, Hawaii
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for Island of Hawaii
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2. Re: Snorkeling

By the way I don't think there's any real bright lights and glitz on the Big Island. Waikoloa Beach is probably the most touristy and overbuilt area, albeit well located. Kailua Kona is, IMO, hot, tacky and touristy and not well located for many things. I like the Mauna Lani resort area the best on the island because of its commitment to the preservation of important Hawaiian sea life, history and culture as well as its spectacular location in terms of access to snorkeling as well as the heiaus, valleys, Paniolo country, and Hamakua sites.

San Francisco
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3. Re: Snorkeling

Hello fellow San Franciscan!

We just got back from the BI last night, having spent 5 days each in Captain Cook and Kailua-Kona. We have also stayed at the Napili Kai in Maui a few times. I've seen more turtles in snorkeling in Honokeana Cove than anywhere else in Hawaii.

I think you'll be really happy with the snorkeling on the BI. While it does lack the easy access of Maui, the reef systems at Kealakekua Bay and Two Step are fantastic and more extensive than I've experienced in Maui (except maybe Honuloa Bay). We did a boat trip with Sea Paradise to Kealakekua Bay (which I recommend) and I was very impressed with the reef there. It had been several years since we were last there.

Captain Cook is a nice, low-key place to stay. However, you may have to commit to more driving time getting around if you are staying close to Kealakekua Bay itself. But from there is pretty quick access to Place of Refuge/Two Step, which is a really nice place to spend time, as well as some nice coffee farms. We stayed at the Luana Inn and I do recommend it (as well as the Hawaiian Oasis B&B in the hills above Kona, which is nicely removed from the Kona area that Shea rightly describes).

Corvallis, Oregon
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4. Re: Snorkeling

It generally takes an extreme south swell to really effect snorkeling at 2 step. The park to the south sticks out enough to buffer most south swells. On the rare days that occurs, one is better off up in Kohala as it's north of the western most part of the ialnd and blocked from south swells. I can't actually recall a south swell big enough to make 2 step a real problem when I've been there (I live a few miles away, so I've been there a lot), but I'm sure they've happened every couple of years or so. West swells (an occasional event in the spring and fall, and when the swells are huge enough from other directions to create a wrap around swell) and huge northwest swells are more likely a problem there, and even the northwest swells require pretty good sized swells to be an issue, at which point Kohala would likely be completely blown out.

Edited: 17 February 2012, 11:44
5. Re: Snorkeling

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