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Best Places For Seeing Turtles on the Big Island

By Viator, August 2013

5 3 Reviews | Add your review

There are few experiences more iconic to Hawaii than swimming with a Hawaiian green sea turtle. From the moment their head breaks the surface in a clumsy gasp for air, to the moment they dive down deep in a sea cave to rest on the ocean floor, the experience of watching them glide through the water is  enough to make time stand still.  Graceful swimmers who can manage to sneak up on you despite being 400 pounds, the Hawaiian green sea turtle is a favorite sight of all Hawaiian snorkelers.

While sea turtles (known locally as honu), can be found along shorelines of all of the Hawaiian Islands, the following are a few of the best places for seeing turtles on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Kiholo Bay

While somewhat difficult to reach, Kiholo Bay is one of the best places on the Big Island for spotting Hawaiian green sea turtles. Located in Kohala to the north of the Waikoloa Resort, this brackish lagoon which parallels the shoreline was once an ancient fishpond. Today, t's a popular destination for those who've come to see turtles, and in addition to the pond there is a rocky beach where you can snorkel  when the surf is calm. Sea turtle sightings are remarkably frequent, although accessing the site can mean trekking from the highway down a long, brutally-hot trail. Nevertheless, the final reward is more than worth the journey.

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau

20 miles south of Kona, Pu'uhonua O Honaunau is best known as a National Historic Park. At this dry, rocky shoreline, ancient Hawaiians could seek protection from the death penalty if they had broken a kapu or social law. Although the kapu system was abolished in 1819, the shoreline which borders the area has remained as one of the best snorkeling sites on the western side of the island. In addition to dozens of fish species and remarkably clear water, Hawaiian green sea turtles are a common sight as they mingle with visiting snorkelers.

Kahalu'u Beach Park

Also on the Kona side of the island, Kahalu'u Beach Park has a shallow lagoon which is popular with beginning snorkelers. Although it isn't an official marine sanctuary, there are copious amounts of colorful fish in addition to Hawaiian green sea turtles.

Waialea Bay/Beach 69

Located in Kohala, “Beach 69” is a small, tucked away beach which is more secluded than popular Hapuna. Turtle sightings are possible here, although the main draw are the colorful reef fish and the crystal clear waters. On a high tide, however, the beach can almost disappear.

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach

Finally, if you're hoping to see turtles on land instead of in the water, the black sands of Punalu'u Beach Park are a great place to find turtles sunning themselves on the sand. The ocean here is too rough for snorkeling, but there's a chance that you could witness a Hawaiian green sea turtle hauling himself out from the sea.

Tours & Tickets

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Zodiac Raft and Snorkel Adventure

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 29 Reviews

Skim across the waves on an exciting Big Island Zodiac tour to Kealakekua Bay, site of the Captain Cook monument and Hawaii's finest marine sanctuary. Snorkel ...  Read more

Location: Kona, Hawaii
Duration: 4-5 hours

From USD $110.00

Big Island Snorkel Cruise Along Kohala Coast

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 5 Reviews

Discover the best snorkeling off the Kohala Coast on this 3.5-hour Big Island snorkel cruise. Aboard a comfortable catamaran, admire Hawaii's postcard-worthy ...  Read more

Location: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $147.00

Glass-Bottom Boat Cruise from Waikoloa

4 star rating: Recommended 3 Reviews

Discover the Big Island’s vibrant underwater world on this glass-bottom boat cruise on Anaeho’omalu Bay. From Waikoloa, near Kona, board a comfortable 26-foot ...  Read more

Location: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Duration: 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $27.00

Two-Tank Scuba Dive Off the Big Island

If you're a certified diver who wants to experience some of Hawaii's best diving, this two-tank scuba diving tour from Waikoloa Beach is for you! Off the Big ...  Read more

Location: Waikoloa Village, Hawaii
Duration: 4 hours (approx.)

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Small-Group Snorkeling Adventure from Kona

Spend a morning on the Big Island snorkeling off the beaches of Kona! With all gear included, you’ll visit one or two different snorkel spots, each with its ...  Read more

Location: Kona, Hawaii
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

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