Kayaking the Kealakekua Bay

Kayaking the Kealakekua Bay Hawaii

Our first day on the Big Island of Hawai’i we talked with a family who decided to impulsively move to the Big Island after kayaking the Kealakua Bay. They felt a deep connection to the serenity and nature of the area. They went snorkeling and even saw dolphins- a regular, welcome sight on the bay.

And that was that. We had to kayak the Kealakekua Bay.

We drove in to the area and checked Google Maps for kayak rental agencies nearby. We called the first one on the list, asked if they had available kayaks, and heard where to park and how to find them.

Unfortunately, the only day we had enough time to kayak and snorkel was another stormy one. When we arrived at the kayaking launch the rain and wind kicked up and we were turned away based on the dangerous circumstances. We persisted. We visited a stae park nearby, and as soon as we saw a break in the rain we came back and were able to spend some time in the water.

The water was still pretty rough due to the recent storm, which made me glad we’d rented a double kayak. We have never done that before, but in this case it was nice to share the burden of paddling against the waves. It was also nice to be able to talk and hear each other while kayaking, for once!

Snorkeling at the Captain Cook Monument

Snorkeling at Kealakua Bay

A short 30-minute paddle across the bay took us to the Captain Cook Monument. We had heard there was incredible snorkeling at the shallow reef surrounding this obelisk, and Ben was eager to find out for himself. The only way to access the coastal monument is via water, hence the kayak.

We saw some other kayakers and a couple of private boats carrying their own snorkel passengers, but the water wasn’t too crowded once we arrived. Ben eagerly hopped off of the kayak to check out the real estate.

Grinning from ear to ear, Ben tried to get me into the water.

He saw some amazing fish! I don’t care as much about snorkeling as he does and actually enjoyed the calmness of keeping our kayak steady among the encroaching boats. It’s important to take some time and just quietly enjoy nature, you know?

After a few minutes we felt some rain drops begin to hit. We decided to cut our snorkeling short and head back to the dock before the serious storm came back. At least we’d had an hour to enjoy the bay!

Thankfully the only excitement we had on the ride back was trying to figure out where the kayak dock was. We were going with the waves this time, so the ride back was shorter and required less work. We were grateful for that; not knowing when the heavens would open back up again.

Dolphin Watch

Kayaking the Kealakekua Bay Hawaii

One of the reasons I was so persistent about kayaking the Kealakekua Bay was to look for dolphins. They are regularly reported to play in pods here, and kayakers and boaters catch long glimpses on a daily basis.

I like dolphins. Hawai’i is home to dolphins. We’d spent a long time at activities that overlook the water. I haven’t seen a dolphin.

Kayaking in this bay seemed like our best (and last) option to naturally see dolphins, since our other animal-watching plans had had to be cancelled due to the intermittent storm system. Well, it wasn’t in the cards. I blame the storm that had settled just long enough for us to get out. Heck, I’m blaming everything on the storm!

I still believe it’s your best option to see dolphins on the Big Island, though. To be clear, I accept that we seem to have terrible luck when it comes to traveling: our last 4 big trips to reputably warm weather areas have all had record-breaking bouts of bad weather during the exact days we were in town. (Anyone remember when it snowed in Florida for us?)

Final Thoughts on Kayaking the Kealakekua Bay

The Kealakekua Bay Hawaii

  • First of all, I’m really proud of us for not giving up on kayaking. The weather was practically knocking down trees on our first attempt, and I’m glad we were close enough to turn around and try again when things temporarily cleared up. A quick decision to make the most of a clear 1.5 hours turned out to be perfect timing!
  • I’m really glad we rented the double kayak instead of single kayaks. If we’d had more time with the clear weather and could have stuck around longer to wait for the dolphins to re-emerge it would have been nice to have single kayaks, but since we needed to make the most of a quick trip I’m glad we could work together and enjoy each other’s company to at least get out to the monument and back in time.
  • Prepare to get wet. If you go out after a storm. The swells were still really high when we were out, and Ben got pretty drenched as we kayaked into the waves! It was a fun thrill!
  • I’m glad Ben got to snorkel. We were on the lookout for decent snorkel spots our entire trip, and I’m so glad we found this one! Not only was it great snorkeling, but it was pretty uninterrupted. We like doing fun things alone. Sorry not sorry.
  • I wish we’d had more time! If the rain hadn’t started up again we would have been able to enjoy an easy afternoon on the water, one of our favorite things, and we may have seen dolphins. Darn.

Planning a trip to Hawaii? Where to see dolphins, best snorkel spot, kayaking on the big island. Visit Kealakekua Bay for kayaking, snorkeling, and dolphins







  • Sharon

    Even though it rained it still sounds like a great trip. The snorkeling and seeing the different fish I bet was a real adventure.

  • Mimi

    snorkeling is so fun! I bet in Haway is even better! 😀 xx

  • Maegan

    Ha, I like doing fun things alone too 🙂 My favorite vacation times are when we have the beach or mountains, etc. to ourselves. Your posts always make me want to go on an adventure!

  • Patricia @ Grab a Plate

    Sounds like a great day for you both! Your photos are wonderful, and I can only imagine taking in all that beauty and wildlife!

  • René Alisé

    Hawaii is on my travel list for this year. This was a great post, and it gave me a lot of ideas for excursions I’d like to try!

  • DD's blog

    I’ve never been on kayaking, this sounds fun. Amazing photos, hope you spend nice time on Hawaii 🙂

  • Stephanie

    What an adventure!!! I love all of your pictures and details about this experience! I would LOVE to go dolphin watching some time in my life. I feel like it would be so thrilling. Thank you for such a fun post, and sharing this awesome trip!!

  • Cass

    Great photos, you present the trip in such a natural way – makes me want to get out and travel more! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sarah Dean

    This looks amazing, despite the weather! I love kayaking (and snorkelling) and would love to go again some day!

  • Gabrielle Reese

    Wow, this area looks so pretty! I love the dolphins!! I really enjoy checking in on your family travel blog! 🙂 Keep up the good work!

  • Su Chanprasong

    How amazing is this – such a great adventure you’re all having.

  • Angela Hoyos

    What a fun excursion! So glad you guys had the opportunity to enjoy despite the rocky weather in the beginning. My mom wants us to go to Hawaii (Waikiki to be exact) for a week, it’s about a 10-hour flight from Toronto don’t know if it’s worth it, Thoughts?

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