If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii’s Big Island, one of the most exciting things you can do is explore the island’s incredible marine life. From sea turtles to manta rays, dolphins to humpback whales, the waters around the Big Island are teeming with incredible creatures.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most fascinating marine life you can encounter on the Big Island, as well as tips for how to see them up close.

The Big Island’s Most Popular Marine Life

When visiting Hawaii, these are some of the animals you’ll have the chance to see. While there’s plenty more interesting marine life to see, people have the most to say about these interesting creatures.

Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles

One of the most iconic creatures you’ll encounter in the waters around the Big Island is the sea turtle, also known as the honu. These gentle giants can often be seen sunbathing on the beach or swimming just offshore. 

To increase your chances of seeing sea turtles on the Big Island, head to the beaches on the Kona coast, particularly at Kahaluu Beach Park, which is known for its large population of honu. Another great spot for sea turtle sightings is the Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.

Spinner Dolphins

Spinner dolphins are a common sight off the coast of The Big Island in Hawaii. These charismatic marine mammals are known for their acrobatic displays, which include leaping out of the water and spinning in the air. 

They are a social species and are often seen swimming in anywhere from groups of 11 and up. Spinner dolphins feed at night on small fish and squid, and during the day, they rest in shallow bays and coves along the coast. Visitors to The Big Island can take dolphin-watching tours to observe these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.

Bottlenose Dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins are the most common dolphin found in Hawaii’s coastal waters. They’re well known for their playful behavior and can often be seen jumping and surfing in the waves alongside boats and even surfers. 

Just like the spinner dolphins, bottlenose dolphins are a common site in Hawaii and are best seen during boat tours.

Manta Rays

Another incredible marine creature you may encounter on the Big Island is the manta ray. These graceful giants can have wingspans of up to 20 feet or more and can often be seen gliding through the water at night. Manta rays live for at least 40 years, with longer-living manta rays living for anywhere from 50 to 75 years old.

One of the best ways to see manta rays up close is to go on a manta ray night snorkel or dive. During the excursion, you’ll float on the surface of the water while shining a light into the depths below, attracting plankton, which in turn attracts the manta rays. If you’re interested in one of the very best manta ray snorkeling opportunities in the world, come visit us at KONASTYLE or take a look at our manta ray snorkeling tours. You’ll get up close and personal with these amazing creatures. Be sure to check out our sunset manta ray snorkeling and our nighttime manta ray snorkeling adventures.

The Hawaiian Monk Seal

The Hawaiian Monk Seal is a unique and endangered species that is native to the Hawaiian Islands. With only an estimated population of around 1,500 remaining, it is one of the most critically endangered marine mammals in the world. These seals are primarily found in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, but they can also be spotted around all of the main Hawaiian Islands.

Humpback Whales

If you’re visiting the Big Island during the winter months, you may be lucky enough to see humpback whales. These massive creatures migrate to the warm waters of Hawaii each year to breed and give birth. The best way to see humpback whales and other species of whales is on a boat tour, as these giants are usually seen far offshore.

How to See Big Island Marine Life Up Close


Snorkeling is one of the best ways to see marine life up close and personal. Many of the beaches on the Kona coast offer excellent snorkeling opportunities, and you can rent gear from local vendors if you don’t have your own. Be sure to swim slowly and avoid touching or disturbing the animals. Follow basic snorkeling rules.

Scuba Diving

For a more immersive experience, consider going on a diving excursion to see marine life up close. Many tour operators on the Big Island offer diving trips to popular spots like Kealakekua Bay, where you can see dolphins, sea turtles, and colorful reef fish. While diving is a bit more technical and can require certifications etc, it’s a great option for those seeking adventure.

Whale Watching/Boat Tours

If you’re hoping to see humpback whales during your trip, consider booking a whale-watching tour. These tours are typically offered from as early as October until March at the latest and give you a chance to see these magnificent creatures up close.

Boat tours can offer a wide range of experiences beyond just whale watching. Many boat tours also offer opportunities for snorkeling, which can be a fantastic way to explore the underwater world and get up close to marine life. Additionally, boat tours may take you to areas where you can see a variety of other wildlife and scenic vistas. Depending on your location, you may be able to spot dolphins, seals, sea lions, sea birds, and other aquatic creatures. In general, boat tours are one of the best ways to get out there and see what Hawaii has to offer.

Explore the Big Island!

The waters around the Big Island are teeming with incredible marine life, from sea turtles to manta rays and dolphins to humpback whales. Whether you’re snorkeling, diving, or taking a boat tour, there are plenty of opportunities to see these creatures up close and learn more about the fascinating ecosystem that thrives in Hawaii’s waters. By following these tips and visiting the recommended locations, you can increase your chances of having an unforgettable marine life encounter on your next trip to the Big Island.

Overall, exploring the Big Island’s marine life is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Hawaii. Not only will you see some of the most incredible creatures on the planet, but you’ll also gain a deeper appreciation for the ecosystem that supports them. So don’t hesitate to don your snorkel or dive gear, hop on a boat, and set out to explore the underwater wonders of the Big Island. You won’t be disappointed!