Best sites to shore dive in Kona Hawaii
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The best places to shore dive in Kona, Hawaii




The Big Island has a lot of really stellar scuba diving. Most of the western coast (Kona Coast) is really nice with calm clear water and plenty of marine life. That being said it can be rather challenging to access many of Kona's best sites. If you really want to see the best Kona has to offer without the hassle of renting gear and hiking it to and from the dive site check out our boat offerings. But if that adventurous spirit really has your heart set on doing it yourself these are the spots we recommend most highly for your dive with reasons for why each site is recommended.

Top shore diving sites in Kona, Hawaii

  1. Puako - End of the Road
  2. 2-step
  3. Old Airport
  4. Kua Bay
  5. Mile Marker 4
  6. Kailua Bay

Puako - End of the Road


Located 45 minutes from Kona Puako is a magical place. The drive down Puako Rd is like driving in a really nice/cozy beach town neighborhood. It's also relatively easy to find. Just drive to the end. The entry point is pretty nice but it can be a bit tricky spotting it. Check out the video we made to help with directions.


Entry

Once you get in the water the site is relatively shallow being less than 10 feet for a few hundred foot swim. The direction of this shoreline makes it subject to the northwest swell we seem to encounter on a regular basis. Check the swell conditions and look for 3 feet or less coming from nw or west. Most other swells shouldn't be a problem.

Timing

Plan to dive this one early as Puako is in the heart of the Big Island's Saddle. This means its subject to extreme wind conditions. Wind usually doesn't become a problem till 10am or later.

What you will see underwater

This is the best part about Puako. It's a bit of a swim to get to the reef channel but once you drop down into it get ready for some awesome swim-throughs. Head right (east) and you will find reef channel after reef channel. Each channel has it's own caves, chimneys and overhangs. The structure here is superb. Watch the rubble for small fish like dragon wrasse. You may find a black tip reef shark hanging out in caverns. One creature you are very likely to see is the green sea turtle. They like to come to the area to get cleaned so they are often extremely friendly here. While the coral is good, its not the main attraction and the visibility can often be mediocre for Kona diving.

2 Step


Located 45 minutes from Kona 2 step has a lot to offer other than scuba diving. The drive down to 2 step will take you past some old coffee shacks into south Kona. Since Kealakekua Bay became more restricted to tourists 2 Step has gotten more of the traffic. Parking can be a challenge if you arrive past 8 or 9 am especially on weekends. If you don't see parking near the water use the pay lot. It will help keep the hot hike with gear to a minimum. Getting in can be pretty straightforward. Just make sure you fins the entry point before donning your gear. It's usually where lots of people are gathered on the rocks. Aside from the bay itself Pu'uhonua O Honaunau is a national park you can explore for a small entrance fee. The park used to be an old Hawaiian village that acted as a place of worship and is known as the place of refuge. There is also a neat coastal hike to the shoth of the park.


Entry

Once you get in the water the site is relatively shallow being less than 10 feet with a gentle slope to about 25 feet before the reef slope drops. And quickly it drops. It bottoms out around 80 feet or so. I would recommend sticking either to the top of the slope or somewhere on the slope incline since the bottom is mostly sand. The direction of this shoreline makes it subject to the western and southwestern swell which is relatively infrequent in Kona but more common in the summer. Check the swell conditions and look for 2 feet or less coming from the south west or west. Most other swells shouldn't be a problem unless they are huge (7ft NW or greater).

Timing

This spot is nice most of the time being busier in the late morning.

What you will see underwater

The diving here is relatively easy. Head straight out (west) and you'll encounter reef channels and shallow reef no deeper than 30ft (10m). If you head right (north) you'll encounter the reef slope. From there you can go left (west) or right (east) and loop around the bay. Either way has its advantages. The reef is nice in the deep parts of the western route with more large critter potential like dolphins and eagle rays. The right way has really great shallow reef and is often not visited by most people here probably lending to it's stellar condition. There are shallow reef channels with a few alkaline (fresh water caves). These are best visited on a very calm day.

Old Airport


Located near the heart of Kona town Old Airport is a decent hang out spot but it's diving is the big draw. Located less than 5 minutes from downtown Kona it's pretty convenient for most. It's also relatively easy to find. The entry point is pretty nice but it can be a bit tricky spotting it. Check out the video we made to help with directions.


Entry

It can be a bit tough getting in here as the shore is quite rocky. You will also have to hike your gear a few hundred feet from your car. The best entry point is the farthest away from the parking area. Once you get in the water the site slopes gently until the reef slope around 45 ft. The direction of this shoreline makes it subject to south and west swells. Scrap it if the there is any south or west swells. Most northwest swells won't have too great of an effect here. The nice thing about this spot is is the conditions are rough you can easily move to Kailua Bay or head to another site like Puako or 2-step.

