Places to Visit

12 Best Beaches On The Big Island Hawaii

A scenic black sand beach in Hawaii gracefully captured by Matt Anderson
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Best beaches on the Big Island Hawaii are Makalawena Beach, Hapuna Beach, Papakolea ‘Green Sand’ Beach and more. Enjoy fine beach-going experiences here.

Big Island, as the title suggests, is the largest among the Hawaiian islands. There are multiple regions including Kailua-Kona, Kohala, and South Ka'u that feature beautiful beaches.

Most of the oceanfront areas have white or black sand, pristine waters and coral reefs. These all makeup for a memorable beach-going experience for people of all ages.

In this article, we have compiled a list of the 12 best beaches you must visit in the Big Island of Hawaii.

1. Makalawena Beach

Best beaches on Big Island Hawaii Makalawena Beach lies in Kalaoa region. The white sand, lava rocks, and tranquil waves are the main attractions here.

The beach is a part of Puu Alii Bay which is not accessible via road. Visitors need to take a hike over the lava flows via a 2.7 miles out-and-back trail to reach here.

To reach the destination, you need to start your journey far north of Kekaha Kai's Mahaiula Beach. A rocky path near the clump of palm trees leads to Makalawena after a 20-minute hike.

Waves crashing against the reef at Makalawena Beach
Source : tripadvisor

Makalawena is one of the most beautiful oceanfront areas on the entire island. Furthermore, the place with pristine waters is rich in marine life.

This secluded oceanfront area is a great place to unwind and have fun with friends and family. You can get in the water to swim, snorkel or just lie down in the sun.

2. Hapuna Beach

Best beaches in Hawaii Big Island Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area lies in the Kohala region. The oceanfront offers consistently good conditions for watersports.

Hapuna is the largest white sand beach on the island located a half-hour drive away from Kailua-Kona. It is a top-rated destination for both locals and visitors. 

Hapuna Beach is a family-friendly place famous for boogie boarding, especially during summer. The beautiful oceanfront area with white sand has plenty of room for you to spread out.

The beautiful white sand and pristine waters at Hapuna Beach
Source : trip

One of the best luxury hotel The Westin Hapua Beach Resort stretches along this white-sand beach. The resort also features a beachfront bar for a fine dining.

The Park is managed by the state thus, you can enjoy plenty of amenities onsite. There are potable water, showers, cabin rentals, picnic spots, a covered pavilion and restrooms onsite.

However, there are no shaded areas in the area so, bringing your own umbrella is highly recommended. Additional details are given below:

  • Opening Hours: 7 am to 6:45 pm daily
  • Admission Fee: $5 per person
  • Parking Cost: $10 for Commercial PUC tour vehicles
  • Lifeguards available onsite

3. Papakōlea Green Sand Beach

Best beaches in the Big Island Hawaii Papakōlea Green Sand Beach is located in the South Kau region. It is a one-of-a-kind beach in the Ka'u district.

Green Sand Beach is a secluded place that emits an air of relaxation. Visitors looking to spend some time at the place need to take a hike to reach here.

A 2.25-mile trail over the lava fields leads to Papakolea which can be a challenge in itself for some. However, this oceanfront area with unique geology is worth the time and effort. 

An aerial shot of the scenic Papakōlea Green Sand Beach
Source : facebook

Sometimes addressed as Pu'u o Mahana, the beach has sands with olive-like color. This occurs due to the presence of a green, semi-precious stone named Olivine on the sand.

Green Sand Beach is not an ideal place to get in the water for swimming and so on. Furthermore, there are no facilities or amenities available onsite.

4. Kaunaʻoa (Mauna Kea) Beach

Best beaches in Big Island Hawaii Kaunaʻoa (Mauna Kea) Beach lies on the sunny Kohala Coast. Relax on the soft white sand and enjoy a majestic view of the Mauna Kea.

An early morning stroll at Mauna Kea Beach is a special experience. During this time, the place is least crowded and you can feel the cool sea breeze.

Kauna'oa Beach with soft white sand and cool water is one of the loveliest oceanfront places on the island. Given its aesthetic value, it was awarded a top ranking on the Top US Beaches.

A wonderful view of the Mauna Kea Beach captured from Mauna Kea Beach Hotel
Source : facebook

Furthermore, the beach area is easily accessible to visitors. It is conveniently located a few steps from the luxurious Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.

