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Where to See Turtles on the Big Island of Hawaii

Here are the best places to spot the inspiring shelled creatures, known locally as "honu."
Hi, I'm Madigan!

Madigan Talmage-Bowers is a writer based in Denver, Colorado. She has also lived in Italy, San Francisco, and New York City, where she studied media theory at the New School. She loves introducing her kids to ancient history, local art, hiking trails, and new foods on adventures around the globe.

A favorite Big Island thrill is the sight of wild green sea turtles popping their heads above the surface or swimming next to you underwater. Here are the best places to spot the inspiring shelled creatures, known locally as honu.

And wherever you go to spot turtles on the Big Island, remember to respect these wonderful, wild animals. It is illegal to touch a sea turtle in Hawaii. Also, be sure to avoid feeding turtles or swimming above above them, as this can prevent them from surfacing for air.

Kahaluu Beach Park

The blue waters of Kahaluu Beach Park.
This beach park is the best place to spot turtles.Photo Credit: ARTYOORAN / Shutterstock

One of the Big Island’s most reliable turtle-spotting destinations, this beach park right in Kailua-Kona makes an easy pit stop during a day of sightseeing. While not an official marine sanctuary, the protected, shallow lagoon is a big draw for novice snorkelers as well as the sea turtles and fish they come to admire.

Kiholo Bay

The shallow lagoons of Kiholo Bay.
These shallow lagoons are a great place to snorkel.Photo Credit: DonnerMike / Tripadvisor

Visitors who tackle the hike down from the highway to reach this rocky lagoon in Kohala are often rewarded with excellent, uncrowded views of sea turtles. Bring snorkeling gear, as you may be able to get a close look if water conditions are calm.

Honaunau Bay

A turtle swimming in Honaunau Bay.
These protected waters are a big draw for snorkelers and sea turtles.Photo Credit: MZ Photos / Shutterstock

Bordering a former place of refuge for ancient Hawaiians fleeing persecution, today this historic site south of Kailua-Kona offers shelter from sea swells. The protected, clear waters are a big draw for snorkelers, and sea turtles are often seen swimming in the bay. Try to arrive early to beat the crowds.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach

Turtles on the black sand beach at Punaluu.
Here, you can spot turtles outside of the water on the black sand or lava rocks.Photo Credit: Pavel Tvrdy / Shutterstock

If you’d prefer to glimpse sea turtles without getting wet, try Punaluu Beach. Keep an eye out for turtles bobbing in the surf or sunning themselves on the distinctive black sand and lava rocks. No snorkeling mask or fins required.

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