Big Island’s stunning and pristine beaches are known as ‘famous hidden treasures’. Located along the Kona and Kailua coast, as well as on the south side of the island, they are nothing less than a beach lover’s paradise for sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling or simply relaxing in the shade of beautiful palm trees.
Most beaches have no lifeguard and many don't have drinking water. Be sure to check the location of the beach you are visiting for information on what amenities are available.
The ocean is beautiful and there for all to enjoy, but it can change from friend to foe in a split second. Please exercise caution at all times while engaging in water-related activities. Don't snorkel or boogie board where you don't see anyone else doing it (not counting young local guys who grew up on a boogie board!), and don't turn your back on the waves!
Anaehoomalu is best known for its sunsets, snorkeling and historic royal fishponds. The gentle slope from shallow to deep water make it an excellent choice for swimming, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and windsurfing. Located in front of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort, the beach is open to both hotel guests and locals. Equipment rental and snorkeling, scuba, and windsurfing instruction are available at the north end of the beach. Amenities include rest rooms, showers, picnic tables, and plenty of parking.
At the far edge of the bay, you’ll find a rare-turtle cleaning station where snorkelers and divers can watch endangered green sea turtles line up, waiting their turn to have small fish clean them.
This golden sand beach at the foot of Mauna Kea Beach Hotel is sheltered by two black-lava rocky points, making it a wonderful place to swim and snorkel in calm waters. Bordered by a coconut grove, the sandy bottom of the bay slopes gently into the ocean, and often fills with schools of tropical fish and green sea turtles. The turtles frequently come ashore for long naps in the warm sun. Swimming is excellent year-round, except during rare winter storms.
Access to the beach is through the resort hotel. Facilities include rest rooms, showers, and ample parking, however, there is no lifeguard. A limited number of public access parking spots are available.
Two additional small white sand beaches (the Kauna'oa Waiulaula Beach and Mau'umae Beach) are accessible via a 1.5 mile (2.4 km) walk north of Kaunaoa.
Rated the "Number one beach in America" by Conde Nast Traveler, Hapuna beach is located off of the Queen Kaahumanu Highway, slightly south of the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.
Favored by locals for swimming, body surfing and snorkeling (especially in the summer months when the water is calm), Hapuna is a beautiful, wide beach, approximately half a mile long and 200 feet deep.
Amenities include A-frame cabins for camping, pavilions, rest rooms, showers, and plenty of parking.
Directions: Take Highway 19 north from Kona. Turn left at the access road just before Mile Marker #69. Go to the end of the road, turn left and then take an immediate right. Follow this road to the parking.
The most popular body surfing and body boarding beach in North Kona, the White Sands Beach park is the site of the Annual Magic Sands Bodysurfing Championship. Located on Alii drive, this isn’t a particularly interesting or impressive beach, however, it’s lively location makes it a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike.
The beach offers good boogie boarding when the ocean cooperates. Conditions are also favorable for both snorkeling and scuba diving (shore diving), as you can find nice caverns and lava tubes at about 60 feet depth.
At times, the White Sands Beach is referred to as the "Disappearing Sands" because the shore-break erodes the small pocket of white sand very quickly (often within 24 hours), washing it all away and leaving only exposed lava rock. When the wave action ceases, regular ocean currents slowly move the sand back. It can take a few months for the sand to be restored, however, this periodic and complete flushing keeps it very white – and famous for precisely that!
Directions: Located just north of mile marker 4 on Alii Drive.
One of the largest beaches between Kailua and Keauhou, the darker sand Kahaluu beach is a place where natural beauty and human ingenuity met long ago. In the early 1800’s, during the reign of King Kahehameha, workers constructed a seawall to keep the cove protected and safe for swimming. More than two centuries later, the cove (or bay) remains a fantastic spot for swimming, and notably snorkeling, as fish are abundant and turtles also frequent the area. Surfing here is also popular, with a surfing school located across the street from the old canoe landing.
Amenities include picnic areas, a parking lot open from 7am to 11pm, and lifeguards on duty during certain hours.
Directions: This dark-grey sand beach is located next to St. Peter's Catholic Church and Ku'emanu Heiau.
When the first Kona Airport closed in 1970, its runway became the parking lot for this mile-long beach that offers easy access to the ocean. Although not very wide, the beach is usually not crowded and an interesting place to visit, as you’ll find many tide pools with plenty of small marine creatures to admire. The small, sandy inlet at the south end has the best swimming.
Adjacent to the beach are good areas for walking or running, and community recreation fields just south of the runway. Shore diving is possible from this location.
Directions: Park at the far end of the old runway and enter the water about 25 yards north. Take Highway 19 one mile north of Kona. Turn left on Makala Boulevard, just before Mile Marker #99. Go to the end of the road, turn right on Kuakini to the old runway.
Because of constant volcanic activity, you'll find white sands, green sands and black sands on Hawaii’s Big Island. Located on the south-eastern Kau coast, between the Volcanoes National Park and the small town of Naalehu, Punaluu Black Sand Beach is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii. Fringed by coconut palms, the jet-black shores are a truly unforgettable sight!
Although swimming is possible, Punaluu beach is mostly about enjoying stunning views and relaxation. The beach features a picnic area and the potential to enjoy lunch while nearby, large honu (Hawaiian Green Sea turtles) bask in the sun.
Although it may be tempting, do not touch these protected turtles, and do not remove any black sand from the beach.
Restroom facilities are available.
Directions: Punalu’u Black Sand Beach is located just south of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and a good place to stop to enjoy the view or have a picnic. If you are driving to the Volcano from Kona, however, stopping at Punalu’u may be tough with your already long day due to the 2.5 hour drive back to Kona. Hilo visitors will find the trip South to Punalu’u a rewarding one.
Papakōlea Beach (also known as Green Sand Beach or Mahana Beach) is Hawaii’s sole green sand beach, located at the southern tip of Big Island, about 3 miles west of South Point. This is one of only two green sand beaches in the world - the other is in the Galapagos Islands. The sand gets its distinctive coloring from the mineral olivine found in the enclosing cinder cone.
Although this unique natural treasure is accessible (driving or hiking), organized tours are not available. Reaching the beach by car involves a 2 and ½ hour drive up from most resorts along the Kohola Coast. The drive is rather difficult due to the poor conditions of the unpaved road. Most visitors opt for a 2.5 mile hike each way along the wind-swept and hot, dusty, deep-rutted jeep roads: a rewarding, even if a bit ambitious, adventure.