Place of Refuge
The Place of Refuge is a 'must-do' site. The drive to get there is wonderful, the entry is easy, and the diving is great. Turtles abound! The facilities are a little sparse. Take some water and a picnic lunch. There are porta-potties on the site.
Directions: From Kealakekua Bay, you can continue to travel South on Highway 160 for 3.2 miles to find the turn off. If this is your first destination of the day, you can take a faster route: from Kailua, drive south on Highway 11 for about 19 miles, well past Captain Cook. Take a right on Highway 160, Ke Ala o Keawe Road, (about mile mark 104) to Kealakekua Bay, and wind your way about 3.5 miles down to the ocean.
ShoreDiving Survival: Campaign for Patrons
Please click HERE to learn how, for $1 a month,
YOU can help sustain and grow ShoreDiving by becoming a Patron!
A very warm 'Thank You' to all the one-time and continuing contributors.
Because of you, after 20 years, we are becoming Ad-Free and Tracking-Free!!!
Place of Refuge Patrons: Please consider becoming a Patron
for Place of Refuge
* Kona Shore Divers (Great White) -- our web page -- Our goal is to give you the opportunity to share and explore the underwater world in and around the near shore waters of Kailua-Kona. We focus on small group sizes and strive to offer the best personalized service we can to our guests. From the first timer to the old timer come with us and see what the Kona Shore has to offer!
Dive Site Links: (If you have a
relevant link for Place of Refuge, please write us
No external links have been submitted.
here to write a Site Review, and share any new information about this site!
06/20/2019 Sharon from LA (Avg: 2.90 Review) - This place is totally overrated, imho. Over crowded with snorkelers and just people in general, horrible facilities (porta potties) and if you can't get there early enough (like before 7am) you have to pay $5 to park. The diving is meh (better for snorkeling). Yes, the entry is pretty easy, but you have to wait in line to get in because of all the other people waiting to get in. If you are like me and don't like crowds then this is not the place for you. Alua is 100 times better and no crowds. The only good reason to go here is to stop by the Coffee Shack for breakfast or lunch. Amazing local restaurant with great views.
02/18/2018 Grant Wiscour (Avg: 3.69 Review) - We did several dives at Two-Step in January-February 2018. Water was generally agreeable even in winter. Kick out and drop down at the first Aloha. To the north end of the bay is some structure to check out if the surge & current allow. Otherwise, follow the reef to the drop off and follow south. The second Aloha is a good marker to begin your slow loop back to the entry/exit. Lots of fish, eels, turtles and a few sharks and rays to be spotted.
11/13/2017 Jim O (Avg: 2.38 Review) - It was in 2011 when I last dove this site and it nearly breaks my heart to see how much the site has deteriorated in these short 6 years. I vividly remember the colorful giant mushroom coral heads and all of the life that lived around this once, healthy reef system. This reef is no longer healthy with heavy mortality and much bleaching. We went there on a Monday and there were easily 150 people hanging out, snorkeling and two other divers. The other divers rejected the idea that the destruction of this reef could be a result of changing pH values and warmer temperatures, instead blaming it on a sewage leak this past summer (2017) near Kailua-Kona. They then proceeded to tell me the reef has really deteriorated over the last 2 years (?). We saw similar problems to varying degrees on every other dive site all the way up to Puako. There are small, widely space coral heads that seem to be resistant and we did notice that areas that are getting heavily washed by the surf still seem mostly healthy even though they are quite shallow. I'm not going to review any more sites from this trip. It's too depressing. I will say this though, if you care about these reefs, you better get involved trying to change things before they only exist as a memory or photo.
07/29/2017 David R. (Avg: 3.49 Review) - Here is the deal. Of the three sites we went shore diving on the Big Island in July, the other two being Mile Marker 4 and Puako Village End, I would actually rate this the hardest entry/exits of the three. There are two problems. The place can be overwhelmed by snorkelers all of whom are trying to enter and exit from the same place. So it can be a waiting game because of both the volume of people and the inexperience. But on top of that, when the tide is low, getting out is difficult because finding the leverage to get onto the first 'step' is not easy. If the tide is high, it is much easier. Once in the water, it is easy enough to get far away from the snorkelers. And you don't have to go far to hit the wall and be able to achieve as much depth as you might want. We bottomed out at 70 feet or so, but could have easily gone deeper and seen some nice things. We dove south along the wall to hit the second and deeper 'Aloha' sign on the sandy bottom at the edge of the way. A large reef shark was resting there. We saw turtles and a lot of marine life. The visibility was excellent. Very enjoyable dives. Beat the crowds if you can by getting there early. Also it is worth paying the $5 for the parking right by the site. It makes everything easier.
09/07/2016 Grant Wiscour (Avg: 4.24 Review) - My wife and I did several dives at Two Step. Our guide was Garry from Sugar Cottage. We did the South Side dive and the North Side dive. Both directions have great reef and rock structure and plenty of fish and animals. The reason that lots of folks come to Two Step is because that it is so easy to see so much. Towards the Northwest there are free diving lines...interesting to see folks at 50' or more without SCUBA gear. We saw all the usual suspects at this dive site and thoroughly enjoyed our dives. Parking is $5 in the Church parking lot if not full. Otherwise, hump your gear from up the street. We pay the $5. Entry is easy...wait until the snorkelers are out of the way by the Two Steps, inflate your BC and throw it in. Jump in afterwards and put on the BC in the water. We'll be back...not sure when but hopefully soon.
08/07/2016 Mike Byrne (Avg: 4.42 Review) - 8/7/2016 Dove with my friend Jordan Forth who is also my personal trainer at M2 Fitness. We Dove the outside of the bay had great viability 70+ feet. Lot of large coral formations and Pinnacle's. Lots of tropical fish and turtles. On the way back in we swam along the drop off and stopped for many photos. Great place for diving or snorkeling or just swimming.
07/10/2016 Mike Byrne (Avg: 4.31 Review) - 7/10/2016 Dove with my wife Katie. We Dove the outside of the bay and swam with four turtles. On the way back in we came across a very large hammer head shark which made for incredible photos. He swam with us for a good ten minutes then swam off into the deep. Water visibility was great but had a slight swell. Lots of tropical fish and beautiful coral formations. Great place for diving or snorkeling.
