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Big Island Beaches

The Orchid Island

You may have heard that the Big Island of Hawaii does not have an abundance of beaches, but that is not actually true. In it’s over 266 miles of coastline, there are over 80 beaches, the most swimmable white sand beaches being along the Kohala coastline on the western leeward side. Although many of the nicest beaches are associated with Resorts, all are free and have public access. The list below contains a few of the more easy to get to beaches; and a few that aren't so easy to get to, but worth making the effort to do so. We’ll start in the North and work in a counter-clockwise direction.

Spencer Park -
This is a very popular beach area because the waters are protected by on offshore reef, and the swimming is safe year-round. The snorkeling is great, with a large population of marine life. A short walk from here is the site of King Kamehakameha I’s temple, and it is worth a visit to the National Park Service station to learn more about the history of this area.
FACILITIES include restrooms, showers, large pavilion with electrical outlets, picnic tables, tennis courts, camping.
LOCATED: Off Queen Kaahumanu Hwy just south of Kawaihae, and uphill from Kawaihae Harbor.

Kauna'oa Beach at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel (Mauna Kea Beach) -
Along with Hapuna Beach, this one is considered one of the best beaches on the Big Island. The crescent shaped beach is long and wide, and offers excellent swimming and bodysurfing. There are excellent resort owned amenities, showers and restrooms. Although the beach is open to the public, it is controlled by the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, and there are only ten parking spaces available for beach use. Come early to get a space and beach pass.
LOCATED: At the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel off Queen Kaahumanu Hwy.

Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area -
This long wide white sand beach is considered one of the best on the island, and is very popular. It is located in a semi-circular cove with black lava rock points at each end. Swimming is ordinarily excellent here, although there are times during winter when the ocean is rough. There is a sheltered pool at the north end which offers safe year-round swimming for families with small children. Good area for bodysurfing and boogie boarding.
FACILITIES include restrooms, showers, picnic area, telephones, parking, snackbar, and at times a lifeguard.
LOCATED: About eight miles north of Anaehoomalu Bay between Mauna Kea Beach and Mauna Lani Rosorts, off Queen Kaahumanu Hwy.

Holoholokai Beach Park -
Quiet and peaceful and pretty to look at, but the beach consists of more rock than sand, and the area is more suited to picnicking or sunbathing in the small grassy area than swimming. You can walk to the Puako Petroglyph Park where Malama Trail meanders to an area of lava covered with ancient petroglyphs.
FACILITIES include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, grills, grass and shady areas, no lifeguards.
LOCATED: Off Queen Kaahumanu Hwy (19) at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel. Going north from Kona, turn left between Mile Markers 74 and 73 into the resort area, turn right at the first major intersection, and then at the Y in the road bear left. Take the next right and follow to the end where beach parking is indicated.

Anaeho'omalu Beach, at Waikoloa Beach Marriott -
A piece of paradise in the vast lava fields that are prominent here, this picture postcard span of white-sand beach features freshwater springs, a sky-blue lagoon and groves of coconut palms. The “salt and pepper” sand is made up from coral and lava rock, and is a bit coarse and grainy, but this is an excellent area for swimming, snorkeling, windsurfing and scuba diving. There are rocks and coral in the water, so care should be taken. Be sure and also check out the ancient fish ponds and petroglyphs. This beach is also known as “A-Bay” by the locals.
FACILITIES include showers, restrooms, picnic tables, bathhouses, paved parking area, rental equipment available.
LOCATED: Just south of Kohala, off Queen Kaahumanu Hwy between mile markers 76 and 77, a well-marked access road leads to the bay.

Maniniowali Beach -
A beautiful white sand wilderness beach considered to be one of the best swimming beaches on the Big Island. Hazardous in winter months during periods of heavy surf and rip currents. A 4.5-mile hike south through this wilderness park on the historic coastal trail, Ala Kahakai, leads to Mahaiula Bay. Midway, a hike to the summit of Puu Kuili, a 342-foot high cinder cone, offers an excellent view of the coastline.
LOCATED: From Kailua-Koa, take Queen Kaahumanu Highway (Hwy 19) north to just beyond Mile Marker 88. Take dirt road for one mile to the beach. Vehicle access is by 4-wheel drive or hiking in only.

