Kona In a Nutshell


Kona, on the big island of Hawaii, offers the ability to get close to turtles, manta rays and dolphins. Diving is easy with clear, calm waters. No trip can be complete without a manta night dive.


Marine Life


Hawaii holds a large number of indigenous species of Butterfly fish and Angelfish. More than 20% of the Hawaiian reef fishes are found nowhere else in the world. In addition, prepare for encounters with spanish dancers, turtles, barracuda, mantas, frog fish, sharks and dolphins!


Dive conditions


The Kona side is famous for its calm waters protected from the winds due to the large slopes of Maunaloa, and beautiful visibilitySeptember and January are the least crowded months, if you're looking for less-than-full dive boats. If you want the chance to do some whale-watching, November - March is your best bet. The water is a little colder (down to 75 degrees) and the surface a bit choppier in the winter months, and warmer and calmer in the summer (78-81 degrees). Visibility varies depending on rainfall and runoff, but is usually between 75-100'.






Take a trip up to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and see the steam rise up as lava rushes into the ocean.  For you coffee lovers, explore the Kona plantations and sample some 100% pure Kona Coffee!  In the evening, visit the Mauna Kea Observatories to watch the sunset and then stargaze.  Take a hike along the east side, in lush rainforests, or just take a dip and snorkel around, Kona has some unbelievable snorkeling as well.


Dive Sites


Naked Lady:

A Sailboat wreck. Your divemaster is sure to explain the dive site's name when they brief you!  This is usually reserved for advanced charters, as the boat sits in about 100ft of water.  It's become the home for a number of colorful and interesting fish.  Keep a lookout for bicolor anthias, leaf scorpionfish, and hawaiian green lionfish.

Eel Cove:

Great site, especially for beginners as it is a shallow and protected divesite.  Hunt around for Eels hiding in the cracks and check out the local raccoon butterflyfish.

Turtle Pinnacle:

Great location for hopefully spotting some turtles. Watch them getting cleaned by tangs and other colorful fish. 

Long Lava Tube:

This divesite, as well as many of the other surrounding "southern" sites hold an abundance of life.  Any of the sites are well worth a visit as they are teeming with fish.  Also keep a lookout for sleeping turtles in the lava tubes, and some other great finds that you normaly would only find at night. 


Reviews (6)


My review will primarily discuss the manta ray night dive in Keauhou Bay, close to the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa. This is a very unique, once in a lifetime time of dive that I highly recommend. We got on the boat prior to sundown and headed out to a secluded bay where the manta rays tend to congregate. When the sun sets, the boat lays out floats on the surface of the water with large downlights to attract the plankton, which in turn, attract the manta rays. Our boat had a combination of snorkelers and divers. The water is shallow (7m) enough that snorkelers can enjoy the manta show, albeit from the surface of the water. We had 2 mantas join us for the duration of the 65 minute dive, doing acrobatics right before our eyes. I was using a 12-24mm lens on a cropped sensor DSLR, which was barely wide enough. If I have the opportunity to do this dive again in the future, I will most likely use the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye + 1.4x teleconverter.

I understand that manta sightings at Keauhou Bay are frequent but not guaranteed. We saw 2 mantas during our dive; on a good day, many more show up. If you have the bad luck of not seeing any mantas, I believe that most operators will give you a free pass to come back and try again another night. Bearing this in mind, it is advisable not to do the manta night dive on your last night in Kona, just in case the mantas don't show up.

Kona is fantastic for topside activities. The island's landscape is amazingly beautiful, with a combination of volcanic rocks and lush greenery (I believe Jurassic Park was filmed in Kona). Various outdoor activities such as watersports, hiking, dolphin tours, etc. are easily available. And the laidback attitude prevailing in Kona is wonderful and great for the soul.

Visited on 10/2010 - Submitted on 08/27/2014

Kona has definitely stolen my heart. The people here are adventurous, friendly and full of Aloha. Kona's reefs are so alive with coral, animals, endemic fish, sharks, and the most beautiful blue water I have every seen. Mantas are seen daily, as well as Tiger Sharks are common in summer months but can still be seen year-round, Humpback whales in the fall/winter, and an occasional Whale Shark comes by for a look!

The blue, deep water out here brings all kinds of life here to Kona specifically. Though Kona lacks wrecks (we have 3 small ones around here, in deeper water) we make up for it in teeming marine life on a beautifully healthy coral reef. Turtles being cleaned by yellow tangs, sea slugs of all shapes and colors and sizes, huge Ulua, and an occasional big shark can all be seen in a day of diving in Kona. And Mantas! Tons of them!

Topside is fun, quiet small town life but with a steady watering hole clientele - you become a "regular" quickly, and make friends even faster!

Don't come here and stay in a resort. Camp, or rent a small condo/apartment/room, and see Kona for what it really is. rent scooter, play in the ocean. Have a few beers, and kick back!

This place is best for couples, adventurers, and explorers. People whom love life and are active, and want to experience true Aloha.

Visited on 08/2014 - Submitted on 08/05/2014

I was told Captain Cook/Kealakekua Bay was simply the most spectacular place in all of Hawaii and I have to agree it does not disappoint. Our visit was a mid-September Saturday that was sunny and warm. We decided to be adventuresome and kayak across Kealakekua Bay instead of taking a group cruise. Since this was our first visit, we secured the kayak and gear through a vendor in Kealakekua topside (online search will bring you plenty of choices). Our vendor was great, but we had to rack the kayak on the rental car and drive the remaining couple of miles. There is also a natural foods store on the way where you can purchase all the grinds for your invigorating day.