06/08/2016 Sarina (Avg: 3.83 Review) - We did this site last week as a good intro site. Lots going on here with coral and animal populations which was fun to see. Went during the day and had a hard time finding parking. Ended up pulling up in front of the toilets and dumping gear, then parking up the road. By the end of the day there was a spot to pull into when we needed to load up. Returned the next night for a night dive. I wouldn't recommend this site for a beginner night dive. There are no shore lights to help with navigation as you return and it can be disorienting. If you have someone to keep a light on for you at the shore, it would work better. The local (homeless) gentleman was annoyed by our lights as we scanned the shore for our exit point and came out to shine a light for us. That was very kind, but he kept muttering something about us doing the wrong thing. I was puzzled, we were trying to be as courteous as possible and had our dive buoy just as required. I think he was annoyed that we were shining lights at 8:30 pm. Our night dive was more interesting. The fish were sleeping. My daughter watched a butterfly fish swimming sort of aimlessly and slowly. It tipped over and started swimming on it's side, so she gently righted it and it just kept going as though it happens all of the time. The parrotfish were tucked into the rocks, so it was impossible to appreciate their sleeping bubbles. There were tons of segmented tube worms out working the reef at night though! Wow! We saw a slipper lobster and a sea hare too, those were real treats. My daughter said she saw a nudibranch, but I missed it. There are probably better places for a night dive where there is some shore light for orientation, but it is quite lovely and the entry/exit was easy.
05/24/2016 Perry in Seattle (Avg: 3.63 Review) - Excellent shore dive. One of the few dives we have done on big island with very easy entry. Exit can be a little tricky if there is a surge. Swimming out in southerly direction there are finger reefs with lots of turtles. Dive to the right in more Northerly direction and you can swim along wall. We also snorkeled out a little farther and swam with Spinner Dolphins. Morning is best time. Church rents parking for only $5.
05/23/2016 Mike Byrne (Avg: 4.46 Review) - 5/22/2016 Dove with my wife Katie. Water conditions were perfect. As soon as we entered the water and started swimming out we spotted a white tip reef shark. We then swam out to the pinnacle on the south side and dove around the large coral formations on the outside of the bay. On the way back in we followed the drop off and spotted an eagle ray. Great dive.
04/18/2016 Mike Byrne (Avg: 4.38 Review) - 4/17/2016 Dove with my wife Katie. We Dove the outside of the bay. Beautiful pinnacles and large coral formations. On the way back into the bay we swam back through the coral flats. Great visibility and water conditions. One of the best dives on the island.
01/09/2016 Lisa Davis (Avg: 4.45 Review) - We were looking for an easy location as our first Hawaii dive to ensure proper weighting- we really enjoyed this location! It has portable bathroom facilities, free and paid ($5 at the church for VERY close parking) parking. Did 3 dives here over the course of our trip. The first was a two step off the rock to 80' at the North (right) part of the cove; coral and fish galore. The next two we entered further to the South (left) on the rock in about 20-40' of water and saw turtles, trumpet fish and puffers. Visibility in January was easily 100' with no surge and no waves. We were told that a dive float was required so we towed one. There is a small boat ramp so be advised that there are occasionally boats. Locals and tourists hanging out on the rocks. There were also a lot of snorkelers near the entry/exit but moved out of the way as we were exiting. On exit, there is one part of the rock that is a bit of a shelf so step on up!
07/13/2015 Anonymous (Avg: 4.03 Review) - SUPER easy entry/exit at the '2 Step'. Very good for beginners and intermediate divers to practice navigation skills. Going South will take you to plate coral, turtles and tons of fish! North will take you to a beautiful dive and even a Reef Shark den if you are lucky enough to find them home asleep. Arrival in the mornings will bring dolphins that are eager to play and afternoon will bring dolphins that are 1/2 resting and 1/2 swimming. Do be respectful when they are resting- you wouldn't want tons of people screaming and yelling when you are napping ; )
06/16/2015 Anonymous (Avg: 3.56 Review) - Got there early in the morning, 8:30am. This was our first time diving by ourselves. It was very easy getting in. We had a very enjoyable dive. We saw the ALOHA sign (which is made out of cinder blocks). We took our time and We spent most of our time at 35 to 40 feet swimming over the reefs. When it was time to get out , the waves picked up and this made it a little bit of a challenge to climb up the Two Steps with the waves hitting us. There were about 15 other divers out in the water with us. It was cool running into them as we swam along. So we give it a thumbs up to go and check out
10/30/2013 Chicagodivermom (Avg: 4.52 Review) - I dream about this place. This is the only place I am 100% comfortable diving with just my hubby and I. Here is the scoop, it is 2 dives. 1) your deeper dive, do first. Head out at a 1 pm heading to the right, then pass over Aloha rocks at about 30 feet, head to the wall. You can go as deep as you allow at the wall, we kept it to about 60. Turn around when you have more than 1/2 a tank left. We usually went back at 30 mins. dive 2) head out to the left about 11 am heading, go around and out and you will see completely different rounded corals. Again, turn back when you still have more than half a tank. Stay shallower than dive number 1. Bring a lunch. This is probably my favorite dive of all time.
06/29/2013 Mike from Honolulu (Avg: 3.77 Review) - Good site, easy entry, coral and marine life in good shape, turtles and spinner dolphins while we were there, good for snorkeling!
06/06/2013 Jim Olinger (Avg: 3.88 Review) - This one is a MUST if shore diving the Big Island. There is much written here so I would just add there are actually two ALOHA cement brick structures. The first is just to the right of center as you head straight away from the entry. 30' (or 10 meters) sounds about right for the depth. If you go just a ways past it, the depth drops off and you can swim north along a sloping wall of coral at about 60-70' depth until you hit 1/2 tank (beyond that I don't know). If you head south instead, the depth increases until you come to the 2nd ALOHA which is larger and located on the sandy bottom, probably more like 30-35 meters of depth. It either took a few divers several dives to put it together, or a whole team of folks who could have built it in a dive or two. (I gotta get a UW camera for these things!) Enjoy!!!
11/05/2012 Sarah M (Avg: 3.24 Review) - This is an evaluation for Two-Step. I did some snorkeling and freediving here, and the internet could NOT tell me how deep the 'A L O H A' cinder blocks were. The ALOHA cinder blocks are at a depth of exactly 30 feet. All in all, gorgeous snorkel site and great for freediving. Seems silly for a dive spot, it was shallow everywhere, so no need to be strapped up with tanks. Lots of life and coral. Unfortunately tons of people though. People everywhere. Go on a weekday, Sundays are significantly more crowded than weekdays.
