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of the Big Island


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Beaches, after all, are one of the first things most people think of when they consider a vacation to Hawai'i. This list begins at the northern tip of the Island and goes counter clockwise around the island. Many of these beaches have no lifeguard and some don't even have drinking water. The ocean is a great joy, but it can change from friend to foe in one breath. Treat it with respect: don't snorkel or boogie board where you don't see anyone else doing it (with the exception of young locals who grew up on a boogie board), and don't ever turn your back on the waves!

Hapuna Beach
The Prince of the Big Island beaches is a beautiful, long, white sand beach in South Kohala
with lots of facilities, including covered pavilions. It is known for its riptides, so be careful.
It can be hard to find parking on a weekend or holiday.

Near King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel, you will discover a small sandy area of protected shoreline, near the restored heiau. King Kamehameha made this (Kamakahonu Bay) his home in the early 1800s. Great for kids, with great snorkeling for all, and lots of "water toys" for rent on the beach.

Old Airport Beach Park - In Kailua-Kona, this beach ranges from rocky, salt-and-pepper sand coast to lava tidal pools. A great place to get your toes wet, play with the kids, watch the local kids catching the waves on their boogie boards, and catch the sunset. Picnic tables and showers are available, and there's a nice walkingtrack on the mauka side.

Surf Happens all along Alii Drive between Kailua and Keauhou, there are little pocket size beaches and surfing spots. Pahoehoe Beach Park, White Sands, and our premiere snorkeling beach, Kahalu'u Beach Park, are all found in these parts. Most have some facilities, though parking can be an issue.

Anaeho'omalu is the windsurfing spot on the Big Island, and there are a lot of other great ocean activities that are available here, as well. Some whale watching and sunset cruises leave from here. Lots of nice shade under the coconut trees make it very pleasant..

Kukio Beach at Hualalai Resort Nicely appointed with showers and restrooms, this beach is a fine place to soak up rays or to have a picnic. Just about 6 miles north of Kona International Airport. You will need to get a beach parking pass at the security shack on the way in.

Kekaha Kai State Park (formerly North Kona Coast State Park) is a short drive on a rough rode off of Hwy. 19 on the northern Kona coast. It is a long, rather undeveloped beach. Few facilities. Usually not crowded.

Manini'owali Beach (Kua Bay) is one of the prettiest beaches on the island. A crescent of white sand with turquoise water. Access is pretty easy, but parking is limited. Facilities available; no lifeguard.

Makalawena is a remote, beautiful, white sand beach off Hwy. 19 between mile marker 90 and 91. It can be accessed by taking a challenging hiking trail from Kekaha Kai State Park (about 40 minutes), or by taking a challenging 4-wheel drive road from the highway. No facilities; no lifeguard.

Kauna'oa (the beach at the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel) has often been chosen as one of the world's best beaches. It is a gorgeous, white sand, crescent "cove," protected from wind, with some shade available. Access is controlled, so get here before 9:00 am if you want to be sure to get a beach pass. Hapuna Beach is just south of Mauna Kea should you decide not to wait.

Keokea Beach Park is located in North Kohala. It is a good place to eat lunch and watch for whales and monk seals. Big waves come rolling in, so it is not known as a swimming beach.

Pololu is at the northern tip of the island, past Kapa'a. You will come to the end of the highway, where finding a parking place can sometimes be tricky, and be treated to the glorious view of Pololu Valley, the black sand beach and cliffs stretching out below you. There is a steep 1 1/4 mile hike down to the beach. Ironwood trees grow on the mauka slopes of the valley.

Richardson Ocean Park has grass and trees, but also a small black sand beach. It is located a few miles east of downtown Hilo, and is a popular place for picnicing, exploring tidal pools, watching sea turtles. Snorkeling can be good, but it is not recommended for beginning swimmers/snorkelers. Facilities available and a lifeguard on duty.

Pohoiki (Isaac Hale Beach Park)(DLNR photo) is the most accessible of the island's new black sand beaches in the Puna district that was created by the 2018 Kilauea eruption. A new access road leads to the spot.

Punalu'u - On the southeast side of the island is this beach of beautiful black sand with huge coconut palms. A few facilities and not too much traffic make it a good place to visit, but what makes it really a treat is the abundance of sea turtles that thrive here. The water is a little cool due to fresh water springs that bubble up from beneath the rocks.

Papakolea (Green Sand Beach) -Photo by Peter Anderson. Located in Ka'u district, this is a truly unique experience in that Papakolea is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The sand is an olive color due to grains of olivene. The walkable access along jeep trails from South Point Road is approximately 5 1/2 miles round trip, and then a short incline down to the beach. No facilities or lifeguard. The ocean is wild here, so it is not known as a swimming beach.

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau (Place of Refuge) is not a beach but it is next to one of our island's best snorkeling spots, known as Two Step, where the black lava rock drops off into the sea, which is deep and filled with colorful fish, turtes and more. If you decide not to get wet, you can visit the interesting National Historical Park "next door."


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