Timing

The gates close after sunset so plan to dive this during the day only.

What you will see underwater

This site is mostly wide open with a few swim throughs and some reef structure to the left (south). Because the reef slope drops off quickly and gets deep (200ft+) you may spot some pelagic or larger critters. I have seen tuna, mantas, and Kohala (amber jack) here. There's also some particularly large eels here. The reef is in good shape. If you head right (west) you will begin to encounter Pawai arches a really great dive spot but realistically it's a bit of a long swim to get to the really good parts. Visibility is typical of Kona ranging from 30ft on a bad day to 100+ on a stellar day.

Kua Bay


Located 15 minutes north of Kona Kua bay is a nice beach to lay in the sun and play in the surf. Located next to a giant cinder cone (which is a great hike) it's white sand makes for a relatively easy entry. It's also relatively easy to find. Just drive to the end until you see parking. The entry point is a bit aways from your vehicle especially if you don't get there early enough. To enter simply stroll in till your deep enough and put on your fins before the next wave hits. Check out the video we made to help with directions.


Entry

Once you get in the water the site drops to abroung 10 feet with a white sandy bottom. Most of the diving is over sand with reef being far to the northern part of the site. Don't bother going left(south) as it's pretty underwhelming. The direction of this shoreline makes it subject to the northwest swell we seem to encounter on a regular basis so check the surf before you go. The swell conditions should ber 3 feet or less coming from nw or west.

Timing

Plan to dive this one early since this spot is now pretty popular for locals and tourists alike. The parking can get pretty bad with limited space forcing you to park a long ways away from the beach.

What you will see underwater

This site is primarily sandy bottom with some really nice coral mounds and walls punctuating the sand. The visibility is really poor near the entry point so move away from there ASAP and head to the north (right) hugging the reef on the way out. You'll be treaded to rock arches and overhangs with a white tip or other critters hiding out. Keep your eye out for 'souvenirs' as many tourists will drop valuables here. If you kick far enough to the north the bottom gets rocky and reef covered. Keep your eye out for snake eels and other critters hiding in the sand. The contrast between the white sand and the pristine reef makes for striking visuals.

Mile Marker 4


Located 5-10 minutes from the heart of Kona. Mile marker 4 isn't so much a place as it is a dive site. The parking is located at mile marker #4. The entry into the water can be a bit tricky. Especially if the swell is up. It's also relatively easy to find. Use our map above. Check out the video for particulars. The parking can also be a bit of a challenge. The entry point is fairly straightforward.


Entry

Once you get in the water the site is relatively shallow. The direction of this shoreline makes it subject to southwest to northwest swell . Check the swell conditions and look for 2 feet or less coming from those directions. Most other swells shouldn't be a problem.

Timing

Diving here will mostly be affected by whether you can get parking on busy Alii drive.

What you will see underwater

Some people really like this site. I personally find it just ok. The reef is in decent shape and there's a bit of interesting rock structure in the shallows by the shoreline. Other than that is a lot of relatively flat ground punctuated by rocky structure and covered in reef with a cavern or two. The site is fairly level so navigating can be a challenge. Bring a compass to help guide you back to shore.

Kailua Bay aka The Pier


Located in the heart of Kona town this is possibly one of the most beguiling dive site. Parking is a real challenge. I recommend dropping gear near the stairs and having a buddy watch it while taking the car to park at the public lot nearby. Or you could park at the King Kamehameha Hotel and pay.


Entry

The bay makes for an ideal shelter from swell. That however can go out the window depending on swell direction. If it's going in the right or wrong direction it can reflect off the seawall and make entry a challenge. Most northwest swells will not be an issue. West through south swells can be a real deterrent though. Anything bigger than 4ft NW might be a problem. The entry point requires walking down stairs and then strolling down a small sandy beach into the water as it slowly drops off. Just watch your back for waves. Stay left near the swim buoy lanes since the authorities have restricted swimming/diving in the pier area where there can be a fair amount of boat traffic.

Timing

Plan to dive this one early or wait for parking since the public lot fills up relatively easy. Or you can go anytime and just pay for parking at King Kam Hotel or a nearby pay lot if there's space.

What you will see underwater

The bottom slowly deepens as you swim out. Mostly sandy bottom with reefy spots and reef being mostly near the shore. One of the coolest things about this bay is the marine life that comes in. Occasionally you'll get triton's trumpets eating sea urchins, giant awa (milkfish) schools, goatfish and other colorful schools of tangs cleaning the reef and the real special feature akule. Akule are a super neat baitfish that forms giant tightly amassed schools of shimmering magic. They are loads of fun to swim through and you may even see some predatory fish hunting them. I'm usually surprised at the great marine life found in this unassuming spot.
Check out our rentals page and shore diving page for more info