10/10/2012 Dean (Avg: 4.17 Review) - This was our first dive when we arrived in Jan 2010. We read about it here and had high expectations...which were met. Do this dive. It can be popular - busy, but limited scuba - lots of snorkelers which are on top anyway. Access is to the right of the national park - confusing so do yourself a favor avoid the gate - turn around and tuck yourself down the tight residential road and look to park on the side - respect locals property. It is also called two step for the 'two rock steps' in on the far centre point of entry. Be careful dumping your gear on the top of the rocks - it may get washed off due to surge. This actual two step entry is somewhat dangerous - all in or you will be smashed into the rocks. Step in push out - period. Stick you face in the water and we saw life everywhere - amazing for such a busy residential area. 10 sec later - a moray greeted us, then a ray...lots of fish life too. I did not find the cinderblocks ALOHA to be that unfriendly - they are a refuge as well and a picture opp for sure. It is shallow approx 10 meters for about 50-60m out, then it drops off at 45deg….went down to about 80 feet but the corals thinned right out fast, plus it was more sandy as well.
08/21/2012 Fernando Esguerra (Avg: 3.65 Review) - Took my girlfriend and her granddaughter. We had a fantastic dive. To get the best parking and use of a picnic table for gearing up, it is best to get there at sun up. Heard the dolphins all around us but did not see them. Saw a couple Moray eels, some puffer fish and lots of other fish. The reef was pretty shallow. The bottom of the wall was ok, but did not see anything spectacular!
05/19/2012 Bobbylee (Avg: 4.25 Review) - This was my first shore dive. I loved it. Me and my wife want to do more. It was the best diving. No boats, no waiting, just a lot of fun. We saw so many fish, and a spotted eel.
05/17/2012 Andrey S. (Avg: 3.68 Review) - Must do this site. Very easy entry and exit (two steps down into the water from the lava plateau), great life at the wall, resident spinner dolphins. Usually you can either park on the side of the road or pay $3 and park at the lot across the road if its too crowded. From the entry point navigate to heading 330 until you see 'Aloha' on the bottom, then go 270 or follow the wall out. Facilities are available at this site.
02/02/2012 Mike at Sandy (Avg: 4.29 Review) - We dove here five days in a row at daybreak. We had amazing encounters with all size creatures from dolphins, turtles, and rays to eels and vast fish varieties. We will definitely be back, daybreak here was amazing and the second dive at mid morning was always noteworthy.
12/07/2011 Colin 2 (Avg: 2.76 Review) - We dove at '2 Step' this morning. Entry was fairly easy though getting out is more of a challenge. A fair number of people were there but we were the only divers. The reef has seen better days and a lot of it is dead or dying. A fair number of fish, very few plants, a green turtle and a mysterious thing lying on the bottom that looked like - well, like a coiled up intestine. There were several of those, whatever they were. A good dive but not a great one. The reef off Alua Beach is a much better time investment.
09/02/2011 Big Bob (Avg: 3.42 Review) - Have dove this site 20 times in the 10 years living here, including a few training dives. After the dive I always ask myself why? Entry isn't really all that easy, Lots of boat traffic, (be sure to tow a flag). South bound current along shore line can be strong. If there is any kind of surf, exit can be quite tough. The site is over dove. There are better places to shore dive on the Big Island.
08/04/2011 Cranbrook Dave (Avg: 4.06 Review) - Great place to dive. Start north at 'aloha' sand bank go down along wall left or right. We have seen turtles, spotted eagle rays, and spinner dolphins so far this week. Research listening device placed at 80 ft to study impact of human interaction on dolphins so keep clear of it as a courtesy... But otherwise explore and enjoy this great site.
07/19/2011 Anonymous (Avg: 3.25 Review) - A map of the dive site is available at Jacks Diving Locker but you really don't need one. Easy parking, tables to gear up at, short walk to water, fall in, nothing easier. Visibility excellent, no surge or current, tons of life and easily navigable. Topography a bit boring so recommend taking a compass heading. Exiting among tons of kids and snorkelers onto steps was more challenging than the dive.
02/14/2011 Roland (Avg: 3.25 Review) - Great place to enjoy a nice and easy dive. Because it is a shore dive, all you have to do is rent your tanks and find a buddy. I struck up a conversation with a waiter and it turned out he dove every morning before work. I joined him on his morning dive the next day and had a great time. He was actually a photographer and took some amazing photos that I purchased from him the next day. I cant wait to return.
01/09/2011 David C (Avg: 3.82 Review) - We went down to at most 70 feet.
12/13/2010 Nathan Corn (Avg: 4.11 Review) - Had a great dive here. It really is one of the best dives on the island. Everyone says you are guaranteed to see turtles here. Unfortunately we didn't see any on our dive but a snorkeler said he saw one. We saw some crown of thorn starfish, an octopus, and all manner of reef fish. The coral formations were beautiful. Entry was a little tricky off of the steps but not bad at all. We did two tanks. To the left side of the bay there are lava rock fingers shooting off from the shore to explore. On the right side it is a fairly steep drop-off of coral. It was well worth the drive down from Kona to this spot which took about 45 min.
11/07/2010 Jim Olinger (Avg: 3.44 Review) - This really is an excellent dive site! One set of coral formations has taken on the appearance of giant, mushroom caps. The color is variable on the different corals and this whole area has an 'enchanted' feel. I didn't have a dive buddy, but got lucky when I spotted another couple of divers near the entrance and after a brief introduction and some assurance that I was a competent diver, they agreed to let me tag along. My advice is to take two tanks to this site and then go enjoy the 'Place of Refuge' State park (right next door) during your surface interval. Jim O
11/02/2010 Evan Freeman (Avg: 3.01 Review) - My first shore dive in HI, and it was excellent. No turtles, but we saw an eel, a small ray, many fish, and a nudibranch. The coral was in good shape. Other posts are correct about the ease of entry and exit. We went all the way around to the boat ramp, but should have just clambered out onto the rocks as it gets really shallow getting into the ramp's little sub-bay. Max depth was about 22m, but it would be possible though not desirable to go deeper. This was my first dive outside of Aus/Indo, so I was disappointed to not see any soft coral and fewer other creatures, but I'm told HI is not about corals, so we'll see.
