Diving Kona

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Kona, Hawaii

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Country: Hawaii  Area: Pacific

Water Temp: 22 - 26°C (72 - 79°F)

Visibility: 10 - 66m (33 - 217 ft)

Depth Range: 3 - 40m (10 - 131 ft)

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Kona is a district in the Big Island of Hawaii. The Big Island is often passed up in favour of more well-known and touristed islands like O’ahu and Maui, however the island has some of the most incredible scenery in Hawaii, as well as the best diving.

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The Big Island is perfect for nature lovers, and those who love to be adventurous. It has attractions for everyone, with accommodation ranging from backpacker style hostels, to five star resorts, green and black sand beaches, spectacular and diverse wildlife, and an erupting volcano.

Kona is located on the West side of the island, and Kailua-Kona is a historic seaside village, just 15 minutes from the international airport. Along with some of the best coffee in the world, the village has plenty of bars, restaurants, and nightlife.

Pilot whale, Credit

Many of the best dive sites off Kona and the rest of the Big Island can be accessed right off shore. As you dive further off sure you’re likely to see manta rays, dolphins, whale sharks, and hammerhead sharks.   

Marine Conservation

There are many different groups involved in marine conservation, in the Big Island, and throughout Hawaii. Among these are Seahorse Haaii which aims to inspire ocean awareness and save the endangered seahorses and sea dragons both in Hawaii and around the world, and the Ka’upulehu Marine Life Advisory Committee which overseas and manages the marine resources and aims to prevent overfishing.

Two fishes and a brain shaped coral, Credit

Climate

Kona has warm weather throughout the year, although it can sometimes be prone to volcanic smog from Kilauea-an actively erupting volcano.

The tourist season is from December through March, as tourists from North America escape winter.

The climate here is tropical, with the coolest month being February with an average temperature of 23.7ºC (74ºF). The warmest month is August, which as an average of 27.2ºC (81ºF). While Kona is usually dry, during the rainy season it will usually rain in the afternoon for a few hours.

The warm season is from July to October, and the cold season is from December to March. 

 
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The Diving

While the entire Big Island has excellent diving, the dive sites on the Kona-Kohala cost has the best diving in Hawaii. Hawaii has almost 700 species of fish, and 25% of them are only found in Hawaii. Kona has a huge variety of dive sites, ranging from easy dives for beginners, to advanced, deeper dives for the more experienced.

The island is surrounded by a coral belt, and has plenty of sea caves to explore, along with abundant marine life. The diving conditions are better on the Kona side than the Hilo side, and it’s common to have a visibility of 30m (100ft).

Divers Diving,Kona, Hawaii, Credit

The Lava Dome

The lava dome is a volcanic rock, and it’s covered in knob and plate coral. The dome stands around 30ft high, and schooling fish like to congregate here, as well as Blue Dragon Nudibranchs.

Big Sandies

Big Sandies is an ocean swimming pool, with white sand rivers at 20ft, surrounded by coral, along with octopus, shells, and other invertebrates. It’s a good dive for beginners, as the depth is only 15-70 ft, and there is plenty to see.

Garden Eels

Also great for beginners, this site is where divers will see rows garden eels swaying in the current, along with plenty of moray eels and turtles, There are a few swim-throughs here as well. This is where dive sites will often do Manta Ray diving at night, as they’re attracted to the underwater lights of the snorkelers and divers.

Fishes checking out, Credit

Alices Wonderland

There’s something at this site for all levels of diver, and the giant arches are home to healthy coral and many different types of marine life, including frog fish, octopus, schooling fish, and pelagic encounters. There’s also a steep drop off to explore outside of the mooring.

Golden Arches

This site has one of the best lava arches along the Kona Coast. Divers will find plenty of yellow reef fish, along with triggerfish, widemouth morays, rock mover wrasses, and occasionally leaf scorpionfish, frogfish, along with dolphins which sometimes visit the area.

Turtle Pinnacle and Turtle Heaven

Both of these dive sites are brilliant places to see green sea turtles, which like to relax on the reef while surgeonfish eat lunch off of their backs. Divers are also likely to see octopuses, spinner dolphins, and moray eels.

Honokahau

Honokahau is the place to go to see gorgeous, well-developed coral, and brightly coloured reef fish. Some of the residents at this site include goatfish, heller’s barracuda, eagle rays, raccoon butterflyfish, and occasionally spinner dolphins.

Fishes & Corals, Credit

Kaiwi Point

Divers can only access this site by boat, but it’s well worth it. Trumpetfish, trevally, and triggerfish are always hanging around here, and there is also a huge lava rock wall known as “Wash Rock”, that rises from the bottom of the sea, along with a drop off where divers can often see sharks, manta rays, and sometimes humpback whales.

Suckem Up Lava Tube

This site is made up of large caverns, which divers can swim through, and be sucked out with the surge. One of them is known as “Skull Cave”, which has two eye sockets which ivers can swim through while keeping an eye out for white tip reef sharks, colourful reef fish, moray eels, and spiny lobsters.

