Best Beaches on The Big Island of Hawaii
The beaches of the Big Island of Hawaii are notable for their variety- there are just tons of different beaches you can go sit on! It’s crazy. All different kinds of sand & levels of touristyness. Since we dive out of Kona we’ve put together a guide to our favorite beaches on the west side of the island. Some of these spots are close to resorts, some are local favorites, but either way you should have respect for the ocean & for the residents of our beautiful island home. In Kohala & north Kona you’ll find the big white-sand beaches you picture when you think of Hawaii. In Kona you’ll find a nice mix of snorkeling spots & small beaches. The coastline gets more rugged as you head south past Captain Cook on to black & even green sand beaches.
Kohala & North Kona
Mauna Kea Beach (Kauna’oa) – Big huge white sand beach in front of the Mauna Kea resort. This is the classic beach you picture when you think of Hawaii, and one of the best in the state. It’s perfect for swimming and bodyboarding on calm days, & there is interesting snorkeling on the far south end of the beach. Parking is limited, so try to arrive early, or take the mile-long shoreline trail from the north end of Hapuna beach.
Hapuna Beach – Hapuna is arguably the perfect beach with over half a mile of fine golden sand, crystal clear water, & easy access. On calm days it’s excellent for swimming or bodyboarding. Good snorkeling can be found south of the sandy area. This beach is usually pretty calm on weekdays, but on weekends & holidays it gets busy.
Waialea Beach (Beach 69) – Another incredible white sand Kohala beach! Plenty of trees provide shade along the length of the beach. Popular with locals, not quite as busy as Hapuna or Mauna Kea beach. Secluded area at the northern part of the main beach is clothing optional.
Samuel M Spencer Beach Park – Good on days without wind, which is prevalent up north, as the trades blow strong between the peaks of Kohala and Mauna Kea. Tan sand beach with a few picnic tables, some shade, and swimming and snorkeling for keiki. When the wind picks up the sand goes flying and it can be less-than-awesome.
‘Anaeho’omalu Beach (A-Bay) – Near the Hilton Waikoloa and Lava Lava restaurant, stretches of white sand. We like the area south of Lava Lava, often you spot turtles napping on the beach.
Kiholo Bay – Large bay with several features. Black sand at the south end, nice for sunset. Queen’s Bath, a freshwater pond in a lava tube, is slightly north of the south parking area. At the north end of the bay is beautiful turquoise Wainanalii Pond.
Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) (shore dive spot) – A favorite of Kona locals and tourists alike. Fine white sand, clear turquoise water, good break for bodyboarding, easy parking & showers. Some days there are food trucks near the parking. Kua is closed some mornings (Wednesday?) and can be crowded on weekends. Sunsets are gorgeous here.
Mahai’ula Beach – The southernmost beach in Kekaha Kai Beach Park. White sand, relatively easy access and parking, and plenty of shade make this a great spot for a beach picnic or BBQ. The water is often rougher than Makalawena or Kua.
O oma Beach & Kohanaiki Beach Park (Pines) – Local favorite beach for surfing, family gatherings, cook-outs, and lifted trucks.
Aiopio Fish Trap (north side of harbor) – Calm water ideal for keiki, lots of basking turtles. Beautiful hieau. Can follow trails from Aiopio up to the Kaloko Fishponds, makes for a nice walk.
Crescent Dog Beach (shore dive) – The best place to take your pup to play in the sand & water. Also popular for shore diving, especially in summer during tiger shark season. Proximity to the Honokohau Harbor boat channel means plenty of sharks, but plenty of boats overhead- please use a dive float and stay out of the boat channel.
Old Airport (shore dive) – Close to downtown Kona, mellow shore dives. Look out for vana (sea urchins) when getting in and out of the water. The south end of Old Airport has a small inlet where fresh ground water enters the sea- lots of turtles in this spot.
Kamakahonu Beach & Kailua Pier – Right in the thick of things, nonetheless a good shore dive, also fun at night. Watch out for boat traffic. Parking can be tricky, we recommend dropping gear and tanks off then parking while a friend waits.
Honl’s Beach & Lyman’s Surf Spot (origins of surfing?) – Small beachy pockets as you head south on Ali’i Drive. Lyman’s surf spot is allegedly the spot where Hawaiians first began surfing, effectively the birthplace of the sport.
Magic Sands & MM4 (shore dive) – Beautiful little white sand beach that comes and goes, hence the name. When the ‘magic’ sand is gone the beach has a few more rocks than usual. Popular bodyboarding spot, great for sunset. Magic’s Grill on the north end of the beach is great!
Kahalu’u Beach (snorkeling, surfing, shore dive) – This spot is like swimming in a big aquarium- shallow bottom, super clear water, and lots of tropical fish make it ideal for beginner snorkelers. Expect to see lots of keiki and inexperienced people in the shallows. You can shore dive this spot, but you’ll want to surface swim out past the breakwall before beginning your dive. The surf break is a very popular spot for beginners to learn, and there are several surf schools along Ali’i Drive that use this spot.
South Kona Beaches
Kealakekua Bay – Famous as the site where Captain Cook landed when he visited the Big Island. Awesome snorkeling with a very steep drop-off. Occasionally we dive this site on our long range scuba charters, and you can find a strange monument around 100’. The hike down to the bay is short but covers a lot of elevation, a real leg burner. You may rent kayaks and paddle across the bay- we recommend doing this early in the morning for a chance to see dolphins as they come into the bay for rest.
Honaunau (Two Step, snorkeling, trail to Ho’okena) – Probably the most famous shore dive site on the Big Island. It’s called ‘Two Step’ for the two entry/exit points here, which are almost like lava rock steps into the ocean. Coupled with easy access, lots of coral, reef fish, turtles, and occasionally dolphins make this dive a treat for beginner divers. Come early in the morning to skip the crowd and get decent parking.
Ho’okena Beach Park (shore dive) – Beautiful black sand beach south of Honaunau with permitted camping & a small local community. Excellent shore diving. The sand gets HOT- you might want to clip a pair of slippers to your BCD so you don’t have to sprint to the water with a tank on your back. Be courteous and respectful of those who live in Ho’okena- this isn’t the best place to visit with a large group.
Kona Paradise Black Pebble (shore dive, access to Twin Sisters if you crazy) – Another small black beach made of pebbles instead of sand. Kona Paradise or Black Pebble is a wonderful shore dive. The drive down the hill to the beach is extremely steep, so be smart about the vehicle you take and the amount of tanks you load in the back. If you are up for a long swim, you can head north from this beach up and around the point to a cavern known as Twin Sisters.
South Point (cliff dive, wind) – Famous as the southernmost point in the USA, Ka Lae or South Point is a very windy spot revered for ulua fishing (giant trevally). Great cliff jump with a convenient ladder to get back up top- but be careful as the nearest hospital is hours away.
Green Sand – Yep, green sand! Broken-down olivine contributes the green color to this unique beach. Technically this and Punalu’u are on the east side of the Big Island, just around south point. Getting here requires a lifted 4×4 truck or decent hiking footwear. Best on days with calm sunny weather!
Punalu’u Black Sand – Beautiful black sand beach located just north of Naalehu, often littered with basking sea turtles. Easy parking, showers and bathrooms make this a nice place to spend an afternoon. Go when the wind is calm. Back in Naalehu the beach’s namesake Punalu’u Bakery makes some of the best malasadas and bread in the state! Their pastrami sandwich is unreal, too.