09/26/2010 Nate (Avg: 3.86 Review) - Not much to add...MUST DO DIVE. Went to 95' and saw several crown of thorns starfish, humuhumunukunuku apua'a, turtles (no dolphins today) and tons of amazing fish plus one octopus in the day time.
08/06/2010 Mike Groves (Avg: 4.59 Review) - Like many have said, this is a must do dive. Great vis and lots of fish and turtles. It is best to get there early just so you can park fairly close. Otherwise it is a fairly long walk down the road, not a deal breaker by any means, but the earlier you get there the better. It was a very smooth entry in, but on exit the surf had picked up quite a bit and people were getting slammed into the rock steps. I stayed back a bit until it died down, not more than a few minutes and got out without trouble. We will do this dive again. It was one of the best we have done.
03/10/2010 John Painter (Avg: 3.70 Review) - We stayed at the home right before Place of Refuge. Beautiful home, surrounding, etc. Diving was amazing. We saw turtles, cudas, all types of fish, and of course dolphins. Very easy in and out, just time it with the current and you will be ok. Don't grab into the rocks, flat hand only. This is a dolphin refuge during the day. We've seen them while diving and snorkling, and we have pics from about 10' away. On one day we must have seen 50 or so, the other time at least 100 with babies. That day was so amazing! Did a night dive, and that was great too! If you are night diving on a full moon, turn your light off and you can see all the shrimp in the coral, thousands of eyes looking at you..lol.. This is an amazing place to dive! All levels.
10/27/2009 Don Strong (Avg: 4.31 Review) - This spot, called 2 step for its ease of entry, is one of the Best shore dives I have ever done. Saw Turtles all over the place, had a Great wall dive, and another dive went to 120 feet to the sandy bottom. It's an amazing dive for divers of all levels.
06/26/2009 Stephanie Batzer (Avg: 4.38 Review) - Each time we go to the Big Island we try to get in as many sunrise dives at Honaunau as possible. There are always surprises -- great pelagic life, lots of small fish, eels, and honu. Cannot imagine going to the Big Island and not diving there. When you do the dive at sunrise, there is virtually no other traffic with the exception of a fishing boat or two. :)
05/30/2009 Jerry Burawski (Avg: 4.70 Review) - Great dive with a big parking lot right there. Easy in and out. Got to get a picture of the ALOHA in the sand. Lots of life and great vis. You name it, you can find it here. Not only fun in the water but always people hanging out in the sun, good social spot between dives.
03/14/2009 Ann Geiger (Avg: 4.16 Review) - We try to dive here every time we make it to the Big Island. Topside it is an incredibly beautiful spot, somehow peaceful despite the number of people around. It is easily accessible by rental car and parking is quite close to the entry point (we pay $3 to use the church's lot, please do pay them, it was distressing to us to see people not respecting their honor system). The site is well-protected from swells and currents, contributing to ease of entry and exit. We use the two-step entry point on lava that is almost exactly halfway between the two points of the bay. It often is crowded with inexperienced snorkelers but people generally are polite about making way for the awkward looking fools in all that heavy gear (and they seem to appreciate a simple tip or two). There really is no way to go wrong with this site underwater...swimming around where the wall hits the sand in deeper (50 to 60 ft) water is interesting, as is staying in a bit more shallow water to either side. Have your underwater fish guide handy, as one can find the vast majority of the 100 most common fish here. For photography the great visibility and light here can white out photos, so it takes some care.
01/27/2009 Jason from Phoenix (Avg: 4.37 Review) - This was one of the best shore dives I've ever done. The sea life was fantastic… Lots of eel's and turtles. Also some very cool finds, old bottles and such. You can tell how old a bottle is by the shape and color. I've been on 2 shores dives there. You'll want to arrive early in the day as parking is VERY limited. Lots of people go there to swim and be next to the ocean. Just a fantastic day!
12/04/2008 Erick B. (Avg: 4.25 Review) - Great coral reef and healthy. Many tropical fish, saw a couple of eels. My wife was lucky enough to see a frog fish while snorkeling. One the best beach dives on the Big Island.
11/06/2008 Desert Diver (Avg: 3.33 Review) - Fairly easy to get in but the swell came up after a little while. Nobody there at 7:30 am, but when I got out an hour later it seemed the whole island showed up. Makes it difficult to get in the water with all the newbie snorkelers trying to get in and out. Great coral and lots of fish but not many eels. Only saw 1 white mouth. Other divers saw a large snowflake but I couldn't fid it. Saw a blue fin trevalley, raccoon butterfly and 4 spot butterfly. I only dove to the right of the ALOHA blocks on the sandy bottom. Great place but expect crowds.
10/23/2008 Becca (Avg: 3.78 Review) - I am a beginning diver without a lot of confidence. My husband is an advanced diver who would go anywhere and do anything. We both found this dive site a wonderful compromise. The turtles literally swam right up to us. We saw numerous eels and other marine life. Above the water was nice, too. The lava rocks were covered with yellow butterflies the whole time we were there. 1/1/2008
10/01/2008 Philip Heath (Avg: 4.47 Review) - This is the best dive I have ever been on. Twenty minutes into the dive I saw 50 dolphins for three hours. Great reef and wall.
05/01/2008 Marty (Avg: 3.79 Review) - One of my favorite snorkeling sites. Clean, deep water as soon as you go off the lava rock edge, although easier access is available at the boat ramp farther down.
04/23/2008 Jerry & Donna Hamberg (Avg: 3.30 Review) - We had a great snorkel here. After we looked around the Point of Refuge park we took our snorkel gear and proceeded to enter at the site. Upon entering we noticed that the coral was in very good condition. Latter we went out farther past the coral and had 21 spinner dolphins around us on and off for the next hour. What a delight!
03/31/2008 Joe Foster (Avg: 4.52 Review) - Dove here with my 2 boys on March 17th, 2008. I think this is great spot to limit a dive to 30 feet. We ended up going out deeper to 80 feet, but most of the life is at the surface. While we were down, a school of Spinner Dolphins came into the bay to play. Following our dive, my brother-in-law who is a quadriplegic and hadn't been in the ocean for 23 years looked like he was ready for the experience. I put a life jacket on him and lifted him into the water and when he felt comfortable put a mask on him, but he found the snorkel too hard to breath through, so I grabbed my tank and gave him my octopus. We just stayed on the surface and dragged him around, but that was the best 30 minutes of the entire trip. This site is the best I found for a family spot to allow for snorkeling while others dive.
