My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Boomer Adventure on the Kona Coast

2012/03/07by Donna Hull

Updated 02.01.2014

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Snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay.  Photo Courtesy Captain Zodiac.

Snorkeling is one of our favorite active travel experiences. Add a fast ride in the ocean on a zodiac raft and Alan and I are in adventure heaven. During our 2012 Seabourn Odyssey cruise from Sydney to Los Angeles, we had several snorkeling opportunities; but the cruise excursion with Captain Zodiac in Kona, Hawaii, proved to be the best boomer adventure of all.

After Odyssey anchored near Kona, a short tender ride deposited us at the pier where we signed release forms with the Captain Zodiac crew. Although this is definitely a fun ride, it’s a bumpy one that’s not intended for boomers with bad backs or other serious medical conditions.

Once our group of 12 found a seat on the sides of the raft, Captain Zodiac assistant, Stacia, stowed all of our gear and made sure that we were comfortable. Then Captain Colin discussed safety rules.

“Grab onto the outside rope with one hand and use your other hand to hold one of the safety bars inside the raft. Don’t forget to place your feet under the rope on the floor,” Colin said as he started the zodiac’s motor.

“Oh,” Colin said pointing at the straw hat that has traveled the world with me, “you might want to let Stacia put that away for you.”

I was glad that I followed Colin’s advice when the wind ripped through my hair as he headed the raft towards the open ocean.

Blam! The zodiac hit a wave, rose slightly in the air and landed back on the water spraying us with a fine ocean mist. I grabbed the outside rope in a death defying grip. The boomer adventure was on.

On the way to the snorkeling site at Kealakekua Bay, Colin and Stacia talked about Kona sea life as we looked for whales. A spout of water appeared in the distance, too far away from the raft to quickly check out.

“Look, a fin,” a zodiac passenger called out.

Soon, we were cruising next to a hammerhead shark that appeared to be as curious about us as we were about him. He glided next to the zodiac for several minutes before continuing his journey.

At Kealakekua Bay, Colin positioned the raft in front of the Captain Cook Monument (Captain Cook was killed here in 1779 after several skirmishes between his crew and the Hawaiians.) Before entering the pristine waters of Kealakekua Bay, a Marine Life Conservation District, Colin cautioned against stepping on the coral or going ashore, which requires a separate permit.

But who wants to explore the shore when there’s a large, healthy coral reef that’s alive with sea life? Although the water was a bit cold, the abundance of colorful fish kept me distracted.

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Exploring a sea cave on the Kona Coast. Photo courtesy Captain Zodiac.

When it was time to warm up, I climbed the ladder, stopping just before entering the zodiac to receive a refreshing spray of fresh water from Stacia, which washed off the sea salt. Soon, I was munching on fresh pineapple and maui onion chips while comparing snorkeling sightings with fellow passengers.

On the return trip to the pier, the zodiac traveled close to Kona’s shoreline where lava tubes reveal the island’s volcanic history. Colin explained more about Hawaii’s geology as he expertly nosed the raft into one lava cave and then another.

Whale watching and snorkeling plus lessons on history, geology and vulcanology—Captain Zodiac offers a quality excursion that Alan and I are happy to recommend. And the best part—you don’t have to be traveling on a cruise excursion to experience this boomer adventure on the Kona Coast.

Boomer Adventure Travel Tips:

  • Wear a bathing suit with a coverup to shield the sun’s rays.
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses, flip-flops or beach shoes.
  • Apply sunscreen before the excursion so that it dries before reaching the protected waters of Kealakekua Bay.
  • Use the quality snorkeling gear provided by Captain Zodiac, including non-fog spray.
  • Bring a pocket camera but leave the good one back on the ship or at your hotel. Better yet, forget photography for a change and concentrate on the experience. That’s what we did.
  • Embrace the ride. It’s wild and bumpy but oh, so fun.

Thinking about visiting Hawaii? Check out all of our Boomer Adventures in Hawaii for some of our best experiences in this beautiful state!

Have you snorkeled at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii’s Kona coast? Post a comment to share your experience. Alan and I can’t wait to return for another fun boomer adventure with Captain Zodiac.



A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of New Mexico Backroads Weekend Adventure.

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