Makalawena Beach -
One of the best kept secrets on the Big Island is this beautiful remote beach area that few visitors ever know about. It requires a 15 to 25 minute hike to get to it, but I think you’ll find it worth the trouble. You’ll find a long crescent beach with fine white sand and even some dunes in the background. There are shade trees, and even a freshwater pool to rinse off in. The swimming is good when the ocean is calm.
LOCATED: Take Highway 19 north from Kona. Take the Jeep road to the left between Mile Markers #89 and 88. The first portion of the road is decent but then becomes very rutted. Take the first dirt road to the left and follow to the beach. If the gate is locked, the hike is about 15 minutes.

Kiholo Bay -
During calm seas, the three black pebble beaches found here are fine for swimming. At the northern end is Wainanali’I Pond (a 5 acre lagoon) which is a feeding site for green sea turtles, and at the southern end lies the huge spring-fed Luahinewai Pond.
LOCATED: These beaches are accessed by a 20 minute hike along a trail across lava fields with some private homes. The unmarked trail is near Mile Marker 81 along Hwy 19.

Kekaha Kai State Park -
The park contains two sandy beaches, Mahai’ula on the southe end, and Kua Bay to the north. When the ocean is calm, it is a nice area for swimming. There is a historic 4.5 mile trail which leads from one beach to the other.
At Mahai’ula there is a picnic area and portable toilets.
LOCATED: About 2 miles north of Keahole-Kona International Airport along Hwy 19 you will see signing to the Park. It is a rough 1.5 mile road to the beach.

Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park -
This area was a Hawaiian settlement until the 19th century, and there are ruins of ancient fishponds, petroglyphs, house site platforms and heiau (religious site). The park contains 1,160 acres with two beaches good for swimming. The Park was established in 1978 as a cultural and historical site, and is still being developed.
LOCATED: It is three miles north of Kailua-Kona and three miles south of Keahole-Kona International Airport, along Highway 19 (the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway).

Kahalu'u Beach Park - A dark sand beach which is very popular and can become crowded on weekends. It is one of the best snorkeling areas on the Big Island though, and a great place to see reef fish up close. There is a reef just offshore, and outside this dolphin, marlin and tuna are often seen.
FACILITIES include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, phones, lifeguard, shady areas.
LOCATED: 5.5 miles south of Kailua-Kona on Ali’I Dr next to St. Peter’s Catholic Church and Ku’emanu Heiau.

Kealakekua Beach -
This beach is included here even though the actual beach area is small and it is not easy to find because it is one of the best snorkeling and kayaking spots on the Big Island. The horseshoe-shaped bay is a Marine Like Conservation District and Underwater Park, and is one of the few areas where Spinner Dolphins swim close to shore, give birth and breed their young. There are no facilities here to speak of, so you have to improvise.
LOCATED: The beach is accessed by a four mile long narrow winding road off Route 11, just south of the Kealekekua town center. If when travelling south you pass the Kona Civic Center you have gone too far.

Napo'opo'o Beach Park -
A rocky beach, but great for snorkeling, scuba diving and surfing as the marine life here is abundant. On shore, a 27 foot white obelisk commemorates where Captain James Cook was killed in 1779 in a scuffle with local islanders.
FACILITIES include showers, restrooms, picnic areas.
LOCATED: Kealakekua Bay, at the end of Napo’opo’o Road, off highway 11.

Keokea Beach Park -
A picture perfect beach that is popular with locals, but not visited very often by tourists because of it’s relative seclusion. Heavy surf very often makes this area unsafe for swimming.
FACILITIES include showers, restrooms, picnic facilities, and a pavilion.
LOCATED: Two miles past Kapaau along Akoni Pule Hwy heading towards Pololu, look for a small fruit stand on the left, and follow the access road next to it toward the beach.

