Any trip to Hawaii requires some time spent searching for green sea turtles. “Honu” are one of the most sacred animals in Hawaiian culture, a beautiful reminder of the connection between people, the ocean, and the land. They also bring us back to a time when dinosaurs roamed the earth, making an encounter with these beautiful animals extremely special.
Green sea turtles are protected by state and local regulations, so be a good visitor to the islands — never feed or attempt to touch the turtles, and be sure to give them plenty of space! Here are seven of the Big Island’s most beloved beaches where you have a great chance of having your own honu encounter.
List of Beaches For Spotting Honu
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach (Ka’u District): Humans aren’t the only ones who love basking in the sun on a beach that looks like you’re walking through space. Honu love to pull themselves up on the black sand beach of Punaluu to catch some rays. Even on days when the sky is grey, visitors can still catch plenty of turtles bobbing up and down along the shore, posing for pictures.
Puako Beach (Kohala District): For a less than ordinary beach day, Puako offers plenty of hidden adventures among the reefs and tide pools of this rocky beach near Waikoloa. The clear water makes turtle spotting very easy, so bringing along snorkeling gear is a must. Sea cucumber, sea urchin, and lots of fish are also waiting for you here.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (Kona District): At this national park visitors can find honu munching on seaweed in the water or taking in some sun along the shoreline. The park even offers weekly “Turtle Talks on the Beach” where visitors can learn more about the feeding habits, life cycle, and unique features of the Hawaiian green sea turtle every Saturday at 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.
Kiholo Bay (Kona District): This series of tide pools inside a bay boasts beautiful turquoise water that results from the mix of fresh and saltwater. The nearly 1.5 mile hike in makes this more of an adventure than your typical beach day, but the wonders and history that await are well worth it. Turtles can be found resting on the black sand island in the middle of the lagoon, as well as along the rest of the pool. Be sure to bring drinking water and snorkeling gear.
Carlsmith Beach/Four Miles (Hilo District): Carlsmith is one of the most pleasant and easily accessible beaches to catch glimpses of turtles, most of which can be found bobbing up and down amongst the waves, a nose poking up here and there. This protected pool is an easy area for swimming, though not the best for snorkeling. The grassy areas around the shoreline make for a great place to spend the day without getting sand in your shorts.
Kahalu’u Beach Park (Kona District): Another black sand beach that honu love, the Kahalu’u Beach Park is a great place to try to swim with the sea turtles and capture that coveted underwater shot. This is a good time to remember to keep hands and feet off of both the turtles and the coral that are abundant in the area. This is a great family spot with reasonable snorkel rental rates, restroom facilities, and a shave ice truck.