01/01/2008 Lynlee (Avg: 3.92 Review) - This is my favorite Big Island spot. Really breathtaking with lots of species of fish, corals and plants due to the several depths you can enter. I like it best early in the AM as you can get good sunlight, and also because it can get crowded later in the day. Visibility is almost always great; I am guessing I could see 100 ft. We enjoyed snorkeling above divers in very deep water and still seeing them below--and the schools of dolphins seemed to be teasing them by swimming above them undetected. Turtles were everywhere as well…but the spinner dolphins were the stars- so many schooling and playing around us one day you just lose count . Very special place. We stayed at the Manago Hotel in Capt Cook as a base camp, and it was a good choice because we wanted to return several times while on the Big Island.
12/18/2007 Sarah Kneisel (Avg: 4.64 Review) - This is the best shore diving spot during high surf conditions because the entry is so easy. We did this dive at night for the first time and had no problem figuring out where to get in. At night, there is a timer on the light that marks the parking area, so you should leave your own flashing strobes at the entry point because the timer might expire while you are diving and you won't know where to go. At night, we saw slipper lobster, lizard fish, lots of shrimp, crab, sleeping turtles, etc. It was a 35 minute drive from the Keahou Bay area and well worth it.
11/25/2007 Jody Sedrick (Avg: 4.18 Review) - I took my newly certified son here for his 4th dive. The reef is great! We got a map of the site from Jack's Diving Locker. We found all the key sites including the Aloha made of cinder blocks. LOTS of turtles. We were told you can often see sleeping dolphins but had no luck finding them. Lots of fish and Great visibility. Entry is a cake. Good place to bring your snorkeling buddies if you want to dive.
08/15/2007 Anonymous (Avg: 3.99 Review) - Get there early (and preferably on a weekday) to find parking. I saw a pretty big whitetip cruising the reef near the drop off. Great site if you have both divers and snorkelers in your group.
04/02/2007 Mikey (Avg: 3.38 Review) - I did this dive 4 times during my time on the Big Island because of the ease of entry and amount of activities for the whole family. Only my dive buddy and I got to see the whole area because rest of my family only was snorkeling, but they still had a great time and saw a ton. Good place for turtles and almost every type of Hawaiian fish. Stay shallow around 35 feet and follow the rocks to the left or go deep and follow the wall to 70-80 feet to the right. It's a busy area but once past all the snorkelers, there aren't many people out there.
03/28/2007 Jeff Presley (Avg: 4.05 Review) - This is the best shore dive I have done anywhere with the possible exception of Casino Point, Catalina Island (California Diver.) Jan 2007 surf and surge were up, so exit was a challenge. My son and I saw many turtles, a spotted eagle ray, snowflake eel, and all of the usual Hawaiian residents (except Humuhumu…). Let me offer two cautions. 1) under the steps at two step are urchins (caught a spine under an index fingernail in the surge.) 2) If staying in Kailua of Keahaou, the road there and back tops at over 1700 ft., so give yourself some time after diving before returning. Even in the gloom of the passing storm and reduced vis., this place absolutely sparkled. The Big Island guide books prepare divers for a relative scarcity of coral, but this place put an end to that myth. The topography and coral reef structure at Place of Refuge rivals that of what I have experienced in the Caribbean. Probably an easily navigable night dive because all of the reef structure seems to point right back to the entry points. Rated the roads rather lowly because of construction and TRAFFIC!
12/24/2006 Chris in Woodstock (Avg: 4.43 Review) - My 10-year-old daughter and I did a dive at this site when we were island-hopping to Oahu, Kauai, the Big Island and Maui in late November/early December 2006. This was by far the best shore dive we did on any of the islands. The water was crystal clear with a visibility of at least 100 ft. The coral was very colorful and we saw a wide variety of fish including various types of butterfly fish, Blue Cravalle, Moorish Idols, tangs, triggerfish, puffers, wrasse, Trumpetfish, needlefish, Unicornfish, Parrotfish, blue boxfish, Yellowtail Coris (even the juveniles which resemble a Clownfish i.e. Nemo), Bluestripped Snapper, Surgeonfish, and eels. My daughter had to be especially careful not to get knocked over by the surf as we entered and exited the water. With my wife on shore to assist my daughter, entry and exit was reasonably easy. The conditions under the water were spectacular with absolutely no surge or currents. If I had to choose a single shore dive to do again on any of the Hawaiian Islands, it would undoubtedly be Two Step (Place of Refuge).
10/17/2006 Todd Callan (Avg: 4.54 Review) - Great site to dive or snorkel. Lots of people snorkeling but hardly any diving. A huge pod of spinner dolphins hung around for over an hour. Tons of turtles, tangs, eels, and other fish everywhere. Garden eels towards the mouth of the cove. Access is IMMENSELY easier to the far left at the boat ramp.
09/28/2006 Yuri (Avg: 3.22 Review) - This is a very good site, but kinda crowded with snorkelers. We did our 1st dive at 8am, and soon the surface was just packed with them. Not too many divers, though. Saw turtles, eagle ray and plenty of other stuff. Getting in and out of the water may be tricky.
09/01/2006 Lori (Avg: 3.46 Review) - Nice dive, plenty of life both human and aquatic! Last week the place was packed! Only real entry is the "two step" entry. If this is your first time and you're doubtful of where the entry is, just watch where everyone goes or ask. Be careful getting out…urchins burrowed in the steps and will stick you if you don't keep your hands flat. Great dive!
07/09/2006 Warren W. (Avg: 3.69 Review) - One of the most singular shore dive experiences I've ever had. Go just after sunrise to avoid the crowds both above water and below. We were the 2nd ones in the water and had the reef to ourselves, and a large pod of spinner dolphins came by slowly to check us out three times, the last time to within 10 ft. I've heard they move to deeper water by mid-morning when they're around. Also saw an eagle ray on the same dive.
06/22/2006 Charlie W (Avg: 3.45 Review) - Great place. The key to this site is to get there early. We arrived late and had to drop our gear at the boat ramp and park way up the road. The entry was not the easiest. The diving was awesome with tons to see. Lots of coral, turtles and small fish. The coral ends at approx 70ft.