Mauna Kea Beach stretches about half a mile and provides a suitable spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. Some extra information is given below:

  • Beach Access Fee: $5 per person
  • Parking Fee: $21 per day

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5. Kahalu'u Beach Park

Best beaches in big island of Hawaii Kahalu'u Beach Park is a famous spot for snorkeling. The coral reefs at Kahalu'u is a house to a wide variety of marine animals.

At Kahaluu, you are in for a delightful underwater exploration experience. The reefs here are teeming with marine life such as tropical fish, green sea turtles, sea urchins and octopuses.

Kahalu'u beach is situated in North Kona which is easily accessible to anyone. Furthermore, it is a family-friendly beach where your children can join you on the snorkeling expedition.

A beautiful evening shot of the Kahaluu Beach
Source : facebook

Visitors are greeted with multiple amenities and facilities in this oceanfront area. It has showers, restrooms, shady areas, picnic tables, and a pavilion.

Kahalu'u is a wide protected bay on the Kona coast, which has earned it a 'real-life aquarium' label. Some insights into Kahaluu Beach Park are given below.

  • Address: Ali‘i Dr, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
  • Opening Hours: 7 am to 7 pm (daily)
  • Onsite parking facility
  • Lifeguards available 

6. Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay)

Best beaches on big island of Hawaii Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay) is a secluded sunny paradise on the West Coast. The place is popular for bodyboarding.

The waters at Kua Bay are calm and clear which also makes it a perfect spot for swimming. The setting sun casts warm pink rays which are beautifully reflected on the pristine waters.

Perched on a private peninsula, Manini’owali has fine sand and a reef that extends along the coastline. The ocean conditions here are favorable year-round.

Pristine water and black lava rocks at Manini’owali Beach (Kua Bay)
Source : tripadvisor

Located just south of Kailua-Kona town, Manini’owali Beach is a hotspot for beach lovers. However, there are no shady areas so, visitors are advised to bring an umbrella or hat with them.

At Manini’owali beach-goers can enjoy onsite amenities such as showers, restrooms, and picnic tables. Fun is unlimited at the oceanfront where you can engage yourself in snorkeling, boogie boarding, and swimming.

Manini’owali lies on the halfway point between Kona and Kohala Coast. Hapuna Beach and Mauna Kea Beach are about a 5 to 10-minute drive away so, you can also try Beach Hopping.

7. Spencer Beach Park

Best beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii Spencer Beach Park is located in the Kohala region just south of Kawaihae Harbor. The reef-protected water is suitable for swimming for all ages.

Spencer Beach is a laid-back oceanfront area where people of all ages can come and relax. The beach is well protected by reefs so there are no strong currents and big waves.

People enjoy horseback riding on the soft sandy beach at Spencer Beach Park
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Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail starts from the south end of the beach. Hiking on this scenic trail takes you can witness a stunning view of the bay and amazing landscapes.

Spencer Beach Park also boasts wonderful camping sites. Get a permit and enjoy camping with your family and friends. The Park also features BBQ areas which will further enhance your experience.

  • Address: 62-3461 Kawaihae Rd, Waimea, HI 96743
  • Opening Hours: 7 am to 8 pm daily
  • Lifeguards are on duty

Also Check Out: Big Island Things To Do In 2023

8. Onekahakaha Beach Park

Best beaches big island of Hawaii Onekahakaha Beach Park is a family-friendly beach located in Hilo. The place features wading and tidal pools perfect for kids to enjoy.

Onekahakaha is located on the eastern shore of the Big Island, just a few miles away from downtown Hilo. The beach is relatively small and has a shallow, sand-bottomed ocean pool.

Onekahakaha Beach is one of the safest spots on the whole island which is the main reason why children love going to this place. Nothing is more relaxing than taking a dip in the tide pools and inlets here.

Crystal clear water sparkling beautifully at Onekahakaha Beach Park
Source : tripadvisor

You can take your whole family to this oceanfront area and enjoy snorkeling together. Even, this is just one of many beach activities that you can enjoy at the park.

Visitors can fully enjoy the available facilities such as showers, drinking water, fire pits, restrooms, and more. Some additional information is provided below.

