40. Track the Underwater Kingdom Hawai‘i Island’s cerulean waters are teeming with life. Living coral can be found in 57 percent of the waters surrounding the island—the highest percentage in the main Hawaiian Islands. And where there’s coral, there are fish.
At least three island tour boat companies specialize in underwater views.
Blue Sea Cruises investigates the view down under in its glass-bottom boat. Viewing wells provide live-screening action, while narrators fill in the details. Expect to see schools of fish, dolphins, manta rays, turtles and, in the winter, humpback whales.
Naturalists shed light on historical sites along the coastline, and a hula show tops off the excursion. Better yet, the Evening on the Reef tour provides not only manta ray viewings but also a premium dinner and hula show package, along with stunning sunsets.
Atlantis Adventures, a 65-foot, air-conditioned submarine with 26 large portholes, conducts tours off KailuaKona. The sub cruises past hundreds of tropical fish that populate an 18,000-year-old, 25-acre fringing coral reef that lies some 100 feet below the surface. The company, which in 2013 celebrated its 25th year of sharing the magnificence of Hawai‘i’s marine environment and message of conservation with guests from around the world, offers package tours that include a combination submarine/volcano air tour and, from December through April, whale-watching tours.
Kailua Bay Charter Co. runs 50-minute reef tours in a glass-bottom boat, which affords up-close views of underwater features like “shipwreck rock,” where the reef rises to within inches of the glass, then plunges to more than 100 feet. Expect to see turtles, frolicking dolphins and seasonal whales. You also can charter the company’s boat to create your own tour for you and your friends.
All of these tours depart from the Kailua-Kona pier. • Atlantis Adventures (800) 548-6262 • Blue Sea Cruises (808) 331-8875 • Captain Zodiac (808) 329-3199 • Kailua Bay Charter Co. (808) 324-1749
41. Go Snorkeling
Snorkeling the Big Island’s crystal-clear waters is an easy way to spot marine life.
Kealakekua Bay, an underwater marine preserve that is a resting area for dolphins and the site of the Captain Cook Monument, is a popular destination. So are the pristine waters off the Kohala Coast and Pawai Bay.
Snorkel gear can be rented or purchased. In either case, all you’ll need is a mask, a snorkel and some fins. Gear comes in many sizes and shapes, but be sure you find a good fit.
You also can go snorkeling in style aboard a catamaran. This typically includes plenty of food, cocktails, restrooms and lots of flotation equipment.