06/08/2006 Pam O (Avg: 3.29 Review) - My favorite dive site so far in Kona. Park is crowded with both tourists and locals, so get there early. Free parking is tight but you can always shell out 2 bucks for a spot. Very easy entry on lava steps. Awesome visibility and abundant Hawaiian fish and turtles. We started at the "ALOHA" sign and circled around from there, went down to about 80ft but found the shallower depths (30-40ft) had more interesting fish.
06/01/2006 Scooter Schneider (Avg: 4.49 Review) - I call this place Two Step and although this is my first dive here, I have skin dived here dozens of times. The entry is so easy. Just sit down on the natural lava steps and slide in. I did a solo dive here and ended up joining a group of three from Japan to finish out the dive. Two Step is a great dive and easy with depths ranging from 10 feet to 109 ft. There are eels, Octo's, Rays and fish for everyone.
01/13/2006 Brian Xavier (Avg: 4.77 Review) - Dove Place of Refuge twice during my Hawaii stay. First dive ponied up, dove to 100', and looked off into the blue abyss. Man this is a nice dive site! Second dive was with my friend Kelly Robinson. We dove to about 80' a made a few wide circles around the area. Saw turtles, a few nice spotted grouper, and lots of fish. I know I will never forget this dive. What an amazing place!
12/21/2005 Shaun Rost (Avg: 3.16 Review) - This great dive is a must-do for the big island. Easy to find, and easy to get in and out of the water. Lots of fish and coral, and lots to see at any depth.
12/20/2005 Dan the man with a tan (Avg: 3.65 Review) - Best shore dive for any level diver. Park in the parking lot (only $2 on honor system to support a Christian organization), it's easier than finding street parking since it is a zoo w/ snorkelers on the weekend. South West swell was pounding everywhere except in this protected bay. The light surge affected visibility above 15ft, but all was good below that. Please use 2 step area as the surrounding area has very shallow rocks that may look deeper than they are (ouch!). Don't go in elevator to the left of entry in high surge. Watch bottom time if you go over the drop! Look for big marlin-spike auger trails in the deep. Roi hang out everywhere as well as turtles. Saw mu, huge uhu & black kumu a plenty! Go easy on the hunting in this pristine site w/ plenty of people. If it swims like me, blows bubbles like me, & looks like me......It's ME; no shoot! Dive safe.
08/17/2005 Richard in Hawaii (Avg: 3.00 Review) - I fish with a boat in and out of Honaunau and am very wary of snorkelers and divers in the area. To all who come here to enjoy the water, please be aware that the boaters have only a narrow, tricky and crooked channel to return to the boat ramp. There is no room for error in our steering correctly especially when it's rough. We'll watch for you divers and snorkelers, but please watch for us boaters, as well.
07/05/2005 Steve Porter (Avg: 4.70 Review) - Probably the best shore dive in all the islands!!! Healthy sea life you don't see on Oahu or Maui. Lots of fish; saw barracuda, dolphins, and a tiger shark. Also left a pair of fins on the wall next to the porta potty.. Came back at 2330 and they were still there. Something you don't see on Oahu.
03/31/2005 Anonymous (Avg: 3.87 Review) - Lots of turtles and lots of fish!
01/21/2005 Anonymous (Avg: 4.59 Review) - Great dive site except for the cement block graffiti; you would think local divers and divers from around the world would not allow such a disgrace. Whoever dropped the cement blocks down there smashed the reef with dozens of them, and in such a beautiful environment why would we want to read 'ALOHA' and some ass's initials?
01/07/2005 Charity Kocher (Avg: 4.53 Review) - Whoa! Two step is one of the best dives I've ever taken. Extremely easy entry, lots of healthy turtles, excellent vis. Visit the historical site next door after you dive. If you're on the Big Island, this is one dive you don't want to miss!
12/13/2004 Chad Gordon (Avg: 4.30 Review) - This was my first dive on the Big Island and, since I live on Oahu, this is sooo awesome. I dove this twice in a day on 32% which was an awesome dive. The locals said vis wasn't but 50ft but their version of 50ft just add 100ft to that and that is what vis was. I was down at 130 and could look up and see the sun. Both dives were nice but I felt pretty uneasy when another diver asked to dive with us and he didn't even have a buddy or a pony bottle -- C'mon guys, use your heads and remember that your life isn't ever worth losing for a stupid dive. There were some cool blocks that say ALOHA at 30ft off to right of entry. Remember to plan your dive and dive your plan -- you can easily exceed your deco limits here, so use your brain!
06/27/2004 Bill Benton (Avg: 4.33 Review) - The best shore dive on the island. Huge healthy coral, free swimming eels, turtles feeding near the surf. Not crowded on weekdays.
06/03/2004 Victor Cizinauskas (Avg: 3.61 Review) - This was our first dive on the big island. We used it as a tune-up before the rest of our dives by boat. It was a nice site, the underwater views and swim throughs were spectacular. The entry was a little rough, but once in it is a nice dive
05/25/2004 Richard Hauben (Avg: 3.71 Review) - I have dove Honaunau many times. It is one of my favorite Big Island dive sites. Excellent visibility and tons of reef life. Two options exist - a deeper dive following the reef drop off to the North, and a shallower dive on top of the reef straight out of the entry point. Overall, lots of stuff to see - nice corals, lots of fish, plenty of sea turtles (especially in the shallow reef), and even dolphins. My last time there, just over the drop off, approx. 50 yards from shore was a pod of about 50 Spinner Dolphins swimming around. They were docile and friendly allowing me to swim close up and photograph them as I swam with them! A must-dive location! More photos: http://www.letsgo-hawaii.com/diving/honaunau.html
05/22/2004 Janna Nichols (Avg: 4.15 Review) - This site can be a zoo on weekends! Actually, that goes for most of Hawaii's beaches. Weekday diving you can have the places pretty much to yourselves. Easy entry, and the most abundant group of fish species at any of the sites we dove. Port-a-potties are the luxurious facilities. Even with lots of folks here (most are snorkeling) the diving was just fine. Parking can be tricky sometimes.
05/13/2004 John Stewart (Avg: 3.28 Review) - Great visibility. Snorkelers and divers intermix here. Several turtles close to shore. Nice shore dive. Wave action makes entry and exit potentially challenging.
