For what it lacks in a sandy beach, Puako Bay more than makes up for with its pristine waters for snorkeling. Tucked away on the Kohala Coast at the end of a residential road, Puako Bay is a favorite spot of local snorkelers and divers. Mornings offer the best conditions before the wind comes up, and while the rocky entry might be a difficult for beginning snorkelers or children, the reward that competent snorkelers will find is a vertical wall in crystal water that’s covered in vibrant marine life. When conditions are calm in Puako Bay, visibility can often extend to 60 or 70 feet, and during the winter months on the Big Island, it’s possible to hear the distant song of migrating humpback whales. On shore, at the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve, visitors will find nearly 3,000 rock drawings that date to Ancient Hawaii—which is the largest collection of petroglyphs found anywhere in the state.
To reach Puako Bay, drive north from Kona on Highway 19. By mile marker 70, make a left on Puako Road and choose one from one of the six different points of public access. In winter, during northwest swells, the conditions at Puako can be very hazardous, so always be sure to assess the conditions before you enter the water.