Captain Cook Discovers Hawaii
Captain James Cook and his ships, the Resolution and Discovery, entered the sheltered waters of Kealakekua Bay (Pathway of the God) on the morning of Jan 17, 1779, during the height of a local religious festival. Thinking Cook was a returning God, the Hawaiians welcomed and honored him. Strife followed, and the Hawaiians realized that Cook and his crew were not immortal. In the end, Cook was surrounded and killed at this very spot. This monument is only approachable by rugged foot trail or by water. The best way to reach this austere and beautiful spot is by kayak. Launch your kayak from the Kealakekua wharf and paddle across the bay. The water is clear and calm and the snorkeling and SCUBA diving at Captain Cook are unforgettable experiences. If you are looking for a more relaxing way to reach Capt Cook, try the Hawaii Snorkel Cruise to Kealakekua.
Permits Required to Beach Kayaks on Shore or at Captain Cook
UPDATE: As of 1/1/2013, the Hawaii Country Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) has issued a ban on kayaking in Kealakekua Bay. The local paper has the story here: http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/sections/news/local-news/dlnr-ban-kayaks-kealakekua-bay.html. According to the article, the DLNR is working on a broader management plan for the bay, but has not yet set a date when kayaking will once again be allowed. When we tried to go down to Kealakekua Bay in mid-January, the gate to the parking lot and wharf was locked, which would prevent kayakers from accessing the kayak drop in point.
At this point in time, the only (legal) way to snorkel the beautiful reef off of Captain Cook is to go on a larger boat with one of the tour companies out of Kailua. While you still might be able to rent a kayak, park to the east or west of the wharf and scramble over the rocks to drop in your kayak, we don’t advise doing so as it is illegal and the footing isn’t great (which is why we’ve ALWAYS used the wharf to drop in our kayaks).
As of 2/23/2010, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is requiring permits for anyone seeking to land vessels (kayaks) along the Ka‘awaloa shoreline or moor at the wharf adjacent to the Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua bay. Find out details on how to apply for the permit in our Captain Cook Kayak Permit blog post. Download the Permit Application online here. For more information, contact the State Parks office in Hilo at (808) 974-6200.
Kealakekua Bay Marine Sanctuary
Kealakekua Bay encompasses 315 acres and measures 1.5 miles in length and one mile in width. It is the largest sheltered natural bay on the island of Hawaii. The spectacular marine sanctuary at Kealakekua Bay offers an abundance of colorful tropical fish, a variety of beautiful coral reefs and visibility often to 100 feet. The calm, protected waters and sunny skies of Kealakekua Bay provide superior snorkeling and diving year round, with the water temperature averaging 76 degrees.
A pod of Hawaiian Spinner dolphins frequents Kealakekua Bay. The bay serves are a place for them to rest, feed, and a nursery for mothers and their calves. Due to the calm water conditions, extensive coral reef, and thriving underwater life, Kealakekua Bay offers some of the best snorkeling and diving in Hawaii. From the wharf across Kealakekua Bay, you can see the Captain Cook Monument. In the shallow waters adjacent to the Monument is where the best snorkeling and SCUBA diving is located. Additionally, there are spectacular views of the bay and the sheer cliffs on the eastern edge. You must not miss this!
Unfortunately you cannot simply drive to Captain Cook – this remote location is only accessible by water. Most visitors opt to rent a Kayak and paddle across the scenic bay to the Captain Cook Monument. Others prefer to join a guided tour of Kealakekua Bay aboard the Fair Winds Cruise.
If you are launching your kayak or just want a scenic drive to Kealakekua Bay, take the Hawaii Belt Road south out of Kailua Kona for about 15 miles. You will see signs for Kealakekua Bay to your right and then the road winds down to the wharf and Napoopoo beach. There is parking right at the wharf, but no kayak or gear rentals here. View online map.
People of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels can make this easy kayak trip. Read about our adventure Kayaking to Captain Cook with young Kids on our Big Island Blog.
If you make it out to the bay early enough, you may be lucky and see a pod of Spinner dolphins. Also, you can be sure to see Hawaiian Sea Turtles in the shallow waters near the Monument. Expect to take a lot of pictures and prepare yourself by bringing an underwater camera if possible. The water could not be clearer and the visibility is often reported beyond 100 feet. View satellite photo of Captain Cook and Kealakekua Bay. You should consider purchasing an underwater camera to capture the magnificent coral and underwater sea life. Read on to learn about our tips and secrets for kayaking and snorkeling at Captain Cook.
Next article: Kayak to Captain Cook.
Snorkeling at Captain Cook
More Captain Cook Articles
Kayak to Captain Cook
The best way to access the Captain Cook Monument and the sea life of the marine sanctuary is by kayak.
Snorkeling at Captain Cook
Read our Capt. Cook snorkel guide with maps and photos
SCUBA Diving Captain Cook
Read our Capt. Cook SCUBA diving guide with maps and photos
Kayak Tips and Advice
Hot-to-kayak information, safety tips, gear guide
Hawaii Kayak Guide
Guide to kayaking on the Big Island, kayak snorkeling, sea caves
We offer a variety of guided snorkel tours for all ages and abilities. Designed for beginners and adventurers alike, you will paddle along the scenic Kohala Coast and enjoy excellent snorkeling in warm, clear Hawaiian waters. Discover the Big Islands most remote snorkeling spots along the pristine Kohala Coast, Pawai Bay, Kealakekua Bay, and more. Check out our large sail and snorkel tours and our exciting zodiac tours for smaller groups.
Fair Winds Snorkel Cruise to Kealakekua
The award-winning Fair Wind Cruises has been providing exclusive Hawaii snorkeling excursions to Kealakekua Bay for 31 years. Everything you’ll need for snorkeling is provided: masks, snorkels, fins, etc. The friendly crew of the Fair Wind II will cater to your every need. The spacious boat offers plenty of room for relaxing in the sun or shade, and the water slide is sure to please the kids and kids at heart!
Sea Quest Ocean Rafting Adventure
Join Sea Quest for a rafting adventure along the Kona Coast! Explore lava tubes and sea caves, and enjoy snorkeling at the Place of Refuge and Captain Cooks Landing! After snorkeling, you will enjoy a breathtaking cruise along the Kona Coast taking in the spectacular coastline and exploring ancient lava tubes and sea caves