On the Big Island’s Kohala Coast, Puako Bay is a secluded inlet popular with divers and snorkelers for its lava tubes, impressive coral reef, and myriad colorful fish and other marine life. The rocky tide pools are also vibrant, fun places to explore. It’s lovely to relax on the bay’s long white-sand beach, but swimming can be dangerous.
With its rocky bottom and steep underwater drop-offs, Puako Bay is a stunning place for seeing Hawaiian marine life and colorful coral reefs. On a clear day, there is amazing visibility of up to 70 feet (21 meters). It’s a favorite spot for experienced snorkelers—the water can be rough so it’s suitable only for strong swimmers. The nearby beach is a picturesque place to stretch out on a towel, before or after which you can explore the neighboring Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve.
Things to Know Before You Go
Puako Bay is ideal for experienced snorkelers or divers.
Water conditions at Puako Bay can be dangerous. Always check the weather forecast before setting out.
The bay is located in a residential area so please be respectful.
There is one small general store in the neighborhood but no facilities at the bay, so come prepared with snacks, water, and snorkeling gear.
How to Get There
Puako Bay is about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. Head up Highway 19 and, before mile marker 70, turn left onto Puako Road. There are six public access trails located by telephone poles number 106, 110, 115, 120, 127, and 137.
When to Get There
Clear, warm days are best at Puako Bay. Arrive in the morning, when the wind and water tend to be calmer. Winter months can mean hazardous waters, and swimming and tide pooling are not recommended in windy weather.
Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve
Not far from Puako Bay sits an expansive 223-acre (90-hectare) petroglyph field with more than 3,000 ancient carvings on lava rocks. Dating back to 1200 AD, the carvings—which depict humans, turtles, canoes, and other shapes—are thought to be representations of significant events. The petroglyph fields are an ideal spot for exploring with children, but be sure that everyone wears good shoes, as the ground is rocky and sometimes covered in thorns from the field’s kiawe trees.
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