Abundant marine life, scenic backshore, clear water, easy entry*, shower, and great parking: why do so few people snorkel at Mahukona Landing on the Kohala coast? Probably because the Big Island is big, and people don't stay long enough to get beyond the over-Yelped other snorkeling venues. And deep waters may be a little spooky for beginners.
Manta rays (harmless) and octopi join the usual suspects of reef life. Fish love the encrusted propeller and boilers that remain from a 1913 shipwreck.
Decrepit remains the the sugar-cane heydays skirt the backshore of the concrete landing, which dates from 1930. Mahukona Beach Park is steps away, and tiny Kapa'a Beach Park is just a mile or two up the coast, both spots with some of the best coastal camping in Hawaii. Headed south from Mahukona is a mile-long trail to Lapakahi State Historical Park (pictured below), site of a thriving village in the 1400s.
*Mahukona Landing can be hairy in high swells. Water breaking onto the concrete is a sign of an unsafe day. A ladder makes it easy to get in and out. If you find yourself in high swell, watch the surf and time your exit between swells.
Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has specific directions to popular as well as lesser-known snorkeling beaches. Specific safety precautions are noted.