Sandy beach
Hike-in Required
Snorkeling / SCUBA
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Hōnaunau Bay has some of the best snorkeling in the area, and the easiest place to access it is here at Pae'a, which is also known as Two Step because of the easy entrance into the water. While the lava shelf that dominates this area may not appear inviting for lounging around, it makes for an ideal platform for entering the bay; just take a seat on the edge, hold your mask in place, and scoot off into the water. The entrance gets a little tricky when swells come in, but when the water is calm, the area really lives up to its nickname. Keep an eye out for spinner dolphins and sea turtles. A small beach area sits just to the south of the boat ramp, and this is a great spot for smaller kids to splash around as it is so protected from the rest of the bay.

Two Step is light on amenities (a restroom was under construction at the time of writing), but you'll find picnic tables, barbecues, and a row of portable toilets near the road. This area gets plenty of attention, so use caution when walking near the road, and you may as well resign yourself to paying for parking across the street.

Alternately, make a snorkel trip the second half of a blockbuster day and spend the morning exploring Pu'uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park, which sits adjacent to Two Step. This phenomenal stop shouldn't be missed, and a parking spot comes with the entrance fee. 

Logistics + Planning



Parking Pass

Not Required


Great snorkeling. Easy access. Small, kid-friendly beach. Boat ramp.


Crowded. Basic amenities.


Historically significant
Picnic tables
Tide pools
Tide pools



I agree this is probably one of the best "kid friendly" snorkel spots and it is definitely more likely to have solid snorkeling year round due to the protected bay. I've been in the winter months and seen whales off the bay, too. Many people don't realize that if you walk along the shore heading northwest, there are a ton of arches and blowholes. The "trail" is called "City of Arches" on the Honaunau Coast. I recommend hiking the city of arches trail, cooling off with some snorkeling afterwards. Have lunch in the National Park--Place of Refuge, which has an awesome picnic spot beyond the walled compound (drive through the parking lot and keep going and it takes you to the park along the water). Then visit the Place of Refuge, where I've seen whales very close to the shore and endangered monk seals hanging out on the beach. It would be a solid day! And you'd only need to park in one spot (the national park is easiest).
Two Step is my favorite snorkeling spot on the Big Island. Two naturally created lava steps make getting into the water much easier compared to other snorkeling spots. While getting into the water is usually a breeze, It can be difficult to get out if the ocean is choppy. The sea life at Two Step is abundant. There's plenty of coral, fish, and turtles so be sure to bring your underwater camera. Last time I was there a pod of spinner dolphins decided to swim right up to us. Someone took concrete blocks and spelled out the word "Aloha" on the ocean floor (it has been several years since my last visit to Two Step so I'm not sure if the "Aloha" is still there). Two Step is conveniently located next to the Pu'uhonua O Honaunau Historic Site which is definitely a must-see. You'll likely have to pay for parking at the historic site in order to access Two Step so you might as well visit the site while you're at it.
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