Ho'okena Beach Park -
One of the best swimming and snorkeling areas in all of South Kona in a picture postcard setting with coconut palms lining the beach. This was once a busy port area which has fallen into disrepair, and evidence can be found everywhere of the former prosperity.
FACILITIES include restrooms, showers, picnic tables, pavilion. Drinking water can be obtained from a tap attached to a telephone pole near the beginning of the access road.
LOCATED: Off hwy 11, 23 miles south of Kailua-Kona the access is well marked but narrow bumpy 2 mile long road. Look for signs to the village of Hookena.

Green Sands Beach (Papakolea Beach) -
This beach, located at the southernmost part of the Big Island, is included in this list only for the more adventurous. The swimming can be dangerous when the ocean is rough, the trail leading to the beach is rather long and hazardous in spots, and the main attraction for coming here at all is the olive-green colored sand which is derived from the crystals of a greenish, semi-precious stone named olivine. In the sunlight, the beach sparkles, creating a wonderous atmosphere. Being here can be a very rewarding experience. It is a long hot walk so take lots of water and wear proper shoes.
There are no facilities and no shade trees.
LOCATED: On Hwy 11, turn off between Mile Markers 69 and 70 where the sign says “South Point” (or Ka Lae). You go along a rural road for about 10 miles to a fork in the road. To the right is South Point, which would make a good side trip. Take the left fork, going another mile or so until the road gets too rutted, and start hiking toward the ocean. Near the boat dock, follow the dirt road east. You’ll see lots of intertwining roads, but they all lead to Green Sands as long as you stick near the coast. After about 3 miles you will see the dramatic rock formation of the bay and the sparkling turquoise waters below. Go to the far east side to descend down the trail. It is steep, but not as bad as it looks. Good luck.

Punalu'u Beach Park -
The main attraction of this narrow black sand beach is the fact that it is one of the few safe swimming areas on the entire south coast, and it is home to many Hawaiian green sea turtles who nest in the black sands, and feed on the seaweed along the shorebreak. There are old fishponds nearby along with the ruins of a heiau.
FACILITIES include showers, restrooms, telephone, and pavilion.
LOCATED: Along the Mamalohoa Hwy just south of Pahala near mile marker 56.

Reeds Bay Beach Park -
The beach here offers calm waters for safe swimming, but the cold freshwater springs which seep into the ocean here keep the water temperature rather chilly. It is one of the closest beach parks to Hilo though, less than a mile from downtown, which makes it fairly popular.
FACILITIES include restrooms, showers, drinking water.
LOCATED: On the East side of the Waiakea Peniinsula at the end of Banyan Dr.

Onekahakaha Beach Park -
Possibly the best beach in the Hilo area, there is a large sandy pool protected by the breakwater which offers good swimming for the whole family. Outside of the pool, the currents can be strong. The beach itself is white sand.
FACILITIES include showers, restrooms, picnic areas and lifeguards.
LOCATED: Follow Kalanianaole Ave 3 miles east of Hilo, and the entrance is just east of Keaukaha Beach Park.

Waipi’o Beach in Waipi’o Valley -
This is one of those difficult to get to, but very worth doing beaches. It is located in the Waipi’o Valley, the largest of the seven valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountains. At the coast the valley is a mile wide, and goes almost six miles inland, surrounded on both sides by cliffs almost 2,000 feet tall with spectacular waterfalls. Swimming is not encouraged because of the strong rips. There are no lifeguards, and no facilities.
LOCATED: Take Hwy 19 North from Hilo, and turn right onto Route 240 towards Waipio. Take this road until you reach the Waipio Lookout. From here, you have a sweeping view of the Valley below. Unless you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you would need to hike down the trail to the valley below.

Pololu Beach -
A small black sand beach that can be accessed by a short, steep but easily managed trail. The swimming here is not to be recommended, but the trip down is worth it for the beautiful scenery along the way, and the views from the valley below. During stormy periods in the winter, the sand mostly washes away leaving a boulder beach. There is usually a fresh water pool in Pololu Stream which can be good swimming. There are no facilities.
LOCATED: Go east on Hwy 270 from Kapa’au to the Pololu Lookout at Mile Marker 28. The trail leads down from here and takes about 15 minutes. There are trails from Pololu Valley to other Valleys beyond for the more adventurous.


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