When Is the Best Time
Big Island is one of the best places for snorkeling. Although the conditions are good year-round, the perfect season with warmest and excellent water conditions is in the late summer and early fall (August until October).
One of the best spots for snorkeling is the Mount Cook Monument. If you like to hike to this coral reef start early or late. It's pretty busy with tour boats from approximately 10 am until early afternoon. Bring enough water for the hike. Scroll down for more information about the different snorkel spots south of Kona.
Hawaii is a sunny and warm paradise with very little temperature variation throughout the seasons: Big Island Weather Guide. There is even less rain in the drier season from May until October, which makes these months even better for snorkeling. However, it's a tropical climate and some rain can always occur in Hawaii. That's the reason why the islands have a lush and green vegetation. The north and east coast get more rain than south and west which is the leeward side. The area around Kona is often foggy in the summertime.
You'll find the warmest water in late summer / early fall from August through October around 80°F (27°) degrees. It tends to drop by 6-9 degrees during winter. In winter, it’s also a little chilly in the mornings, when it’s a good idea to wear a thin neoprene wet suit top. The winter months from December to March tend to have heavy surf at times.
Seasons - Avoiding the Crowds
Fewer visitors in spring and fall: mid-April to mid-June and September (after Labor Day) to November. However, it's busier during the "Golden Week" in Japan at the end of April until the beginning of May. It gets very crowded when the Ironman takes place in October. Busy and increasing rates in summer (mid-June through August), during Christmas, New Year's Eve (mid-December until mid-January) and on Independence Day.
Bottom Line and Personal Experience
Although some months might not be ideal, you can visit the Big Island year-round for amazing snorkeling tours. Almost perfect months with fewer visitors as well as excellent water conditions are usually September and October. My visit to Hawaii was in September 2011. Kona's weather is often described as "eternal spring". Not too hot, not too cold, with some late afternoon rain showers. If you're lucky, you might get to see a rainbow! Crowds in September were fine although probably a bit higher than normal because it was the week before the big Hawaii Ironman Triathlon event. There were lots of bikers on the road training.
Where and Tips
If you enjoy snorkeling, the Big Island is one of the best. I'd recommend staying in Kona and check out some of the many snorkeling spots in the area. Be warned; some spots have been over-used causing damage to the coral reefs. The corals in Hawaii are just hard corals which are less colorful. Always respect the local environment! If you like guided tours, arrange a kayak or boat trip with one of the local boat rental companies to get to the prime snorkeling areas, If you're up for a night time adventure, the sunset manta ray tour is incredible!
There Are Two Snorkel Spots South of Kona You Shouldn't Miss
- Two Steps also known as Honaunau Bay is famous to spot turtles and even dolphins. It's a bit difficult to get inside on the sharp lava rocks. It's a protected bay, therefore, easier to snorkel also a right place for beginners. The bay is located before the Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park. You can either park your car in a private parking lot for $ 5 or inside the Historical State Park. The entrance fee was $15 in June 2018. It's just a 5 minutes walk. It's not permitted to swim and snorkel inside the park.
- The other great spot is the Captain Cook Monument. You can either hike to get there, rent a kayak or book a guided snorkel trip. The trail to the monument and crystal clear water takes roughly 70-80 minutes. The return hike is almost 4 miles / 6.2 km long. The trail leads along a lava field. It gets pretty hot during the day. Bring enough water.
Where to Stay in Kona
- One of our favorite guesthouses is the Big Island Retreat. It's in walking distance to the Kahalu'u Beach Park. A perfect place to relax in a quiet location.
- The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is for those who want to get spoiled. The resort offers private white sand beaches, five dining options, a saltwater pool and much more.
(Updated by When to be Where)