Once we arrived at the wharf, we learned that the smart folks living adjacent to the wharf have established a mom and pop business (cash only) renting kayaks, gear and offer on-and-off loading assistance. Their equipment appeared to be no worse than what we had rented. The guys at the wharf also embody aloha and assist anyone who asks (yes I did tip the guy well, he was invaluable helping me, a short person, on and off the kayak since there are no stairs or ladder on the dock). There is sufficient room on the two person kayak to accommodate all the dive or snorkel gear and supplies you need for a day. There are no facilities or services at the memorial site, so you need to pack in and pack out.

If you prefer to take advantage of a group cruise out of Kailua-Kona, they accommodate both snorkelers and divers and do offer divers the opportunity to bring your own gear or rent tanks. It appeared they only brought in two groups per day and those people stayed around the catamaran. There were less than 10 other kayaks during the day. So there was a maximum maybe 50 people in the entire bay. I was glad we arrived via kayak so we were not time limited like the catamaran people. But if you want to save your strength for your dive, I would pick the catamaran.

The reef at Captain Cook has a steep drop off, though there is ample shallower area around the monument and most of the snorklers congregate there. The coral heads in both shallow and deep water are simply spectacular. Lots of finger and cauliflower coral. A rainbow of color greets you with schools of yellow tang, durgeon and butterfly fish, honu and the occasional pod of spinner dolphins. Moray eels pop out of coral heads and often swim freely. Divers noted black and white tip reef sharks. I saw caves and interesting wall formations but they were beyond my free dive capabilities. The cove geography allows easy in an out both at the monument and adjacent rocky shoreline. There are no real sandy beaches.

After a day on the water, the paddle back was challenging, but well worth it. The water was flat and so azure blue. You will appreciate assistance getting out of the kayak! When I go back, I am definitely renting a kayak there at the wharf, no matter the cost.

Visited on 09/2013 - Submitted on 03/04/2014


The Kona area of Hawaii's big Island offers varied diving to someone who wants to do a little research about the area. Local dive shops offer information on shore diving, and there are many accessible sites that are great as shore dives. There are also multiple opportunites for dive charters too. There are different operators in the town of Kona who launch out of the local boat harbor between town and the airport. Further north on the Kohala Coast there are other operations that go to different dive sites north of Kona. The diving is easy, but you do have to watch water conditions because most entry points are over and around lava, so that when the waves come up entry or exit can get trick. I recommend a full wetsuit for protection when shore diving.


The famous Manta nite dive is a must for those who have not experienced the thrill of seeing these beautiful animals close. Another night dive is the "black water dive" which is offered by a couple of dive charters in Kona. It is a thrill to be suspended over thousands of feet of deep water watching varied creatures swim in to your light and then disappear into the black water.

Hawaiian Green Turtles are plentiful and protected in Hawaiian waters, and there are many spots where they are seen. One place is south of Kona and is called Honaunau or two step. It is right next to the Place of Refuge which is a Hawaiian Monument. I always make the trip to dive and also snorkle this area and I have see dolpins in the distance, a juvenile spotted eagle ray and lots of turtles here.

I believe that it would be worth some time to pursue macro subjects. This one thing I have not done enough. I know they are there but I have enjoyed free diving with the turtles so much that I have done that again and again, When you are not blowing bubbles you can feel like you are swimming right along with them in their ocean. One visit I brought my scuba gear but only used my long fins, mask and snorkle. Puako in front of the round church there is a turtle cleaning station that i have returned to again and again. This is my favorite site on the island although I have never used scuba there.


There are plenty of other things to do besides diving. A trip to the volcano is worth the drive and for a totally different feel the town of Hilo and the surrounding area is part of a lush tropical forest. Just the opposite of the Kona side of the island which is dry and arid. The Island of Hawaii has so many different climates that it is worth taking a road trip to see the different parts of the island. There are farmer's markets with beautiful fruits and vegetables and fresh fish is a Hawaiian standard whether you eat in a restaurant or cook it yourself. And there are abundent opportunities to try local food. There are often barbeques set up selling grilled chicken or teriaki beef in the shopping centers.

I like the laid back feeling of Kona and the Big Island as opposed to the frenzy of Oahu and Waikiki. It is a short flight from the US west coast and there are things to do for everyone tastes.

Visited on 05/2012 - Submitted on 02/28/2014
  • Top Reviewer
Huntington Beach, CA
United States

Kona offers an incredible variety of activities. Diving is always my first choice, so exploring that was my primary objective. Both shore diving with easily obtained tanks in town and boat diving with operators in the harbor are available. I did both. The shore dives were sometime difficult to get to with gear, but consistently nice once in the water. Others were very easy entries right into reef areas or very cool lava tubes such as at Mile4. By boat, we were able to see some of the deeper reef areas and even find an isolated squat lobster. The reefs were mostly monochromatic with light colored hard coral or black lava rocks, not much in the way of anything else. In some areas the fish were plentiful and others sparse. I cannot recommend it as colorful exciting diving. I had hoped to do the popular manta night dive, but the operators were not going out as they said it was a lull in the timing for them and only 1-2 mantas had been showing up. I wish I had been able to anticipate that, but it is nature. Topside, the drive to the volcano was great, but you do need a full day and need to be aware of elevation with diving so early in the trip is best. Kayaking, beachcombing, coffe and nut tasting, and vivid sunsets even in the rain all combined to make this a fun vacation which anyone including families would enjoy. Going to Kona just for diving, probably not

Visited on 09/2012 - Submitted on 02/21/2014