Paradise would not be complete without warm, tropical, blue-green water. The water is one of the main reasons I am drawn to Hawaii or anywhere tropical for that matter. As we planned our trip to Kona this year, I did a fair amount of research on where the best places would be to go snorkeling with a 6-year-old and 34-month-old.
What we stumbled across was a fabulous little beach just south of Kailua-Kona, called Kahalu’u Beach Park. This turned out to be the perfect beach for my little family. We ended up coming here on several occasions and used it as our goto spot aka, our backup plan.
Kahalu’u is a protected cove, meaning that the water is fairly calm and easy to navigate. The beach has a coarser salt and pepper colored sand, and the beach area is rather small. The facilities here are very nice and every time we came here, there were classes and activities for the youth, and volunteers on standby to teach about the fish, corals, and sea turtles in Kahalu’u bay.
One of the best things about this park is that it is completely free.
The parking is free, and access to the beach is free (as it should be). A catering truck shows up daily offering food, shave ice, iced coffee, and even locker rentals for $5 for the day so you can store your valuables safely while you are in the water.
As far as being kid friendly we could not ask for anything more. The water was calm and the fish population is pretty dense. This trip was an opportunity to introduce our kids to the ocean undersea life, and we wanted to do so in a positive way.
For the nearly 3-year-old, we purchased a Sea Window snorkeling raft. This is a raft that is made for adults up to 300 lbs. It has a viewing window that magnifies the underwater view by 25x. The size made it perfect for our youngest to lay on and feel completely safe while being able to enjoy the fish and corals along with the rest of us. (it was well worth the $59 price tag). For the 6-year-old, we purchased a $3 donut raft. This gave him some security and confidence as he braved the open waters with us.
This little bay is amazing. The corals are abundant and beautiful, as well as the fish. We found that closer in to shore, the water was a little murky, however, this seemed to be where most of the snorkelers were hanging out. We made our way a little further out and found the water to be exceedingly clear and the scenery and wild life to be quite stunning, with hardly any other snorkelers around. We saw sea turtles on every visit here. We also spotted a moray eel as well as a zebra eel. The concentration and variety of fish was incredible. We spent many hours in the water here and always tried to squeeze in a trip to this beach whenever we had a some spare time in our day.
The kids would lose interest in snorkeling after a while, but they would stay entertained for hours playing on the beach. My wife and I took turns snorkeling while the other one sunbathed and kept an eye on the kids. The volunteers at this beach have a true love for the sea life and are very knowledgeable. They are an asset to the park and were there to educate the public and to protect the reefs and stop the tourist from trying to feed or harass the fish and sea turtles.
Go to Kahalu’u if:
- You have small kids
- you are a beginning snorkeler or want to learn how to snorkel.
- you want to see and possibly swim next to sea turtles
- you are on a budget and want a fun, low-cost adventure
- you are staying in Kailua-Kona and you have an hour or two to spare
Don’t go if:
- You like challenging intermediate to advanced snorkeling (or scuba diving)
- you are looking for a quiet beech to lay in the sun
- you don’t want to be around children (mainly on the beach or close in)
- you can’t keep from standing on the corals.
Snorkeling can work up your appetite. Fortunately, just a short trip up the road from Kahalu’u, we discovered one of the best places to eat ahi poke (pronounced POH-kay) in Kailua-kona; Da Poke Shack. If you are a fan of poke, don’t pass this place up. If you are not a fan, they offer some awesome Huli Huli Chicken and Kailua Pork that will satisfy even the most discerning palate. To compliment the perfect Hawaiian meal, keep your eyes open for a roadside coconut vendor. For about $5, they slice off the top of a fresh, young, green coconut and stick a straw in it, and serve you the freshest coconut water available.