Overview of Puako Church

Puako Church

The Big Island
Hawaiian Islands


Puako is considered by some to be the heaven of the Kohala Coast with lava tubes, garden eels, fish and turtles. What more could you ask for?! After making the turn off to Puako, travel 2.1 miles until you see the Church of Ascension on your left.

Directions: The turn off to Puako is on Highway19 about 3.4 miles South of the junction of 270 and 19. Continue down Puako Road for 2.1 miles.


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!!!

Puako Church Patrons:   Please consider becoming a Patron for Puako Church
*  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 Puako Church, please write us here.)
No external links have been submitted.

Diver Reviews:    Click here to write a Site Review, and share any new information about this site!

06/22/2019 Sharon from LA (Avg: 4.21 Review) - Love this site! Uncrowded and beautiful. Tons of fish, eels, turtles and on our last dive we saw a whitetip reef shark and an eagle ray. We also saw a manta ray here a few years back. Entry and exit are definitely a bit difficult with the shallow rocks and urchins. We always wear full wetsuits, hard sole booties and gloves on these shore dives in Hawaii. It makes it much easier on entry and exit.

07/21/2013 Brian Koningisor (Avg: 3.04 Review) - Dove here on July 8, 2013 as part of AliiDiveVentures.com private guided shore dive excursions. Entry points vary by the year as sand moves and changes the shoreline a bit. Pick something that looks easy. Sand entry to the south and north of site photo, you will still need to walk over submerged lava rock until deep enough to put on fins, so booties are a must. The previous posts are accurate, the north route seems a bit more interesting, we did 2 tank here and would go back again and again. When heading out, take a slight WNW direction and you swim right into a turtle cleaning station, continue a little further north and you fine caves, chimney's and arches.

06/03/2013 Oregon Diver at Canby (Avg: 3.60 Review) - We dove this site a couple of days ago and it was fantastic. A very diverse coral look than many other places on the island and big fish. We saw schools of tangs and butterfly fish of all kinds. This place has Moray Eels, everywhere, of every type. Due to the shallow entry, we found it easiest to assemble our equipment, inflate our bcd's and float them to about 4 feet of water where we put them on. This was a good idea too because it allowed us to watch for turtles as they are everywhere all over this site. If the waves pick up, then you may want to avoid this site as it may be difficult to see the exit point. A fantastic dive!!!

02/15/2013 Harry (Avg: 3.24 Review) - There's a 50-foot walk through knee-deep water and surf across uneven ground to get out to deeper water where you can put on your fins. Be careful not to step on all of the turtles that are in the shallow pools. Waves can be big here. Swim straight out from the beach about 100 yards to the first drop-off that gets you down to 25 feet. If you turn right (north) and go another 100 yards you will find some nice lava tubes and arches. You'll hear whale songs during the entire dives.

10/10/2012 Dean (Avg: 3.52 Review) - Nice private residential location across the street from a neighborhood church. Unmarked dirt road - blocked - so park across the street. Entry is OK but rocky with constant surges so there is an opportunity to slip. This continues well out 20-30m in some spots before you get good depth. This is turtle mecca - more here than anywhere on the island. Surgeon fish as well - huge schools dominate the reef. Cleaner wrasse, moray and scorpionfish. Oh, and turtles - many juvenile.

05/21/2012 Andrey S. (Avg: 3.62 Review) - The entrance to the beach access is blocked by large lava boulders so you will have to park on a side of the Puako rd. (across from the church), gear up and head on to the beach. Entry is fairly easy if there's no surf. We entered in the 'pool' area to the left and marked the site with a red rag to make sure we can identify the exit spot when we're done - that helped a lot. Make sure you don't step on one of the small green turtles swimming around. Kick straight out 300 ft and drop down. Site bottom slopes to ~65-70ft before the sand patch begins so most of life is at around 40ft. Usual finger corals and small reef fish. No facilities around.

09/21/2010 Jerry & LaRea Birt (Avg: 3.58 Review) - Parked across from the church. Entry was easy, a little bit of a swim out to the edge of the reef. We headed right and found the Lava tubes. Saw 8-10 green sea turtles. Several were being cleaned by reef fish. A very good dive!

09/18/2010 Joe Diver (Avg: 3.58 Review) - We rented a house across the street for xmas 09, dove this site 3 times with my 19 year old son. Didn't go out some days as the surf was quite high. I had my hard boots with me (Canadian dry suit diver!) and was glad I did, made the entry a piece of cake. There are some small mooring eyes on the edge of the drop off, I tied my smb to one and it made it easy to spot the exit point. Watch for boats as the Puako harbor is close. We saw whales from the shore more than once. Great dive site!