Kahalu'u Beach Park, Hawaii, Credit

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How to Get there

Tourists can get to Kona via Kona International Airport, which is also known as Keyhole Airport. Domestic flights arrive from Honolulu and Kahului, as well as the West Coast of the United States, and Vancouver, Canada.

Kona Hawaii, Credit

Most international flights will transfer via Honolulu. There is a Hele-on bus which operates from the airport into Kona once a day, but if flight times don’t match up with the bus, travellers will need to get a shuttle or taxi which range from $30-$50.

It can be a good idea to hire a car near the airport, as the island can be tricky to get around. Most locals hitchhike, which obviously isn’t ideal for those traveling with children. By hiring a car tourists can then travel around the whole island, and explore the numerous sights without having to arrange day tours.

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Where to Eat & Drink

The food in Hawaii is as diverse as the population. Traditions have been brought in from around the world, and the food has been influenced by the United States, native Hawaiians, China, the Philippines, Japan, and Korea. Expect to find plenty of fresh fruit on the island, with mangos picked straight from the tree, and pineapple that melts in your mouth.

For dinner with a view of the ocean, head to Jameson’s which is great for a romantic meal or even dinner with the kids. Be sure to make reservations ahead of time though, and ask for a table on the Lanai so you can watch the sunset.

Hibiscus and lilikoi champagne, Credit

The Manta & Pavilion Wine Bar does a great breakfast buffet with made-to-order waffles and omelettes, delicious pastries, and fresh tropical fruits and juices.

Those who like beer should head to Humpy’s Alehouse, which has a huge array of beers on tap, and excellent bar food. It’s popular with both locals and visitors and gets loud at night.

The nightlife in Kona isn’t the kind that stays open until 4am with pounding base and laser lights, but Kona is the place to go for a wide selection of bars, live local bands, and a few beers after a long day of diving. Lulu’s is a good place for a cocktail, along with Cafe Pesto and the Hilo Bay Cafe.

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Other Activities

Those who need a break from diving will be spoilt for choice, as the island offers plenty of activities to keep tourists occupied. Head to Huihe’e Palace, which was once the vacation residence of the Hawaiian royalty. This is a great place to learn more about the history of Hawaii, as well as enjoy the fascinating artefacts and beautiful furniture on display.

The Historic Kailua Village Walking tour is an excellent way to get to know Kailua, and visits the Huilhe’e palace, St Michaels Catholic Church, and Moku`aikaua Church.

First Church In Kona, Credit

The best snorkelling is found at the Captain Cook Monument, which is where Captain Cook was killed after returning to Hawaii. Tourists can either choose to take a kayak across to the area, or hike across. Be sure to bring plenty of water if hiking, and good shoes as the trail can be tough.     

Family Friendly

The Big Island is a very family-friendly destination, especially if the family likes to be active. Take the kids swimming with the dolphins, but before you book it, head over to Two Step first thing in the morning to see if you can swim with them in the wild. If all else fails, try a company like Dolphin Discoveries.

Those interested in seeing a 420ft waterfall that is constantly flowing year round should head to Akaka Falls State Park. Located on the Hilo side of the island (the east side), the park is free to enter and it takes less than an hour to walk along the was paved trail.

Family Activity can be a Seahorse farm visit! Credit

Don’t miss the Green Sand Beach (Papakolea Beach). While it can be tricky to get to it, there are guys with four wheel drives who can drive you down to the beach so you don’t need to hike with the kids. The sand is an olive-green colour, and the contrast between the green sand and blue water is breathtaking. Make sure you’re prepared for the trip though, as there are no food, or bathrooms here.

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Tips

Take plenty of bug spray as the mosquitos are usually out in full force. Remember sunscreen and a hat, and plenty of water if you decide to do any of the many hikes around the island.               

Diving with Manta, Credit  

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Rating 10/10

Hawaii Kona Manta Ray Night Dive

Kona10 Jul 2017 - 10 Jul 2017

Did the two-tank Night Dive with Kona Honu Divers and it was fantastic - very clean and safe boat, great dive masters, great diving. Saw over 30 Manta rays feeding on plankton. Was $180 US per person included all equipment and suit - even a $1 contribution to conservation efforts!

Rating 8/10

Best dive sites off Kona

Kona1 May 2015 - 10 May 2015

I recommend only 3 dive sites off Kona, but it spectacular:

1. Night dive with mantas. Every night you can see more than 6 mantas in one place ( I saw 25). For me it best night dive sites in the world!!!!

2. Harbor . In harbor lives 3 tiger sharks. One of them probably 5 meters and so fatt ( it biggest tiger shark what I see). During dive you can meet eagle Ray , gray reef shark, Dolphins , mantas, turtles and etc etc etc. I meet also monk seals.

3. Manta cleaning station.

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