Planning to Explore Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii’s Big Island

On my upcoming trip to the Big Island, I’ve planned to visit Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, This park is significant for three main reasons –

  • It’s the site of the first extensive interaction between Hawaiians and Westerners with the arrival of Captain James Cook. Here, you’ll find the Captain Cook Monument.
  • It’s one of Hawaii’s top snorkeling spots.
  • Kealakekua Bay was once a major Hawaiian settlement where many ali’i (chiefs) lived.

This Hawaii state park brochure provides a great overview of the history and significance of Kealakekua Bay.

Kealakekua Bay is located south of Kona. See this Google Map of Kealakekua Bay for an overview of the area. From first glance at the map, you might think that there’s easy access to the bay and a close view of Captain James Cook Monument, but it’s not as easy as you might think. The only ways to access this historic bay and the monument is by:

  • Tour boat
  • Kayak from Napo’opo’o Bay – January 2013 update — Hawaii’s DLNR has put a moritorium on kayaks, boogie boards and other personal vessels.
  • 4 – 6 hour round-trip hike

I’ve chosen an organized snorkel tour with Fair Wind II. (See my review of snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay.) I considered kayaking the bay, and I may do that on another visit, Since my sister and brother-in-law will be joining us and as this is their first time snorkeling, I felt that the security of an organized boat tour was the best option. Plus, it sounds like tons of fun, too!

Here’s a YouTube video that gives you a peek at the beauty and history of Kealakekua Bay.

Have you been to Kealakekua Bay? Which access method did you choose? How was your visit?

Important Update: To prevent damage to the Ka‘awaloa shoreline and coral reef and accidental destruction of significant historic and cultural sites by large numbers of visitors, DLNR is now requiring visitors to Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park to receive information and guidance regarding sensitive sites and how to assist in preserving the area during their visit. Information will be provided through a simple permit system for people seeking to land vessels along the Ka‘awaloa shoreline or moor at the wharf adjacent to the Captain Cook Monument in the bay. This new initiative is effective beginning February 23, 2010. For information on how to obtain a permit contact the State Parks office in Hilo at (808) 974-6200..

About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.


  1. I have used the Fairwind II twice….just this past December was our second time, and we love this trip!…crew is awsome, and if you don’t have fun on this trip, I believe it has to be your own fault!…..Jim from Minnesota

  2. Great to know, Jim. I’ll hopefully be experiencing the fun first hand on Sunday! Thanks for your comment.

    • I hope you have a great time Sheila!….this past December we also did the Manta Ray night snorkel off the Hula Kai, which is run out of the same place…it was a awsome experience for my three daughters(22,19 and 13) and myself…

      • Jim – I think the Manta Ray tours sound so cool, but I am way too much of a chicken to do it. So I think you’re really brave. 🙂

        • Lol…maybe while you are there you will change your mind!…let me know how you like your trip, I hope it is a much fun for you, as it was for me…:-)

  3. I’ve kayaked there twice. On a calm day (most of the time), it’s absolutely wonderful! Kayaking was a bit of work, but if you get a double-kayak, it wasn’t too bad. We rented kayaks and snorkel stuff from Kona Boys (and even 2 years after moving away, I still have their phone number in my phone!). They helped us load the kayaks onto our car, then we had a little cash and had the guys at Napo’opo’o help us unload them and help us get in them.

    It was fun because we had packed a lunch and we took it along with us (just make sure you take out everything you bring in!). We kayaked across the bay, snorkeled a bit, then ate, then snorkeled again, then kayaked back. It was a great few afternoons!

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