Kayaking and Snorkeling the Kealakekua Bay

In 2015, I headed back to Hawaii for my second solo trip to Hawaii. During my first trip in 2013, I spent my time exploring Maui. For this trip, I decided to go to the Big Island. I wanted to visit Volcano National Park and also wanted to go kayaking and snorkeling the Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii. I had read and heard good things so I was excited to check it out!

On the Plane Ride from Houston to Kona

This trip was great from the moment I got on the plane. On the plane ride over, I sat next to a woman who I’m pretty sure is my kindred spirit..and definitely is my new inspiration. Her name is Sue and she was heading to Hawaii for 2 weeks to attend the wedding of her good friend’s son. After talking to her for a bit, she told me that after graduating with her teaching degree in the 60’s, she applied for jobs all over the USA (she was living in TX at the time). She ended up getting an offer in Oahu so off she went.

She expected to stay for a couple of years but ended up staying for 43 years. After being diagnosed with lung cancer in 2004 and given 3-4 months to life, she moved to College Station, TX to be closer to the hospitals in Houston. 11 years later, she is still beating the cancer.

While she is always enduring treatments and long flights are really hard, she was really excited for this trip. She was telling me about all of the traveling she has done over the course of the flight and asking me about my travels as well. Also, she told she has a black poodle that gives her sad eyes and acts out when she leaves…hmmm, sounds familiar (yes Stella, I am looking at you).

Sue and I right before landing in Honolulu. She was heading to Maui from there.I headed to Kona.

The Big Island of Hawaii from the air.

Kealakekua Bay – Some Background Information

Kealakekua Bay is located 12 mines south of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island in Hawaii. It is a Marine Life Conservation District. The bay is a great spot for scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking. The bay’s  waters are filled with coral and schools of tropical fish. On one side of the bay, there is a very steep hill, almost a cliff.

The bay is an important historic location because it marks the site where the first westerner, Captain James Cook, landed on the island of Hawaii. Cook was the first British explorer to establish contact with the Hawaiian Islands. He did it in 1778 on Kauai. A year later, he was killed in a skirmish with Native Hawaiians in Kealakekau Bay. There is a white obelisk on the shore of Kealakekua Bay Historical Park to memorialize his death.

Kayaking and Snorkeling the Kealakekua Bay

I scheduled my kayaking and snorkeling adventure with Kona Boys, Inc. They had good reviews and seemed to have a strong concern for safety. I am not an experienced kayaker so this was very important to me. Due to a mix up, I ended up being the only person on the excursion. They had tried to contact me the day before to reschedule but I was on the plane and unavailable. I felt bad but they seemed to be fine with so they took me out anyway . And boy am I glad they did because it was SO WORTH IT!

I met the guide at the marina where he was getting our kayak ready to launch into the water. As we were preparing, he told me there was “a 110% chance” we would see dolphins while we were out on the water. That was amazing music to my ears.

And he was absolutely right!

We didn’t just see a few dolphins, we saw at least three pods. At 20-40 dolphins a pod, we likely saw over a hundred of them. And to top it off, there were BABY DOLPHINS!!!!!  The babies tended to be slightly bigger than the size of a football and they had pink bellies. It was amazing and memorizing! I have never been so content to just sit in a kayak and chill. They came so close to us. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to our kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay!

Kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay
Looking back at the dolphins (and fully protected from the sun).
Kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay
So many dolphins!

After spending a while observing the dolphins from the middle of the bay, my guide asked me if I wanted to jump out of the kayak and swim/snorkel the rest of the way across. I said “yes” and so that is what I did. It was one of those times where I said a big silent thank you to my mom for making me take all those swimming lessons and dropping us off at the pool every day during the summer. Between those swimming lessons and going through SCUBA certification where I learned the proper way to put gear on in water, it was a breeze!

The water itself was so warm and calm. It was the perfect condition for snorkeling. I did not even use a life jacket. There were only a few people out snorkeling so I wasn’t being kicked in the head every 30 seconds like it seems I usually am when snorkeling. There were also no motorized boats so I could just float along and not be concerned about what was going on at the surface.

Once I reached the other side of the bay after snorkeling for a while, we checked out Captain Cook’s monument. We then had a snack and then headed back to our vehicles. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at the grocery store and picked up my two Hawaii staples, poke and pineapple, before hitting the pool with a book for the rest of the afternoon.

This is the steep hill I referred to earlier. Before I jumped into the bay to snorkel, I asked the guide if there are ever sharks in the area. He said the only time he remembered a shark sighting in the bay was when several grazing cows accidentally fell over the top of the hill and tumbled into the water. Sharks showed up for the feast. In the end, officials ended up towing the cows’ bodies miles from shore. The sharks followed them.

It was such a great day! If you are planning a trip to the Big Island in Hawaii, I highly recommend adding a kayaking and snorkeling adventure in Kealakekua Bay to your itinerary. it is a great activity for all experience levels and you may see dolphins while you are out there!

Want to read more? Check out some things you should know before traveling the Road to Hana in Maui in this post.

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