Always on the lookout for new places to snorkel, I did some research on Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park. It is near the small boat harbor in Kona. We had been to Alula beach, on the south side of the harbor, but had never explored K-H park to the north.
All the info I found was conflicting: great place to snorkel/not great due to poor visibility….sandy entrance/too rocky to access…..
So, knowing that the only way to know is to go…..we went.
The beach is best reached from the public parking at Honokohau Harbor. A rough-at-times (for geezers like us who travel with a pull-behind beach cart) lava trail runs just north of the parking lot. At a “T” in the trail, turn left and you are quickly at the beach.
To the south are 2 portapotties, but there is no running water, so bring your own. A LONG stretch of fine white sand fades to salt and pepper sand to the north. There are plenty of shady spots. A stroll north along the beach brings you to a sand dune: west is the ocean, on the east side of the dune is a large ancient fishpond. Large plates of pahoehoe lava form tidepools along the way: here we noted some ominous bubbling….. is a new eruption imminent? Nah, just porous lava with water bubbling thru due to the wave action…..
An ancient fishtrap is at the south end of the white beach: lava rock walls allowed fish to enter during high tide, but not escape as the tide went out, allowing them to be easily harvested. A sandy entrance is at the southwest corner. This area, however, is Kapu (taboo) for chairs, towels or picnicking as it is an ancient sacred place. The entry from the beach is rock-strewn sand, giving way to slippery lava shelf. Part of the wall at the northwest corner of the trap has fallen, allowing easy snorkel access to the main part of the bay.
In the shallow water just at the edge of the beach there are turtles. Lots of turtles. Gobs of turtles.
And sometimes they come out to sunbathe….
So: is it good snorkeling? The water within the trap is quite silty, shallow and, at least in most of it, fish-free. At the furthest makai (ocean-ward) side of the trap, lava walls provide lots of fish habitat. At the breach in the wall is where I saw most fish: but here is the caveat. The “rule” of snorkeling is NEVER snorkel alone. The beach is quite unpopulated. There is no lifeguard. DH is NOT a good swimmer, and is not going to go out with me to deep/unprotected water where all the fish were. Dive boats anchored just outside the reef of the bay, telling me that there was great stuff to see there….but I was not about to go out into unknown territory alone.
Want a nice place to sit in the sun, listen to the ocean, watch turtles feed, wade in the water just to cool off, explore the history and culture of an ancient Hawaiian settlement? (and, incidentally, bring your puppies to one of the very few beaches where they are allowed.) This is the place!
But, for the average snorkeler who wants to see good stuff easily: This is NOT the place.