The crown jewel of South Kona is undoubtedly Kealakekua Bay. This beautiful bay is part of a marine reserve and is home to an amazing array of tropical fish. Dolphins are often seen here as they use the sheltered bay as a place to avoid predators and also a place to sleep.
On the south side of the bay is Napoʻopoʻo Beach, a small beach where access to the water is easy, though there are no lifeguards and limited facilities.
On the north side of the bay is Captain Cook’s Monument. The monument was erected in 1874 by British sailors to commemorate the spot on which he was killed. The small plot of land on which the monument sits was actually deeded to the United Kingdom by Princess Likelike – so it is actually British soil!
To access the monument you’ll need to hike down from Napoʻopoʻo Road. Read more about this hike in our blog post about top hikes on the island here. The north side of the bay is where the best snorkeling is located and you’ll find that the tour boats typically congregate here.
There are tour operators offering snorkeling and kayaking tours, or you can rent kayaks yourself. This is a great option if you want to snorkel but don’t want to join a tour. Kayak across the bay, and snorkel off the kayak (we’ve done it and we recommend this, especially if you aren’t keen on hiking down to, and back up from, Captain Cook’s Monument).
Dolphins. Spinner dolphins are often see in the bay. They are so-called because when they leap out of the water they are able to spin on their longitudinal axis.
The Big Three
60 ft catamaran with a capacity of about 100 people. The tour leaves out of Keahou Bay. The boat also has a water slide and a high dive platform. $159 for 4.5 hour morning tour or $115 for the 3.5 afternoon tour. The Fair Winds is the only company that has a mooring in the bay. This allows it to become a stationary platform from which to snorkel.
This boat is owned by the same company that owns the Fair Wind II. The boat is a little faster and the entire experience is a bit of an upgrade from the Fair Wind II. $165 for a 5 hour morning tour.
This company operates a 45 foot sailing trimaran that leaves out of Keahou Bay. The boat is a competitor to the Fair Wind II but is often less crowded and a more enjoyable experience. If there is wind they will use the sails. $165 for a 4.5 hour morning tour or $125 for a 3 hour afternoon tour.
Their hard-bottom inflatable boats hold up to 14 passengers and the tour takes them to Kealakekua Bay and then on to Honaunau (Place of Refuge). $145 for a 4.5 morning tour (includes lunch) or $128 for a 4 hour tour (no lunch). Leaves out of Keahou Bay.
This company also uses hard-bottom inflatables for their tours. $139 for a 4.5 hour morning tour, to both Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau (Place of Refuge) and another tour just to Kealakekua Bay (there are three different times during the day for this tour) $114 for 3 hours. The early morning tour gets to the bay by 8am so you’ll likely be the first boat there!
Exploring Kealakekua Bay and the area around the Captain Cook Monument is a must-see activity. The bay has some of the best snorkeling in the entire state of Hawaii. Whether you decide to hike down to the monument, kayak across the bay, or enjoy a tour, this destination should be near the top of your list on your Big Island adventure.