Freediving Hawaii Guide | The Best Places to Freedive on Big Island
Updated: Mar 25
Hawaii offers some of the best freediving in the world and the Big Island has some of the best freediving in Hawaii. This guide highlights some of the best places to freedive on the Big Island of Hawaii. When it comes to freediving Hawaii start with the Big Island and go from there.
I'm Byron Kay the owner of Kona Freedivers. I've been holding my breath and swimming underwater since I was 1 year old. Having learned to freedive here in Hawaii, competing as a competetive freediver, spearfishing, and running several snorkel and dive companies I have also had the opportunity to travel around the world to dive some of the most remote and exotic locations. I'm also an Fii freediving instructor who teaches freediving courses among our other instructors.
When it comes to the sport of freediving it's small but growing fast. Plenty of new freedivers are getting into the sport but it can be challenging to find the tools and resources to make use of your newfound superpowers. I founded Kona Freedivers to serve this growing community. Fortunately you don't have to dive all around the whole island like I did to find some of the best freediving Big Island has to offer.
If you're looking for places for spearfishing Big Island check out this Page.
"This guide is for freedivers looking to freedive the best spots on the Big Island of Hawaii."
Freediving Hawaii Guide
Freediving Hawaii: Know Before You Go
Before you hit the warm clear waters of Hawaii Island's coast it's important to know a few things.
First you must have the proper training. It's important to take a freediving course so you understand the importance of safety and how to do it properly. This could save you or your buddy's life and is the foundation for safe and effective freediving. Half of Hawaii's deaths in the ocean are from freediving in an unsafe way. Freediving Hawaii without taking a course would be like driving a car without taking a drivers ed course or getting a licence it's just plain wrong!
Second it's important to have the proper freediving gear. You will learn about freediving equipment in your freediving class but just in case you missed some information you can swing by our shop and rent or buy the right stuff. Our trained pro's will get you set up with what you need to look and feel good in the water.
Finally you should be aware of the ocean conditions. While it can make your dive uncomfortable to be in rough waters it can also make it unsafe. This is especially the case when getting in and out of the water. The sites detailed here are all located on the western (Kona Side) because the conditions and reefs here are typically better than on the north, south, or eastern sides of the island.
Are you ready to see what The Big Island of Hawaii has to offer?
To see how to get to these sites and for more Freediving site ideas check out our map
The Best Places to Freedive on The Big Island, Hawaii
Super interesting topography
Lots of Friendly Turtles
One of our favorite places to scuba dive is also a great spot for freedivers looking for interesting topography, good marine life, and a chill vibe with a nice coastal drive. One major thing to look out for is the northwest winter swell and the wind which can pick up drastically and make for some serious wind chop on the surface.
One of the best parts about this spot is the underwater topography. There's a number of canyons, caves, caverns, swim-throughs, and even a chimney. This makes for some fun breathold swims as you navigate through the dark with skylights telling how to get back to the surface.
The marine life here is good. Large schools of butterfly fish can be found in 20-30 feet of water. There's no real need to go deeper than 30-40 feet here. In the shallows you can find schools of tangs and even the occasional giant spotted eagle ray munching in the sand. The turtles here are especially friendly because there is a turtle cleaning station nearby. It's not often you will have a turtle swim right up to you but here it's much more common.
Since this site faces northwest it's important to recognize that any swell over 3 feet will make it a real challeng to get in and more importantly out of the water. Since this site is located smack dab in the middle of the saddle it can sometime get a wind channel effet where the wind gets up over 30+ miles per hour. It can be a bit scary when it sneaks up on you.
Multiple shools of fish
Easy access to deep water
Plenty of great stuff to see in shallows
Easily one of the best places to freedive on the Big Island fishbowl is unique among the sites listed here. We think this is because of it's relative difficulty to access from shore making it a private spot that you will be privileged to have all to yourself!
In the shallows, you will find a lava rock arch and some overhangs with nudibranchs and fish hiding out. On the north end of the site large schools of fish aggregate in the rocks at around 20-25 feet of water. It's like swimming in an aquarium! The topography of the bay feels like an amphitheater where the reef slopes off quickly. While this is not common when freediving Hawaii it is common when freediving Kona.
Pawai Bay or Pawai Arches is located near Kona town. It's not easily accessible from shore so you're going to want to take a boat. It's well protected from the winter northwest swell which is nice. There's plenty of reef life here with many large schools of fish. You'll see many eels as well. One of the highlights is the prevalence of arches and swim-throughs as well as overhangs and caves that make for some interesting exploratory dives. One of the better dive spots on the island this is a marine protected area that prohibits fishing.