  • Address: 74 Onekahakaha Rd, Hilo, HI 96720
  • Opening Hours: 7 am to 9 pm
  • ADA accessible
  • Lifeguards available onsite
  • Picnic Pavillions with electricity are available

9. Magic Sands Beach Park

Best beaches Big Island Hawaii Magic Sands Beach Park boasts white sand oceanfront and rocky shoreline. Swimming and surfing here are overseen by lifeguards.

Magic Sand Beach is located roughly 3 miles south of Kailua-Kona downtown. The name is derived from the beach's characteristic trait of vanishing overnight.

During the high surfs, the ocean completely washes the sand away revealing the lava rocks beneath. This wonderful creation of nature has been a major attraction for tourists in this place.

The golden rays of the sun reflected by the pristine water at Magic Sands Beach Park
Source : facebook

Magic Sand is arguably the perfect place that strikes a balance between beach fun and city experience. Conveniently located near Kona downtown, you can experience both water and the city.

The beach lies along Alii Drive and it is surrounded by condominium rentals. Magic's Beach Grill is right next to the shore that is framed with coconut palms and lava rocks.

You can indulge in thrilling water sports such as swimming, and surfing during summer. A few extra information about the place are listed below:

  • Address: Ali'i Drive, Kailua-Kona, HI 96740
  • Opening Hours: 6 am to 11 pm daily
  • Lifeguards on duty 
  • Outdoor showers and picnic areas available

10. Punaluʻu Beach

Big Island best beaches on Hawaii Punaluʻu Beach is a famous black sand beach. The oceanfront area lies in the southeastern Kau coast. 

The beach area has basalt-made black sand which is created by lava flowing into the ocean. This phenomenon gives a unique color and texture to the sand.

Punalu'u is located between the buzzing towns of Pahala and Na'alehu. The upper edge is fringed by Coconut palms and Hawaiian green sea turtles basking in the sun is a common sight here.

The black sand beach of Punaluʻu and the lush shore perched by tropical vegetation
Source : usnews

The ocean conditions at Punaluʻu Beach aren't quite ideal for swimming. However, you can still enjoy your visit to the park and organize a picnic or lunch with loved ones.

The scenic shoreline of Punaluʻu is complimented by a freshwater tidepool where you can wade and cool down. You may also spot a boat ramp next to the ruins of the old pier for a better entry route.

Visitors can organize Day Camping at the site with a permit. Onsite amenities include:

  • A parking lot
  • Showers and Restrooms
  • Pavilions for picnic
  • Boat Ramp

11. Pololu Beach

Big Island best beaches Hawaii Pololu Beach is a remote black sand gem that lies in the Kohala region. The photogenic oceanfront area offers a wonderful sightseeing experience.

The Pololu Valley is a famous stop for tourists visiting the Big Island. However, Pololu Beach itself remains largely overlooked.

This scenic oceanfront area is quarter-mile descent from the Valley which has a steep incline. The only way to reach the shores is by hiking down the 400-foot drop-off.

A vibrant and scenic view of the Pololu Valley Lookout
Source : sfgate

Pololu experiences high surf, strong undertow, and rip tides which makes getting into water a dangerous trade. But, that doesn't mean you will be deprived of a wonderful beach experience.

You will be delighted by the sightseeing experiences this beach has to offer to the visitors. The rugged beauty of the tropical land in its barest form will leave you mesmerized.

12. Kealakekua Bay

Kealakekua Bay is one of the best places on the Hawaiian island to go snorkeling. Visitors need to hike down the Captain Cook Monument Trail to reach the area.

The trail is 2 miles long and steep which can be challenging at times. So, Kealakekua Bay is the perfect destination for those who love to hike and break some sweat.

Kealakekua Bay is located on the Kona Coast, about 12 miles south of Kailua-Kona, famous for the manta ray snorkel. This historic location covers a massive area of 375 acres.

The beautiful snorkeling spot at Kealakekua Bay
Source : lovebigisland

The Bay which is also a marine life conservation district, has pristine water and hosts a spectacular coral reef. It is home to varieties of colorful tropical fish, and spinner dolphins.

You can have unlimited fun at Kealakekua by trying different water activities such as snorkeling, boat tours, kayaking, and scuba diving.

Kayaking is the most sought for water sports at the bay. You can enjoy guided Kayak tours or rent one for yourself here after acquiring a permit.