04/14/2004 Anastasia Laity (Avg: 4.17 Review) - This was our first trip to the Big Island, and we wanted an easy shore dive to do by ourselves after several days of boat diving with a shop. What a great spot! There's a big shallow area with coral heads and sand where you can poke around, though it's a bit murkier there (particularly if it's been raining). If you want to go deeper, there's a nice wall covered with plate coral that you can follow down pretty much as deep as you want to go. We were told that you'll usually find bicolor anthias hanging around at 90 feet in the plate coral. We did a night dive here, and it was fantastic! One word of advice: leave a light at the entry point, so you can find it again when you're done! Pics at http://gallery.thelaitys.com/uw-hawaii0304 (last 2 albums on the page)
04/05/2004 Anonymous (Avg: 4.08 Review) - Have dove this site many times, for its visibility and ease of access. Hardly any beach, so sand doesn't get stirred up. Mucho turtles, spinner dolphins, and long finned anthias on south side. One of my favorite sites. Go early and avoid the crowds and snorkel boats.
03/19/2004 Rick Inman (Avg: 3.56 Review) - Made 4 dives here, vis. ranged from 60' to 100'. Took the advice of local dive shop and headed far south of the crowd on 2 dives, and far north of the crowd on the other two, and this paid off. Especially nice south, out and around the point. Lots of good structure, lava tubes, caverns, pukas, etc. shallow. All dives were over an hour on AL80s. Saw turtles, eels, nudibranch and the normal Kona fishies. I made 16 dives in 8 days on the Big Island, all solo, and the Place of Refuge was a great 'get acquainted' dive site just too crowded for my tastes.
11/17/2003 Mark Wilson (Avg: 4.03 Review) - My wife and I loved this place so much we dove it on two separate days. It was a great place to work out the bugs of our new camera setup. Great sea life, plenty of reef at different depths.
09/25/2003 Eric WA (Avg: 3.61 Review) - Great starter dive. With easy entry, great life, restrooms, and plenty of room it is a nice dive to get familiar with Hawaii. There is a data sheet available at Jack's Diving locker with further details.
01/20/2003 Barry Fackler (Avg: 3.96 Review) - As a Big Island resident, I've found Honaunau to be one of the best sites on the island. The diversity of marine life here is amazing. Green Sea Turtles can be seen every day. Other big animals I've seen at this site include Manta Rays, Eagle Rays, White-Tip Reef Sharks and (on numerous occasions) Spinner Dolphins. The entry here is easy and convenient. A natural Two-Step formed in the lava rock that you can giant-stride off of. Exit from the Two-Step is also easy but I recommend wearing gloves as Rock-Boring Urchins are on the step. The entire shoreline is lava rock and entry/exit anywhere but the Two-Step is dangerous for the diver & bad for the littoral environment. You can go as deep as you want here. At 130' on the north end of the bay is a rock on sand bottom that is alive with Bicolor & Longfin Anthias. The shallow reef has numerous cleaning stations which allow great photo ops as the colorful reef fish spread their fins to be cleaned. The drop-off has impressive plate coral formations. It's best to get there early as this relatively small bay can get crowded. Also ascend with extra caution. In addition to motorized craft from the boat landing, this bay is home to a local canoe club. You can't hear an outrigger coming! Also, this general area is sacred to the Hawaiians and some common-sense respect for the land & the water should be observed. Don't litter and don't impose your values on the locals. Spearfishing is occasionally practiced here as it has been for centuries without damage to the ecological balance. It is a local custom that will be vigorously defended if challenged. With the variety of depth, terrain and marine life, this is a good place for a two-tanker. Especially if you are making the trip from Kailua-Kona or the Kohala resort areas.
01/18/2003 Jon Knight (Avg: 3.82 Review) - What can you say that hasn't been said already? This is a great site all around. It doesn't matter if your new or very experienced, this dive site has the best variety around. You can go deep and visit Bi-Colored Antias or stay shallow and look for the elusive Steindachners Moray. It doesn't matter. Your gonna love this site. Entry is easy, but painful if you time it wrong, so take your time and count your sets. Avoid using other entries other than 2-step. Green Sea Turtles feed on the algae covered rocks nearby. If you use these areas you may be destroying a food source for them. Keep an eye out for Dolphins. They may want to check you out.
10/24/2002 Mike at Hawaii (Avg: 3.86 Review) - If you are looking for a beautiful dive site that accommodates both snorkeling and diving, this is the spot. There is a relatively shallow inside section that provides great animal encounters for snorkelers. For the divers there is a beautiful slope of plate coral on the left side of the bay. I would recommend looking under the plates for rare fishes. If you want to go deep, you should give this site a try.
09/07/2002 Bill Stohler (Avg: 3.44 Review) - This is a great site that I dive just about every time I go to the Big Island. It's perhaps a little too popular. Straight off the entry, the reef continues to 70+ feet; to the right, it extends to nearly 100 feet. There are lots of green sea turtles, occasional spinner dolphins, spotted eagle rays, the black phase of the long nose butterfly fish, pyramid butterfly fish, a really large fine scale triggerfish, moray eels (lot of varieties), and of course, an amazing reef. Boats do race by overhead on their way to the adjacent boat ramp, so watch surfacing anywhere but right at the rocks. Very worthwhile, but overall, I prefer Puako.
08/06/2002 Kim (Avg: 3.63 Review) - Just love to dive here - there's always a lot to see. On one of our dives there were over 20 turtles. AWESOME (Just a note to Nick - FISH ON - I'm a Haole AND I believe in everyone's right to access to the ocean and what it has to offer.)