Road to The Sea
Green Sand Beach
Dramatic deep drop off
Fun off-road adventure
One of the most difficult to get to sites on the island but also one of the most dramatic and rewarding spots. This is easily in the top best places to freedive on Big Island.
The rugged coastline requires a decent 4x4 vehicle like a Jeep to access. Once you're there cinder dunes obscure a lagoon with a nearby green sand beach. Head south over a dune and down the coast to find an easy entry. It can get windy so early is better. Once in the water you'll be greated by some of the most pristine coral on the island. There's a small rock wall in the shallows in around 30 feet of water (10 m). As you head out towards the depths you'll encounter a steep dropoff from about 70ft down to the depths. This deep wall is a great place to spot pelagic critters like ulua and hammerheads. Definitely a day trip or even an overnight kind of experience.
Mile Marker 4
Close to Kona Town
Good marine life
This is one of the more popular spots in Kona to shore dive. This is because of a combination of the proximity to town and the great features underwater here.
There's a cavern on the south end of the site that has a dramatic canyon and a lava rock arch nearby. You can often see mantas, turtles and loads of eels here. All in all a good spot when you consider the commute is minimal for people staying in Kona town.
Facilities and food nearby
Large Shools of Jack Mackeral
Marine Protected Area
Easily one of the best places to freedive on Big Island this site is not only located right in the middle of all of the action, it has some really great marine life.
There's a nearby lagoon, showers, and bathrooms as well as restaurants all up and down the main drag Ali'i drive. There's even a rack to keep your dry stuff on while you're out in the water. Keep in mind the pier means there's a fair amount of boat traffic here. If you keep to the swim lane you should be okay. Bring a buoy for shure here.
The marine life is surprisingly good here as it's a protected area. Schools of Moi, the King's fish, can be seen numbering 20 strong with large individuals. Tritons trumpets can be found munching on urchins on the sandy bottom near the reef. You can find snake eels and crabs in the sand. Boxfish and puffers are also common here but the real showstopper are the large schools of Akule fish that gather in the thousands in the shallows. Find a ball and dive down into the middle and they will surround you in a slow moving donut wall of fish. Predators like Kohala (amberjack), and Omilu (blue fin trevally) will dart into the school making for a dramatic effect that can be heard underwater. Large animals are not common here although dolphins will rest nearby on occasion.
Good fish life
Easy access to depth
Extremely well Protected
There's plenty to like about two step also known as Honaunau. Located just north of the national park this bay is so well protected it looks more like a lake than the ocean most of the year. If it's rough here it's going to be rough everywhere! The bay is often used by freedivers to practice line diving in the deeper parts of the bay. If there's on place that singify's Freediving Hawaii this is it!
There's porta loos but no showers here. Benches under the tree shade can accomodate you otherwise it's all hot black lava rock. The tidepools can contain little snowflake eels and others.
The reef slope begins at around 25 feet and drops to the sand at about 80 feet. The reef here is pretty great despite all of the humans in the water all the time. It's a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The fish life is good near the entry and out on the northern point you can encounter pelagic life including hammerheads, pelagic mantas, and Kamanu (rainbow runners).
There's a cavern in the northern part of the bay's shorline with 3 entrances. Stay out if the swell is up! There are also 2 ALOHA signs made from coral rock and cinderblocks. One is at 25 feet near the entry and another is on the southern reef slope heading out towards the ocean at 100 feet (30 meters).
Ready to Get Wet Yet? Hold Up a Sec!
Freediving some of the sites above can be a bit tricky. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Swing by the shop if you're not sure about your gear setup or call us for advice on conditions and where to go to see what. (808)464-6584.
Freediving Equipment for shore entry
A float will tell boats in the area you are there. It's also required by law if you're more than 100' from shore. It's pretty easy to exceed that so you'll definitely want to rent or buy a float.
If you're planning to dive from shore it's best to have some durable booties to protect your feet and improve your grip on slippery algae covered rocks. Kona Freedivers has kevlar booties that are nearly indestructible and made just for kona diving.
Now that you're all set get out there and see what freediving Hawaii has to offer!
About the Author
Byron Kay is a freediving instructor and the founder of Kona Freedivers and owner of Kona Honu Divers as well as Kona Snorkel Trips. They stand out as Hawaii's top rated and most reviewed businesses among their peers having a perfect 5 star rating on google. To learn more about Byron and his latest goings on visit his bio page.