Aerial of boat heading into Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii's Big Island. // © 2010 Body Glove Cruises
Accessible only by boat or uneven foot trail, the historic Captain Cook Monument on Hawaii’s Big Island is adjacent to breathtaking Kealakekua Bay. It marks the spot where British Capt. James Cook and his crew fatefully landed during a local religious festival in 1779. As one version of the story goes, first thought to be a god, Cook was welcomed and honored by the Hawaiians. However, once it was discovered that he was, in fact, a mortal, the locals overtook his vessel and killed the entire crew and captain.
Regardless of its history, the pristine waters and vibrant sea life of this marine sanctuary make Cook’s commemorative monument a popular attraction for those seeking one of the most unforgettable snorkeling and diving experiences that Hawaii has to offer.
Local tour operators offering trips to the scenic bay are in high demand thanks to the recently implemented permit requirements for anyone seeking to land vessels along the shoreline or moor at the wharf adjacent to the monument. The intimidating terrain of the foot trail leading to the monument deters most visitors; for that reason, water transport to Kealakekua Bay is the preferred method of choice. The bay’s clear skies and calm water conditions allow clients a wide array of tour options for those wanting to explore the extensive coral reef and thriving underwater life of this remote location.
With numerous and diverse choices currently available, clients can easily find a tour to suit their specific desires. Following are three of the unique adventures offered to visitors hoping to visit the monument and discover the secrets of Hawaii’s fascinating past.
Body Glove Cruises: Historical Sunset Cruise
Body Glove Cruises is an eco-friendly company offering tours aboard its state-of-the-art 65-foot award-winning catamaran, the Kanoa II. The company’s sunset dinner cruise takes guests to Kealakekua Bay and the Captain Cook monument, allowing those onboard to experience the allure of the Big Island’s past as well as first-class amenities.
Guests get a complimentary cocktail as a tour guide shares legends and stories. Upon arriving at the bay, they enjoy a multiple-course dinner, live Hawaiian entertainment and a tropical sunset.
A portion of all proceeds from this cruise is donated to the Kona Historical Society for the preservation and restoration of the culture and history of the Kona Coast.
Hawaii Pack and Paddle: Kealakekua Bay Capt. Cook Monument Kayak and Snorkel Tour
First launched in 1991 under a different name, Hawaii Pack and Paddle shares its love of nature and adventure with travelers by offering both hiking and kayaking trips in a low-key and relaxed environment.
The company’s five-hour Kealakekua Bay day trip combines a kayak and snorkel excursion to the monument with a hike to Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park. Also included is a tour of the historic Kona Pacific Farmers Cooperative coffee mill, where guests are invited to sample the island’s famous Kona coffee before beginning their tour.
Guides introduce and share Hawaiian history and culture with clients, discussing contemporary environmental issues for those who are interested.
“We work hard in every way we can to leave the area better than when we arrive, to tread lightly and quietly, and to respect the beings of the sea and land in all that we do,” said company owner Betsy Morgan.
Captain Zodiac: Beat the Crowd Tour
Captain Zodiac Raft Expeditions is an experienced and high-profile rafting company (it was featured in the finale of ABC’s hit reality show, “The Bachelorette”) that offers a unique tour to the sought-after marine preserve. Its five-hour Beat the Crowd excursion aims at creating a highly enjoyable snorkeling experience. By planning its schedule around Kealakekua Bay’s peak visiting hours, this tour allows clients to avoid the crowds and observe the fascinating marine wild life.
On the raft excursion to and from the monument, the ship’s captain entertains and engages clients with Hawaiian folklore and explains the natural marine life and geological formations that can be viewed from the boat as it moves along the Kona coastline.