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

hawaii-boomer-adventure-captain-zodiac

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 My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara Weibel March 8, 2012 at 10:11 am

Felt so much like I was right there with you that I had to wipe the sea spray from my face :-)
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NoPotCooking
Twitter:
March 13, 2012 at 8:31 am

Wow! This sounds like a great adventure. We snorkeled from shore while in Hawaii, but this sounds terrific.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm

I like snorkeling from a zodiac better than from shore but both are great experiences, especially in Hawaii.

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Roxanne
Twitter:
March 13, 2012 at 8:47 am

I LOVE snorkeling. I’m dive certified too, but snorkeling is like flying in water.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:27 pm

“Flying in water” – what a great description of snorkeling!

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sheryl March 13, 2012 at 9:27 am

I’m so sorry that the water scares me enough to have never been snorkeling. But I did enjoy reading about your adventure and living vicariously!
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Sheryl, they have glass bottom boats for people who are afraid to swim or snorkel. We took a glass bottom boat that included snorkeling in Vanuatu.

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MyKidsEatSquid March 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

What an amazing experience. I must admit, I’ve never quite gotten the breathing right when it comes to snorkeling, but I keep trying, and enjoying anyway!

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:29 pm

I kept having problems with my mask leaking. The crew observed me from the boat and told me that my problem is that I try to smile while I’m snorkeling. I just can’t help it. Seeing the fish and coral is so much fun that it makes me happy.

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Living Large March 13, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Snorkeling is something I’ve always wanted to do. Thanks for “taking” your readers on your adventure. I can not wait to get on one of my own!

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm

I hope there’s a snorkeling adventure in your immediate future.

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Casey March 13, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Oooh, a hammerhead shark! I’d never have the guts to get TOO close to a shark, but to see one from a boat would be awesome.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Casey, it was awesome. And we kept seeing them. Our snorkeling spot wasn’t too far away around the corner but the hammerhead’s stayed away.

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Kris
Twitter:
March 13, 2012 at 9:58 pm

I’ve not ever been aboard with Captain Zodiac but my favorite snorkel spot is not far from where you were. The water is so clear and fish are plentiful. There’s nobody there dousing me with fresh water, though!
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Kris, is that your secret Big Island snorkeling spot?

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Kerry Dexter
Twitter:
March 14, 2012 at 5:48 am

I tend to look for the mountains rather than seek underwater adventure — all the more reason I enjoyed sharing yours, Donna. thanks.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

Kerry, I’m a mountain girl too however I do enjoy snorkeling.

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Jane Boursaw
Twitter:
March 14, 2012 at 6:49 am

Oh it looks so beautiful. And warm. But hey, it’s supposed to get to 70 degrees up here in Michigan, so I might go drag my kayak into the water.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm

The water was surprisingly cold. We weren’t in long enough (for about 45 minutes to an hour) for it to be a problem. To snorkel for much longer, I would have wanted to be wearing a wet suit.

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Alexandra March 14, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Your blog always allows me to dream. I’d love to go on this trip but right now it is not in the cards.
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 19, 2012 at 7:34 pm

Dream away, Alexandra. I’ll help you.

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Steph Auteri
Twitter:
March 15, 2012 at 8:38 am

That bottom photo is gorgeous. I think I’d be satisfied with just the chance to ride that raft along the coast.
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Jeanine Barone March 15, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Sounds like a wonderful adventure. I’ve done a zodiac trip along the Kona coast and adored it.

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Susan March 24, 2012 at 1:50 am

Interested in more on this island. Haven’t ever been to Hawaii and anxious to go.

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Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 24, 2012 at 6:19 am

Hi Susan, hope you get to visit Hawaii soon. We have many posts about the Big Island, including: slow food dining in Hawaii, visiting Place of Refuge on a cultural adventure, hiking to a green sand beach,horseback riding in Waipi’o Valley and a review of a fantastic off-the-grid bed and breakfast.

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Johan Horak
Twitter:
September 6, 2012 at 1:37 am

Hi Donna that sounds like a lot of fun. I like warm water and snorkelling. I see you said the water was a bit cold. Well I suppose it’s not as cold as the water in Cape Town. Here we snorkel as well but I will not go outside of the protected areas in the White Shark season. HA ha.

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Bob February 23, 2013 at 3:31 pm

Donna,

I really enjoyed your adventure. Even though I grew up in Southern California I never tried snorkeling until we took the whole family on a Caribbean cruise. We snorkeled in Grand Cayman, Belize, and off the Yucatan coast of Mexico.

I loved it — and so did my wife and two younger sons who were with us. They were about 16 and 21 the first time. We did it again on a second cruise. It is a really special feeling to watch beautiful fish and turn and see your sons right next to you.

My youngest son came home and took scuba lessons and became qualified and licensed.

I only wish I would have started when I was younger.
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Carmen February 6, 2014 at 8:20 am

Wow, this looks like loads of fun. Do you scuba dive too? We love it – we just got our PADI recently.
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Sand In My Suitcase
Twitter:
February 20, 2014 at 10:00 am

We too have zoomed along the Hawaii coast with Captain Zodiac. Your post is so spot on! It was loads of fun going at top speed with our hair flying in the wind, and then slowing down to nose into the sea caves like you show in your photo. Stunning rock formations…
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Sheryl February 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm

I’ve always wanted to snorkel but there is one major problem: I am a poor swimmer and afraid of deep water. Can you snorkel while wearing a life vest?
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Retirement Media
Twitter:
February 23, 2014 at 10:53 am

I have done the zodiac raft in Barbados but not in Hawaii. These are made for those close up adventures into the lave tubes and caves. I bet that is quite trilling. Also I bet you see nature close up too. -Robert
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Donna Hull
Twitter:
February 24, 2014 at 8:12 pm

It was a lot of fun, Robert. But the snorkeling was the best part.

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