An ocean and culture lover's visit to the Big Island of Hawaii would not be complete without a day at Kealakekua Bay. The sparkling clear warm waters are framed by the volcanic slopes of Hualalai accented by two very historic and different points of interest.

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Today, there are just a handful of ways to visit Kealakekua and all require proper permits. Those interested of joining a tour can sign up with Fairwind that offers full-service tours that include snorkel gear refreshments and more. Those interested in a more private experience, can rent and command their own private vessel from Kona Boat Rentals at Honokokau Harbor and spend the day not only snorkeling or diving but fishing as well. Kona Boat Rentals allows a group of up to six the freedom to chart their own course. Those who want a simpler experience are welcome to take to the bay is a kayak as a part of a legally sanctioned kayak tours operated by area tour operators Aloha Kayak or Kona Boys.

Once in the water, snorkelers will enjoy the amazingly clear waters that are filled with schools of yellow tangs, green sea turtles, and numerous Humuhumunukunukuapuaa which was once Hawaii’s state fish. On some days swimmers may be lucky enough to encounter a pod of wild dolphins or even a docile whale shark that is known to frequent the bay. The whale shark is over 35 feet in length and has a silhouette of a reef shark. However, the whale shark is not a flesh-eater. The powerful fish survives on plankton and is very curious about humans and their activities in the bay but are not known to be aggressive.

At the end of Napoopoo Road and at the entrance to the bay, there sits a well preserved ancient Hawaiian temple. Named Hikiau Heiau, it is one of the best-preserved heiaus in all the islands. The center of the heiau is mounted on 15 foot stone walls with a center platform that has an unobstructed view of the bay. Known as a luakini heiau, Hikiau is a human sacrificial temple that is dedicated to the war god Ku.

The area in and around Kealakekua Bay has great historical significance. Known as the place where westerners made contact with Hawaiians when Captain James Cook’s, along with his sailing master William Bligh fleet, entered the bay looking to provisions. Many say that the sails of the Discovery and Resolution appeared to natives as the Hawaiian god Lono.  Therefore the proper protocol was followed and the captain and crew were greeted and honored. Discord developed when Cook was informed that the Discovery was missing and a conflict ensued resulting in the death of Captain James Cook on February 14, 1779. A simple white obelisk monument stands as a memorial to the ocean explorer.

Visitors to Kealakekua Bay are asked to observe the proper respect for not only the Cook Monument but also the Hikiau heiau. Visitors are asked to not climb in and around the sites, refrain from leaving trash or removing rocks, or otherwise desecrating the sites.

Recently, the Hawaii State Department of Land and Natural Resources initiated a ban on those who rent kayaks along the bay pier. Authorized vendors will have the proper permits to operate and visitors should inquire about this permit before making any kind of arrangements or agreements.

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