07/01/2010 Clint Crowe (Avg: 4.06 Review) - I dove this site repeatedly in May of 2010, and virtually every other access point along the Puako road, there are many! All my dives were done early in the morning, just after sunrise. As other divers have reported, the water is very shallow close in and the wind can come up quickly, making for a painful exit complete with reef rash. However the conditions were always super under the water with lots of cool structure, swim throughs, caves and tubes. The sea life was also abundant with tons of turtles, too many fish to count including frog fish, garden eels and even a turtle cleaning station. I think it was worth the effort and abrasions. If you are interested in underwater pics or video from this dive site, email me at clint_crowe at hotmail and I'd be happy to share.

03/31/2008 Joe Foster (Avg: 3.45 Review) - Dove this site on March 16th, 2008 with my 2 boys. Out of our 17 dives during our vacation, this was the 2nd worst exit. 2nd only to the Mauna Lani (ouch) It blew up while we were down, and the exit was not very pleasant. That being said the dive was wonderful. Loads of fish, Turtles, Eels, even an Eagle Ray. If you get a day that is flat, go for it, but be ready for the exit if it blows up while your down! I would recommend the Puako Village end over this site, for ease of entry & exit.

12/26/2007 Brian Xavier (Avg: 3.86 Review) - Great dive spot but very rough on the day I went. Went out through the channel in front of the house with the shiny roof. Very rough and only dove to about 25 feet. Saw lots of fish here, but rough during the winter. Park in the lot between the houses, and walk to the left to find the channel area. Pick a day when the wind is down, as the wind blows here sometimes.

09/05/2007 Clare (Avg: 3.38 Review) - It was a little difficult to find from the road, but what a fabulous site. Lots of turtles here, though most were basking on the rocks and the shore. Entry is a little tough but totally doable!

09/28/2006 Yuri (Avg: 3.61 Review) - Puako was our best site on Big Island. Entrance was not a problem, just try to swim as soon as you can. My advice, hang something bright, like a T-shirt, on one of the dry trees by the entrance, so you will know where to come back. Puako area is interesting not only for rich wildlife, but also for very interesting lava and coral formations. Though we found the other site in Puako, Village End, better than this one, it is still an awesome dive.

11/21/2004 Alison (Avg: 3.83 Review) - This was a great... GREAT...dive! Ignorance was bliss for we started our second dive at dusk with 2/3rds the dive a night dive... it was amazing, however... a place where tiger sharks are common at night (we were told). We saw none but I'm sure it was only because they were just out of 'our' sight. Turtles - turtles - turtles!!! Morays were all out hunting and stunning. Sea life was so colorful and what a great thing to see a Parrot fish sleeping in a corner right out in the open. The entry and exit are hard... you have to catch the wave just right... the darn spiny urchin's are in every little whole just waiting to stab you. Serious... you have to be pretty accurate with the entry / exit or you'll be reminded of those little but painful urchins.

10/12/2004 Anonymous (Avg: 3.53 Review) - A little bumpy going in but, once past the shallow water, I enjoyed one of my best snorkeling dives ever. A virtual aquarium of fish. Once past the reef you find yourself in deeper water with a terrific level of visibility. My best dive in Hawaii was of the southern point below the boat hoists. I went in with calm seas and was fine. This is not an area for a beginner at all.

05/21/2004 Janna Nichols (Avg: 3.73 Review) - The little road that leads to the Puako Church site is now blocked off. We simply parked along the street, not wanting to intrude on the church's parking lot. (although it was empty). The entry is a bit tricky, and I highly suggest you hold onto your buddy and walk side-by-side out to deeper water. There is a very long shallow portion you must walk through, full of dips, holes and uneven ground. Once out, swim out a bit more until you are in front of the home that's to the left of the entry site (facing the beach). Go down into a lava hole (a turtle was there to greet us!) and swim out to the reef. Reef was VERY healthy and beautiful. I loved diving this site!

03/19/2004 Rick Inman (Avg: 3.58 Review) - Wow! So many lava tubes and caverns and pukas. Awesome structure! Slide into one hole, out and through another. And turtles everywhere. I dove here 4 times, two different days and never saw another diver. My wife and I had this romantic, secluded beach all to ourselves. This is what diving Hawaii is all about. The dirt road down to the beach has been closed, so there is now a short hump of your gear, which may be why we had the place to ourselves (easier access a mile down at Puako Village End). Also, at low tide, the swim over the shallow reef through the surf can definitely be a challenge. And it is a long way out to the drop-off and the good structure. There are buoys planted out there, and the best stuff is between them. On the second time we went here, while enjoying a lunch of left-over ono on Hawaiian Sweet Bread between dives, we saw humpback whales playing out about 200 yards beyond he reef. Then during my second dive, I could hear the whale's song for the entire dive. Wonderful! I kept waiting for one to swim up and visit me, but no such luck. On the way back in, I saw the biggest Morey I'd ever seen. Out of 16 dives in 8 days at 9 different sites, this was my favorite dive.

