Flora / Fauna
Watersports on the Big Island of Hawaii
Ahhh, the water — Hawaii’s best place to play! Most of the water sports on the Big Island take place on the west coast, along the Kona and Kohala beaches, and most companies offering tours, equipment rental, and instruction are located around Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa. Here’s what’s available in and on the Big Blue.
Surfing: While the Big Island isn’t the top surfing destination in the islands, waves can be found it the north part of Hilo Bay, and in Kealakekua and Wailua Bays on the Kona Coast. You can rent equipment locally. Click here for Big Island Surfing Providers.
Windsurfing: The conditions are best on the Kona side, the most popular spots are Anaeho’omalu Bay in front of the Royal Waikoloa Resort and Kauna’oa Beach on the Kohala Coast.
Jet skiing: For you speedy types, there are several places along the Kona coast which rent jet ski equipment and provide instruction.
Parasailing: Pop on a parachute and sail over the ocean tethered to a speeding boat. Sounds fun? Check it out in Kailua-Kona. Click here for Big Island Parasailing Providers.
Snorkeling: For the more down-to-water types, there are lots ‘o fish in the sea and you can see hem at any number of great snorkeling spots. Rent a mask, snorkel, and fins and do-it-yourself or take a snorkel boat tour. Click here for Big Island Snorkeling Providers.
Deep Sea Diving
Many scuba aficionados say Hawaii’s coastal waters offer the best deep water diving in the islands.
The Big Island is the geological youth in the island chain, the incessant waves haven’t pounded the lava into sand yet. The water is clearer and visibility is greater. Although the island does not have an extensive coral reef system fringing the shoreline, there is a coral belt that makes for excellent diving.
If you are an experienced diver, you’ll want to get out in the deep water on a chartered dive boat. In winter, you may come upon some humpback whales and calves — grab your underwater camera! Dive boat operators are knowledgeable and helpful with picking dive sites.
If you’re a novice diver or just learning, you may want to stick closer to shore — there are plenty of protected bays and coves on the west side which offer an underwater wonderland. Some best spots are the Aquarium in Kealakekua Bay; Kahalu’u Bay; Pine Trees in North Kona; Red Hill, near the Kona Surf Hotel; and Plane Wreck Point off Keahole Point, north of Kailua-Kona.
Be sure to bring your diver certification card, as you’ll have to present it when renting equipment. By the way, you usually only need the top of a wet suit in Hawaii’s warm waters.
If you’re interested in learning to dive or brushing up on your dive skills, there are plenty of dive shops offering group and private instructions. Even if you’re experienced, you should not dive in Hawaiian waters alone. You can find a dive tour to meet your needs.
Many special tours offer night dives, deep dives, and photography. You can rent any equipment, and most dive companies will shuttle you to and from dives. There are lots of choices of scuba outfitters and dive boats, so shop around. Click here for Big Island Scuba and Diving Providers.
Better Safe Than Sorry: Some Water Safety Tips
The waters around the Big Island have an undeniable allure, however, everyone who plays in and around the ocean and rivers needs to realize that there are dangers, some obvious, others not so obvious. So along with slathering on your sunscreen, pay attention to and follow these tips for a trouble-free time on the beach.
- Never swim alone. Always stay with children: flotation devices do not substitute for real swimming ability.
- Check for and obey warning signs posted before you enter the water.
- Check with lifeguard (there are only a few on the Big Island) on beach and surf conditions. If there are no lifeguards around, ask any residents in the area about rip currents, Portuguese man-of-war jellyfish, or other dangers.
- Locate the lifeguard station, emergency phone or rescue surfboard when you arrive at a beach.
- Don’t swim in shorebreaks
- Don’t dive into water of unknown depth or into shallow breaking surf.
- Never turn your back on the ocean until you’re well above high tide line.
- Be careful at beaches with high surf. Riptides are most common in these conditions. If caught in one, don’t fight the current. Wait until it subsides, then swim to shore. Don’t panic and exhaust yourself by fighting it.
- Check with the National Weather Service for surf advisories. 808-245-3564.
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