Kealekekua Bay State Historical Park

By June 15, 2024June 21st, 2024Big Island Ocean Activities

Kealekekua Bay is one of the most popular places on the Big Island of Hawaii for water activities.  Diverse marine life and vibrant coral reefs back it a great spot for snorkeling with lush cliffs as a backdrop.  Kealekekua Bay is not only known for water activities, but is also full of Hawaiian history.

kealekekua bay

Kealakekua Bay is the largest bay on the Big Island of Hawaii.  It has been designated a marine conservation area for decades due to the diverse marine life.  Between the diverse marine life and it being designated conservation, it is no doubt the best place to snorkel in the Big Island of Hawaii and possibly in all of Hawaii.  The coral reef is vibrant and it is not uncommon to see sea turtles and even spinner dolphins.

While it is a great spot, it is not too accessible on your own.  For the most part to truly take in all that the area has to offer you have to do a tour of some sort.  There are zodiac, catamaran, and small boat tours as well as guided kayak tours.  There is a small parking lot that has stalls for 10 cars and minimal other parking making it hard for a lot of people to be there at the same time.  Once you park, it is a short walk to where you can access the waters.  This area is typically gated to deter vehicles without a permit, but you can access the waters here if you are looking to snorkel.  You can snorkel at your own risk, but kayaks, paddleboards, etc require a permit.  If you truly want to enjoy Kealekekua Bay, taking a small group tour that is guided by a local is the way to go.

kealekekua bay kayakingThere is also what looks like a beach area on one side of the bay, but overall it is fairly rocky and you it is not easy to get in and out of the water from due to the surf that comes into that area.

In 1967 the 180 acres surrounding the bay was designated a historical site.  Historically, Kealekekua Bay is known as the place that Captain Cook sailed into in 1779.  There is a monument that many people like to see.  It is on the other side of the bay from where you would park so would need to take some form of a guided tour to see it.  Prior to Captain Cook landing here, it was known as a place for Hawaiian royalty.  It is also home to the Hikihau Heiau where the royalty would worship their gods.  It is very close to the parking area so easy to see, but please refrain from walking on the area.

captain cook monumentThere are restrooms as well as a small picnic area for the use of guests.

If you choose to visit Kealekelua Bay, please use reef safe sunscreen to help keep the reefs as vibrant as they are.   Also once you get off of the highway you will travel a few miles along a small road through a residential area so please drive slow and watch out for animals and people walking near the road.

If you are staying on the Kohala Coast in the resort areas it is roughly a 1 hour drive depending which resort you are staying in.  It is recommended to leave early in the morning and to get to Kealekekua Bay as early as 8am because that is when the snorkeling is the best.

kealekekua bay