01/03/2004 Sheila (Avg: 3.86 Review) - 5/2003 We were surrounded by sea turtles - like our own National Geographic movie! Best snorkling we did on the big island was here. Need to be careful to leave a marker on shore you can see from the water because it is easy to lose your entry/exit site. Can't wait to get back 1/2004.

12/05/2003 Wayne-Melody Kinslow (Avg: 3.66 Review) - Nice site with no crowds. Entry can be a little tricky if the wave are medium to large sized. Worth the trip.

11/29/2003 Rob Bennett (Avg: 4.05 Review) - Only my third dive (using "hooka") and using underwater video I felt I was diving in an aquarium. Spotted a turtle while walking out to deeper water, many species of reef creatures including an Eagle Ray just off the reef edge. Second day found easier spot to shore dive 1/4 mile north (pole 115) as waves were crashing on shore at church access. Highly recommend this area.

10/22/2003 Anonymous (Avg: 3.93 Review) - Favorite dive spot for ten years now...

08/06/2002 Kim (Avg: 3.50 Review) - Beautiful place to dive - snowflake eels, large morays, turtles. Nice, shady, uncrowded parking. Entry is manageable at high tide - easier to float/swim out over the lava/rocks.

08/04/2002 Bill Stohler (Avg: 3.19 Review) - I thought this was a great site. From the beach just a few steps from the parking area, I watched as a large group of green sea turtles fed on the sea grass and algae in the shallows practically in the surf. Heading over the reef, then South, there's some good topography, and out to sea it drops off pretty well. Good critters and reef. Variable visibility. As usual with this side, it's best to dive before the trade winds kick in, and don't try it if the surf's up.

04/17/2002 Jon Knight (Avg: 4.02 Review) - Have done this site twice and enjoy it. Very shallow entry takes patience. Scenery isn't the same as Puako-Village End, but it still has vast coral beds with lots of life.

07/20/2001 C Hepburn (Avg: 3.71 Review) - My buddy and I had different opinions about this site. I thought it was a pretty dive my buddy thought it was boring. Parking was a breeze and the car is only about 10 yards from the ocean. The entry can be a bit tricky (that's why I rated it intermediate) because it is slightly slippery, but being from Massachusetts, we're used to the slime covered rocks. The lave tubes drop to about 25-30' and that's where we found the most life. The mini-walls are quite scenic.

05/28/2001 Tom Mellor (Avg: 3.44 Review) - I actually dove a site just a couple hundred feet south of the Puako Church, but it is essentially the same area. This is turtle sanctuary and one can study these fascinating creatures sunning themselves on the lava or as they swim effortless in 20 - 60 feet of water. The entry along here and in many Northern Big Island sites can be a challenge, especially at low tide. The lava is rough on feet, footwear and gear. It is usually better to dive at high tide - but always be careful of urchins if you use skin-diving fins. Another entry challenge can be wind driven surge, though it isn't as difficult as other Hawaii sites. The swim to 40' depth is about 300 meters at high tide - I would suggest that seasoned divers put their snorkels back on and use them on the surface swim there's much to see and it will make swimming through the surge easier. Once at the 20 - 40' levels, just drop down and swim among the lava tubes that have become healthy coral walls. The yellow tang, wrasses, butterflies, other common Hawaii reef fish are prolific here - ostensibly beyond the reach of collectors in this protected area. The turtles are tolerant of divers who don't present themselves aggressively. Morays are also friendly to those divers who keep a non-threatening distance.


Site Photos

(click photo for a larger version)

 Map     Sat
GPS: TB0401


Entrance at Puako Church 

The church on the left, and the entrance to the shore is just to your right.


 Map     Sat
GPS: TB0402


Parking at Puako Church 

Parking is tight, so be careful not to block the road.


 Map     Sat
GPS: TB0403


Entry at Puako Church 

The entry is a simple walk through the sand, into a couple of feet water, then an easy kick out to sea.




Aerial at Puako Church 
(click photo for details)

You'll find the lava shelf about 100 yards straight out. Enjoy!

Last Verification: September, 2000  


Diver Averages for  Puako Church  (1=worst, 5=best)

Average Site Condition

Ease of Shore Entry:  2.81
Bottom Conditions:  3.92
Reef Conditions:  4.12
Animal Life:  4.19
Plant Life:  3.19
Facilities:  1.81
Solitude 4.42
Roads:  3.88
*Site Average:  3.64

Average Enjoyment Level

Snorkel:  3.46
Beginner Scuba:  3.38
Intermediate Scuba:  3.92
Advanced Scuba:  3.73
Night diving Scuba:  3.08

Number of reviews for this site: 26


  Search  About You  |  About Us  |  Contact ShoreDiving.com


Copyright 2000-2021 ShoreDiving.com, LLC. tm All rights reserved.
Please read and understand the
Disclaimer concerning information contained in this site.