Snorkeling at Pawai Bay

I had heard about Pawai Bay while searching the internet for snorkeling locations in Kona. I have snorkeled most of the Big Island and am constantly searching for new places to snorkel and SCUBA dive. I read that charter boats take snorkelers to Pawai Bay and decided I wanted to go and check it out. I found out that although this bay is somewhat secluded you can access it by a trail leading from the north end of the Old Kona Airport Beach Park. Apparently, Pawai Bay is located about two coves to the north of the Old Kona Airport. However, I wanted to SCUBA dive at Pawai - so hiking the trail with all my gear was out of the question.

So I came up with the idea of Kayaking to Pawai Bay from Kailua Bay. At first I thought that this might be overly ambitous, but after looking at my GPS and a few maps, I saw that it would be about a 1.5 mile kayak trip (each way). By taking a kayak, we could stow all of our dive gear on board and also enjoy the journey.

So a couple of friends and I started the trip - we paddled right off of the beach at the King Kamehameha Hotel in Kailua-Kona. Although, there were moderate swells in the ocean, it took us less than one hour to get beyond the Old Airport Beach Park. Then we realized that the waves were crashing on the lava rocks at the shore and we would need to be very careful as we neared shore. Our original plan was to anchor the boat - dropping anchor onto the sandy bottom (and avoid damaging any corals). We brought our anchor with us and as I swam in the water searching for a good place to anchor, I spotted the buoy that the tour boats use to moor and we tied up the this buoy. It was a great find - we were only about 25 yards from shore and right over the reef that we could see through the clear waters below. As we prepared to enter the water, we saw a lone snorkeler pass by our kayaks - she must have come from shore where you can enter the water at the small sandy beach at the edge of the cove.

We dropped in and two of us SCUBA dived as the third person snorkeled. The reef here was expansive, vibrantly alive, and consumed by colorful corals. As I descended on my dive, I could see many large schools of fish in and around us and the reef. There were large schools of curious Goat Fish meandering near us and pockets of Squirrel Fish bobbing with their large eyes protruding. The top of the reef was in about 20-25 feet of water and it descended to beyond 65 feet deep. The water was a warm 78 degrees and about 70 feet of visibility - all in all excellent conditions! This coral reef really reminded me of the dense reef at Captain Cook, one of my favorites on the Island. As we got back in the kayaks and secured our gear, one of my buddies got sea sick because the swells had increased and the chop was getting rough. So we decided to paddle back to Kailua Bay. We only dived one small portion of the reef here at Pawai Bay - and I look forward to coming back to take a look at the rest of it.

Check out our Kona Snorkeling Guide for more snorkeling locations.

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Related Posts:

  1. Diving Pawai Bay, Kona Hawaii
  2. Hawaii Snorkeling Guide - Kona
  3. Big Island Snorkeling Guide
  4. Hawaii Snorkeling Tips
  5. Snorkeling at Leleiwi Beach (Hilo)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    We have traveled to the Big Island many times and enjoyed many excursions. One of our favorites of all time was the Manta Ray Dive. That experience brings me to the reason for this contact with you today.

    One week ago, 6 of us signed up with Neptune Charlies, AKA Manta Ray Divers out of Kona to take a Manta Ray snorkel tour. Tuesday, January 16th was our only evening open so having called other dive operators and found they weren’t taking the trip Tuesday night we signed up with them. After having dived and snorkeled all over the world and asking numerous questions I thought they would be a quality dive operator. I was wrong. They were sloppy, uncaring, and hurried throughout the entire trip. The onboard head did not work, the crew and captain were surly, and we were herded like cattle throughout the trip. We didn’t leave the harbor until well after sunset and were back by a little after 8. After a call today to the owner to try and rectify our bad experience, asking for half of our trip refunded, we were instead offered a free trip next time we visit the Big Island. Unfortunately, that will be 3 to 5 years for us to return and the other 4 will probably never go back to the Big Island. If the owner had offered to refund half the cost of this unfortunate trip, I would have still written this email to you, adding the owner realized the problems which occured during our trip and had refunded half our money back in an effort to make ammends. Unfortunately, that did not happen. I will not be accepting his offer of a free trip…it is not worth my valuable vacation time to waste it on a second rate trip.
    I am writing this in an effort to educate you on our bad experience and to respectfully ask you not to recommend them to people who can only go out on the nights you are closed. Thank you.
    Debra and David East

  2. says:

    Debra and David,

    I am sorry that you had such a terrible time with this dive operator. I have lived and traveled all over the world and have been lucky to also snorkel and dive throughout. I have done extensive shore diving and many boat dives throughout the Big Island.

    I have done the Manta Ray Dive on the Big Island four times and will probably do it again (each time was wonderful). However, having had one bad experience, I am very picky as to who I dive with. My last three excursions have all been with Kona Honu Divers (I am not affiliated with them) and I enjoyed every single time. I have noticed that often, the dive operators are booked up or do not offer this dive on certain days and it the best thing to do is make a reservation days ahead of time.

    I hope that you will have the opportunity to dive the Big Island again, and especially do the Manta Ray Dive - next time with a different dive operator.

  3. Steve says:

    The kayaking to Pawai Bay sounds like a blast. I’ll have to try it some day. Did you rent off the beach, or carry the kayak over from the turnaround and park the car somewhere?

    The manta ray trip is defintely a must do when the mantas are coming in.



  4. says:

    It was me and two other friends, so we needed two kayaks (one tandem and one solo). We had rented one the previous day when we went to Captain Cook and still had it - we carried it to the beach from the car. The second kayak we simply rented right there at that little beach rental shack out of convenience (rather than having to strap two kayaks to the roof of our car!) You can pay for parking at the King Kam hotel (adjacent the beach) and that makes it very convenient - we were able to “borrow” a 4-wheeled room-service cart from behind the hotel and used it to cary our SCUBA tanks, gear, etc.

    Incidently, this kayak excursion was a last minute thing - we had originally planned to kayak from Kua Bay to Makalawena Beach (and snorkel / dive the reefs between). But, on arrival at Kua Bay, there was a large sign forbidding kayaks… so we quickly changed plans. Next time I think I will try Kukio Beach to Makalawena (about 2 miles each way).

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