07/16/2002 Robert Lower (Avg: 4.15 Review) - So my companions and I arrived just hours before on a flight from Honolulu and knew that we would be diving a popular site, but we could never have guessed how good it would be... We made sure to park in the lot adjacent to the entry point and were making our giant stride entries off of an easily manageable rock ledge into a flat calm bay in no time at all. The plan of the day was to see as much as we could and dive dive dive! The profile was exactly what the doctor prescribed. From the ledge, we surface swam about 30 yards out and to the right, making sure to avoid boating traffic to the left. Our cue to descend was when the "Aloha Sand Patch", as the locals call it--for a good reason, was directly beneath welcoming us to this place of refuge. Trust me, you can't miss it and you'll know that it is it when you see the patch because there is a huge cinder block "Aloha" written in the sand with a masterly crafted honu (turtle) above it. There was even a cool yellow margin moray that lives in the cinder blocks, who asked my dive buddy out on a date (of course she had to decline because we still had 2 more dives to do that day). We then swam right at a 60 degree angle until we hit the wall, which gradually slopes to 500ft, and drifted at about 50-80ft. The visibility was unlike any other site I had seen before in Hawaii, with some parts of the dive being well over 130ft. of vis. Coral formations on this dive reminded me a lot of Hanauma Bay's 2`nd stage (on Oahu), and was mostly loose finger corals and comprised of many long nose butterfly fish, parrot fish, assorted damsels, and an occasional pod of spinner dolphins to name a few. After we had drifted for 30 minutes or so, our cue to turn back was an acute bend left in the underwater topography of the wall. We then ascended to the top of the wall, about 25-35ft., and drifted back in the direction we had come in since the current changes direction on the top. The top of the wall is a completely different type of reef than the side. It is mostly lobe corals, tight finger corals, and some lava formations. This was where we saw most of the fish life made of huge schools of white goat fish, squirrel fish, soldier fish, parrot fish, black long nose butterfly fish, peacock grouper etc. Our cue to turn into shore was once again the "Aloha Sand Patch" which was now bidding us a fond goodbye. We took turns getting out of the water, which requires you to take off your fins first, and possibly your gear too if your not sure footed, and said goodbye to a prolific dive at Honaunau.
05/17/2002 Nick (Avg: 3.89 Review) - I disagree with the fools who think spear fishing should not be allowed. Us HAWAIIAN people see the ocean as a food source, so the Haoles should just shut up and stay out of the way!!!!! Very easily respected reef with lots of sharks! Lots of TASTY fish found here!!!!!!!
01/14/2002 Bo (Avg: 3.99 Review) - WHAT A DIVE! We tagged along with a diver who was familiar with this spot and gosh did we have a dive! First, there were some spinner dolphins there that we got to see while on the dive! We could have ended the dive right there with great success. There is a beautiful wall of plate coral there that belongs in an underwater fantasy photo. Eels galore! Turtles galore! We saw some people spear fishing here....how ignorant! I'm sorry, with the great accessibility and all the people using this area for it's great underwater beauty...go fish elsewhere! This area should be an underwater park or reserve. Doesn't this state realize what it has? Don't miss this spot!
09/10/2001 Jim Goodenough (Avg: 3.87 Review) - I agree with all the other comments, but would add that there is a small archway if you swim straight out from the entry. Was once approached here by an official (with a star on his hat and a gun) who said I could not dive without a dive flag. Curiously he said snorkeling was OK, since the courts were not about to prosecute snorkelers. Go figure.
07/16/2001 Nydia White (Avg: 3.55 Review) - Easily one of the most popular sites on the Big Island -- but justified. Easy giant-stride entry from the steps. Just follow the crowd to find the entry spot. A nice place to take a lunch and make a day of it. Take a beach chair and lots of water -- it gets really hot on the lava. It's somewhat protected from the surf conditions farther north so it's more often diveable. I have been to this site about a dozen times and it's still not boring. You can dive shallow or deep so it's good for any skill level. Use the same place for entries/exits. It might be tempting to use the boat launch, but be very careful. This is an active harbor. I try and stay well clear of the boat launch area. If you are surfacing away from shore make sure to listen carefully as you come up. Don't stay on the surface for a long time. There are many small boats that use this area and they tend to go fast. There are a few Porta Potties that are okay. No stores nearby so bring any food/drink with you.
05/28/2001 Tom Mellor (Avg: 4.03 Review) - This site had the healthiest reef of the several I visited. One reviewer said it was like being inside an aquarium...that's true, though I don't like the metaphor (Hawaii is experiencing a significant problem with aquarium fish collection.) We actually snorkeled this area because the abundance of life is within 25 meters of the shore, including numerous turtles. The site is very popular and crowds can be a problem in the water and with parking, as parking is limited at the site. Yellow tangs are so plentiful here, that you have to appreciate that the area is a protected marine sanctuary free of collectors. I can only imagine that a night dive here would be phenomenal. Dive charters also frequent the area. I didn't see any larger animals.
05/21/2001 John Moss (Avg: 3.50 Review) - This is a nice site and easy to get to the water. Most divers go straight out from the entry point. If you want deeper water sooner swim to the right more.
05/16/2001 Rafael Bejar (Avg: 4.37 Review) - Did a great, leisurely dive here. Lot's to see from reefs to walls and sandy areas. Very relaxing!
05/15/2001 Don Shingler (Avg: 4.20 Review) - This was my favorite site on the Island. Easy to get to and well worth it. The amount of marine life was incredible. Even the coral was in good shape, which was a surprise since this site was so accessible. This should be a must do on everyone's list.
04/20/2001 Steve at SB (Avg: 3.99 Review) - Very easy dive. You can stay in 20 feet and it feels like your are in a fish tank at the store. You can go deep (not as much life). Turtles are on the south side. I did two dives, I like the south side best. Had a 60 min bottom time, but ran out of film before air.
(click photo for a larger version)
Looking South on 160, take the second of two roads to the right, the entrance to the National Historic Park. (The first road is the one-way exit from the dive site) See the aerial picture for directions.
This picture is looking North up the exit road. The water is on the left. Parking can be a little tight since you are sharing the area with residents and boaters. But there is a parking lot to the right of this picture where you can park all day for a few dollars of donation.
(click photo for details)
You may gear up at your vehicle, or carry your equipment out to the edge of the lava. Most leave their equipment bag, shoes, glasses, etc, close to entry. But Beware during periods of stormy seas: we have seen a rogue wave gently sweep over the dry lava, sweeping it clean of all loose items. Not a pretty sight! Note that the actual dive entry is precisely where the man is standing in the background.
The dive entry is one of the nicest lava-ledge entries you'll find on the island. Have your buddy help you step down to the water level, then gently slip into the water. Wear a good pair of leather diving gloves as you enter since there are sea urchins poking out in the nooks and crannies. As with all entries and exits during rougher seas, be especially careful. The lava here is not sharp, but it is hard!
(click photo for details)
You can clearly see the entrance on the left to the Historic Park, and the small entrance road to the dive site. The area of the boat ramp should be avoided during your dive. Explore the shelf edge first (60 feet) and then work your way back up the coral noticing the resting turtles along the way.
Last Verification: September, 2000